Sitting in the front row at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, directly in sight of committee Chairman John Kerry, two women discreetly held up two pink cardboard signs that read "U.S. War = Terrorism" and "Drone Attacks Kill Civilians."
The women, Toby Blome and Martha Hubert, are part of Code Pink, a nationwide antiwar group that formed in 2002. They were quietly protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as former CIA agent Robert Grenier testified that a significant increase in troops is required to fend off al-Qaida in the latter country. Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, Code Pink protesters had been a common, often colorful, presence on Capitol Hill.
But starting in 2006, when the Democrats took control of Congress, Code Pink and other antiwar groups lessened their activity. After Barack Obama was elected president, the antiwar movement stagnated.
"Fewer and fewer people were showing up for national meetings, and the fundraising dried up to almost nothing," said Susan Lamont, former president of the board of directors of the now defunct "Not in Our Name" antiwar group. Lamont said such organizations had assumed that Obama's election would mean a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, but they placed too much hope in him, considering his calls for a new focus on the Afghanistan war.
However, Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, said that people got what they wanted from Obama. "The protests that were associated with the war in Iraq have declined, but that's because the war in Iraq is winding down," he said. Keeter said it's important to makes a distinction between the general public and antiwar movement. "Generally speaking, Americans have never been much on movements," he said.
The public, according to Keeter, was staunchly opposed to the war in Iraq, but not the one in Afghanistan. "In public opinion, only a minority opposed" both, he said. So when Obama announced the Iraq withdrawal timetable, many people were satisfied and no longer saw the need to actively protest. But there were other factors in the decline of the antiwar movement, according to Eric Garris, director and founder of Antiwar.com. He cited a combination of war fatigue, domestic issues taking the forefront in public debate and the Bush administration leaving office.
"Unfortunately, a lot of the antiwar movement during the Bush administration was more anti-Bush than antiwar," said Garris, who added that Americans are more occupied with issues such as health care reform and the economic crisis. And many people were disillusioned after years of protesting without results.
With waning public approval of the Afghanistan war, however, antiwar groups have noticed an increase in support. "We've had a lot of decentralized action in October," said Gael Murphy, co-founder of Code Pink.
Antiwar actions such as the committee hearing protest, in which Blome and Hubert participated in earlier this month, have slowly started to reemerge. So far this year there have been eight official "disruption of Congress" arrests, compared with only four in all of 2008, according to Capitol Hill Police. These types of protests are likely to increase, said Murphy.
"There is a growing dissatisfaction with Obama's foreign policy and people are mobilizing," she said. "And I think we're going to see much more activity in the fall."
Malalai Joya was born in a small mountain village in western Afghanistan. Three days later, a communist coup overthrew the government in Kabul. The Soviet Union invaded not long afterwards. War, she writes, is all we Afghans have known.
She lived as a refugee in Iran and Pakistan, ran an underground school for girls during the rule of the Taliban, and went on to become the youngest member of Afghanistan's parliament. She's a staunch advocate for women's rights in a country where such rights often exist only on paper. In her memoir, Joya writes about her family's struggle against Islamic fundamentalists, warlords and foreign occupation.
If you'd like to speak with her about her past and about her country's future, our telephone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Today, Malalai joins us from NPR's bureau in New York. She tells her story in a book called "Woman Among Warlords." And Malalai Joya, nice to have you on the program today.
Ms. MALALAI JOYA (Author, "A Woman Among Warlords"): Thank you. Thanks for this interview.
CONAN: And you write that one of your early memories as a child was clinging to your mother's legs while a policeman ransacked your house searching for your father.
Ms. JOYA: Yes, it is true. As - when I was child, after four days that I born, Russia occupied Afghanistan and their puppets come in power. So the situation was very risky for freedom-loving fighters, especially democrats, the people of my country.
As my father was one of the democrat person who was a student of university, and when - and they were occupied my country together with other freedom-loving fighters. They start to fight against occupation. That's why they killed millions of Afghan, innocent Afghan and also thousand democrat in Afghanistan, and my father was one of those unfortunately. And he did struggle against and now he's alive.
CONAN: Yes. But he lost his leg. And there were many months after the incident in which he was injured when you didn't know whether was dead or alive.
Ms. JOYA: No. Never I know as (unintelligible) so you can read some stories that when I was a baby that he lost one of his legs and have to go or have to leave Afghanistan. He went to refugees - neighbor countries. So after four years, when I was four years old, I left Afghanistan. And for the first time, I met my father and my uncle.
The older brother of my father took care of our family as well. And she - he was very close to me. And they're crying to me and I called him always daddy, father. So, for me, it was difficult to accept that that's not my father. And that means that my uncle is not my father and my father is my father.
CONAN: There's a touching story you tell, after your family moves to the - Iran to be with your father who's in exile there in a refugee situation. And he overhears you, a small child, one day singing a silly song about my father only has one leg.
Ms. JOYA: Yeah, still my families remember. And a friend of my father also made jokes because first time that I accept that - I said, this is my father and I was singing that silly song that, as you said, with my salsa(ph) and then my father - I didn't know that he was listening to me - and then he recognized I was (unintelligible) just lost.
CONAN: Yes, because he understood at that moment you accepted him as your father.
Ms. JOYA: Yes.
Ms. JOYA: Yes.
CONAN: Then later, your family moves to Pakistan, to a refugee camp, first in Quetta and then up in - near Peshawar. And these are - well, million of Afghans were forced into refugee status during the struggle against the Soviet occupation and later during the civil war.
Ms. JOYA: Yeah.
CONAN: But this was where you first became exposed to the politics as you tried to go to school to get an education.
Ms. JOYA: Yeah. Like, as you said, like many Afghan, millions of Afghan, we also become refugee and because Iran was not - no school for a garrison -Afghan (unintelligible) in Pakistan (unintelligible). And on that time, a refugee (unintelligible) class in high school when I was, I thought to be a social activist. And in the morning I was a student of the school, in the evening I was a teacher for literacy courses.
So we belong to political situation. We are (unintelligible) generation. As I said, I was four-days-old baby that Russia occupied Afghanistan. Then criminal Mujahideen come in power, these warlords, this civil war from '92 to '96. Then Taliban, these fascist people come in power. Then back after 9/11 tragedy, these warlords, these criminal Mujahideen (unintelligible) democracy, they come in power.
And we saw nothing in our life, just war and these violences. And I believe even children (unintelligible) Afghanistan through politics, even stones of Afghanistan (unintelligible) speak, that politics (unintelligible) like children of Palestine that always inspired me, that they fight against occupation, even children with the stone.
CONAN: And there is - you've described a lot of history in very quick terms there. But there is a chapter of your story that I think most people would find fascinating, and this is during the rule of the Taliban. Your family returns home to Western Afghanistan. And in fact you run an underground school to teach girls.
Ms. JOYA: Yes. I was activist of organization of promoting Afghan women capabilities called OPAC, even on that time it was not register. They had health and education activities for women and children, underground activities, especially in the period of Taliban in '98. I was famous in the camp (unintelligible) they were searching for activist and they contacted me.
And I like the idea and as a social activist because there was no education for girls and women, so that's why I moved with my family and my father, as democrat, and they will agree. And we moved to (unintelligible) and there also underground activist I was since after 2001 (unintelligible) but now when you compare my life with the dark period of Taliban as activist and now, on that time it was risky.
But now, even with (unintelligible) bodyguard it's not safe. There's many assassination attempts (unintelligible) changing the safe house to safe houses, many death threats receiving, not only me, many other democrat of my country, the social activists and political democrat activists.
CONAN: We'll get to the present day in just a moment. But I think listeners would be interested to hear. You were forced during the Taliban time to wear the burqa, a piece of clothing which you detest. Nevertheless, it made it possible for you to smuggle schoolbooks underneath it without being detected.
Ms. JOYA: Yeah, it is true. It was difficult (unintelligible) burqa, I had some funny memory in the meantime, not only sad but how my other friends, these colleagues of OPAC, and even my father was saying that among all women when I see you, I recognize who you are, because it was really difficult how to (unintelligible) and, but now…
CONAN: He said you walked like a penguin.
Ms. JOYA: Yes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. JOYA: But now even with the burqa and bodyguard, as I said, it's not safe. And now this disgusting burqa, which for me, as always I'm saying, this is like symbol of oppression. And I'm sure for most of women of my country, and it's like (unintelligible) but now it gives life.
CONAN: Let me ask you a question. You describe the situation of your country over the past 30 years, and of course much suffering caused by the Soviet invasion and occupation and the long war then, as you mentioned it, the terrible civil war, which Americans know relatively little about that followed, and then the Taliban, which came to power, and then, of course, the war that has continued ever since September the 11th and the United States and NATO forces led, a war which you say, described as just another occupation.
Ms. JOYA: Yeah.
CONAN: And you described the terrible criminals, you say, the warlords and many of whom are in power now. Yet you also say in your book - and I wanted to ask you about this, it's a statement of great optimism: A longing for freedom beats in every Afghan's heart and we have eventually repelled every foreign occupier. After all of that, the fundamentalists, the warlords, the Taliban, do you believe that a longing for freedom beats in every Afghan heart?
Ms. JOYA: You know, in the mind and also in the hearts of my people, this criminal has already brought to the court, has been faced to the court. People do not support them. Karzai's corrupt mafia system is a good example how much (unintelligible) and this election is another example, non-democratic election. Millions of Afghan, they did not attend in the election.
And now that my (unintelligible) people, that the reason I'm not - I'm alive that - because of support of these poor people. And they wish that one day these criminals must be paying into the International Criminal Court. But they imposed on my people, that was the main reason of the wrong policy of US government and its allies, that they replace one terrorist like Taliban with another terrorist, these warlords, these criminals.
So that's why situation of Afghanistan goes to a disaster, especially for a woman. In most of provinces, it's like hell. First of all, they change my country to the center (unintelligible)…
CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. And Pauline is with us. Pauline calling from East Hampton in New York.
PAULINE (Caller): Yes. Hi. I wanted to ask you - I just got a little bit of a hint of how you feel from your last statement. But I wanted to ask you how Afghans feel about the American occupation right now and the ratcheting up of -potential ratcheting up of the occupation.
There's a lot of reporting here that tries to tell us that the Afghans want the Americans in to protect them from the Taliban. Can you give us a little more insight into that?
Ms. JOYA: Yes, why not? You know, my people, now they're sandwiched between two powerful enemies. From the sky, this occupation forces bombing and killing innocents of our lands under the name of Taliban, most of them women and children. In the ground, these warlords in Taliban is now negotiating with each other, continue to their fascism. For example, these occupation forces as they did the bombing in (unintelligible) Province, maybe you hear through media. And one day more than 150 civilians has been killed, even they used white phosphorus and cluster bomb.
I think democracy never come by white phosphorus or cluster bomb or by war. Also, on 9th of September they did bombing in Kunduz Province, this month, recently, and 200 civilians has been killed.
After all of these crimes, White House says apologize and Karzai's puppet, corrupt mafia system says thank you. No, my people are fed up. They don't want to listen anymore thank you and apologize. Even they're bombing our wedding parties, what they did in Jalalabad and also Nuristan, that day by day, civilians are the victims. You can go and see Professor (unintelligible) and these troops themselves are the victim of the wrong policy of their government as they send them for bad cause for war.
I said condolences and I say condolence to those family who lost their sons, but they must raise their voice against this wrong policy. But now Obama want to surge more troops in Afghanistan, which will bring…
Ms. JOYA: Yeah?
CONAN: I don't mean to cut you off. And Pauline, thank you very much for the call. But we just have a minute left, and I wanted to ask you if US forces did withdraw, which you want them to do, why would we think for a moment that it would not either be the Taliban or the warlords still in control in Afghanistan?
Ms. JOYA: When these occupation forces stop bombing and killing civilians and their government do not support warlord in Taliban, then - as I said, now we are fighting two enemies, against occupation and these warlords and Taliban.
With the withdrawal of one enemy, it's much easier to fight against one enemy instead of two. If really Obama honest for my people first, in this occupation, they are saying civil war will happen, but today (unintelligible) civil war. We do not have security - poverty, corruption. It's increasing rapidly in Afghanistan, the situation of woman is getting disaster.
Obama, first of all, must say apologize to my people and bring this criminal Bush to the International Criminal Court. (Unintelligible) power in Afghanistan. Now they are negotiating with Taliban (unintelligible) these terrorists as a moderate, while (unintelligible).
Obama must support democratic minded people of my country while we have a lot. There are many risks for them. Educationally support my people and also (unintelligible) the U.N. must stop neighbor countries like Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan that support Taliban and these warlords. So as long as these occupation forces be in Afghanistan, the worse civil war will be.
CONAN: Malalai Joya, we thank you for your time today and good luck with the book.
I should note you said some facts about the bombing in Kunduz, which are disputed by the U.S. government about the use of white phosphorus and cluster bombs. But anyway, these are in dispute.
Anyway, thank you very much for being with us today.
Ms. JOYA: Thank you. At the end, I want to say that democracy never come by war. Please raise your voice, great democrat American people, first of all, against the war crime of your government. And I want to say they will destroy all of the flowers, but they never can stop this pain. No history except occupation and no nation can donate liberation to another nation.
CONAN: Her book is called "A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice." She joined us from our bureau in New York.
Introduction Dust in the Eyes of the World
I come from a land of tragedy called Afghanistan.
My life has taken some unusual turns, but in many ways my story is the story of a generation. For the thirty years I have been alive, my country has suffered from the constant scourge of war. Most Afghans my age and younger have only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation. When I was a baby in my mother's arms, the Soviet Union invaded my country. When I was four years old, my family and I were forced to live as refugees in Iran and then Pakistan. Millions of Afghans were killed or exiled, like my family, during the battle-torn 1980s. When the Russians finally left and their puppet regime was overthrown, we faced a vicious civil war between fundamentalist warlords, followed by the rule of the depraved and medieval Taliban.
After the tragic day of September 11, 2001, many in Afghanistan thought that, with the ensuing overthrow of the Taliban, they might finally see some light, some justice and progress. But it was not to be. The Afghan people have been betrayed once again by those who are claiming to help them. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, we are still faced with foreign occupation and a U.S.-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans.
You may be shocked to hear this, because the truth about Afghanistan has been hidden behind a smoke screen of words and images carefully crafted by the United States and its NATO allies and repeated without question by the Western media.
You may have been led to believe that once the Taliban was driven from power, justice returned to my country. Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the U.S. military has brought democracy and women's rights to Afghanistan.
But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world.
I am the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, but I have been banished from my seat and threatened with death because I speak the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. I have already survived at least five assassination attempts and uncounted plots against me. Because of this, I am forced to live like a fugitive within my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards, and we move to different houses almost every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies.
To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burqa, which to me is a symbol of women's oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret classes. But today I don't feel safe under my burqa, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons, and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs. I cannot tell you my family's name, or the name of my husband, because it would place them in terrible danger. And for this reason, I have changed several other names in this book.
I call myself Joya — an alias I adopted during the time of the Taliban when I worked as an underground activist. The name Joya has great significance in my country. Sarwar Joya was an Afghan writer, poet, and constitutionalist who struggled against injustice during the early twentieth century. He spent nearly twenty-four years of his life in jails and was finally killed because he would not compromise his democratic principles.
I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists or soften my speeches denouncing them, I, too, may join Joya on the long list Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it would advance the cause of justice. Even the grave cannot silence my voice, because there are others who would carry on after me.
The sad fact is that in Afghanistan, killing a woman is like killing a bird. The United States has tried to justify its occupation with rhetoric about "liberating" Afghan women, but we remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that "a woman should be in her house or in the grave." In most places it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day.
For both men and women in Afghanistan, our lives are short and often wracked by violence, loss, and anguish. The life expectancy here is less than forty-five years — an age that in the West is called "middle age." We live in desperate poverty. A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. And it is estimated that more than half of Afghan men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. In the past few years, hundreds of women have committed self-immolation — literally burned themselves to death — to escape their miseries.
This is the history I have lived through, and this is the tragic situation today that I am working with many others to change. I am no better than any of my suffering people. Fate and history have made me in some ways a "voice of the voiceless," the many thousands and millions of Afghans who have endured decades of war and injustice.
For years, my supporters have urged me to write a book about my life. I have always resisted because I do not feel comfortable writing about myself. I feel that my story, on its own, is not important. But finally my friends persuaded me to go ahead with this book as a way to talk about the plight of the Afghan people from the perspective of a member of my country's war generation. I agreed to use my personal experiences as a way to tell the political history of Afghanistan, focusing on the past three decades of oppressive misrule. The story of the dangerous campaign I ran to represent the poor people of my province, the physical and verbal attacks I endured as a member of Parliament, and the devious, illegal plot to banish me from my elected post — all of it illuminates the corruption and injustice that prevents Afghanistan from becoming a true democracy. In this way it is not just my story, but the story of my struggling people.
Many books were written about Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy, but only a few of them offer a complete and realistic picture of the country's past. Most of them describe in depth the cruelties and injustices of the Taliban regime but usually ignore or try to hide one of the darkest periods of our history: the rule of the fundamentalist mujahideen between 1992 and 1996. I hope this book will draw attention to the atrocities committed by these warlords who now dominate the Karzai regime.
I also hope this book will correct the tremendous amount of misinformation being spread about Afghanistan. Afghans are sometimes represented in the media as a backward people, nothing more than terrorists, criminals, and henchmen. This false image is extremely dangerous for the future of both my country and the West. The truth is that Afghans are brave and freedom-loving people with a rich culture and a proud history. We are capable of defending our independence, governing ourselves, and determining our own future.
But Afghanistan has long been used as a deadly playground in the "Great Game" between superpowers, from the British Empire to the Soviet empire, and now the Americans and their allies. They have tried to rule Afghanistan by dividing it. They have given money and power to thugs and fundamentalists and warlords who have driven our people into terrible misery. We do not want to be misused and misrepresented to the world. We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, but not this endless U.S.-led "war on terror," which is in fact a war against the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not terrorists; we are the victims of terrorism. Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs — when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.
I was also reluctant to write this memoir because I'd always thought that books should first be written about the many democratic activists who have been martyred, the secret heroes and heroines of Afghanistan's history. I feel the same way about some of the awards that I have received from international human rights groups in recent years. The ones who came before me are more deserving. It is an honor to be recognized, but I only wish that all the love and support I have been shown could be given to the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. For me, the awards and honors belong to all my people, and each distinction I receive only adds to my sense of responsibility to our common struggle. For this reason, all of my earnings from this book will go toward supporting urgently needed humanitarian projects in Afghanistan aimed at changing lives for the better.
As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.
During his election campaign, the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, spoke of sending tens of thousands more foreign troops to Afghanistan, but he did not speak out against the twin plagues of corruption and warlordism that are destroying my country. I know that Obama's election has brought great hopes to peace-loving people in the United States. But for Afghans, Obama's military buildup will only bring more suffering and death to innocent civilians, while it may not even weaken the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I hope that the lessons in this book will reach President Obama and his policy makers in Washington, and warn them that the people of Afghanistan reject their brutal occupation and their support of the warlords and drug lords.
In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women's rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.
In Afghanistan, we have a saying that is very dear to my heart: The truth is like the sun: when it comes up nobody can block it out or hide it. I hope that this book and my story will, in a small way, help that sun to keep shining and inspire you, wherever you might be reading this, to work for peace, justice, and democracy.
From A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya. Copyright 2009 by Malalai Joya. Excerpted by permission of the publisher.
Obama's drug czar has said "legalization" isn't in his vocabulary. Here's why it should be.
More members of Congress have publicly questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii than have endorsed legalizing marijuana.
This comes despite the birth announcements printed in the Honolulu Advertiser in August 1961 and marijuana's deep inroads into the cultural mainstream.
Almost every voter under 65 in this country has either smoked cannabis or grew up with people who did.
Among its erstwhile users are the last three presidents, one Supreme Court justice and the mayor of the nation's largest city. The pot leaf's image pervades popular culture, from Bob Marley T-shirts to billboards for Showtime's Weeds.
So why is actually legalizing it still considered a fringe issue? Why haven't more politicians -- especially the ones who inhaled -- come out and said, "Prohibition is absurd and criminal. Let's treat cannabis like alcohol"?
Allen St. Pierre, head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, blames the hypocrisy of the "baby boomer elite." There are many people in Washington's political and media circles "who know the right end of a joint to light, but are too embarrassed to admit their knowledge," he says. There are members of Congress, he adds, who will greet him at a party with "Allen, got any weed?" but are afraid to go out on a limb for legalization.
Only two current members of Congress have openly advocated ending cannabis prohibition: Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Ron Paul, R-Texas.
Even in a Congress inhabited by Republicans Tom "Lesbians Are Terrorizing Our High Schools" Coburn of Oklahoma and Michelle "Carbon Dioxide Is Natural, It Is Not Harmful" Bachmann of Minnesota, the left-liberal Kucinich and the libertarian-conservative Paul might be the two most widely derided as kooks.
