Saturday, October 29, 2005


For Immediate Release: 10/14/05

Event: A Chet Helms Tribal Stomp

Produced by: Family Dog

Date: Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Location: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park
Time: 9am to 5:30pm
Admission: Free
Non-Profit: 501 (c) 3

Bands: Jefferson Starship: Paul Kantner, David Frieberg, Pete Sears,
Prairie Prince, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, Eric Burdon, Dan Hicks
and the Hot Licks, The Charlatans, Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and The
Fish) The Rowan Brothers, Jerry Miller, Lee Osker (Schedule Permitting) Terry Haggerty and James Preston (Sons of Champlin), Zero II, Roy Rogers, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Cold Blood featuring Lydia Pense, Lee Michaels, Quicksilver Gold, featuring Joli Valenti and Mario Cipollina, Squid B. Vicious, Barry “The Fish” Melton, Blue Cheer, (Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens), Jorge Santana, George Michalski, Greg Errico (Sly and the Family Stone), Canned Heat, Narada Michael Walden, Natural Act (Hal Wagenet and Mitchell Holman), Jeff Blackburn, Howard Wales, Richi Ray, (Freedom Highway), Vince Welnick, (The Tubes and Grateful Dead), David Denny (Steve Miller), Peter Kaukonen, Herman Eberitzsch (Lee Oskar), Ross Valory (Journey), Judge Murphy, Stephen Gaskin, Howard Hessman (as schedule permits) Greg Douglass (Steve Miller) Rock Hendricks, Bruce Latimer, David and Linda Laflamme (It's A Beautiful Day), Lydia Pense (Cold Blood), Annie Samson (Stone Ground), and Wavy Gravy.

Chet Helms was one of the founding fathers of the psychedelic movement from the 1960's. As promoter for the "Family Dog", Chet developed the concept of the modern rock concert and was one of the founding fathers of the 1960's peace movement that swept the nation and made waves around the world. Chet was also the catalyst that brought together Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, which helped shape the San Francisco sound. Without Chet Helms, as many have said, there would be no Grateful Dead, no Jefferson Airplane, no Big Brother and the list goes on and on. He promoted other acts such as the Charlatans, the Great Society, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Peter Tosh, The Clash and countless others. Chet Helms continued promoting pivotal concerts through four decades. In the 60's at the Avalon Ballroom, Family Dog at the Beach, S.F. Golden Gate Park, Denver Dog, and Crystal Ballroom in Portland.


Sunday November 30, 2005 in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, Speedway Meadows from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. will be a free festival in memory of Chet Helms, who passed over in June of 2005. I hope to be there.

For those who are unfamiliar with Chet or his passing, here is a piece published by Rolling Stone announcing his death:

Promoter Chet Helms Dies

Sixties San Francisco scene-maker was sixty-two

Chet Helms, San Francisco rock promoter, manager and key figure in 1967's Summer of Love, died Saturday of complications from a stroke suffered earlier in the week. He was sixty-two.

Born in Santa Maria, California, Helms was the oldest of three boys. After his father died when Helms was nine, the family moved to Texas. Helms remained in Texas for the next decade, enrolling in and dropping out of the University of Texas before moving to San Francisco in 1962. His beginnings as a music promoter were modest, as Helms served as a host of jam sessions in his Haight-Ashbury district home. Big Brother and the Holding Company was one of the groups that played, and while serving as their manager, Helms dramatically altered the course of the band by recruiting an old college acquaintance by the name of Janis Joplin to be their singer.

Helms was an early partner of legendary promoter Bill Graham, with the two putting on several shows at the Fillmore before parting ways. Graham continued to promote shows at the Fillmore, while Helms and his Family Dog production company moved to the Avalon Ballroom, with the Grateful Dead a mainstay, and everyone from the Doors to Bo Diddley passing through.

Country Joe and the Fish honed their chops underneath the Avalon's psychedelic light shows, and the band's guitarist Barry Melton credits Helms with fostering the kind of nurturing environment that helped bands progress. "There was an ethic unique to the time and place of San Francisco in the Sixties, an extraordinary ethic of tolerance and acceptance," he says. "Chet was the living embodiment of that tolerance and acceptance and openness that made it all happen. That element was very much a reflection of who he was."

After the scene dissipated, Helms took a hiatus from concert promotion in 1970, returning to the business off and on in 1978. In 1980 he began running Atelier Dore, an art gallery in San Francisco, and became passionate about digital photography in recent years.

"He was so tough that it's a surprise," says his widow Judy Davis. "This last year he was having a lot of problems with hepatitis C, and by the time he had his stroke he was weakened. He had a beautiful death. There were about ten people around the bed."

Helms is survived by his wife, a stepdaughter and three grandchildren.