A handful of others, such as Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., have given some indications that they would support legalization. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has sponsored a bill to end federal penalties for possession of less than 100 grams, but has not explicitly endorsed making marijuana as legal as alcohol.
In contrast, Salon in July identified 17 members of Congress as "birther" sympathizers who had either openly questioned Obama's birth, co-sponsored a bill on the issue or refused to answer yes when asked if they believed he was a natural-born citizen. The 17 included Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
St. Pierre particularly resents the way the media treat the issue as a joke, in which almost any headline has to include a bad pun on "doobie," "high" or "mellow."
It's deadly serious when more than 800,000 people a year are arrested for it, he argues. Obama's "chuckle," he says, was emblematic. When legalizing marijuana was the top issue cited by visitors to Obama's transition Web site, the president dismissed it with a joke implying that there must be a lot of stoned people on the Internet.
"It's still an issue people are giggling about, not taking seriously," says Noelle Davis, former head of Texans for Medical Marijuana.
State legislators who have sponsored marijuana-related bills say that the two biggest obstacles are fear and cultural stereotypes.
"Elected officials are largely very concerned about being labeled 'soft on drugs,'" says New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the state's 1977 decriminalization law, has introduced several bills to legalize medical marijuana.
Polls have shown medical marijuana to have the support of 70 to 80 percent of New Yorkers, he says, but "many legislators are afraid to touch it."
Washington State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles says that many legislators, particularly in the state's more conservative rural areas, "buy into the cultural stereotypes about marijuana," such as the idea that it's a gateway to harder drugs.
The Seattle Democrat, who is sponsoring a bill to reduce the penalty for less than 40 grams of pot from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, says that the state's prosecutors' support for legalizing medical marijuana gave conservatives political cover to vote for it but that law enforcement has largely opposed her decriminalization bill.
One reason for the lack of urgent political pressure, says Deborah Small of Break the Chains, is that the people most likely to get busted for pot are the ones who "don't have a political voice" -- young people of color from poor neighborhoods. In Atlanta, Baltimore and New York, which have among the highest marijuana-arrest rates in the nation, three-fourths of those popped are black or Latino and under 25, she points out. Adults and more affluent youths are largely safe from arrest, she adds.
Frontlines of the Debate
California is the one state where legalization is legitimately on the agenda. "Obama might have dismissed it, but we're having the most serious conversation in 35 years," says Quintin Mecke, spokesman for Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would legalize marijuana in California. It would let people grow up to 10 plants for their own use and license commercial cultivation and sales, with a smoking age of 21 and a $50-an-ounce tax.
Hearings on the bill are scheduled for January. It would obviously conflict with federal law, but Mecke says, "the intent is to provoke a states' rights conversation A lot of folks are looking to California to push that issue."
Several factors make legalization politically possible in California, Mecke explains. First, it has had legally regulated medical marijuana for 13 years, and people have "seen that the sky did not fall. California may be in a fiscal crisis, but it's certainly not due to marijuana." Taxes and fees on cannabis could raise $1.4 billion in revenue for the cash-strapped state, the state Board of Equalization estimates. In addition, marijuana cultivation is an integral part of the local economy in many areas, especially the rural north.
"We're not expecting this to happen overnight," Mecke says. "But looking at the poll numbers, it will happen."
A Gallup poll conducted in early October backs that prediction. It found 44 percent of the people surveyed supporting legal marijuana, with 54 percent against. In contrast, previous surveys showed Americans rejecting legalization 73 percent to 23 percent in 1985 and 64 percent to 31 percent in 2000.
An overwhelming majority of liberals supported it, as did more than half of Westerners, Democrats and people under 50. Opposition was strongest among Republicans, conservatives and people over 65, but even in those groups, more than a quarter backed legalization.
"Public mores on legalization of marijuana have been changing this decade and are now at their most tolerant in at least 40 years," the Gallup organization stated. "If public support were to continue growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percentage points per year, as it has since 2000, the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."
Disconnect Between the Country and Its Capital
There is a "huge disconnect" between the corridors of power in Washington and the rest of America on marijuana, contends St. Pierre.
Today, even the hardest-line prohibitionists rarely argue that people should go to jail for possession. In Washington, says Kohl-Welles, police and prosecutors claimed that decriminalization would be unnecessary because they don't put a lot of resources into making such minor arrests.
In New York, where Mayor Michael "You Bet I Did -- And I Enjoyed It" Bloomberg has continued
Rudolph Giuliani's war on pot smokers, a police department spokesperson tried to convince reporters that there was no such crackdown, because the number of summonses issued for marijuana possession declined over the last decade. (Having less than 25 grams carries only a $100 fine under state law, but possession in public is a misdemeanor. New York City police have been arresting more than 40,000 people a year on that charge, mostly young black and Latino men.)
Liberal politicians who believe that the laws are too harsh but don't want to take the risk of siding with stoners often support decriminalization as a middle ground. Decriminalization has definitely been an improvement -- as Gottfried points out, it's made the difference between spending a night in jail and a year in prison for having a small bag of pot -- but it is actually a harsher regime than alcohol Prohibition was. Under Prohibition, home winemaking and medical use of alcohol were legal, and people could keep liquor acquired before the law went into effect in 1920. (The New York governor's mansion had one such stash of booze, and the Yale Club in Manhattan stockpiled a 14-year supply.)
Obama's Oct. 19 guidelines that federal prosecutors not pursue medical-marijuana cases in states where it's legal are encouraging. On the other hand, like so much in Obama's tenure, they might also be far more symbolic than real. They contain enough wiggle room to permit federal aid to local prosecutors who go after medical marijuana, such as Steve Cooley in Los Angeles.
In general, Obama's positions have evolved in a typically hypocritical manner. He endorsed decriminalization when he was an Illinois state legislator campaigning on a college campus, but he now states flatly that he does not support legalization -- although he wrote in his autobiography that while pot didn't solve your problems, "it could at least help you laugh at the world's ongoing folly and see through all the bullshit and cheap moralism." (There are photos of Obama as a straw-hatted college student, smoking an ambiguous cigarette with his thumb and forefinger and looking blissfully slit-eyed.)
"Legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, and it is not in mine," federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has reiterated, although he is relatively liberal on other drug issues.
According to St. Pierre, the staff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., specifically warned the pot-legalization movement not to pressure the Obama administration or congressional Democrats because they were preoccupied with the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and health care. The message, he says, was "We are not going to advance this issue, and you need to cut us some slack."
Change You Can Put in Your Pipe
What can be done? What would change the political climate to enable a reasonable discussion of legalizing and regulating marijuana?
Deborah Small says it would take a society that cared about black and Latino youth instead of criminalizing them in the name of "quality of life" policing.
Politicians talk about keeping young people in school and getting them jobs, but then they support "policing tactics guaranteed to bring them into the criminal-justice system for relatively minor offenses." If Obama had been busted for pot when he was a young man, she asks, would he be president today? "Certainly not."
She finds it remarkable that the hip-hop generation that emerged after the crack epidemic of the late '80s eschewed hard drugs in favor of marijuana -- and the system responded by arresting them more, with policies that rewarded large numbers of petty-possession busts.
Kohl-Welles says legalizing cannabis would take a critical mass of legislators, and that budget issues might help create the climate for that. Gottfried says that it will take "very strong public support for it to become part of mainstream debate, let alone pass the Legislature."
To win that support, St. Pierre says, the legalization movement needs to sustain grassroots activism and become more multiracial instead of being almost all-white and mainly male. Advancing legalization would also need the support of charismatic politicians early in their careers, as "it's impossible to flip a 50- or 60-year-old alpha male in Washington."
Another danger, he says, is politicians who modify their positions to suit their ambitions. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, he notes, was an early and "full-throated" supporter of medical marijuana, but is now running for governor of California and opposes legalization.
In Texas, says Noelle Davis, activists face the daunting task of trying to persuade legislators in the Republican majority -- and the primary voters who elect them. This would require educating them about the safety of marijuana versus alcohol and the economic benefits that cannabis cultivation and sales could bring to the state.
One largely overlooked issue in Texas, she says, is drug violence on the border. Infighting among rival smuggling gangs has claimed hundreds of lives in the Mexican cities of Nuevo Laredo, just across the river from Laredo, and Juarez, across from El Paso.
For all the hype about potent domestic homegrown, commercial-grade Mexican dominates the cheaper end of the cannabis market, and "a lot of marijuana comes up IH-35," from Laredo through San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.
"We're still putting our hands over our ears and saying 'la-la-la,' " she says. "If marijuana were legal on a federal level, it would dramatically reduce the deaths associated with the drug trade."
Meanwhile, she says, the "silent majority" of pot smokers has to overcome their fear and get vocal. "When I was circulating a petition for medical marijuana, often people would giggle and say 'I'm not putting my name on a list,' " she recalls. "Don't be afraid of your legislator. Take time and build a relationship."
St. Pierre agrees. "We have not achieved the political legitimacy of the gay and lesbian community," he concludes. "As long as 0.1 percent of cannabis consumers are involved with their own liberation, reform is unlikely." If just 1 percent of the nation's estimated 36 million pot smokers would get involved, he says, that would be a constituency of 360,000 activists.
Legalizing cannabis may not be as life-and-death an issue as health care, global warming or the war in Afghanistan, but it is not a frivolous cause. Not any more than repealing Prohibition was in the depths of the Depression.
When the nation is mired in an economic and environmental crisis, why should we waste lives and money enforcing repressive, racist and crime-creating laws? In May 1932, thousands of people marched in the streets of New York, Detroit and other cities to demand the legalization of beer. They carried signs reading "We Want Beer and We Will Pay the Tax" and "We Want Beer but We Also Want Jobs."
Later that summer, the Democratic party, battered for being "wet" in the previous presidential election, endorsed the repeal of Prohibition. On Dec. 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment went into effect, and Americans could legally drink again.
Of course, there was a fanatical former Prohibition official named Harry Anslinger, who had recently become head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics -- and was looking for a new way to advance his career.
Steven Wishnia is a New York-based journalist and musician. The author of Exit 25 Utopia and The Cannabis Companion, he has won two New York City Independent Press Association awards for his coverage of housing issues. He is looking for a job.
I remember when I first saw it. My dad called me over to his office, where he had a x86 PC with a 1200 bit/s modem, which I’d mostly used for games (I was 15 at the time) and connecting to various BBS‘. He said: there’s this new thing, they call it the Internet. I think it’ll be really important.
What can you do with it, I asked? You can see what’s on other computers, far away, he said. You can do it via Gopher, or FTP, or Cello (the predecessor of today’s WWW browsers). There wasn’t a lot to see there, so I quickly moved onto other things, but soon after that day, a new way to browse the Internet came out: Netscape.
And suddenly, the Internet became great. I could find out about games and bands I’d never heard of before. I could see what the weather is like in South Dakota. I could create a personal page (that’s what people did on the Internet before blogs came to be) with my biography and picture for everyone to see. I jumped on the train and never looked back.
The real beginning was a couple of decades earlier, although no one can really set the exact date for Internet’s birth. But on October 29, 1969, the first two nodes of ARPANET were interconnected between UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and SRI International (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. It took 12 years for 213 computers to get linked in the network.
Somewhere after that, things started changing, fast. Netscape – the archetypal browser – was overrun by Internet Explorer (). It took about 10 years for Netscape’s market share to fall from over 90% to less than 1%. Then Firefox started eating away at Internet Explorer’s market share. Who knows what we’ll be browsing on in 10 years?
Fast forward to today, and the Internet has over 1.5 billion users, and most of them can’t imagine the world without it. Most of you don’t need an explanation of what it is and how it works; it’s one of the fundamental things you encounter, like rain or electricity. It’s in our blood. It brought us the ability to communicate fast, to connect with our friends, to create stuff together; it brought us social media, Twitter () and Facebook ().
But unlike rain or electricity, it changes, faster and faster, each day. Its first 40 years were just the beginning, and I’m really, really interested in what it will look like in another 40 years. Whatever it is, it’ll probably be unimaginable from today’s standpoint.
Do you remember how you learned about the Internet? What was your first experience with it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Chancellor Keesling died in Iraq on June 19, 2009, from “a non-combat related incident,” according to the Pentagon. Keesling had killed himself. He was just one in what is turning out to be a record year for suicides in the U.S. military.
In August, President Barack Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, saying, “[T]here is nothing more sobering than signing a letter of condolence to the family of [a] serviceman or -woman who has given their life for our country.” To their surprise, Jannett and Gregg Keesling, Chance’s parents, won’t be getting such a letter. Obama does not write condolence letters to loved ones of those who commit suicide in the theater of combat. [After making inquiries, the Keeslings discovered that this was not because of an oversight. Instead, it’s because of a longstanding U.S. policy to deny presidential condolence letters to the families of soldiers who take their own lives.]
Jannett told me: “Chancellor was recruited right out of high school, and this was something he was passionate about, joining the military. I wanted him to go to college, but he said that he wanted to be a soldier.” Gregg added: “We had doubts about him joining. ... When the war broke out in 2003, when many of us were trying to retreat, Chancy decided, ‘This is my duty.’ ... But once he did his first tour ... his marriage broke up during that deployment.”
Chance was very troubled during his first tour of duty in Iraq, although he performed admirably by all accounts. At one point he was put on a suicide watch and had his ammunition taken away for a week. After Iraq, Chance declined a $27,000 reenlistment bonus and transitioned to the U.S. Army Reserves, hoping to avoid another deployment. He sought and was receiving treatment at a Veterans Affairs facility. Gregg said, “We sat down as a family, and we said, ‘President Obama is going to be elected, and President Obama will end this war, and you won’t have to go.’ ” But then his son’s orders to deploy came again.
Current laws prevent transfer of mental health information from active-duty military to the reserves, so Chance’s commanders did not know of his previous struggles. Last June, troubled again, he sent his parents a dire e-mail, mentioning suicide. Jannett recalled: “I spoke to Chancellor the night before he died for about four minutes. And as always, he wore a really tough exterior. ... But what he did tell me that night is that he was going to have a very long, difficult day. His conversation was quite brief. Normally he would say that he loves me, and he would say goodbye. But this time he simply hung up.”
The next morning, Gregg said, Chance “locked himself in the latrine and took his own life, with his M-4 ... our grief is deep. The letter won’t stop [our pain]—we’ll still be hollow inside for the rest of our lives, but the acknowledgment from the president that our son gave his life in service to the causes of the United States is important to us.”
The Pentagon admits to a mounting suicide crisis in its ranks. Numbers of acknowledged suicides have steadily climbed, from fewer than 100 in 2005, by one report, to nearly 200 in 2008, with a like number among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Gregg Keesling said that when he and Jannett went to Dover Air Force Base to greet Chance’s coffin, a master sergeant encouraged him to speak out, saying: “I’m greeting a suicide body almost every day. There’s something going on.”
The Keeslings credit Maj. Gen. Mark Graham with helping them through their grief, and working to reduce the stigma of suicide within the military. One of Graham’s sons committed suicide in 2003, while studying as an Army ROTC cadet in college. His other son, also in the Army, deployed to Iraq months later and was killed by a bomb not long thereafter. But the GI Rights Hotline, which advises active-duty soldiers on options for leaving the military, says outside psychological professionals can help suicidal soldiers obtain a medical discharge: “The military wants to know whether the patient can perform their duties without causing trouble, embarrassment or expense. His or her welfare is distinctly less important.”
The United States is engaged in two intractable, massive military occupations, with no end in sight. Obama should certainly write letters of condolence to the Keeslings and to others whose loved ones have found that the only sure way to end the living hell of war, or to escape the horror of its aftermath, is to kill themselves. But an immediate withdrawal from the wars Obama inherited is the only way to stem the bleeding.
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 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback.
Article VI in an ongoing series on the Obama administration and extraterrestrial disclosure.
The information war to secure or deny disclosure by the U.S. government of long-standing secret human-extraterrestrial liaison programs has escalated to new levels with the public release by the Disclosure Project of the summary of a Special Presidential Briefing Document given to U.S. President Barack Obama, and the Head of State of a G-7 nation, which unconfirmed reports have indicated may be France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In a letter dated October 24, 2009, Disclosure Project director Steven Greer MD states, “the summary of the Special Presidential Briefing (SPB) that we have provided to the President and to his senior military and intelligence team, the full Briefing contains detailed information on the projects, project code numbers, names, corporations, locations etc., associated with the UFO/ET subject. (The full briefing is too lengthy to release at this time.) In short, the President now has the key information that he needs to act. The President must now engage in executive action to oversee, control, and direct these operations for the benefit of the American people and the world.
“This SPB has also been provided to the head of state of at least one G7 country, senior
members of Congress, and other key government officials via known and reliable points
of contact (POCs) directly to these leaders.”
The Disclosure Project has requested that the summary and transmittal letter be published in their entirety, and these are set out later in this article. Dr. Greer asks readers to contact Mr. Obama and the U.S. Congress with their opinions on extraterrestrial disclosure.
The Disclosure Project held a May 9, 2001 Press Conference at the National Press Club with a number of high-ranking former governmental, military and scientific witnesses related to the UFO and extraterrestrial presence.
Disclosure information wars
Some analysis indicates that there appears to be an information war underway to either accelerate UFO/ET disclosure by the Obama administration, or delay or prevent it through known disinformation techniques. In this war, it is difficult to confirm sources or precise dates or outcomes.
One Oct 21, 2009 article entitled “Official disclosure of extraterrestrial life is imminent” reports that “An official announcement by the Obama administration disclosing the reality of extraterrestrial life is imminent. For several months, senior administration officials have been quietly deliberating behind closed doors how much to disclose to the world about extraterrestrial life. Dissatisfaction among powerful institutions such as the U.S. Navy over the decades-long secrecy policy has given a boost to efforts to disclose the reality of extraterrestrial life and technology.”
The article adds, “Finally, two independent and confidential sources have revealed to me [reporter Michael E. Salla, PhD] that face to face meetings have recently occurred between U.S. military officials with one or more groups of extraterrestrial visitors. This has allegedly led to confidence being built for future cooperation with the extraterrestrials that will be formally announced to the world public either at the end of 2009, or early 2010.”
ABC Alien Invasion series V : Preemptive propaganda against real Extraterrestrial Disclosure
One analyst has remarked that a major ABC-TV alien invasion series “V” appears to be designed as “preemptive propaganda against real extraterrestrial disclosure.”
This analyst states, “Now, considering that ABC will only run four episodes in 2009 during November with the remainder set for the spring of 2010, and given the current meme regarding UFO disclosure on November 27th, we can't shake the feeling that what we will be witnessing might have something to do with the Illuminati's ritual called the Revelation of Method: the usage of symbolism in popular entertainment for complete mass mind control.
“We think the latest ABC alien invasion series V is clearly a preemptive propaganda against real Extraterrestrial Disclosure.
“If you don't believe, maybe we need to remind you of the pilot for the X-Files' spinoff, the Lone Gunmen, which depicted a U.S. Government plot to crash a hijacked Boeing airplane into the World Trade Center. The pilot, which was co-written by X-Files creator Chris Carter was filmed in New York and Vancouver, B.C. and was first aired on Fox TV on March 4, 2001.
“Six months before the tragic events on 9/11.”
Is Obama “a potentially transformative American President”?
In his October 23, 2009 transmittal letter, Disclosure Project director Steven M. Greer MD states, “Nine months after the inauguration of a new and potentially transformative American President, we await significant progress on official Disclosure on the UFO/ET subject. While the UK, France, Denmark, Brazil and other countries around the world have increasingly opened their official government files, the US is found lagging behind her sister nations.”
Whether Obama is a potentially transformative American President appears to be a key factor in efforts directed at securing disclosure of the extraterrestrial presence by educating and lobbying the Obama administration.
Some opinion, notably that of some members of a panel at the Barcelona Exopolitics Summit, July 25-26, 2009, believes that Obama lacks the political strength or vision to champion extraterrestrial disclosure early in his term. You can view a Project Camelot video of this panel by clicking here or below.
AP: French Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy, Oct 16, 2009
Special Presidential Briefing
The summary of Special Presidential Briefing given by the Disclosure Project to President Barack Obama and a G-7 Head of State is as follows:
SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL BRIEFING
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
THIS BRIEFING CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION INTENDED FOR POTUS
BRIEFING DEVELOPED BY
STEVEN M. GREER MD
THE DISCLOSURE PROJECT
“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath
of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is
the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to
Robert F. Kennedy 1966 Speech
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence
The Disclosure Project
Steven M. Greer, MD, Director and Founder
January 23, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Since the mid-1950s, classified projects connected to extraterrestrial matters have operated outside of
constitutionally required oversight and control by the President and Congress. This constitutes a grave
and ongoing threat to US national security and global security and peace.
The implications of this subject are such that no aspect of life on Earth will be unaffected by its
Disclosure. We are acutely aware that this subject is highly controversial and suffers from great social
opprobrium within certain elite circles and within the mainstream media.
Indeed, secrecy on the subject has, in part, been maintained by a carefully orchestrated psychological
nexus of ridicule, fear, intimidation and disinformation that makes it difficult for any public figure to
openly address the matter.
Moreover, the ‘bubble’ of security and access restrictions that surround the Office of the President
makes it very difficult for POTUS to receive accurate information and advice on the subject. The
consequences of this secrecy, combined with the psychological aspects mentioned above, have ensured
that none of your predecessors have been able to effectively manage this problem. This has led to an
unacknowledged crisis that will be the greatest of your Presidency.
Because of this misguided secrecy, the wondrous new sciences related to advanced energy generation,
propulsion and transportation have been withheld from the people. These advances include the
generation of limitless clean energy from the so-called zero point energy field and quantum vacuum flux
field from the space around us, and propulsion that has been termed (incorrectly) anti-gravity. The field
of electromagnetic energy that is teeming all around us and which is embedded within the fabric of
space/time can easily run all of the energy needs of the Earth – without pollution, oil, gas, coal,
centralized utilities or nuclear power.
The disclosure of these sciences and their wise application during your first term as President is the most
pressing matter before you. These sciences will create a true new energy economy allowing mankind to
solve our most pressing problems of global warming, poverty and resource depletion.
The constellation of problems that include global warming, biosphere degradation, air pollution, energy
security, Mid-East policy, a collapsing geo-economic order, growing disparity between the poor and rich
of the world, over-population and human sustainability on Earth, to name but a few, are all
interconnected and directly affected by the secrecy surrounding this subject. The solutions lie not in old
thinking and technologies but in a new consciousness applying new sciences. These sciences were born
in the late 19th and 20th centuries but were abandoned and suppressed due to the lust for power, greed
and out of fear of unsettling the status quo.
It is time for a new Emancipation Declaration -one that frees all of humanity from the shackles of
economic slavery that results from secret centralized power, corruption and global economic hegemony.
The world will not find justice and peace so long as half of the world’s population lives in poverty while
the other half cannibalizes the Earth to maintain its standard of living. This dire situation can and must
be transformed into a world of abundance, clean and plentiful energy and genuine sustainability. On this
foundation, with these new sciences, technologies and a new consciousness, we can move forward as a
people, united and in peace. Then and only then will we be welcome amongst the other civilizations of
That we are not alone in the universe is now a scientific given. That we have been visited already by
advanced civilizations -whose interests here are likely ancient -is controversial. However, in my
discussions with European, Vatican, Canadian and other leaders around the world, a growing consensus
exists that we have been visited and the time for disclosing this information is long past due. More
importantly, an appropriate diplomatic initiative is needed to communicate with these extraterrestrial
visitors within a framework of universal peace, free from the past dominance of militarism and paranoia.
Insofar as upwards of 80% of the American people think that ‘UFOs’ are real, and that some aspect of
the government is lying to them about it, continued secrecy redounds only to the benefit of the precious
few who profit from such secrecy. This secrecy undermines the credibility of the US and other
governments, and allows the cancer of unchecked covert power -forewarned by President Eisenhower
in his last address to the nation -to metastasize throughout the world. It now threatens the very life of
Moreover, there exists a secret, ‘unacknowledged’ operation that has used very advanced
electromagnetic weapon systems to track, target, and on occasion, but with increasing accuracy, down
extraterrestrial vehicles. This reckless behavior constitutes an existential threat to all of mankind and
must be reined in immediately.
The so-called MJ-12 or Majestic group that controls this subject operates without the consent of the
people, or the oversight of the President and Congress. It functions as a transnational government unto
itself, answerable to no one. All checks and balances have been obliterated. While as a governing entity
it stands outside of the rule of law, its influence reaches into many governments, corporations, agencies,
media and financial interests. Its corrupting influence is profound and, indeed, it has operated as a very
powerful and embedded global RICO whose power to date remains unchecked.
Upwards of $100 billion of USG funds go annually into this operation, also known as the ‘black budget’
of the United States -enough to provide universal health care to every man, woman and child in
When I first briefed Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey on this matter in December of 1993,
only a third of this governing group was in favor of what we were recommending: Disclosure of the fact
that we are not alone in the universe and the careful release of advanced energy generation systems
that would replace oil, gas, coal and nuclear power. Sources now inform me that upwards of two-thirds
of this group now support such an initiative.
Interests in Europe, the Vatican and Asia, especially France and China, are urging Disclosure. If the
United States does not move forward, these other interests will, and America will be left behind and
become increasingly irrelevant in the world. This cannot be allowed to happen.
The European and Asian arenas will move with or without US involvement at some point in the very
near future, as well they should. Six decades of secrecy is enough.
We are also morally obliged to warn you of an existing highly secretive plan to use advanced
technologies to hoax an ‘alien attack’ on Earth. There exists within the direct control of this Majestic
group assets capable of launching such a false flag operation and virtually every person on Earth, as well
as most leaders, would be deceived by it. Components of this operation have been tested on the public
over the past 50 years and include, but are not limited to:
are very well developed. I have personally been briefed by multiple independent
corroborating sources regarding the development and deployment of PLFs. These
creatures, used in conjunction with ARVs, have convincingly launched the pop culture fervor
over ‘alien abductions’. Victims of such paramilitary human-controlled abductions genuinely
believe that they have been abducted by ‘aliens’ and often have physical stigmata and
‘implants’ to prove it. These implants are also manmade and we have information about the
laboratory and corporation making these items. (See attached documents)
Chemical, optical and electromagnetic systems to assist with creating an alteration in
awareness are components of the ‘stagecraft’ used to hoax an ‘alien’ event.
The vast majority of information in the public domain on the UFO subject is, therefore, carefully
orchestrated disinformation designed to prepare the populace, as well as our leaders, for a non-existent
‘alien threat’. The psychological warfare implications of this were described in the 1950s in CIA
documents and are further elucidated by other documents and testimony. No less a figure than
Wernher Von Braun warned of this cosmic deception.
The objective of such a false flag operation is the creation of an enemy in space that would unite the
world behind a global military power against such an ‘alien threat’. President Reagan and other leaders
have been targeted with such disinformation, which is designed to secure their silence or cooperation
with the agenda of secrecy and space weaponization. The President needs to be careful to avoid being
After very careful review of all data and documents and after interviewing hundreds of top secret
witnesses, we have concluded that the actual extraterrestrial presence is distinctly non-hostile. In light
of the reckless and aggressive nature of many of our covert military actions and the extraordinarily
advanced technologies that permit interstellar travel by these extraterrestrial civilizations, if
hostile, human civilization would have been dealt with decisively at the dawn of the nuclear era.
These visitors, however, appear to be very concerned with unchecked human hostility, war-making and
weapons of mass destruction, combined with our early potential for space travel. The tendency for
people to engage in anthropocentric projection leads many to assume a threat where none exists. It is
more likely that humanity may be seen as a threat to the cosmic order, insofar as we have failed to
restrain the expansion of weapons of mass destruction while attempting to push farther and farther into
space. Moreover, we have failed to initiate an enlightened and peaceful diplomatic mission to these
extraterrestrial visitors. This needs to change immediately.
Disclosure of this subject must be very carefully planned and positioned as a hopeful and elevating
moment in human history. A poorly positioned Disclosure that demonizes these visitors or frightens the
public may prove more harmful than secrecy.
As you may know, my uncle was the senior project engineer who worked on the Lunar Module that took
Neil Armstrong to the moon. The reason we were not welcome in space then is because the passport to
traverse the universe is a stable peaceful world civilization that will go into space united and in peace.
In this regard, world peace and universal peace are two sides of the same coin. Once we vow to live
peacefully on Earth and go into space only in peace, we will be welcome with open arms. Until then, a
type of cosmic quarantine exists -rightly -around the Earth.
Unfortunately, the media and movie industry are highly penetrated by interests loyal to the Majestic
group, which has used the media to, in turns, ridicule the subject and present terrifying images of ‘alien
invasion’. In short, the populace is almost thoroughly brainwashed on the matter, and this presents a
further hurdle that must be carefully taken into account when planning Disclosure.
Nevertheless, the status quo can no longer hold and fundamental change is urgently needed. To this
end, we urge the President to undertake a number of initiatives as soon as possible. We recommend
that the President:
propulsion and transportation aspects of these technologies (electro-magneto-gravitic
systems) be released at a later time when the world security situation has improved;
Establish high-ranking liaisons with Congress, the UN and other governments to coordinate
these projects and the release of the new energy technologies;
The National Security Council needs to form a section specifically addressing the
international, interplanetary and macroeconomic implications of this disclosure and
urgently prepare for the release of these technologies;
The Orion Project (www.TheOrionProject.org) has identified key scientists to assist with the
development of these new energy technologies. They have agreed to work with us, but are
being prevented from doing so, one by a compartmented operation (TS SCI) to which he is
assigned. We request an action by the Office of the President to specifically permit them to
work with us with the full support and protection of the President. We cannot overemphasize
how important it is that these people be assigned to this critical task: In less than
1 year, we would have new energy generators developed to run America free from oil, gas,
coal or nuclear power.
President Obama, we stand ready to assist you and your Administration with these and other tasks, and
pledge to you our full support. I will personally fulfill any request from your office with the utmost
integrity, discretion and confidentiality.
Please be assured of my heartfelt prayers on your behalf for your guidance, protection and success as
you begin your historic role as President of the United States.
Steven M. Greer MD
The Disclosure Project
Disclosure Project Transmittal Letter dated October 24, 2009
Dear Friends of Disclosure,
Nine months after the inauguration of a new and potentially transformative American President, we await significant progress on official Disclosure on the UFO/ET subject. While the UK, France, Denmark, Brazil and other countries around the world have increasingly opened their official government files, the US is found lagging behind her sister nations.
This is, in large part, because - up until now - the President has been denied access to such files. The so-called Majestic group illegally compartmentalized their secret operations away from Presidential and Congressional oversight. This secret, satellite government, which is transnational and answers only to itself, must now answer to the people and to this new President.
As you can see from the attached summary of the Special Presidential Briefing (SPB) that we have provided to the President and to his senior military and intelligence team, the full Briefing contains detailed information on the projects, project code numbers, names, corporations, locations etc., associated with the UFO/ET subject. (The full briefing is too lengthy to release at this time.) In short, the President now has the key information that he needs to act. The President must now engage in executive action to oversee, control, and direct these operations for the benefit of the American people and the world.
This SPB has also been provided to the head of state of at least one G7 country, senior members of Congress, and other key government officials via known and reliable points of contact (POCs) directly to these leaders.
Now it is time for we, the people, to be heard! Please write to these leaders and ask that they act NOW, as they are sworn to do, on our behalf. Please write to the President, to your two US Senators, and to your member of Congress and ask:
* That President Obama investigate the matter, gain proper control over these operations, end for once and forever the secrecy surrounding the UFO subject, and work with other nations to quickly coordinate an official Disclosure;
* That President Obama stand-down any covert offensive targeting of ET spacecraft;
* That President Obama, working with other leaders around the world, initiate open, peaceful Contact with these Extraterrestrial Civilizations;
* That President Obama move swiftly to release the Earth-saving new energy technologies contained within these illegal covert Majestic programs so that we may be freed from the death grip that oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy have on the planet;
* That the Congress hold open, secrecy-free hearings on these matters immediately.
If you are or know of a reliable, bona fide POC to a member of Congress, or other senior government official in the US or other country, who would like the full Briefing, please let us know.
The President was elected with the vision of transformative change. Nothing would so transform the world as the ending of this secrecy, peaceful open contact with the Extraterrestrial Civilizations visiting Earth and the release of these wondrous new energy technologies for peaceful energy generation. In just a few years, the world will be made anew.
Thank you for acting NOW to ensure the good future that most assuredly awaits humanity.
Steven M. Greer, MD
CSETI and The Disclosure Project
White House phone number: 202-456-1111
White House fax number: 202-456-2461
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Two Nicholasville librarians are fired for not allowing a kid check out a book. The women say the book contains pornographic material inappropriate for children.
The two women say they were fired last month when they wouldn't let a young girl check out a book from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman series. Now, both women say they're less concerned with their jobs and more concerned with keeping material like this out of children's hands.
"Residents in Jessamine County do not realize that these books that are so graphic are available in the library let alone to their children," former Jessamine County librarian, Beth Bovaire, said.
Beth Bovaire worked at Jessamine County Public Library up until a month ago. She and Sharon Cook worked as librarians- the two were fired last month when they say they didn't allow a child check out a book from the league of extraordinary gentleman series.
"My friend Sharon had brought it to me on Wednesday, and she said 'look at this book it's filthy and it's on hold for an 11 year old girl,' and I said well okay, lets take it off hold."
The Jessamine County Library director says it's against their policy to speak about employee terminations but he did give me a copy of their policy and it clearly states the responsibilities of the child's reading must lye with the parents and not with the library.
The women say the books contain lewd pictures of men and women in sexual situations that are inappropriate for children.
"If you give children pornography, a child, a 12 year old, can not understand and process the same way a 30 year old can," Sharon Cook said.
The women say parents these days are swamped and it's far too easy for a child to check out a book without them ever knowing. The women hope the library will reconsider their policies to make sure children aren't checking out inappropriate materials.
Can’t parents tell the librarian what material they don’t think children should have?
Decisions about what materials are suitable for particular children should be made by the people who know them best—their parents or guardians.
Children mature at different rates. They have different backgrounds and interests. And they have different reading levels and abilities. For instance, a video that one 10-year-old likes may not interest another. Or parents may feel a particular library book is inappropriate for their daughter, while the same book may be a favorite of her classmate’s family. These factors make it impossible for librarians to set any criteria for restricting use based on age alone. To do so would keep others who want and need materials from having access to them.
Like adults, children and teenagers have the right to seek and receive the information that they choose. It is the right and responsibility of parents to guide their own family’s library use while allowing other parents to do the same.
Librarians are not authorized to act as parents. But they are happy to provide suggestions and guidance to parents and youngsters at any time.
What is the Library Bill of Rights?
The Library Bill of Rights is a policy adopted by the American Library Association to guide librarians in serving their communities or schools. This policy, based on the First Amendment, protects the rights of all library users to choose for themselves what they wish to read, listen to or view. It has been voluntarily adopted by many libraries to ensure that they serve everyone in their communities equally and fairly.
Under the First Amendment, children and teens have the same rights as adults to select the materials they wish to read, listen to or view. The Library Bill of Rights simply reminds libraries of their responsibilities to serve all the public, regardless of age.
Two new reports dealing with the June 28 military coup in Honduras have demolished the arguments of the current de facto government and its foreign apologists that the coup was consistent with the Honduran constitution and that most Hondurans welcomed the illegal ouster of the country’s democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya.
In a recent commentary published on the Forbes Magazine web site, two veteran human rights lawyers, Juan Mendez and Viviana Krsticevic, take to task the authors of a recent analysis prepared for the US Congress that suggested that the Honduran constitution allowed the Honduran Congress to remove Zelaya from office. In fact, the Honduran Congress has no formal impeachment power and the vote to remove Zelaya was merely a legislative decree that was of dubious legality, the authors note. In 2003, the Honduran Supreme Court had struck down the efforts of the Honduran legislature to assert its independent authority – but according to the authors, that didn’t keep the legislature from invoking this same authority to try – wrongly - to justify legal action against Zelaya..
The Honduran Supreme Court was also complicit in violating the Honduran Constitution, Mendez and Krsticevic note. Most notably, the Court ordered the armed forces to capture Zelaya and search the presidential residence, despite the fact that article 293 of the Constitution explicitly establishes that the national police, not the army, execute all legal decisions and resolutions, in accordance with the principle of civilian rule. There were also due process violations that occurred throughout the criminal proceedings against Zelaya. Zelaya was never read his rights, informed of the charges against him, or provided access to his lawyers while being detained, then forcibly expelled from the country.
And then there is the matter of the expulsion itself, which as Mendez and Krsticevic note, has no grounding whatsoever in Honduran law. In theory, Zelaya should have been held for trial, or arrested and then released, pending trial. Amazingly, the Supreme Court cited the threat of a “flight risk” to justify an indefinite detention of Zelaya – as if Zelaya had any interest in leaving office, much less the country.
The only “flight” that occurred, in fact, was the airplane trip that Zelaya took into exile courtesy of the armed forces. They rousted him at night in his pajamas and at the point of a bayonet, demanded that he leave – or else. Some “democracy.”
The aftermath of the coup has also given rise to speculation, and charges, that whatever the legality of Zelaya’s ouster, most Hondurans were fed up with his rule, and were happy to see him go. Conservatives have noted that protests on Zelaya’s behalf have been fairly limited, while Zelaya’s supporters, and international human rights observers, have pointed to post-coup military repression, including extra-judicial killings, and other military abuses, as the primary reason for cautious popular protest.
Now, a recent polling survey conducted by the highly respected polling firm Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner thoroughly debunks the latest conservative propaganda. According to the poll, conducted just two weeks ago, 60% of Hondurans still oppose Zelaya’s ouster, and just 38% support it. 19% say Zelaya had performed “excellently” in office while 48% say his performance was “good” (a total of 67%).
By contrast, by a margin of 2-1, Hondurans say they have a negative opinion of the coup plotter who supplanted Zelaya, Roberto Micheletti, the current de facto president.
The survey also found that contrary to conservative propaganda, most Hondurans (by a 53% to 43% margin) support amending the country’s Constitution to allow the president to be re-elected – the very issue that became the pretext for Zelaya’s illegal ouster. Zelaya, of course, never actually tried to stand for re-election. He was accused of “high treason” and overthrown merely for suggesting that ordinary Hondurans be polled on the matter in a strictly non-binding referendum.
Therefore, the pollsters at Greenberg, Rosner and Quinlan polling should probably consider themselves lucky. In the US, clients sometimes fire you when a poll brings them bad news. In Honduras, they throw you in jail, tear gas you – or worse.
Stewart Lawrence is a recognized specialist in Latino and Latin American affairs, and author of numerous policy reports and publications. He can be reached at email@example.com
I just received a letter from President Obama. Right there on the outside envelope are the words “I need you.” After not answering several letters which I have mailed and faxed to him, I was, for the briefest of moments, curious about this personal plea for help. Then, of course, I realized that it was a form letter from Mr. Obama via the auspices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
I started reading the two page, single-spaced missive. His words prompt responses.
He opens with undeniable declarations, to wit: “There are times in the life of our nation when America’s course can only be set by the concerted effort of citizens determined to pull our country through.
This is one of those times—and your personal involvement in moving America forward is absolutely essential.”
Just what this “personal involvement” is all about is unclear, other than to make a “contribution of $25, $35 or even $50 to the Democratic National Committee” which is somehow supposed to make sure that “America’s families are actively engaged in the critical decisions that lie ahead.”
This money will fund something called “Organizing for America” under the DNC which will unleash “volunteers and activists” to “carry our message…all across this great country of ours.”
The “message” includes “reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance for families.” But Mr. Obama has taken the one reform—single payer, which he used to support—off the table and replaced it with a bill over a 1000 pages that will do just the opposite—to the delight of the drug and health insurance industries (see singlepayeraction.org).
Continuing into the letter, Mr. Obama emphasizes that “in communities all across America, people are worried about whether they’re going to have a job and paycheck to count on.”
But he has done nothing to support the card check reform to facilitate workers forming unions—an objective he supported during his presidential campaign. Still no push on Congress, no ringing statement of support, as he has uttered numerous times in promoting his various bailouts of Big Business.
One way to help low income workers to pay their bills is to elevate the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour which is what the minimum wage was in 1968, adjusted for inflation. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25. Adding $2.75 per hour would increase consumer demand in our faltering real economy.
The Democrats and Republicans, who gave bailouts in the trillions of dollars for the paper economy of the mismanaged, speculating, reckless big banks, big investment firms and insurance giants like AIG, should provide some economic assistance to workers on Main Street and not just Wall Street.
Mr. Obama writes: “Let’s put America’s future in the hands of people who are willing to work hard, willing to take their responsibilities seriously….” Perhaps Mr. Obama should read the short book by one of his Harvard Law School professors, Richard Parker, titled Here the People Rule. Professor Parker makes a strong case that the government has a constitutional duty to facilitate the political and civic energies of the people.
An important pathway toward this objective is to provide facilities whereby the people can easily band together in their nonprofit civic advocacy associations which they would fund themselves. Mr. Obama can start this process now by supporting a provision to establish a financial consumer association (FCA) with the pending legislation to start a consumer financial regulatory agency.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) supported a Financial Consumer Association in 1985 when he was in the House of Representatives. Remember the savings and loan bailouts?