(Posted Jun 27, 2005)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Listen closely to Faithless, a group I discovered recently and have fallen in love with. Not only were we lied to about weapons of mass destruction, but most in the so called United States of America don't see the WMD's we are spreading throughout the world. This is often done through a secret network of cells operating under the guise of multi-national corporations and news, entertainment, education and double-speak democracy.

Music Video Codes by

Thursday, October 27, 2005


as we commemorate the sacrifices of the 2000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the following business news is released:

U.S. Energy Companies Report Record Quarterly Profits

U.S. energy companies are reporting record quarterly earnings this week. Exxon Mobil has reported a third-quarter profit of $9.92 billion -- the largest quarterly total ever for a U.S. company. The Los Angeles Times notes the figure amounts to more than what Coca-Cola Co., Intel Corp. and Time Warner Inc. earn in an entire year. Third-quarter profits at ConocoPhillips, the country's third-largest oil company, are up 89 percent. Together, the 29 major oil and gas firms are expected to earn $96 billion this year, up from $68 billion last year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2000 Young Lives Gone for Greed, Fear and Ignorance. God Bless Them and Their Loved Ones With Peace and Joy. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Please Pause and Say a Prayer........................

for all who suffer for our selfishness, self-centerdness and fear. The following was just published by CNN:

The US network CNN, quoting Pentagon sources, reported Tuesday that the number of soldiers killed since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq had reached 2,000 with the deaths of two more soldiers, a toll likely to add pressure on the US administration over its role in the violence-wracked country.

For the first time, a majority of Americans believe the Iraq war was the "wrong thing to do", according to a poll published in The Wall Street Journal

Monday, October 24, 2005

I quit nicotine on Friday

I realized in my prayer and meditation that I had once again found a comfort spot, in my nicotine addiction, where I could sufficiently numb my feelings so I could "relax" and enjoy life. I knew the time was approaching, because when I prayed "May I do Thy Will always" I knew that it wasn't in His/Her ultimate plan for me to continue to pollute this beautiful creation called my body. I thought it quite ironic that I would pray that with my best intentions, then get up and light a cigarette.

I'm feeling past the physical withdrawals now but Saturday my skin was crawling. I knew it would pass, but at the same time I was in a frame of mind that wanted to think that I would feel withdrawal forever. This video is where my mind gets sometimes when I let myself feel the pain and frustration of Alan's life.


Peace, Alan

Friday, October 21, 2005

A View of Our President from Poland

I found the following at I loved it so much I had to share it. Michael lives in Poland.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Qualifications, shmalifications

I finally realized what the Bush appointment process reminds me of - Melrose Place.
In order to keep the cast members interacting in ever new combinations, characters were routinely shuffled between the same three or four workplaces. Someone might go from being a fashion designer to working in a bar, while wondering whether to go into advertising (guess which agency?!) or get a job in the hospital.
In that same proud Heather Locklear tradition, W seems intent on shuffling the 12 people he's met in his life in as many jobs around him as possible.
What a bizarre thing to be happening in the Whitehouse in the 21st century ...

Hey, I thought we were fighting to save our way of life per George????

Due to cuts in funding, HMO's profit motivation and generally fucked up priorities the so called United States of America is about the least prepared of any Western country to deal with a pandemic such as the bird flu that has been so much talked about.

Lack of funding has caused many of our best people in Health and human services to leave. The HMO's priority of profit and lack of funding has greatly decreased the number of beds available so that any medical emergency on a large scale would completely overwhelm the hospital system. The Clinton and Bush administrations have delayed responding to the Avian (bird) flu threat so that we are at the end of the line for getting anti-viral medication. In addition the Bush administration blocked the U.N. from forcing Roche, the makers of the medication from allowing governments to make the medication even though it is copyrighted. In exchange Roach is going to build a plant in the good old U.S.A. to manufacture the medication. It still won't produce nearly enough and the Pentagon claims first dibs over the health care personnel, because the new Bush policy is to put the military in charge of such a disaster and not Health and Human Services.

In addition the Bush appointee in charge of Health and Human Services previous experience was managing railroads. Can you say Katrina disaster on a larger scale? Will the U.S. become one big Super Dome?

In addition the United Auto Workers have made concessions weakening employer provided health care because U.S. auto makers can't absorb the costs and compete with foreign auto makers from countries the have universal health care (like most of the "industrialized countries). Don't you think access to adequate health care should be a right and not a privilege? While we're at it let's throw clean air, clean water, clean food, adequate housing and education into the mix of equal rights not wealth based privilege.

Excuse my complaining but I get pissed when innocent children, the elderly and the disabled are automatically designated second class citizens because of their lack of earning power. As a matter of fact, the entire middle class has become 2nd class and is quickly heading in the direction of the poverty line.