A similar provision can be included in the pending health insurance legislation. These facilities help to redress the present severe imbalance of power between the unorganized people and the corporate power machines which are often taxpayer subsidized and able to deduct lobbying expenses.
These consumer facilities have some precedents. In Obama’s home state of Illinois thousands of consumers of electric, telephone and gas companies voluntarily pay their membership dues to their private advocacy group: Illinois CUB (see http://www.citizensutilityboard.org).
He asks for our “personal participation.” Well why doesn’t he meet with the leaders of consumer, worker and poverty groups in the White House with the frequency with which he meets with the CEOs of giant corporations in the banking, insurance (Aetna), oil, gas, coal, auto and other commercial interests?
Instead he has turned his back on the very constituencies which gave him most of his votes. These are the people who remember Mr. Obama’s campaign promises and all his intonations of “hope and change,” including moving to reform the privileged tax laws for the rich and corporations and revising the notorious trade agreements.
Since Mr. Obama wants “personal participation,” how about moving for D.C. statehood or at least his expressed desire for voting rights and Congressional representation for the residents of the nation’s capital? As the months drag on with a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House, people are losing hope for any change in their present state of political servitude.
A search using the Google search engine for the terms
does not generate any links to the Green Party of the United States webpage. None at all.
With the elections only days away, this presents a real problem for Green Party candidates. A voter searching for their local or state Green Party or Green Party candidates will not find any links to the national party if they use any of these search word strings.
A phone call to Google’s Mountain View offices sent me into voice mail hell, so I sent a fax to their number. Their fax number is 1 650-253-0001
They also have offices across the nation. To find one close to you, please visit this link.
Bing and Yahoo! still place gp.org at the top of their search results, but gp.org is not to be found anywhere in Google’s results.
If you are a Google investor, please use your contacts in investor relations to find out what has happened here.
Protesters attend an anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Oct. 25, 2009. Afghan anti-riot police opened fire during the anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul on Sunday. More than 1,000 Kabul University students staged a demonstration in Kabul Sunday to condemn the alleged desecration of Muslim holy book Quran by U.S. soldiers. (Xinhua/Zabi Tamanna) Photo Gallery
KABUL, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Kabul university students who came to streets on Sunday to condemn the alleged desecration of Muslim holy book Quran set on fire the effigy of President Barack Obama in front of parliament and called for halt of what they termed arbitrary operations.
"The protesters besides burning the effigy of President Obama and chanting slogans 'Death to America' called on the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan to halt arbitrary operations in Afghan villages," a protester Matiullah Karimi told Xinhua.
He also said that there was minor clash between protesting students and police in front of parliament building as policemen lathe charged to disperse the protesters.
U.S. soldiers, according to locals, during operations against Taliban militants in Wardak province, 40 km west of Kabul, couple of days ago raided a mosque and burned Quran.
The protesters, Karimi added, in front of parliament building, called on government to arrest and punish those soldiers burned the holy Quran.
Later the demonstrators dispersed peacefully.
Similar demonstration was held last week in Nangarhar's provincial capital Jalalabad calling on government to punish those behind the crime.
Protesters clash with police during an anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Oct. 25, 2009. (Xinhua/Zabi Tamanna) Photo Gallery>>>
An ad released by the Los Angeles Police Department urging the public to participate in an anti-terror snooping program is being described by numerous observers and news sources by a single word: Creepy.
The one-and-a-half minute spot, which can be viewed below, features a multicultural line-up of speakers explaining why they participate in iWatch, a "neighborhood watch for the whole city," as the ad describes it.
"If you see, hear, or smell something suspicious, report it. Reporting is easy. Use the web or the phone," the speakers state. "A single report can lead to actions that can stop a terrorist attack. Think about that. Think about the power of that. Think about the power of iWatch."
And indeed plenty of people are now thinking about the power of iWatch, and many observers are not impressed. Allison Kilkenny, on her TrueSlant blog, says it won't be long before iWatch will be exploited by people for their own purposes.
These kinds of anonymous hotlines are ripe for abuse, and there exist endless possibilities of innocent citizens being reported by their neighbors for the crime of “Living While Being Arab.
After the 9/11 attacks, we were told the solution to terrorism was to have citizens spy on each other, and not to, say, elect a competent government. That’s when TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) was born, an initiative to recruit one million volunteers in 10 cities across the country that encouraged them to report suspicious activity that might be terrorism-related. An investigative political journalist, Ritt Goldstein, observed in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald that TIPS would provide America with a higher percentage of “citizen spies” than the former East Germany had under the notorious Stasi secret police.
The LAPD is "creeping out America" with the ad, states KNBC in Los Angeles. The station cites outgoing LAPD Chief William Bratton, who said that "a single terrorism incident would do more harm to the city's image and economy than 50 gang murders."
"Absolutely true -- but do we really have to be so creepy with the promotional videos?" asked the station in its report. "This is LA. There are probably one or two writers, actors and directors that would be willing to cut out some of that creepiness."
Tina Dupuy at the media-affairs blog MediaBistro writes that the ad "is universally thought to be creepy and not unlike we've imagined PSA's on Orwell's telescreens to be like."
But our reaction is why did this take so long? Hello! September 11th 2001 was like eight years ago. It's taken the LAPD this long to ask Angelenos to be on the look out for anything suspicious in regards to terrorism?! What, did they get stuck in traffic for the better part of a decade?
In retrospect, it was easier to scapegoat Mr. Nader than to question the values of a so-called progressive political party that would nominate candidates as beholden to corporate interests as the incumbent we were desperately trying to unseat.
DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.
Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
Even so, research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.
In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The “telepathic” effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.
“Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said the authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.
This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.
Twenty-seven crack teams will compete in the Urban Shield exercise
Contra Costa Times
Armed officers in full battle gear will be scattered throughout the Bay Area this weekend, rescuing hostages, fighting bank robbers and quelling terrorism at the Oakland Airport, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, the NASA Ames Research Center and 22 other high profile sites.
There will be the sound of gunfire and blasts — all part of Urban Shield, one of the biggest domestic terrorism drills in the country. The $1 million, two-day event begins Saturday and will test the training of 27 crack teams from throughout the state, elsewhere in the country and the world.
For the first time in the three-year history of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department-sponsored exercise, there will be a foreign team of officers taking part and international observers. An eight-member team representing the French National Police's Research, Assistance, Intervention, and Dissuasion unit will compete.
The exercise is a non-stop, 48-hour event meant to test a team's endurance and equipment in high stress situations such as shootouts, nuclear facility threats and airline hijackings. Each team is graded on their performances and at the end of the weekend, the top three teams are recognized.
Amaury de Hauteclocque, chief of the French RAID team, said although there are opportunities in Europe to cross train with other countries' forces, there is nothing like Urban Shield, with 25 realistic scenarios at on-site locations.
"There are situations in the States we don't have in France, like a mass murder in a university," Hauteclocque said. "Fortunately we don't have them in France at this time, but we don't have a reason not to expect this to happen."
It's also an opportunity to improve relations between the two countries, he said.
RAID is a highly specialized team. Only one in 20 applicants are chosen to become a member, he said, adding that applicants must have five years experience with the French national police and must pass physical and psychological tests to be accepted.
The visiting team members were each chosen for being the best in specialties required for the exercise, Hauteclocque said.
Romulad Muller, police attache with the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., who accompanied the team, described them as the French "Dream Team." Members began training six months ago to learn how to combat the stress and fatigue they will face.
All 27 teams will run through each of the 25 scenarios. About 3,000 people are involved in the $1 million event, the cost of which is covered by Homeland Security grants and corporate sponsorships.
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said the excerise not only allows tactical teams to run through excerises it also allows them to practice disaster management coordination throughout the East Bay the Peninsula and the Silicon Valley.
Ralph Nader has been the victim of more playa' hatin' than just about any figure in contemporary American politics. Merely whispering his name is enough to elicit hisses of derision across the political spectrum.
The Right hates Mr. Nader because his decades of activism have emboldened ordinary citizens to challenge the prerogative of big business to profit at the expense of the American consumer.
Many on the Left resent him because they believe his perennial presidential quests siphon votes from the Democratic candidate. Though he's never received more than 2.74 percent of the popular vote, liberals continue to blame him for making the Bush presidency possible instead of blaming the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping the Florida recount in 2000.
For the last decade, Mr. Nader has been portrayed as a pill by the popular press -- a humorless, Quixotic figure doomed to eternal political isolation thanks to his uncompromising devotion to principle.
Nation columnist Eric Alterman and filmmaker Michael Moore, a former supporter, have slapped Mr. Nader around for repeatedly playing "spoiler" and risking a repeat of 2000. Glancing over back columns, I'm ashamed to say I did my share of Nader-bashing during the 2004 presidential election, too.
In an Oct. 15, 2004, column, I applauded a Commonwealth Court judge's decision to knock Mr. Nader off the Pennsylvania ballot.
While conceding that Ralph Nader was the candidate who truly reflected my values on the issues, the headline of my Feb. 24, 2004, column lacked any sense of nuance: "Principled vote for Nader isn't what this nation needs."
In retrospect, it was easier to scapegoat Mr. Nader than to question the values of a so-called progressive political party that would nominate candidates as beholden to corporate interests as the incumbent we were desperately trying to unseat.
Mr. Nader says without equivocation what millions of people believe in their hearts but are afraid to vote for when the polls open. Even folks who don't like him acknowledge his honesty and concede the value of his critique of our thoroughly corrupt political process. It is easier to fault him for occasional lapses in decorum and political correctness than his political positions, which are solid and irrefutable.
It doesn't make any sense to get mad at those who exercise their franchise by voting for the candidate they sincerely believe in -- like Ralph Nader -- instead of settling for one of the major party candidates who will say anything during a campaign, but disappoint us at the first opportunity once elected to office. At least the Nader voter can look in the mirror the day after the polls close without feeling mad or embarrassed.
Earlier this week, Ralph Nader delivered a stirring call to civic engagement to an overflow crowd at Point Park University. Nobody opens a speech titled "The Mega Corporate Destruction of Capitalism and Democracy" with a humorous anecdote. Instead of going for laughs, Mr. Nader got down to the business of inspiring the next generation of potential activists and troublemakers by highlighting his own experience as a young law student, taking on the automobile industry and spurring unprecedented reforms and design changes that have saved thousands of lives.
"All social justice movements start with one or a few people without power," he said surveying the crowd of mostly university students and faculty. "The difference between us and [Rosa Parks, Mother Jones, etc.] is that they didn't make excuses."
Mr. Nader credited his parents for cultivating the skepticism that has made him the bane of corporate and political power. "My father used to say: 'Ralph, what did you learn in school today? Did you learn how to believe, or did you learn how to think?'"
After the speech, Mr. Nader dined with several faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences and the Global Cultural Studies program in the university's presidential suite.
An unusually robust 75-year-old, Mr. Nader is Lincoln tall, but not particularly lanky. He has a big appetite and eats with his mouth full like a real American. He also has a very dry sense of humor and laughs easily and generously. He reminded me of the droll Arthur Dietrich character played by Steve Landesberg on the sitcom "Barney Miller."
He playfully badgered Point Park University President Paul Hennigan to follow through with plans to create a course or program devoted to civic engagement. Though he shows no signs of slowing down, he knows he's not immortal. Mr. Nader is eager to see another generation step to the plate.
Asked if he had ruled out another run for president, Mr. Nader laughed. It was too early to tell, even for him.
Ralph Nader came Monday night armed with words and pleas to set student hearts ablaze for issues of civic duty and social injustice.
"If not for the forbearers, you wouldn't be here. All social injustice movements start with someone who has no power," Nader said. "The difference between us and [the forbearers] is they didn't make excuses for themselves."
Nader attempted to deplete the "I don't have time" mentality amongst students when he gave his lecture, "The Mega Corporate Destruction of Capitalism & Democracy," on Monday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. in the GRW Theatre. It was also apparent he wanted to notify students that they have been inexcusably forced to "grow up corporate."
"I've never met a student or a person who doesn't have a sense of injustice," Nader said.
Point Park University President Paul Hennigan and Channa Newman, a global cultural studies professor, said one of the goals of hosting such a prominent yet unique individual like Nader is to expose students to a point of view that is often clouded by the traditions of the mainstream and to encourage civic responsibility.
"It never occurred to me that you can just go to city council meetings and courtrooms as a spectator," Dylan Grunn, a freshman broadcasting major, said. "It made me want to do that more."
"It was important for me, as far as getting more civic-minded, taking that more seriously and starting a civic group," D.J. Kingsbury, a senior psychology major, said.
He also said he was seriously considering starting a civic group in correlation with the other clubs in which he is a member.
"I thought it was really cool because I've never actually seen a political figure talk before, and I thought it was great that it was at Point Park," Kayla Stone, a freshman broadcasting major, said.
The four-time presidential candidate and consumer advocate defined a civic personality as a person who is passionate about one or two issues that they are capable of truly impacting.
An issue that Nader referenced was his first major civic endeavor of investigating and improving the safety standards of automobile manufacturers. He said he felt it was his duty to fight for safer cars after many of his friends died in preventable, yet horrendous, automobile accidents.
"Are colleges just high-priced trade schools?" Nader asked.
He jokingly referenced his own higher education experience at Harvard Law School as a "high-priced tool factory."
Nader encouraged Point Park to establish a civics course, which could be designed around handling real-life issues, and he said one of the best ways for students to engage is to become involved with politics.
He also cited the local Pittsburgh issues of taxpayer-funded arenas and entertainment facilities, as well as the decline of steelworkers, as issues students can become involved in.
Nader also promoted his latest book, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" The book is a fictional account of real-life figures, like Warren Buffet, fighting the corporate headlock of the American economy and establishing a practical utopia focused on citizen interests.
The lecture was sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences and the global cultural studies program. Students arrived at the event as early as 4:30 p.m. Lynn Monahan, director of academic administration for the School of Arts and Sciences, said every single ticket for the event in the GRW Theatre was taken. Overflow seating was sent to University Center rooms 213 and 219, as well as the JVH Auditorium.
Erin Lloyd, a sophomore dance and global cultural studies major, arrived early without an actual ticket to the event. She said Newman told her she would find a way for Lloyd to attend the event, even if she needed to volunteer by handing out tickets.
"My dad voted for him in every election he's been in. He's one of my dad's heroes. He really encouraged me to come," Lloyd said.
Lloyd was one of several students who attended a small group session with Nader for the media and global cultural studies students prior to the lecture. Nader told those present that the lecture was a culmination of his experiences over the years, and he said he wanted to give people a sense of their potential power.
"So, when you reach 65," Nader said, "and your grandchild comes to you and asks, 'Grandma, Grandpa, what were you doing when this world fell apart on us?' You don't respond, 'Well, excuse me, grandchild, I was just too busy updating my Facebook profile."
Figure in Bush propaganda operation remains Pentagon spokesman
In Part I of this series, Raw Story revealed that Bryan Whitman, the current deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations, was an active senior participant in a Bush administration covert Pentagon program that used retired military analysts to generate positive wartime news coverage.
A months-long review of documents and interviews with Pentagon personnel has revealed that the Bush Administration's military analyst program -- aimed at selling the Iraq war to the American people -- operated through a secretive collaboration between the Defense Department's press and community relations offices.
Raw Story has also uncovered evidence that directly ties the activities undertaken in the military analyst program to an official US military document’s definition of psychological operations -- propaganda that is only supposed to be directed toward foreign audiences.
The investigation of Pentagon documents and interviews with Defense Department officials and experts in public relations found that the decision to fold the military analyst program into community relations and portray it as “outreach” served to obscure the intent of the project as well as that office’s partnership with the press office. It also helped shield its senior supervisor, Bryan Whitman, assistant secretary of defense for media operations, whose role was unknown when the original story of the analyst program broke.
In a nearly hour-long phone interview, Whitman asserted that since the program was not run from his office, he was neither involved nor culpable. Exposure of the collaboration between the Pentagon press and community relations offices on this program, however, as well as an effort to characterize it as a mere community outreach project, belie Whitman’s claim that he bears no responsibility for the program’s activities.
These new revelations come in addition to the evidence of Whitman’s active and extensive participation in the program, as Raw Story documented in part one of this series. Whitman remains a spokesman for the Pentagon today.
Whitman said he stood by an earlier statement in which he averred “the intent and purpose of the [program] is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American public.”
In the interview, Whitman sought to portray his role as peripheral, noting that his position naturally demands he speak on a number of subjects in which he isn’t necessarily directly involved.
The record, however, suggests otherwise.
In a January 2005 memorandum to active members of both offices from then-Pentagon press office director, Navy Captain Roxie Merritt, who now leads the community relations office, emphasized the necessary “synergy of outreach shop and media ops working together” on the military analyst program. [p. 18-19]
Merritt recommended that both the press and community relations offices develop a “hot list” of analysts who could dependably “carry our water” and provide them with ultra-exclusive access that would compel the networks to “weed out the less reliably friendly analysts” on their own.
“Media ops and outreach can work on a plan to maximize use of the analysts and figure out a system by which we keep our most reliably friendly analysts plugged in on everything from crisis response to future plans,” Merritt remarked. “As evidenced by this analyst trip to Iraq, the synergy of outreach shop and media ops working together on these types of projects is enormous and effective. Will continue to examine ways to improve processes.”
In response, Lawrence Di Rita, then Pentagon public affairs chief, agreed. He told Merritt and both offices in an email, “I guess I thought we already were doing a lot of this.”
Several names on the memo are redacted. Those who are visible read like a who’s who of the Pentagon press and community relations offices: Whitman, Merritt, her deputy press office director Gary Keck (both of whom reported directly to Whitman) and two Bush political appointees, Dallas Lawrence and Allison Barber, then respectively director and head of community relations.
Merritt became director of the office, and its de facto chief until the appointment of a new deputy assistant secretary of defense, after the departures of Barber and Lawrence, the ostensible leaders of the military analyst program. She remains at the Defense Department today.
When reached through email, Merritt attempted to explain the function of her office's outreach program and what distinguishes it from press office activities.
“Essentially,” Merritt summarized, “we provide another avenue of communications for citizens and organizations wanting to communicate directly with DoD.”
Asked to clarify, she said that outreach’s purpose is to educate the public in a one-to-one manner about the Defense Department and military’s structure, history and operations. She also noted her office "does not handle [the] news media unless they have a specific question about one of our programs."
Merritt eventually admitted that it is not a function of the outreach program to provide either information or talking points to individuals or a group of individuals -- such as the retired military analysts -- with the intention that those recipients use them to directly engage with traditional news media and influence news coverage.
Asked directly if her office provides talking points for this purpose, she replied, “No. The talking points are developed for use by DoD personnel.”
Experts in public relations and propaganda say Raw Story's findings reveal the program itself was "unwise" and "inherently deceptive." One expressed surprise that one of the program's senior figures was still speaking for the Pentagon.
“Running the military analyst program from a community relations office is both surprising and unwise,” said Nicholas Cull, a professor of public diplomacy at USC’s Annenberg School and an expert on propaganda. “It is surprising because this is not what that office should be doing [and] unwise because the element of subterfuge is always a lightening rod for public criticism.”
Diane Farsetta, a senior researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors publics relations and media manipulation, said calling the program “outreach” was “very calculatedly misleading” and another example of how the project was “inherently deceptive.”
“This has been their talking point in general on the Pentagon pundit program,” Farsetta explained. “You know, ‘We’re all just making sure that we’re sharing information.’”
Farsetta also said that it’s “pretty stunning” that no one, including Whitman, has been willing to take any responsibility for the program and that the Pentagon Inspector General’s office and Congress have yet to hold anyone accountable.
“It’s hard to think of a more blatant example of propaganda than this program,” Farsetta said.
Cull said the revelations are “just one more indication that the entire apparatus of the US government’s strategic communications -- civilian and military, at home and abroad -- is in dire need of review and repair.” A PSYOPS Program Directed at American Public
When the military analyst program was first revealed by The New York Times in 2008, retired US Army Col. Ken Allard described it as “PSYOPS on steroids.”
It turns out this was far from a casual reference. Raw Story has discovered new evidence that directly exposes this stealth media project and the activities of its participants as matching the US government’s own definition of psychological operations, or PSYOPS.
The US Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command fact sheet, which states that PSYOPS should be directed “to foreign audiences” only, includes the following description:
“Used during peacetime, contingencies and declared war, these activities are not forms of force, but are force multipliers that use nonviolent means in often violent environments.”
Pentagon public affairs officials referred to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” in documented communications.
A prime example is a May 2006 memorandum from then community relations chief Allison Barber in which she proposes sending the military analysts on another trip to Iraq:
“Based on past trips, I would suggest limiting the group to 10 analysts, those with the greatest ability to serve as message force multipliers.”
Nicholas Cull, who also directs the public diplomacy master’s program at USC and has written extensively on propaganda and media history, found the Pentagon public affairs officials’ use of such terms both incriminating and reckless.
“[Their] use of psyop terminology is an ‘own goal,’” Cull explained in an email, “as it speaks directly to the American public’s underlying fear of being brainwashed by its own government.”
This new evidence provides further perspective on an incident cited by the Times.
Pentagon records show that the day after 14 marines died in Iraq on August 3, 2005, James T. Conway, then director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, instructed military analysts during a briefing to work to prevent the incident from weakening public support for the war. Conway reminded the military analysts assembled, “The strategic target remains our population.” [p. 102] Same Strategy, Different Program
Bryan Whitman was also involved in a different Pentagon public affairs project during the lead-up to the war in Iraq: embedding reporters.
The embed and military analyst programs shared the same underlying strategy of “information dominance,” the same objective of selling Bush administration war policies by generating favorable news coverage and were directed at the same target -- the American public.
Torie Clarke, the first Pentagon public affairs chief, is often credited for conceiving both programs. But Clarke and Whitman have openly acknowledged his deep involvement in the embed project.
Clarke declined to be interviewed for this article.
Whitman said he was “heavily involved in the process” of the embed program's development, implementation and supervision.
Before embedding, reporters and media organizations were forced to sign a contract whose ground rules included allowing military officials to review articles for release, traveling with military personnel escorts at all times or remaining in designated areas, only conducting on-the-record interviews, and agreeing that the government may terminate the contract “at any time and for any reason.”
In May 2002, with planning for a possible invasion of Iraq already in progress, Clarke appointed Whitman to head all Pentagon media operations. Prior to that, he had served since 1995 in the Pentagon press office, both as deputy director for press operations and as a public affairs specialist.
The timing of Whitman’s appointment coincided with the development stages of the embed and military analyst programs. He was the ideal candidate for both projects.
Whitman had a military background, having served in combat as a Special Forces commander and as an Army public affairs officer with years of experience in messaging from the Pentagon. He also had experience in briefing and prepping civilian and military personnel.
Whitman's background provided him with a facility and familiarity in navigating military and civilian channels. With these tools in hand, he was able to create dialogue between the two and expedite action in a sprawling and sometimes contentious bureaucracy.
Buried in an obscure April 2008 online New York Times Q&A with readers, reporter David Barstow disclosed:
“As Lawrence Di Rita, a former senior Pentagon official told me, they viewed [the military analyst program] as the ‘mirror image’ of the Pentagon program for embedding reporters with units in the field. In this case, the military analysts were in effect ‘embedded’ with the senior leadership through a steady mix of private briefings, trips and talking points.”
Di Rita denied the conversation had occurred in a telephone interview.
“I don’t doubt that’s what he heard, but that’s not what I said,” Di Rita asserted.
Whitman said he'd never heard Di Rita make any such comparison between the programs.
Barstow, however, said he stood behind the veracity of the quote and the conversation he attributed to Di Rita.
Di Rita, who succeeded Clarke, also declined to answer any questions related to Whitman’s involvement in the military analyst program, including whether he had been involved in its creation.
Clarke and Whitman have both discussed information dominance and its role in the embed program.
In her 2006 book Lipstick on a Pig, Clarke revealed that “most importantly, embedding was a military strategy in addition to a public affairs one” (p. 62) and that the program’s strategy was “simple: information dominance” (p. 187). To achieve it, she explained, there was a need to circumvent the traditional news media “filter” where journalists act as “intermediaries.”
The goal, just as with the military analyst program, was not to spin a story but to control the narrative altogether.
At the 2003 Military-Media conference in Chicago, Whitman told the audience, “We wanted to take the offensive to achieve information dominance” because “information was going to play a major role in combat operations.” [pdf link p. 2] One of the other program’s objectives, he said, was “to build and maintain support for U.S. policy.” [pdf link, p. 16 – quote sourced in 2005 recap of 2003 mil-media conference]
At the March 2004 “Media at War” conference at UC Berkeley, Lt. Col. Rick Long, former head of media relations for the US Marine Corps, offered a candid view of the Pentagon’s engagement in “information warfare” during the Bush administration.
“Our job is to win, quite frankly,” said Long. “The reason why we wanted to embed so many media was we wanted to dominate the information environment. We wanted to beat any kind of propaganda or disinformation at its own game.”
“Overall,” he told the audience, “we’re happy with the outcome.” The Appearance of Transparency
On a national radio program just before the invasion of Iraq, Whitman claimed that embedded reporters would have a firsthand perspective of “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
But veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich told Raw Story that the embed program was “a stroke of genius by the Bush administration” because it gave the appearance of transparency while “in reality, they were manipulating the news.”
In a phone interview, Erlich, who is currently covering the war in Afghanistan as a “unilateral” (which allows reporters to move around more freely without the restrictions of embed guidelines), also pointed out the psychological and practical influence the program has on reporters.
“You’re traveling with a particular group of soldiers,” he explained. “Your life literally depends on them. And you see only the firefights or slog that they’re involved in. So you’re not going to get anything close to balanced reporting.”
At the August 2003 Military-Media conference in Chicago, Jonathan Landay, who covered the initial stages of the war for Knight Ridder Newspapers, said that being a unilateral “gave me the flexibility to do my job.” [pdf link p. 2]
He added, “Donald Rumsfeld told the American people that what happened in northern Iraq after [the invasion] was a little ‘untidiness.’ What I saw, and what I reported, was a tsunami of murder, looting, arson and ethnic cleansing.”
Paul Workman, a journalist with over thirty years at CBC News, including foreign correspondent reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote of the program in April 2003, “It is a brilliant, persuasive conspiracy to control the images and the messages coming out of the battlefield and they've succeeded colossally.”
Erlich said he thought most mainstream US reporters have been unwilling to candidly discuss the program because they “weren’t interested in losing their jobs by revealing what they really thought about the embed process.”
Now embedded with troops in Afghanistan for McClatchy, Landay told Raw Story it’s not that reporters shouldn’t be embedded with troops at all, but that it should be only one facet of every news outlet’s war coverage.
Embedding, he said, offers a “soda-straw view of events.” This isn't necessarily negative “as long as a news outlet has a number of embeds and unilaterals whose pictures can be combined” with civilian perspectives available from international TV outlets such as Reuters TV, AP TV, and al Jazeera, he said.
Landay placed more blame on US network news outlets than on the embed program itself for failing to show a more balanced and accurate picture.
But when asked if the Pentagon and the designers of the embed program counted as part of their embedding strategy on the dismal track record of US network news outlets when it came to including international TV footage from civilian perspectives, he replied, “I will not second guess the Pentagon’s motives.” Brad Jacobson is a contributing investigative reporter for Raw Story. Additional research was provided by Ron Brynaert.
Almost eight years after choosing Hamid Karzai to head the Afghan government, Uncle Sam would like to give him a pink slip. But it’s not easy. And the grim fiasco of Afghanistan’s last election is shadowing the next.
Another display of electioneering and voting has been ordered up from Washington. But after a chemical mix has blown a hole through the roof -- with all the elements for massive fraud still in place -- what’s the point of throwing together the same ingredients?
This time, the spinners in Washington hope to be better prepared.
Unless the best and brightest who oversee Afghan war policy can rig up a coalition with the top two contestants, a runoff between Karzai and his rival Abdullah Abdullah will happen November 7. What’s on the bill between now and then is a pantomime of electoral democracy.
After such a show, the predictable encore will be further escalation of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
The runoff election has not been scheduled for the benefit of Afghan society. Many millions of people in Afghanistan are now bracing themselves. Every factor that boosted the crescendo of violence last time, cresting with several hundred insurgent attacks on election day, is still present.
The days between now and the scheduled runoff will bring heightened fear, more violence, more killing. And for what?
As with the last election, the intended beneficiaries are far from Afghanistan. In Kabul, shortly after the August 20 vote, I heard many Afghans comment that the purpose of the election was to satisfy North America and Western Europe.
Meanwhile, who is this guy Abdullah, often hyped but rarely scrutinized by the U.S. news media?
At the end of August, when I interviewed the courageous Afghan antiwar feminist Malalai Joya in Kabul, she put it this way: You can give a warlord a shave, a haircut and an expensive suit, but he’s still a warlord.
The most grisly years in Afghanistan’s capital were from 1992 to 1996, when dueling warlords mercilessly rocketed and shelled Kabul. Slaughter of civilians in the city was routine. Estimates of deaths among Kabul residents during those years range from 50,000 to 65,000. Abdullah was one of the warlords most directly engaged in ordering the carnage.
Now the Obama administration and congressional leaders -- with Sen. John Kerry playing a starring role in recent days -- are making a determined effort to legitimize the Afghan government as a prelude to further U.S. escalation of the war.
This kind of thing happened so many times during the Vietnam War that people lost count. The assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in early November 1963 was an especially dramatic delivery of a pink slip from the White House. What followed was a procession of corrupt human-rights abusers who led South Vietnam’s government.
Some, like bit player Nguyen Khanh, are barely remembered. Others, notably Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu, had staying power as Uncle Sam’s servants in Saigon. And the Pentagon machinery kept revving its gears.
“We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality," freelance American reporter Michael Herr observed in Vietnam. "Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop." In the midst of military escalation, the hopeful stories we tell ourselves -- and the tales that top U.S. officials and mass media keep tweaking and repeating -- are whistling past other people’s graveyards.
Doing some whistling themselves, many progressives have exaggerated the extent of recent concerns about this war among Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House. Tactical disputes and strategic reviews should not be mistaken for willingness to move away from a basic policy of endless war.
While the absence of democracy in Afghanistan is glaring, the failure of democracy in the United States is pernicious. At the grassroots, we have yet to grasp the magnitude of this war’s momentum -- or to exercise our capacities to stop it.
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." His appearance on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" last month, warning against escalation of the Afghanistan war, is now on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv5v_Shz2do
Thanks so much to everyone who nominated vocalists for 50 Great Voices! We're now tallying and analyzing the more than 3000 comments, the 3500 emails you sent, the 1200 posts to Facebook and the hundreds of tags on Twitter. To stay up to date on the series, and be notified when we open up voting on the final 50 sign up here for the Music Notes newsletter. Thanks again for all your recommendations and thoughts — your enthusiasm and passion has given us hundreds of singers from all over the world to consider.
In January 2010, NPR will launch a year-long exploration of 50 of the great voices in recorded history. With the series, we're hoping to discover and re-discover awe-inspiring vocalists from around the world and across time. Through archival material, interviews and music, NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered will spend the year delving into the lives and legacies of these voices. But we don't know yet whose voices they'll be.
We'll compile your nominations, along with those of our panel of experts, academics and public-radio critics. At that point, we'll name the nominees and ask you to help us winnow them down to the 50 great voices we'll profile in the coming year. We're relying on you to remind us of those voices we may have forgotten or never got the chance to hear; those voices that may sound strange to Western ears; vocalists silenced by politics or history; the singers who are only really embraced by critics and those who are heroes of the everyday listener. No voice is too outlandish, too old or too compromised. It's All Voices Considered here, and we can't wait to see and hear what you send us.
America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.
In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.
Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.
“That’s kind of the basic step — get in and monitor,” says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.
Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (”Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.
In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.
Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.
“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” says Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues at the Federation of American Scientists. But “even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.’”
Washington’s “top-two” law, in effect since 2008, is quite similar to the California “top-two” proposal that will be on the ballot in June 2010, but there are significant differences. In each instance, the Washington state version is significantly kinder to minor parties than the California proposal.
1. Washington state lets anyone running for office choose any ballot label he or she desires. For example, in Washington state a candidate for the legislature appeared on the primary ballot with “Prefers Salmon Yoga Party”, and in 2009 a candidate for County Office filed and requested the label “Prefers Grange Party”.
By contrast, the California proposal only lets candidates “prefer” the name of a qualified party. This interpretation was confirmed on October 19 by former State Senator Steve Peace, a leader in the drive to pass “top-two.” He consulted with the attorneys who drafted the California proposal.
2. Washington state will count write-ins in the general election if the vote-counting computers indicate a write-in candidate could possibly have outpolled the candidates on the November ballot. By contrast, the California proposal says write-ins at general elections are never to be counted.
3. Washington state’s primary is in late August, and California’s primary is in early June. The Washington system allows for candidates to enter the race as late as May 15 of an election year. By contrast, California’s proposal does not allow anyone to appear on a ballot unless that person enters the race by March 12 (except, theoretically, one could enter the California first round in May as a write-in, and conceivably might place first or second and thereby appear on the November ballot, but this is very unlikely). Each election year’s calendar is slightly different; those particular dates are the ones that would apply in 2010.
If the California proposal passes, California, Texas and Nevada would be the only states in which all practical routes to have one’s name printed on a ballot would be closed off by mid-March. Furthermore, Texas and 43 other states would still permit someone to enter a general election as a write-in candidate, so one could argue that California would be one of only 6 states that closes the door to any candidacy that is announced later than the summer (the earliest state deadline to be a qualified write-in candidate in November is Florida’s July 20 deadline).
4. “Top-two” does not affect presidential elections, but the California “top-two” proposal indirectly makes it more difficult for minor parties to place a presidential candidate on the November ballot. Because, under the California proposal, parties would no longer have nominees for state office or for U.S. Senate, the existing law that lets a party remain on the ballot if it polls 2% for any statewide race in a midterm year would effectively cease to exist. Therefore, all parties would go off the ballot, but those with registration of at least 1% of the last gubernatorial vote would instantly re-qualify. 1% of the last gubernatorial vote will probably be 100,000 registered members, which means the Peace & Freedom Party (which has fewer than 60,000 registered voters) would almost certainly lose its qualified status, and no longer be able to place a presidential candidate on the ballot. Peace & Freedom Party nominated Ralph Nader for president in California in 2008. If “top-two” had been in effect in 2008, this means it is overwhelmingly likely that Nader would not have been on ballot in California in 2008. The independent petition requirement in 2008 for a presidential candidate, 158,372, was so severe that Nader could not have qualified.
By contrast, Washington state lets any independent presidential candidate, or the presidential candidate of an unqualified party, appear on the ballot with a petition of 1,000 names, due in August.
One final contrast: Washington state supporters of the “top-two” system are honest enough to use that label. California supporters insist on calling the idea the “open primary”, even though the California proposal has nothing in common with the standard open primary used in over 20 states.
The British energy giant will share exploration rights for the coveted Rumaila field with Chinese and local partners in a sign that Iraq is open for business
Iraq's cabinet has approved a deal with BP (BP) to develop the huge Rumaila oil field in the country's first international energy deal since the American-led invasion in 2003.
The agreement, which was brokered in June during the first round of tendering for licences to exploit Iraq's enormous and largely untapped hydrocarbon resources, should also send "a strong signal" to other energy groups that the Iraqi administration is keen to secure deals.
Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi, the deputy director of Iraq's Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, said: "We believe that we have a strong pillar now for our work toward realising our plans." Mr. al-Ameedi was speaking in Istanbul, where Iraqi officials are meeting oil companies ahead of a second tender of oil-field contracts due in December.
Separately, Iraqi officials have also reopened talks with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa) about a revised offer for licences connected to an oil field in the city of Kirkuk in the north of the country.
BP will share the licence to extract oil from the Rumaila field near Basra with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the state-owned parent of PetroChina, and the Iraqi oil ministry. A spokesman for BP yesterday refused to confirm that the deal had received official sanction, adding that the company had heard only reports of the approval and had not spoken with Iraqi officials directly.
Analysts estimate that the Rumaila field has the potential to produce 17 billion barrels during its lifetime, with Iraq aiming to increase production at the site by 2 million barrels a day.
The country has the world's third biggest oil reserves, but has suffered from a lack of investment and United Nations restrictions on exports during the Saddam Hussein era. In more recent years, insurgent attacks on Iraq's oil fields have also hampered supplies.
Most of the 32 companies that originally joined the tender process for licences connected to six oil fields and two gas fields, including the likes of Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Total (TOT), withdrew complaining that the terms imposed by the Iraqis were not generous enough. BP and CNPC agreed to run the Rumaila field after Exxon Mobil turned it down.
Iraq's oil ministry offered 20-year service contracts, which stipulate that companies would not be paid anything until a minimum level of production, almost the amount already being produced at Rumaila, was reached. Above that point, the companies would be paid a certain amount per barrel up to a maximum level stipulated by the ministry.
The maximum amount being offered by the ministry in the case of the Rumaila field was a lot less than the oil companies were initially asking for: Exxon Mobil declined to accept the maximum payment, but BP and CNPC, which had originally asked for $4 a barrel, agreed to do the work for $2 a barrel. They will also be able to bill the ministry for the costs of the work the two groups have to do on the production facilities.
The deal between Iraq's government and the energy companies has caused anger among anti-war protesters, who have argued that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and to topple Saddam Hussein's regime was linked to oil, rather than ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, which were not found following the war.
"We always said that this war was at least in part to grab the resources of Iraq, despite the wishes of the vast majority of the Iraqi people and the oil workers' union themselves," said Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition.
"The oil companies and the governments backing them have decided to privatise the oil industry. It confirms exactly why we went to war in the first place. People should look at this and remember all the high-flown moral reasons we were given for going to war."
We can join Bill McKibben on Oct. 24 in nationwide protests over rising carbon emissions. We can cut our consumption of fossil fuels. We can use less water. We can banish plastic bags. We can install compact fluorescent light bulbs. We can compost in our backyard. But unless we dismantle the corporate state, all those actions will be just as ineffective as the Ghost Dance shirts donned by native American warriors to protect themselves from the bullets of white soldiers at Wounded Knee.
“If we all wait for the great, glorious revolution there won’t be anything left,” author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen told me when I interviewed him in a phone call to his home in California. “If all we do is reform work, this culture will grind away. This work is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to use whatever means are necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet. We need to target and take down the industrial infrastructure that is systematically dismembering the planet. Industrial civilization is functionally incompatible with life on the planet, and is murdering the planet. We need to do whatever is necessary to stop this.”
The oil and natural gas industry, the coal industry, arms and weapons manufacturers, industrial farms, deforestation industries, the automotive industry and chemical plants will not willingly accept their own extinction. They are indifferent to the looming human catastrophe. We will not significantly reduce carbon emissions by drying our laundry in the backyard and naively trusting the power elite. The corporations will continue to cannibalize the planet for the sake of money. They must be halted by organized and militant forms of resistance. The crisis of global heating is a social problem. It requires a social response.
The United States, after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, went on to increase its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels. The European Union countries during the same period reduced their emissions by 2 percent. But the recent climate negotiations in Bangkok, designed to lead to a deal in Copenhagen in December, have scuttled even the tepid response of Kyoto. Kyoto is dead. The EU, like the United States, will no longer abide by binding targets for emission reductions. Countries will unilaterally decide how much to cut. They will submit their plans to international monitoring. And while Kyoto put the burden of responsibility on the industrialized nations that created the climate crisis, the new plan treats all countries the same. It is a huge step backward.
“All of the so-called solutions to global warming take industrial capitalism as a given,” said Jensen, who wrote “Endgame: The Problem of Civilization” and “The Culture of Make Believe.” “The natural world is supposed to conform to industrial capitalism. This is insane. It is out of touch with physical reality. What’s real is real. Any social system—it does not matter if we are talking about industrial capitalism or an indigenous Tolowa people—their way of life, is dependent upon a real, physical world. Without a real, physical world you don’t have anything. When you separate yourself from the real world you start to hallucinate. You believe the machines are more real than real life. How many machines are within 10 feet of you and how many wild animals are within a hundred yards? How many machines do you have a daily relationship with? We have forgotten what is real.”
The latest studies show polar ice caps are melting at a record rate and that within a decade the Arctic will be an open sea during summers. This does not give us much time. White ice and snow reflect 80 percent of sunlight back to space, while dark water reflects only 20 percent, absorbing a much larger heat load. Scientists warn that the loss of the ice will dramatically change winds and sea currents around the world. And the rapidly melting permafrost is unleashing methane chimneys from the ocean floor along the Russian coastline. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide, and some scientists have speculated that the release of huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere could asphyxiate the human species. The rising sea levels, which will swallow countries such as Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands and turn cities like New Orleans into a new Atlantis, will combine with severe droughts, horrific storms and flooding to eventually dislocate over a billion people. The effects will be suffering, disease and death on a scale unseen in human history.
We can save groves of trees, protect endangered species and clean up rivers, all of which is good, but to leave the corporations unchallenged would mean our efforts would be wasted. These personal adjustments and environmental crusades can too easily become a badge of moral purity, an excuse for inaction. They can absolve us from the harder task of confronting the power of corporations.
The damage to the environment by human households is minuscule next to the damage done by corporations. Municipalities and individuals use 10 percent of the nation’s water while the other 90 percent is consumed by agriculture and industry. Individual consumption of energy accounts for about a quarter of all energy consumption; the other 75 percent is consumed by corporations. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States. We can, and should, live more simply, but it will not be enough if we do not radically transform the economic structure of the industrial world.
“If your food comes from the grocery store and your water from a tap you will defend to the death the system that brings these to you because your life depends on it,” said Jensen, who is holding workshops around the country called Deep Green Resistance [click here and here] to build a militant resistance movement. “If your food comes from a land base and if your water comes from a river you will defend to the death these systems. In any abusive system, whether we are talking about an abusive man against his partner or the larger abusive system, you force your victims to become dependent upon you. We believe that industrial capitalism is more important than life.”
Those who run our corporate state have fought environmental regulation as tenaciously as they have fought financial regulation. They are responsible for our personal impoverishment as well as the impoverishment of our ecosystem. We remain addicted, courtesy of the oil, gas and automobile industries and a corporate-controlled government, to fossil fuels. Species are vanishing. Fish stocks are depleted. The great human migration from coastlines and deserts has begun. And as temperatures continue to rise, huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable. NASA climate scientist James Hansen has demonstrated that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with maintenance of the biosphere on the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” He has determined that the world must stop burning coal by 2030—and the industrialized world well before that—if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number. Coal supplies half of our electricity in the United States.
“We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the planet,” Jensen said. “We need to get really serious. We are talking about life on the planet. We need to shut down the oil infrastructure. I don’t care, and the trees don’t care, if we do this through lawsuits, mass boycotts or sabotage. I asked Dahr Jamail how long a bridge would last in Iraq that was not defended. He said probably six to 12 hours. We need to make the economic system, which is the engine for so much destruction, unmanageable. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has been able to reduce Nigerian oil output by 20 percent. We need to stop the oil economy.”
The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the natural environment, as exploitable commodities. It is because consumption is the engine of corporate profits. We have allowed the corporate state to sell the environmental crisis as a matter of personal choice when actually there is a need for profound social and economic reform. We are left powerless.
Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of Russian anarchists working to topple the czar, reminded his followers that they were not there to rescue the system.
“We think we are the doctors,” Herzen said. “We are the disease.”
Let’s take you back to the beginning of David Lynch’s career. Above, we’re back in 1968, and we’re featuring Lynch’s second short film. “The Alphabet,” which won an award by the American Film Institute, has been released on DVD along with five other early short films. Find them here.
Born Isador Feinstein in 1907, his brother Louis said he changed his name at age 30 because "he didn't want to turn a reader off who might be anti-Semetic, right away, to avoid anti-Semitism in his work." Most people called him Izzy, and when he died in 1989, biographer DD Guttenplan said "he had (so) transformed (himself) from America's premiere radical journalist into a respectable icon of his profession" that all four major television networks announced his passing.
ABC's Peter Jennings called him "a journalist's journalist." The New York Times featured his death on its front page (usually reserved for the rich and powerful) in a Peter Flint obituary titled, "IF Stone, Iconoclast of Journalism, Is Dead at 81." A quintessential muckraker, he described him as "the independent, radical pamphleteer of American journalism hailed by his admirers for his scholarship, wit and lucidity" over a career spanning 67 years.
He quoted Stone saying:
"I tried to bring the instincts of a scholar to the service of journalism; to take nothing for granted; to turn journalism into literature; to provide radical analysis with a conscientious concern for accuracy, and in studying the current scene to do my very best to preserve human values and free institutions." In the spirit of author Finley Peter Dunne (1867 - 1936), he "comfort(ed) the afflicted and afflict(ed) the comfortable," in a way few others matched or kept doing for so long.
In a 1987 interview, he deplored what he called the ascendancy of "right-wing kooks (and) the ugly spirit (of Reagan's not so subtle message that) you should go get yours and run." Late in life he learned classical Greek to be able to read untranslated works and write "The Trials of Socrates" after more than a decade of study. He criticized the accepted Plato view that he died for exhorting his fellow Athenians to be virtuous. According to Stone, he was seen as a security threat at a time Athenian democracy was imperiled.
In Izzy on Izzy (on ifstone.org), he called himself an "anachronism....an independent capitalist, the owner of my own enterprise, subject to neither mortgage or broker, factor or patron....standing alone, without organizational or party backing, beholden to no one but my good readers."
They were many, loyal, and included Ralph Nader who called him "the modern Tom Paine - as independent and incorruptible as they come (as) journalism's Gibraltar and its unwavering conscience."
Stone called himself "a newspaperman all my life," publishing a paper (the Progress) at age 14, working for a country weekly, and then as correspondent for two city dailies (the Haddonfield Press and Camden Courier-Post). Beginning as a high school sophomore, he did this into his third year of college (at the University of Pennsylvania), then quit because "the atmosphere of a college faculty repelled me." At the same time, he worked afternoons and evenings at the Philadelphia Inquirer "doing combination rewrite and copy desk (work), so I was already an experienced newpaperman making $40 a week - big pay in 1928." He did everything "except run a linotype machine."
In the 1920s as a teenager, he became radicalized, mostly from reading Jack London, Herbert Spencer, Peter Kropotkin (a noted Russian anarchist and early communism advocate), and Karl Marx. He joined the Socialist Party and was elected to its New Jersey State Committee "before I was old enough to vote." He did publicity for Norman Thomas (1894 - 1968) in the 1928 presidential campaign, but then "drifted away from left-wing politics because of the sectarianism of the left."
He also believed that party affiliation was incompatible with independent journalism, and he wanted to be "free to help the unjustly treated, to defend everyone's civil liberty, and to work for social reform without concern for leftist infighting."
Remembering them "with affection," he praised his employers for never forcing him to compromise his conscience, even as an anonymous editorial writer. From 1932 - 1939, that was his job for the Philadelphia Record and New York Post, both strongly pro-New Deal papers at the time. In 1940, he came to Washington as The Nation's editor and remained until his death, working as reporter and columnist for PM, the New York Star, New York Post and New York Compass.
In the 1950s, during the Cold War and McCarthy era, no daily paper (or The Nation) ran his byline, so when the Compass closed in 1952, he launched his own four-page IF Stone's Weekly in 1953 and wrote:
"Early Soviet novels used a vivid phrase, 'former people,' about the remnants of the dispossessed ruling class. On the inhospitable streets of Washington these days, your editor often feels like one of the 'former people.' "
Earlier from its 1946 inception until 1949, he was a regular on "Meet the Press," first on radio, then TV. No longer, nor was he seen again on national television for another 18 years because his muckraking threatened the powerful.
It's never easy starting out on your own, but Stone succeeded by what he called "a piggy-back launching" from the PM, Star, and Compass mailing lists as well as people who had bought his books. From them, he got 5,000 subscribers at $5 each. During McCarthy's heyday, he got a second-class mailing permit, and was on his way after "working in Washington for 12 years as correspondent for a succession of liberal and radical papers."
Biographer Myra MacPherson (from All Governments Lie!) said he "went from a young iconoclast in the 1930s to an icon during the Vietnam War. In the fifties, he spoke to mere handfuls who dared surface to protest Cold War loyalty oaths and witch-hunts. A decade later, he spoke to half a million who massed for anti-Vietnam War rallies. (Deservedly) He became world famous."
Earlier, he supported Progressive Party nominee Henry Wallace in the 1948 presidential election campaign, civil liberties for everyone, including communists, and advocated for peace and co-existence with the Soviets. He fought the loyalty purge, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, Senator Pat McCarran's virulent anti-communism as Senate Judiciary Committee and Internal Security Subcommittee chairmen, and Joe McCarthy.
He wrote the first article against the Smith Act for its 1940 use against Trotskyites and other leftists with suspected subversive leanings.
His idea was to make the Weekly radical by providing information readers could check out on their own. He "tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible." He wanted every issue to provide facts and opinions unavailable elsewhere in the press. He felt like "a guerilla warrior, swooping down in a surprise attack on a stuffy bureaucracy where it least expected independent inquiry."
Unlike beat reporters for major dailies or wire services, he was immune to the pressures they faced. He said Washington has lots of news. If information on some are blocked, go get others because "The bureaucracies put out so much that they cannot help letting the truth slip from the time to time." And by asking tough questions, a whole lot can be learned that as an independent can be published freely without fear of employer retribution.
It's why no bureaucracy likes independent journalism, especially radical muckrakers digging out the most sensitive material it wants suppressed. The fault Stone found with most newspapers wasn't the absence of dissent. It was the absence of real news, the timidity of journalists to write it, and the power owners held over them.
"Their main concern is advertising. The main interest of our society is merchandising. All the so-called communications industries are primarily concerned not with communications, but with selling." Most newspaper owners are businessmen, not journalists. "The news is something which fills spaces left over by advertisers."
Most publishers aren't just hostile to dissent, they suspect any opinions likely to antagonize readers, consumers, and mainly advertisers. As a result, most newspapers "stand for nothing. They carry prefabricated news, prefabricated opinion, and prefabricated cartoons." Even the best papers are timid. They don't question the Cold War, arms race, or stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law. Only a few "maverick" dailies are around making it "easy for a one-man four-page Washington paper to find news the others ignore, and of course opinion they would rarely express."
Journalism was a "crusade" for Stone. What Jefferson symbolized for him was being "rediscovered in a socialist society as a necessity for good government." During the height of the McCarthy era, he felt like a pariah but believed he stood for and was preserving the best of America's traditions. It inspired what he did to the end.
DD Guttenplan's "American Radical: The Life and Times of IF Stone"
Guttenplan described him as a journalistic "irritant to power for his uncanny ability to seize on the most inconvenient truths and for his vociferous opposition to the existing order." After becoming radicalized, he was brash, forthright, anti-fascist, pro-labor, a supporter of New Deal politics, and a passionate activist for the oppressed, disadvantaged, and social justice.
In his preface, Guttenplan described the fateful December 12, 1949 moment when Stone went from prominence to a non-person in American politics and his profession. It was during an interchange with the AMA's Dr. Morris Fishbein on Meet the Press, an ardent foe of universal single-payer health insurance he denounced as "socialistic." Quoting Stone, Guttenplan wrote:
"Dr. Fishbein, let's get nice and rough. In view of his advocacy of compulsory health insurance, do you regard Mr. Harry Truman as a card-carrying communist, or just a deluded fellow-traveler?"
After that, he slowly vanished, was never again on Meet the Press, couldn't get his passport renewed after a year in Paris as foreign correspondent for the Compass, and when it closed in 1952 was blacklisted as a reporter. As he put it at age 40: "I feel for the moment like a ghost." And as Guttenplan wrote:
"For some time he live(d) in a kind of internal exile (sitting) in (a) Washington, DC....rented office waiting for the phone to ring (and) after three years (getting no) visitor apart from building maintenance workers and the mailman....(so he gave) up the office....work(ed) from home," and launched the IF Stone Weekly as a platform to produce radical commentaries for his readers...."slowly, almost imperceptibly, his audience return(ed)" to its final year 1971 peak 70,000 circulation level.
According to Guttenplan, Stone "rode into battle not as a paladin of the powerless or a gadfly, but as an insider, a confidential agent of the (left-wing) 'party within a party' that served" progressive politics in the 1930s. He later broke with Harry Truman and supported Wallace. The FBI followed him everywhere, investigated him for five years, and accumulated 6,000 pages in his file, threefold its size for Al Capone. His phone was tapped and his mail intercepted on suspicion he was a Soviet spy, that was, of course, untrue.
By 1970, he was invited in from the cold and given a special George Polk Award in journalism. He got honorary degrees from American University, Brown, Colby, and others, including a baccalaureate and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania where he dropped out before graduating.
His numerous awards included:
-- Newspaper Guild of New York Honors Page One Must for his book, "Underground to Palestine" - written before his views about Israel changed after the 1967 war;
-- The Eleanor Roosevelt Award;
-- the National Press Club Journalists' Journalist Award
-- ACLU Award;
- the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award of the Association for Education In Journalism & Mass Communications;
-- Columbia University Journalism Award; and
-- on March 5, 2008, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University announced an annual IF Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence award and an IF Stone Workshop on Strengthening Journalistic Independence.
In his name, the annual Izzy Award is presented to "an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures."
Three of Stone's great quotes were:
One of several versions of his saying "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed."
"The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins...."
"You've really got to wear a chastity belt in Washington to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk." Not Stone. His honor and integrity weren't for sale.
In a June 19 - 25, 2009 Counterspin interview, Guttenplan said Stone was never ideologically rigid, and would always change his views in light of new information. He:
"never pretended to be a liberal. He was an unashamed radical, and in a way, the most important way in which he matters is he shows us, he reminds us what's possible. He reminds us what the left can do. He reminds us what our country can do. He reminds us what our government can do if we keep on its back and we make sure it delivers on its promises."
And he showed how good journalism can make a difference, the kind so lacking then and now with no IF Stone around to write it.
He "challenged power by using power's own record against itself." And after his hearing failed, he relied increasingly on documents to prove what he famously said:
"All governments lie, but the truth still slips out from time to time," and it's up to good journalists to find and report it. Stone did, what the powerful wanted suppressed in his Weekly and numerous books, including (a treasured signed used copy this writer owns of) his "Hidden History of the Korean War."
Published in 1952, Monthly Review co-founders Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy wrote in the preface:
"This book....paints a very different picture of the Korean War - one, in fact, which is at variance with the official version at almost every point." Stone's investigations into official discrepancies led him "to a full-scale reassessment of the whole" war.
First published, in part, in the Compass and two articles in France's L'Observateur, its publisher, Claude Bourdet explained in his article titled, "The Korean Mystery: Fight Against a Phantom?"
"If Stone's thesis corresponds to reality (and it did), we are in the presence of the greatest swindle in the whole of military history....not a question of a harmless fraud but of a terrible maneuver in which deception is being consciously utilized to block peace at a time when it is possible."
Stone called it international aggression. So did Huberman and Sweezy writing in August 1951 (14 months into the war):
"....we have come to the conclusion that (South Korean president) Syngman Rhee deliberately provoked the North Koreans in the hope that they would retaliate by crossing the parallel in force. The northerners (who wanted a unified Korea, not war) fell neatly into the trap." Truman was the instigator who took full advantage when they did, as Stone believed in writing:
"we said we were going to Korea to go back to the status quo before the war but when the American armies reached the 38th parallel they didn't stop, they kept going, so there must be something else. We must have another agenda here and what might that agenda be?"
The same one, he later learned, we had in Vietnam that made him outspoken against it. He was the only journalist asked to speak at the first nationwide November 15, 1969 "Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam War," that half a million to Washington one month after a global event was held.
He matched his anti-war spirit with his support for the disadvantaged, the oppressed, social equity, and above all accuracy and truth, and used his journalism as a "crusade" to produce it. He wrote:
"I was heartened by the thought that I was preserving and carrying forward the best in America's traditions, that in my humble way I stood in a line that reached back to Jefferson. These are the origins and the preconceptions, the hopes and the aspirations" behind all his writings and the legacy that's now ours.
On June 17, 1989, he died of heart failure in Cambridge, MA and is buried there at Mount Auburn Cemetery, leaving behind his wife, Esther, of 60 years, and three children, Celia, Jeremy and Christopher. He once told his wife that "if (he) lived long enough (he'd) graduate from a pariah to a character, and then if (he) lasted long enough, from a character to public institution." He omitted a legend, a committed radical, consummate independent, and ideological hero symbolizing what Public Affairs' Peter Osnos called his "stubborn tenacity, ferocious independence, and extraordinary will" in pursuing truth.
Or as Guttenplan ended his book:
"IF Stone wrote not to create a sensation, or to promote himself (or his 'brand'), but to change the world. We read and work - and wait."
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal. net.
Bono calls Noam Chomsky a "rebel without a pause" and the "Elvis of academia." The New York Times goes just a tad further by labeling the MIT professor "arguably the most important intellectual alive." Despite such high praise, Chomsky can always be counted on to present his radical thoughts in a simple, accessible manner, e.g "We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas."
Yep, to Noam is to love him...
In the book, Confronting Empire, the late Pakistani dissident, Eqbal Ahmad says of Chomsky: "He has never wavered ... There is a consistency of substance, of posture, of outlook in his work. Consistency, of course, means repetition. Over the last twenty years, Chomsky has repeated himself a lot...the truth has to be repeated. It doesn't become stale just because it has been told once."
Repetition--if not always truth--is precisely how Corporate America does it...the same messages pounded into our brains until we submit. Such indoctrination is not easily challenged and it often requires the same brand of replication to do so. Thus, the Chomsky-inspired message for the green movement:
Speak the truth. Speak it loudly. Speak it often.
"All over the place," he explains, "from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume."
The green movement is here to create a constant counter-pressure (so to speak) to stop all this acquiescing to political power and corporate marketing. Leading by example, we each can demonstrate how much power we have and how urgent it is that we think for ourselves and exert this influence...now.
"Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain. Now it's long been understood--very well--that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist--with whatever suffering and injustice it entails--as long as it's possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history, either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community issues guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others or--alternatively--there will be no destiny for anyone to control."
As Professor Chomsky sez: "We are responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions."
I was sitting on the dock at Thanksgiving with a friend, an investment banker. He was perplexed. “I get creepy e-mails on Obama,” he said. “A real barrage. Stressing his middle name. His provenance. Equating him to Hitler. My question is, When did it start? Or were people always this crazy?”
I don't think it was always thus. I think Barack Obama makes people uniquely crazy, on all sides. Take his Nobel Peace Prize.
It drove right-wingers batty, predictably. But leftist Michael Moore, whose new film is an attack on capitalism, wrote snarkily, “Congratulations. ... Now earn it.” Then a day later – and this is what proves that he induces insanity – Mr. Moore took it back and said he'd been too hard on the President.
Barack Obama's like a political Rorschach test, a blank screen onto which anyone can project their own private Obama. He's like Chance the gardener, who also made it into the White House, just by Being There.
The Obaminsanity of the right is fairly random. They're promoting a new Bible translation because, said Phyllis Schlafly's son, other versions “are done by professors at liberal universities who overwhelmingly voted for Obama.” What does Bible-translating have to do with Barack Obama? (It's rhetorical. I know they have an answer.) The left's nuttiness, which intrigues me more due to my own inclinations, is better focused; it's about being seduced and abandoned. “He let us down,” mourned a Huffington Post blogger. This is “Bush's third term,” wrote someone on TomDispatch.
Ralph Nader says the President has an “excessively concessionary personality” and is “conflict averse.” He compares him unfavourably, as do others, to Franklin Roosevelt, who ostensibly told the rich to bring it on.
It's a weird contrast, coming from the left, since in the 1930s, it was FDR whom leftists attacked for saving capitalism with half-measures like the New Deal, in order, they said, to ward off socialism. The right hated him, but so did the left.
Besides, the Obama economic quarter-measures have forestalled (so far) the years of deep depression that paved the way for the New Deal. Not to mention the galvanizing rise of radical movements and unions in the 1930s, or the threat of an alternative posed then by the Soviet model.
Anyway, Barack Obama never said he was left. The right charges he is and the left rages he isn't. He seems to think he's post-all-that: left/right, the Cold War. He has the advantage of not being able to recall where he was in the Cuban missile crisis. What leftists seem to forget, when they fume, is that, er, He's the President .
You don't get there as a leftist or socialist. If those are your goals – as Ralph Nader may have learned – you don't win. You can't just hide it all, then pull it out when you move into the White House.
What else drives both sides wild? He seems to be having a good time.
Early on, when asked about refurbishing his helicopter, he said it seemed fine to him, but then he'd never had one before – like a new toy.
When he visited a burger joint with Vice-President Joe Biden, to show they were real folks, the veep stood as if waiting for the maître d'. But the prez gazed up at the menu, hands in pockets. He hasn't quite forgotten the moves of real life, so he seems to savour it all. As he did dancing with his kids this week at the Latino fest. It does seem odd to enjoy life, when so much he has responsibility for is a mess both at home and abroad, but there you go.
Maybe he really is postideological. The venerable ideologies have failed dramatically: the left one, 20 years back and the right one a year ago.
Could it be the absence of ideological certainty that unsettles people and disposes them to wacky reactions?
The only ideology that didn't smash up recently is anarchism, and Barack Obama certainly isn't one of those.
In 1997, Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson started Sister Spit – a spoken word tour full of the best queer writers and poets around. Twelve years later, Sister Spit: The Next Generation is taking over the world/my heart. On October 5, the tour came to Phoenix and I interviewed them for you, which is actually a big deal because it was the first face-to-face interview I’ve ever done and I was scared, y’all.
It all began on Saturday when I was reading The Phoenix New Times and saw that Sister Spit was performing at The Trunk Space on Monday. I knew I had two options: don’t go, or go alone. Why? Because I have two kids and although most parents have actual babysitters who watch children in exchange for money and food, I’m not one of those parents. I’m usually unable to attend events that happen in places other than my own backyard. I immediately chose to go alone because:
1) I am constantly over-estimating my ability to seem normal.
2) I am constantly under-estimating my abilities, period. Make sense? I want to be the kind of person who could/would show up to a Sister Spit show, totally alone, and interview the performers. And I feel like I’m at a point now where I need to force myself to be who I want to be. So, after spazzing out on Twitter about my skirt, that’s exactly what I did.
The Trunk Space is a triangular-shaped room with a small stage and what we’ll call a beverage nook… There’s some social/experimental art hanging from the walls and a bunch of records that I didn’t look through, but appreciated. The Sister Spit Van had driven all day from Las Vegas, so everyone was eating their dinner behind the merch table before the show, which I found really endearing and inexplicably dangerous. I asked Sara Seinberg if it was weird to eat while people waited for her to perform and she said no. I don’t know what I expected her to say. I’d read Ariel Schrag’s Awkward and Definition while sitting at the Thomas the Tank Engine table at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago, so I was familiar with her work, but really nothing could’ve prepared me for actually buying a book from her. (It was a choose-your-own-adventure book about a horny young woman titled Sinful Cynthia. Highly recommended.) I don’t like to think of myself as a starfucker, yet there’s really no other way to describe the stupidity that washed over me the instant I made eye contact with Ariel Fucking Schrag. I won’t bore you with excruciating details. Just know that later that night, I dreamed I was back at that merch table, with Ariel Fucking Schrag, buying every book she had for sale. Dream Ariel took my money and advised, “You know, you can’t buy friendship“, which instantly jolted me awake. Similarly, I had an idea about Michelle Tea — she has written things and I have read them, simple. No big deal. Did you know that Michelle Tea sometimes stands like a cape-less superhero? It’s true. She’s this burst of excitement and honesty, and you get the sense that she gives really great advice. I just wanted to be her best friend, you know? And I wasn’t going to try and buy her friendship, in case you were worried about that. I don’t even have any money. The evening started with a slideshow of Sara Seinberg’s tour photos, which was accompanied by “Larger Than Life”, by The Backstreet Boys. I think they do this to let you know, right from the beginning, that they’re having way more fun than you and that they want to inspire you to become more awesome. Beth Lisick read a hilarious excerpt from her book, Helping Me Help Myself. Ariel Schrag narrated the comic, Plan on the Number 7 Bus from Stuck in the Middle. Ariel also does a genius ‘homeless man on a bench’ voice. Kirya Traber read from her chapbook, Black Chick, and I wrote one word on my notepad: MESMERIZING. Sara Seinberg read from her upcoming book, The Madness of a Simple Red Stone, which is a modern re-telling of the Pandora myth set in modern-day New York. Tania Katan, a Phoenix local, read a piece about her wife, which began like this: “Instead of driving by the Mormon Temple and giving them the finger, I married a Mormon woman.” Michelle Tea read an excerpt about a queer author trying to write a crossover novel and Rhiannon Argo read from her new book, The Creamsickle, which you should totally order right this very minute. Ben McCoy did a really powerful performance piece highlighting transphobia and translife, noting it’s “always a recession for a drag queen.”
I had an opportunity to talk to a few of the ladies after the show. This basically means that I fell all over myself trying to talk to Ariel Schrag, barely kept quiet long enough to let Kirya Traber and Rhiannon Argo answer my questions, and sat entranced as Michelle Tea spoke directly to me. Wanna read it? Sure you do!
– Next Page –
Sister Spit: The Interviews
“I think what’s important for a young person to know
is that there are modern, young people who write.”
Of all the pioneering funk tunes Sly and the Family Stone turned out, you'd be hard-pressed to find one more raucous, more alive with energy than "Sing a Simple Song." For one, the way the song opens is monstrous; it practically climaxes from jump yet rather than declining in intensity, the band keeps hammering away. While folks tend to contrast the thicker sound of Sly with the terse efficiency of the JBs, this is the closest I can think of a meeting point between the two, especially with the styles of changes the song goes through - it's hard not to hear the infamous bridge at 2:11 as comparable to any number of James Brown compositions, mostly notably Marva Whitney's "It's My Thing" or Lyn Collins' "Think."
Small aside - but on the second Digital Underground album, in the liner notes, the group jokes about the number of songs that used the "Humpty Break" which, in turn, comes from that same bridge. No doubt, many songs in the late '80s/early '90s used this same break but I was curious if DU were, indeed, the first to realize you could pan out the drums on this and just flip that? Any sample/production historians out there confirm this one way or another?
Given that this song was on the B-side of "Everyday People," it would become one of the best-known Sly songs of all time and as such, has been well, well, well covered. In choosing what songs to include in this post, I wanted to shy away from covers that were good but fairly loyal - sorry Kerrie Biddell! - and instead went with a few off the beaten path.
That has to include a song that is rather obviously a cover-yet-not-a-cover: "Bold Soul Sister" by Ike and Tina Turner who basically take the main riff from Sly but then turn it into a whole 'nother piece of funky ferocity. I'm rather curious if they ever got into a legal issue with Sly and the Family Stone around that.
Then there's Deadeye, a local Minneapolis group, with "Silly Song,"...I'm not sure if they were riffing off the fact that "Sing a Simple Song" mostly seems to consist of people going "ya ya ya" though it's hard to read "Silly Song" as anything but a bit of a diss. Despite that, it's actually a pretty good cover, and a loyal one at that despite a new, jaunty intro and some interesting contrasts in vocal harmony. What's particularly notable about their version is that on the bridge, they replace the organ from the original with the vocalizing of the band instead - do do do do do. (Thanks to Young Einstein for introducing me to this LP).
That idea gets taken to the nth degree with one of my favorite versions of this song, by the Filipino band Please (recording for Germany's Telefunken label). At 2:18, various members of the band get to "sing" a melding of the bridge's drum break but with the chorus melody. Each of four singers gets two bars to sing (some better than others) and then the entire group comes back for another few turns but what's cool is that after they're done, the familiar bridge comes back, this time played by the horn section. Righteous! (Apparently, this version was comped for one of the UBB series though I first heard it at J-Rocc's crib when I did a story on him a few years back.)
On October 13, Ralph Nader filed his brief in the 9th circuit in Nader v Cronin, 08-16444. The case challenges the number of signatures needed for an independent presidential candidate in Hawaii, which is approximately 6 times as many signatures as are needed for an entire new party (which is entitled to its own primary, and the ability to run a nominee for every partisan office in the state).
This is the only constitutional ballot access case still pending in any court that was filed in 2004. It was delayed for years because the U.S. District Court was waiting for the State Supreme Court to rule on some of the issues in the case.
Tour of the school set up by 16-year-old Babar Ali
Around the world millions of children are not getting a proper education because their families are too poor to afford to send them to school. In India, one schoolboy is trying change that. In the first report in the BBC's Hunger to Learn series, Damian Grammaticas meets Babar Ali, whose remarkable education project is transforming the lives of hundreds of poor children.
At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He's a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family's backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.
The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.
Babar Ali's 'school' has some 800 students
Babar Ali's day starts early. He wakes, pitches in with the household chores, then jumps on an auto-rickshaw which takes him part of the 10km (six mile) ride to the Raj Govinda school. The last couple of kilometres he has to walk.
The school is the best in this part of West Bengal. There are hundreds of students, boys and girls. The classrooms are neat, if bare. But there are desks, chairs, a blackboard, and the teachers are all dedicated and well-qualified.
As the class 12 roll-call is taken, Babar Ali is seated in the middle in the front row. He's a tall, slim, gangly teenager, studious and smart in his blue and white uniform. He takes his notes carefully. He is the model student.
Babar Ali is the first member of his family ever to get a proper education.
"It's not easy for me to come to school because I live so far away," he says, "but the teachers are good and I love learning. And my parents believe I must get the best education possible that's why I am here."
Raj Govinda school is government-run so it is free, all Babar Ali has to pay for is his uniform, his books and the rickshaw ride to get there. But still that means his family has to find around 1,800 rupees a year ($40, £25) to send him to school. In this part of West Bengal that is a lot of money. Many poor families simply can't afford to send their children to school, even when it is free.
Chumki Hajra is one who has never been to school. She is 14 years old and lives in a tiny shack with her grandmother. Their home is simple A-frame supporting a thatched roof next to the rice paddies and coconut palms at the edge of the village. Inside the hut there is just room for a bed and a few possessions.
Chumki Hajra, a pupil at Babar Ali's school, describes her day
Every morning, instead of going to school, she scrubs the dishes and cleans the homes of her neighbours. She's done this ever since she was five. For her work she earns just 200 rupees a month ($5, £3). It's not much, but it's money her family desperately needs. And it means that she has to work as a servant everyday in the village.
"My father is handicapped and can't work," Chumki tells me as she scrubs a pot. "We need the money. If I don't work, we can't survive as a family. So I have no choice but to do this job."
But Chumki is now getting an education, thanks to Babar Ali. The 16-year-old has made it his mission to help Chumki and hundreds of other poor children in his village. The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn't stop to play, he heads off to share what he's learnt with other children from his village.
At four o'clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.
Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.
Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.
Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.
Without this school many kids wouldn't get an education, they'd never even be literate
Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free. Most of the girls come here after working, like Chumki, as domestic helps in the village, and the boys after they have finished their day's work labouring in the fields.
"In the beginning I was just play-acting, teaching my friends," Babar Ali says, "but then I realised these children will never learn to read and write if they don't have proper lessons. It's my duty to educate them, to help our country build a better future."
Including Babar Ali there are now 10 teachers at the school, all, like him are students at school or college, who give their time voluntarily. Babar Ali doesn't charge for anything, even books and food are given free, funded by donations. It means even the poorest can come here.
"Our area is economically deprived," he says. "Without this school many kids wouldn't get an education, they'd never even be literate."
Seated on a rough bench squeezed in with about a dozen other girls, Chumki Hajra is busy scribbling notes.
Her dedication to learning is incredible to see. Every day she works in homes in the village from six in the morning until half past two in the afternoon, then she heads to Babar Ali's school. At seven every evening she heads back to do more cleaning work.
Chumki's dream is to one day become a nurse, and Babar Ali's classes might just make it possible.
The school has been recognised by the local authorities, it has helped increase literacy rates in the area, and Babar Ali has won awards for his work.
The youngest children are just four or five, and they are all squeezed in to a tiny veranda. There are just a couple of bare electric bulbs to give light as lessons stretch into the evening, and only if there is electricity.
And then the monsoon rain begins. Huge drops fall as the children scurry for cover, slipping in the mud. They crowd under a piece of plastic sheeting. Babar Ali shouts an order. Lessons are cancelled for the afternoon otherwise everyone will be soaked. Having no classrooms means lessons are at the mercy of the elements.
The children climb onto the porch of a nearby shop as the rain pours down. Then they hurry home through the downpour. Tomorrow they'll be back though. Eight hundred poor children, unable to afford an education, but hungry for anything they can learn at Babar Ali's school.
A spokesman from the Nobel Committee yesterday spoke on condition of anonymity about the controversial decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, who as yet has solved no international crisis or created peaceful resolution to any conflict but has delivered some awesome speeches that have breathed new life into the Norwegian stock exchange, the Red Herring 500, according to the committee member. "There's derivatives trading now in virtually every commodity known to humankind," noted the source. "So why not peace?" He added that rare commodities with unpredictable futures are particularly attractive to derivatives traders, and that peace certainly falls into that category. With many on the right objecting that Obama hasn't done anything to earn the prize and many on the left complaining that his record domestically has been to deliver magnificent speeches without following up with any decisive actions and to paper over conflicts with inspiring words and half-measures, the Nobel Committee member admitted on background that he wasn't sure whether the action of the committee technically could be considered hedging or derivatives trading, but he was counting on it to create a competitive market for both peace and Obama memorabilia.
According to inside sources, the decision to award Obama the peace prize represented an unprecedented joint decision of the committees charged with selecting winners in economics and peace. Derivatives are complex financial products that no one on the peace committee understood. However, it had help from the committee on economics, which has been considering co-awarding its Nobel this year to Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers for their collaboration in both creating and then halting the economic crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September. One member of the economics committee pointed out the extraordinary nature of their achievement: "Before Geithner and Summers we could only perform econometric computer simulations. They were the first to demonstrate experimentally, in real time, that you can collapse the world economy with neoclassical economic theories and then revive it with Keynesian principles. We've been waiting for someone to test Keynesian principles definitively in the real world for over 60 years. This is a truly stunning achievement."
Members of the peace committee were moved by the arguments of their colleagues in economics. "The possibilities of trading in secondary peace products are extremely exciting," noted the anonymous source. "Imagine if we could have used the Peace Prize to leverage Mussolini into not exercising his option to buy fascism from Hitler in the early to mid 1930s." Unfortunately, the Great Depression made any attempt at deregulation of peace commodities at that time untenable.
Upon hearing about the Committee's decision to introduce speculation into the peace market, a number of experts expressed serious concerns. "Now is not the time to introduce sub-prime honorees into the Nobel portfolio," argued one experienced diplomat, who worried that the Committee might next award the Prize to Libyan not-so-strong-man-anymore Mohamar Qaddafi. Doing so, he argued, could lead to an inflated peace market that could produce the equivalent of a housing bubble, or at least an inflated tent. The committee had apparently strongly considered Qaddafi as an alternative to Obama, noting that his decision not to blow up any planes in over 20 years constituted a Nobel-caliber contribution to world peace, and that, like Obama, he had done something by doing nothing. However, his chances were dramatically reduced when the Libyan government gave a hero's welcome to the returning Lockerbee bomber who had been released on humanitarian grounds with 3 months left to live after doctors in Ireland determined him either to be, or to have, a "malignant asshole."
Insiders have acknowledged that this was a weak year for candidates for the Peace prize, leading to the unusual decision to bet on futures rather than follow the century-old precedent of selecting someone who has actually accomplished something, like Yassir Arafat, who once shaved for an episode of Terrorists Gone Wild. Given its interest in borrowing methods from the financial industry, however, the committee did consider short-selling the Prize to former Vice President Dick Cheney. However, it ultimately decided that Cheney had already been awarded the title of "Dick" and that they couldn't really top that. The committee's decision ultimately came down to the choice between either Obama for not being George Bush or Bush for not being President.
Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation."
Professor Noam Chomsky may be among America's most enduring anti-war activists. But the leftist intellectual's anthology of post 9/11 commentary is taboo at Guantánamo's prison camp library, which offers books and videos on Harry Potter, World Cup soccer and Islam.
U.S. military censors recently rejected a Pentagon lawyer's donation of an Arabic-language copy of the political activist and linguistic professor's 2007 anthology Interventions for the library, which has more than 16,000 items.
Chomsky, 80, who has been voicing disgust with U.S. foreign policy since the Vietnam War, reacted with irritation and derision. "This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes,'' he told The Miami Herald by e-mail after learning of the decision.
"Of some incidental interest, perhaps, is the nature of the book they banned. It consists of op-eds written for The New York Times syndicate and distributed by them. The subversive rot must run very deep.''
Prison camp officials would not say specifically why the book was rejected but Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, a Guantánamo spokesman, said staff reviews "every proposed or recommended library item to assess force protection issues associated with camp dynamics -- such as impact on good order and discipline.''
The banned book showed the bespectacled professor-emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in button-down shirt and sweater staring out of a black cover of a 2007 edition printed by a Beirut publishing house.
A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing "Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western'' ideology, literature on "military topics,'' and works that portray ``excessive graphic violence'' and "sexual dysfunctions.''
The list of approved material includes poetry, fiction, art, math, history, religion, politics and current events.
A Pentagon defense lawyer sent the book to Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a confessed al Qaeda member who had worked as Osama bin Laden's media secretary in Afghanistan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
A military jury convicted Bahlul, 40, of soliciting murder and conspiracy and sentenced him to life in prison in November for creating al Qaeda propaganda. The key evidence was a two-hour video he made by splicing fiery bin Laden speeches with Muslim bloodshed and stock news footage of the aftermath of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen.
Bahlul is currently the lone war crimes convict at Guantánamo, where the prison camps commander ordered him separated from the other 245 war-on-terror captives at the U.S. base in Cuba under an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions that forbids holding detainees with convicted prisoners. Two earlier convicts were sent back to their native countries, Australia and Yemen, and are now free after serving short sentences.
Prison camp staff would not say how many donated books have been refused.
But DeWalt said detainees are forbidden from receiving gifts of books as personal property. Instead, he said, books sent to the captives are evaluated for their suitability for the library -- a trailer where Defense Department staff have catalogued a collection that recently ballooned to more than 16,000 books, magazines and videos even as the Pentagon is downsizing the prison camp population.
President Barack Obama has ordered the prison camps closed by early next year, a deadline the White House now says it may miss.
Meantime, staff there say quality-of-life improvements will continue until the last detainee is gone.
The library is also a featured stop on weekly tours for reporters, members of Congress and other invited guests brought to the sprawling prison camp compound in a Pentagon bid to demonstrate that the much-maligned detention center is "safe, humane and transparent.''
Library staff have since 2005 described the Harry Potter series as a borrowing bestseller among the mostly devout Muslim population -- and shown off translated versions in the stacks that separate Arabic from Urdu, French from Farsi and cover more than a dozen languages.
Other reportedly popular items include old World Cup soccer playoff videos, a French cuisine cookbook published in Beirut and scholarship on the Koran, prescreened to make sure they contain mainstream messages.
For a time, Richard Nixon's Victory Without War flew off the shelves, a librarian reported. So much so that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed referred to it during a war court hearing earlier this year.
But not Chomsky, who in recent years got high-profile plugs from two of America's most ardent adversaries.
In September 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez held up Chomsky's 2003 Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance in a speech at the United Nations that also likened President George W. Bush to Satan, and gave the book a bump in sales for several weeks.
A year later, bin Laden popped up in a keep-the-faith video address to his followers that proved he was alive and ridiculed the U.S. invasion of Iraq while praising the professor's "sober words of advice prior to the war.''
DeWalt said "force protection reasons'' barred him from explaining why any title or author was banned but said as of this week there were no Chomsky works of any type at the Guantánamo library in any language.
As you go to sleep, say to yourself, “I am giving instructions to my soul, my spirit, my subconscious to witness my dreams.”
Initially you may not notice much of a change. But if you practice this every night for a few weeks, you will start to have a very clear experience that the dream is the scenery, and you are the person watching it all. When you wake up in the morning, recapitulate the night (put yourself in position of observer of your dreams, so that connections and themes and images and coincidences become clearer).
Once you are able to recall the movie of your dreams. Write down some of the more memorable scenes. Include them in your journal. Make a special note of coincidences. Nonlocal intelligence provides clues in our sleep just as it does in our waking hours.
The mechanics of the dream and the mechanics of what is happening to us in the so-called reality are the same projections of the soul. We are merely witnesses.
What starts to happen, then, is that gradually we see correlations, images that repeat themselves both in dreams and in everyday reality. More coincidences provide more clues to guide our behavior. We start to enjoy more opportunities. We have more “good luck.” These clues point out the direction to take our lives. Through this process of recapitulation we see recurring patterns and we start to unravel life’s mystery. This process is especially helpful for departing from destructive habits. Life has certain themes that it plays out. Sometimes those themes operate to our advantage. Sometimes they work against us, especially if we repeat the same patterns or themes, over and over, hoping to get a different result.
The process of recapitulation can help us witness these patterns, and once we discern them, we can make more conscious choices. So remain sensitive, observe coincidences during both your daytime living and your nighttime dreaming, and pay special attention to anything that breaks the probability amplitude – the statistical likelihood of a space-time event.
Adapted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press).
I heard a padshah giving orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless fellow began to insult the king on that occasion of despair, with the tongue he had, and to use foul expressions according to the saying:
Who washes his hands of life
Says whatever he has in his heart.
When a man is in despair his tongue becomes long and he is like a vanquished cat assailing a dog.
In time of need, when flight is no more possible,
The hand grasps the point of the sharp sword.
When the king asked what he was saying, a good-natured vezier replied: 'My lord, he says: Those who bridle their anger and forgive men; for Allah loveth the beneficent.'
The king, moved with pity, forbore taking his life but another vezier, the antagonist of the former, said: 'Men of our rank ought to speak nothing but the truth in the presence of padshahs. This fellow has insulted the king and spoken unbecomingly.' The king, being displeased with these words, said: 'That lie was more acceptable to me than this truth thou hast uttered because the former proceeded from a conciliatory disposition and the latter from malignity; and wise men have said: "A falsehood resulting in conciliation is better than a truth producing trouble."'
He whom the shah follows in what he says,
It is a pity if he speaks anything but what is good.
The following inscription was upon the portico of the hall of Feridun:
O brother, the world remains with no one.
Bind the heart to the Creator, it is enough.
Rely not upon possessions and this world
Because it has cherished many like thee and slain them.
When the pure soul is about to depart,
What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the ground?
The coup that can't shoot straight has done it again, as journalist Belén Fernández reports today on Narco News: when military and police troops invaded the studios of Channel 36 on September 28, stealing its transmitters, antennas and other equipment, they forgot to remove the surveillance cameras.
Here, for the first time, you can see for yourself what really happened:
In that first video, National Police enter through the television network's underground parking lot and then up the stairs at 5:20 a.m. when the station is empty. They bring in men wearing masks and bulletproof vests stamped "Policia Nacional" to disconnect the TV station's broadcasting equipment, who then start removing it, piece by piece, from the premises. The police also bring their own videographer, so the regime presumably has its own archive of what exact equipment it stole!
And there's more in the second surveillance camera video:
Here, the masked men of the coup regime rifle through the equipment in another studio from the same Channel 36. At points you can see the National Police video cameraman in view of the surveillance camera. And then you can see them carrying it all down the stairs and out the door, an hour and 40 minutes later, at 6:58 a.m.
There's your Honduran "civilian coup" regime's version of "democracy" and "freedom" at work.
It should be added that this kind of jackbooted censorship is endorsed and defended by the US public relations firm of "Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates on behalf of the Office of the President of the Republic of Honduras," and Washington DC lobbyist Lanny Davis, enemies of press freedom, all. So next time any of those goons in suits and ties try to spin a story angle on you, kind journalists, remember to ask them about the invasion and censorship of Channel 36, in which they, too, are complicit.
Reporting from Washington - Could the government outlaw a hypothetical "Human Sacrifice Channel" on cable TV?
That question became the focus of a Supreme Court argument Tuesday on the reach of the 1st Amendment and whether Congress can outlaw videos showing dogs fighting or other small animals being tortured and killed.
Last year, a federal appeals court, citing freedom of speech, struck down a law against selling videos with scenes of animal cruelty.
The law applied only to illegal acts of torturing or killing animals, not legal hunting or fishing. It was intended to dry up the underground market in so-called crush videos, which show squealing animals being stomped by women in high heels. More recently, it has been used to prosecute people who sell videos of pit bulls and other dogs fighting.
On Tuesday, most of the justices sounded wary of reviving the law, fearing it might be used to ban depictions of legal activities such as hunting.
Justice Antonin Scalia, an avid hunter, insisted the 1st Amendment does not allow the government to limit speech and expression, unless it involves sex or obscenity.
"It's not up to the government to tell us what are our worst instincts," Scalia said.
He repeatedly cited Adolf Hitler and his policies of extermination, asking, "Can you keep him off the screen" just because his deeds were vile?
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. garnered the attention of his colleagues with a series of questions on whether videos portraying humans being killed would be protected as free speech.
Describing a hypothetical scenario, Alito said there might well be a "pay per view" market for programs made outside the United States and beyond the power of U.S. law that showed people actually being killed. He called it the "Human Sacrifice Channel" and wondered aloud whether Congress could outlaw the showing of such programs in this country.
"Live. Pay-per-view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel. That's OK?" Alito asked.
A lawyer defending a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos said she wasn't sure.
"The fact conduct is repulsive or offensive does not mean we automatically ban the speech," said Patricia Millett, the lawyer for Robert Stevens.
She said the 1st Amendment usually protects speech and expression, even if the underlying conduct is ugly or illegal. She said the government should work to stop the illegal acts rather than make it a crime to show the illegal acts.
Several members of the court pressed her.
"I'm still looking for an answer," said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. "You are unwilling to say that Congress can pass a law that you cannot have a Human Sacrifice Channel?"
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mentioned "snuff films" and said they raise the same issue.
For much of the hour, the government's lawyer, Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, struggled to convince the justices that the law targeted only crush and dog-fighting videos.
Stevens was convicted of selling three videos that contained scenes of pit bulls fighting in Japan, where the activity is legal.
By the arguments' end, the justices seemed to be weighing several possibilities.
One was to narrow the reach of the law to focus only on crush videos. A second would be to uphold the law as written, but make it clear that moviemakers, photographers and others had a right to challenge its use against legitimate work portraying animals. A third possibility was to rule the entire law unconstitutional because it infringed too much on the 1st Amendment.
A ruling in the case, U.S. vs. Stevens, is not expected for several months.
“…maybe what we need is a feral howl, or the transformative power and real precision of poetry.” — Arundhati Roy
“…protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism….” — Alan Ginsberg, Howl
“Civil disobedience is a way of bringing the feelings, the desires, the ideas of people to the attention of the public and to the attention of government.” — Howard Zinn
“The TOSCA Governor could — legally — inspire more civil disobedience than the world has ever experienced, and change the world in the process.” — Richard Martin Oxman
“When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say,….” — A.E. Housman
Less than one month away from my first Rutgers University teaching assignment, as a know-nothing Instructor of Dramatic Art, I met the great American stage director Alan Schneider and the incomparable Samuel Beckett at a private showing of Buster Keaton films in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. They had settled on Buster Keaton (who didn’t appreciate Sam’s opus) for the main role in their joint maiden cinematic venture, Film, but they didn’t know enough about his work, so they were obliged to review some classic footage. Actor James Karen (who had recommended BK) got me into the screening room, and Eleanor Keaton ushered me to a seat… a mere few feet from my favorite dramatist. During one break in viewing (right around the time of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution), I heard something like the following:
Alan Schneider: I don’t like to tell people what to do. [Pause.] I particularly don’t like to tell anyone what to tell others to do. Least of all with you, Sam.
Samuel Beckett: [Long pause.] Who would you like me to contact, Alan? [Pause.] That’s okay. I think I know.
I have done my homework, Howard, heartbeats on the pavement. I write directly to you now… in the knowledge that the only way to stop our horrid momentum — to have a chance at all of at least reducing our abominations — is to inspire massive, incessant civil disobedience. As per the thrust of your ongoing, heartfelt advice.
The TOSCA Governor (twelve citizens as per http://oxtogrind.org/archive/364) — legally — , and change the world in the process. There is the possibility. And, as far as I can see, nothing else on the table holds the potential for encouraging the necessary degree of civil disobedience, the amount and kind required to make a significant difference in time. Yes, I do feel deadlines looming, the value of intermittent, diffused civil disobedience notwithstanding.
So… I’ve come up with the following short play on/with words (for action).
As the curtain rises, John and Jane are sitting DC, John fiddling with his shoe (just like Estragon in ). Richard and Howard are sitting UC, leisurely stretching out their double lattes.
John Doe: Nothing’s to be done.
Jane Doe: Sometimes the means become apparent only by taking steps into the dark. Put on your shoe. Let’s go.
Richard Oxman: Hey, Howard, I really don’t want to appear presumptuous… or as if I’m violating any principles of anarchism, but I do have a suggestion. I trust that it won’t seem as if I’m telling you what to do, or telling others what to do.
Howard Zinn: What would you like of me, Richard?
Richard Oxman: Help to get a ball rolling which will culminate in millions of people taking part in civil disobedience with regard to our war machine. Millions who have in common — at least — recoiling in horror at our abominations abroad.
Howard Zinn: Again, what would you like me to do, Richard?
Richard Oxman: All of the following people have at least a few close friends who they could influence. Some have legions of followers, supporters. All have blood connections. I firmly believe that you could make the difference. Get a core group of respected individuals to become proactive regarding… getting their non-politician Governor (devoted to encouraging necessary civil disobedience) into office. I actually can see every single progressive in the country on board with this, in spite of differences. I can envision every single band with progressive bones in their collective bodies writing songs to hail the coming of civil disobedience. And I can easily picture celebrities ‘cross the board taking steps to make a difference… which they never before considered. All because of your reputation, connections and a renewed sense of urgency.
Howard Zinn: Who are you talking about, Richard?
Richard Oxman: Just from the top of my head, in no special order… let’s see. Hmmm, how ’bout Grace Lee Boggs, one friend of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin’s, Dick Gregory, Green Day, Michael Albert (maybe), Staughton Lynd and his wife, Kathy Emery, Bob Moses and the whole gang at Algebra Project, Dana Frank, Marian Wright Edelman and her colleagues at Childrens Defense, Mike Davis, Noam Chomsky’s daughter, Elaine Brown, Patricia Ellsberg, Arundhati Roy, David Barsamian, Lydia Sargent, Michael Parenti’s son Christian Parenti, 1000 people firmly ensconced in academia, 99 people connected with Dramatic Art, 55 writers for Common Dreams and/or Counterpunch, 2 people from Greenpeace, 1 person from California’s Green Party, Mumia Abu-Jamal, 1 person from California’s Peace and Freedom Party, 1 person (outside of California) from any party other than the two major parties, someone on Amy Goodman’s staff, David Cogswell, Cynthia McKinney, some relative of Daniel Berrigan’s, Amari Baraka, a NationDead Man Walking or The Color Purple (unless you have to go through Mel Gibson to reach someone), anyone at www.sweatfree.org, Ward Churchill, Justin Akers Chacon, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tim Wise, Steve Earle (for anti-death penalty purposes), of course (though not Mike Farrell), someone at The Progressive, et al. [Pause.] I had wanted to fill up 100 pages with names and organizations, but… that would use up valuable time, I thought. What do you say? employee, Ralph Nader, any twenty-year union person, Gabriel Matthew Schivone, Bill McKibben, George Kirschner, Matt Damon, 3 people associated with
Howard: Sounds like it would require a lot of heartbeats, Richard.
Richard: Maybe not more than a day’s worth. Perhaps you could allocate assignments for others. The thing is, everyone could carry on with what they’re doing, but simply make the united effort a major priority… so that there were unprecedented numbers devoted — for about a year — to doing something in common. Even if their personal commitment amounted to no more than a few heartbeats per person total over the course of 365 days.
Howard: [rising] Hmmm. Let me think about it, Richard. In the meantime, come with me. Let me show you something. What’ll amount to another window of opportunity.
[Richard reluctantly rises too, and they EXIT.]
ENTER John, limping. He sits DC, very despondent, takes off a shoe, and looks at the audience in despair. Jane accompanies him, very light on her feet, as if she’s Columbine from Millay’s Aria Da Capo.
John: Nothing’s to be done.
[He throws the shoe into the audience, at the audience.]
Jane: [compassionately] Oh, John… why oh why did you do that?
John: [very unsettled] It’s what Buster Keaton would have done under the circumstances.
Jane: That makes no sense.
John: [slumping down] I know. But unless you offer solutions, people will turn away. Because if there is nothing you can do about a problem, what’s the point of thinking about it? [Pause.] I can’t go on.
Jane: Oh, John, let’s just try to forget all of this. [He reluctantly rises, but they do not move.
[The curtain descends on the tableaux?]
Thanks for your kind consideration, Howard. Truly.
Episode of Ben Watson's weekly show "Late Lunch With Out To Lunch" originally broadcast live on Resonance Radio (www.resonancefm.com) with OTL spouting "nonsense" and talking about it, with a backwards theme tune, backwards Frank Zappa and Derek Bailey, in-studio contributions from Mordecai (18 months today); Gamma and Johan Lif reading OTL's Smooch Tentet Resolve; Paul Simon; Captain Beefheart; Bobby Hutcherson; Gustav Mahler; Michael Tencer on contemporary pop and Rosco Gordon.
20 telescopes will be set up on lawn for attendees to gaze at moon, Jupiter
updated 4:22 p.m. PT, Tues., Oct . 6, 2009
President Barack Obama will welcome skywatchers to the White House Wednesday for an evening of stargazing with the first family.
A group of professional and amateur astronomers will set up more than 20 telescopes on the White House lawn during the presidential star party to mark the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), a celebration of the 400th anniversary of famed astronomer Galileo Galilee's first use of a telescope to observe the night sky. President Obama, his family and a group of local middle-school students are expected to attend.
Top targets on the celestial menu: The craters and mountains of Earth's moon, Jupiter and its own moons, and other stars and objects.
The White House star party will begin Wednesday night at around 8 p.m. EDT with a kickoff address by President Obama to be broadcast live on NASA TV. It corresponds with World Space Week, which began Sunday and ends Oct. 10.
According to a White House press office statement, the star party is aimed at highlighting "the President's commitment to science, engineering, and math education as the foundation of this nation's global technological and economic leadership and to express his support for astronomy in particular — for its capacity to promote a greater awareness of our place in the universe, expand human knowledge, and inspire the next generation by showing them the beauty and mysteries of the night sky."
The star party is organized by the White House, Office of Science, Technology and Policy, and NASA — but the idea behind it originated with Chicago-based amateur astronomer Audrey Fischer and a six-month campaign by the IYA2009 team.
"We're delighted that President Obama will take a break from his pressing terrestrial concerns to personally witness some of the same celestial spectacles that Galileo first studied 400 years ago and that revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our home planet," said Stephen Pompea, the U.S. program director for IYA2009 and an astronomer with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), in a statement.
The White House star party is just one of several space-themed events this week.
In addition to numerous World Space Week celebrations, NASA plans to crash a probe into the moon on Friday morning in a bid to search for hidden caches of water ice at the lunar south pole.
Taryn Simon photographs the hidden and unfamiliar in America (see book here). Above, her 18 minute presentation takes you inside the America not often seen, providing glimpses of the CIA’s abstract art collection, the federal government’s marijuana grow room, a Braille edition of Playboy produced by the Library of Congress (just the articles, not the pictures, of course), and more. I’ve added this clip to our YouTube Favorites. Thanks to the various Twitter streams that flagged this clip for me this weekend.
War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. The hushed voices, the well-tended grass, the flapping of the flags allow us to ignore how and why our young died. They hide the futility and waste of war. They sanitize the savage instruments of death that turn young soldiers and Marines into killers, and small villages in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq into hellish bonfires. There are no images in these memorials of men or women with their guts hanging out of their bellies, screaming pathetically for their mothers. We do not see mangled corpses being shoved in body bags. There are no sights of children burned beyond recognition or moaning in horrible pain. There are no blind and deformed wrecks of human beings limping through life. War, by the time it is collectively remembered, is glorified and heavily censored.
I blame our war memorials and museums, our popular war films and books, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as much as George W. Bush. They provide the mental images and historical references to justify new conflicts. We equate Saddam Hussein with Adolf Hitler. We see al-Qaida as a representation of Nazi evil. We view ourselves as eternal liberators. These plastic representations of war reconfigure the past in light of the present. War memorials and romantic depictions of war are the social and moral props used to create the psychological conditions to wage new wars.
War memorials are quiet, still, reverential and tasteful. And, like church, such sanctuaries are important, but they allow us to forget that these men and women were used and often betrayed by those who led the nation into war. The memorials do not tell us that some always grow rich from large-scale human suffering. They do not explain that politicians play the great games of world power and stoke fear for their own advancement. They forget that young men and women in uniform are pawns in the hands of cynics, something Pat Tillman’s family sadly discovered. They do not expose the ignorance, raw ambition and greed that are the engine of war.
There is a burning need, one seen in the collective memory that has grown up around World War II and the Holocaust, to turn the horror of mass murder into a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit. The reality is too unpalatable. The human need to make sense of slaughter, to give it a grandeur it does not possess, permits the guilty to go free. The war makers—those who make the war but never pay the price of war—live among us. They pen thick memoirs that give sage advice. They are our elder statesmen, our war criminals. Henry Kissinger. Robert McNamara. Dick Cheney. George W. Bush. Any honest war memorial would have these statesmen hanging in effigy. Any honest democracy would place them behind bars.
Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz, fought against the mendacity of collective memory until he took his own life. He railed against the human need to mask the truth of the Holocaust and war by giving it a false, moral narrative. He wrote that the contemporary history of the Third Reich could be “reread as a war against memory, an Orwellian falsification of memory, falsification of reality, negation of reality.” He wondered if “we who have returned” have “been able to understand and make others understand our experience.” He wrote of the Jewish collaborator Chaim Rumkowski, who ran the Lodz ghetto on behalf of the Nazis, that “we are all mirrored in Rumkowski, his ambiguity is ours, it is our second nature, we hybrids molded from clay and spirit. His fever is ours, the fever of Western civilization that ‘descends into hell with trumpets and drums.’ ” We, like Rumkowski, “come to terms with power, forgetting that we are all in the ghetto, that the ghetto is walled in, that outside the ghetto reign the lords of death, and that close by the train is waiting.” We are, Levi understood, perpetually imprisoned within the madness of self-destruction. The rage of Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq, is a rage Levi felt. But it is a rage most of us do not understand.
A war memorial that attempted to depict the reality of war would be too subversive. It would condemn us and our capacity for evil. It would show that the line between the victim and the victimizer is razor-thin, that human beings, when the restraints are cut, are intoxicated by mass killing, and that war, rather than being noble, heroic and glorious, obliterates all that is tender, decent and kind. It would tell us that the celebration of national greatness is the celebration of our technological capacity to kill. It would warn us that war is always morally depraved, that even in “good” wars such as World War II all can become war criminals. We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nazis ran the death camps. But this narrative of war is unsettling. It does not create a collective memory that serves the interests of those who wage war and permit us to wallow in self-exaltation.
There are times—World War II and the Serb assault on Bosnia would be examples—when a population is pushed into a war. There are times when a nation must ingest the poison of violence to survive. But this violence always deforms and maims those who use it. My uncle, who drank himself to death in a trailer in Maine, fought for four years in the South Pacific during World War II. He and the soldiers in his unit never bothered taking Japanese prisoners.
The detritus of war, the old cannons and artillery pieces rolled out to stand near memorials, were curious and alluring objects in my childhood. But these displays angered my father, a Presbyterian minister who was in North Africa as an Army sergeant during World War II. The lifeless, clean and neat displays of weapons and puppets in uniforms were being used, he said, to purge the reality of war. These memorials sanctified violence. They turned the instruments of violence—the tanks, machine guns, rifles and airplanes—into an aesthetic of death.
These memorials, while they pay homage to those who made “the ultimate sacrifice,” dignify slaughter. They perpetuate the old lie of honor and glory. They set the ground for the next inferno. The myth of war manufactures a collective memory that ennobles the next war. The intimate, personal experience of violence turns those who return from war into internal exiles. They cannot compete against the power of the myth. This collective memory saturates the culture, but it is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).
AP Photo / Caleb Jones
The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial was based on the iconic Iwo Jima photo that was actually staged and eventually used to sell war bonds.
Time to Get Reckless?Welcome Back, Michael Moore By RUSSELL MOKHIBER With pictures of Ralph Nader surrounding him, Michael Moore this week threatened Congressional Democrats with defeat at the polls in 2010.
Moore was a Nader for President supporter in 2000, aiding and abetting the consumer advocate in his quest for the Presidency.
Moore returned to the Democratic fold in 2004 and 2008 – throwing his support to John Kerry and Barack Obama.
But earlier this week, Moore returned to Nader territory – the press room at Public Citizen on DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. – and with pictures of the consumer advocate on the wall surrounding him – Moore announced that he intended to launch a campaign against Congressional Democrats who didn’t at least support a strong public option in the health care legislation currently barreling through the Congress.
Moore is a supporter of a single payer system but — unlike many in the single payer movement — he’s willing to compromise down to a strong public option.
But it’s clear that Democrats in Congress are in no mood even for a strong public option.
And Michael is in no mood to compromise further.
“To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it, I want to offer a personal pledge,” Moore said. “I – and a lot of other people – have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want.”
“That is not a hollow or idle threat,” Moore said. “We will come to your districts and work against you. First in the primary. And – if we have to in the general election. You don’t think so? You don’t think so? You think we are just going to go along with you because you are Democrats? You should think again. We will organize the thousands of people in your district who have suffered as a result of this cruel health care system we have. We will organize them. We will come after you and we will remove you from office.”
Moore didn’t clearly define the standard he would use in deciding whether to challenge a Democrat.
First he said that he organize against Democrats “who stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want.”
Then he said he would organize against Democrats if they didn’t “get behind the President.”
(Question: Michael — You mean get behind the dirty deal Obama cut with the drug and health insurance industries – Obama takes single payer off the table and the criminal corporations support Obamacare?”)
Then he said that the legislation would have to “at the minimum have a public option available to all people who can buy into this – at the very least it has to have this.”
Moore then accused the 2000 Naderistas – and by implication himself – of being activists who are “reckless in politics” who “don’t really care.”
“Let me just say – there are some people in this room – if you remember back to the election of 2000 – that are fairly reckless individuals when it comes to politics,” Moore said.
“They don’t really care. When they see a hypocrite, when they see somebody who has turned their back on the people who put them in office, they will be relentless in working against you. Even if it means that the Democrat doesn’t win.”
By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this world.
But it is otherwise with thy love which is greater than theirs,
and thou keepest me free.
Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone.
But day passes by after day and thou art not seen.
If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart,
thy love for me still waits for my love.