For an in depth look at why this threat of avian flu is so huge please take the time to read the following interview from Democracy Now. Print it out and read it at your convenience but PLEASE READ IT.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005
Mike Davis on The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu

On Tuesday, European foreign ministers declared that the European Union was not prepared to deal with the global threat of avian flu. This follows statements made by U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt who said on Monday, that no country was prepared to combat a pandemic of avian flu. The deadly disease has been making headlines recently and Monday's discovery of the disease in a bird found on a Greek Island marked the first time that the virus had migrated across the EU's borders. It was also the third country in a week to identify its first case - the others are Turkey and Romania. Avian flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.
Also yesterday, Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company that makes the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, said it would consider granting other firms licenses to make the drug. Tamiflu is the most effective anti-viral drug currently available for avian flu. This announcement from Roche, came after organizations, including the United Nations, mounted pressure on the company to do away with commercial barriers to producing the drug.

We spend the hour discussing avian flu with Mike Davis, author of "The Monster At Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu."

Mike Davis, professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. He is a renowned urban theorist, social historian and author of six books including "City of Quartz." His latest book, which has just come out is, "The Monster At Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu."

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Mike Davis, a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, renown urban theorist, social historian and author of six books, including City of Quartz. His latest book, which has just come out, is called The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. I spent an hour yesterday interviewing Mike Davis in San Diego. He began by talking about the central thesis of his book.

MIKE DAVIS: The principal concern in my book is that most of the world, the poor countries of the world, have absolutely no protection against the threat that most public health authorities consider to be an inevitable threat of an avian influenza pandemic. They don't have access to anti-virals. They don't have access to vaccine. Indeed, they don’t -- many of them don't even have the means of surveillance to detect the flu or monitor its progress once the flu pandemic were to reach the southern hemisphere, the poorest countries in South Asia or southern Africa. And right now probably the most worrying thing that's happening in the world is not that birds with avian flu have reached the doorstep of Europe, but the very same birds will imminently carry avian flu probably to East Africa and the Nile Valley and almost certainly into South Asia. And I think what we need to be most worried about is the combustion of avian flu, with its potential to become a human pandemic, with urban poverty.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Davis, can we take a step back and explain what avian flu is?

MIKE DAVIS: Of course, because a lot of people would ask and ask with good reason, ‘Why should we be so worried about a disease which has infected under 200 people, killed less than 100, when we live in a world where millions of people die every year of malaria, tuberculosis, H.I.V.?’ And the answer, of course, is the experience of humanity in 24 weeks in 1918, when between 40 and 100 million people died of a pandemic influenza. This is the greatest mortality event in human history. There have been two subsequent pandemics in 1957 and 1968. Neither were anywhere as deadly as 1918. And then, suddenly in 1997 this new flu emerged in Hong Kong, and scientists discovered to their horror that rather than being incubated in a pig or a human being who had been co-infected with several strains of the flu, it had jumped directly from birds to humans with a wild and extraordinary virulence that’s now -- probably half the people who we know have had this flu, die of it. And the concern is that if this flu were to acquire the few mutations that it would need to become transmissible in the same ways an ordinary flu or winter cold, and if it preserved any portion of its current virulence, it could be a catastrophe on a global scale comparable to 1918.

AMY GOODMAN: How does a bird get it?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, it's endemic in birds. If you were to go to any lake in Canada or Alaska at the end of summer when birds are getting to migrate and you tested the water, it would be full of flu. Flu is an endemic and usually benign infection of the gastrointestinal tracts of geese and birds and ducks and other migratory birds, and it’s existed amongst birds for millions of years. And apparently what happens, although rarely, is the flu undergoes mutations or re-assorts with the genes of an already -- flu that's already existing amongst humans or other mammals and then infects human beings.

What's extraordinary now is that this particular subtype, H5N1, which is a kind of license number for its surface proteins, jumped from wild birds to poultry to humans and then jumped back again. And scientists were horrified to see -- and many of them had never seen this before -- that flu was actually killing wild birds, who are normally its a benign host. And right now it's become a bird pandemic, not yet a human pandemic, but even if this flu posed no threat to human beings whatsoever, it would still be a global ecological cataclysm. And it's spreading around the world now with migrating birds and has become basically ineradicable amongst birds and probably also amongst poultry.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, I have just heard about the situation, for example, in Thailand where the head of a school of public health, when Thailand goes to get Tamiflu to deal with avian flu, that the U.S. government has bought up all the Tamiflu in the world from Roche. Is this true -- the manufacturer that makes it -- and what is the significance of this?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, the U.S. is currently trying to buy large quantities of it, but this is to make up for the delinquency of the Bush administration, which has failed to build adequate stockpiles of Tamiflu. Tamiflu is a anti-viral developed at a hospital, an American hospital and basically public sector or nonprofit sector in medicine, then was developed into a pharmaceutical by a small company in California and now is controlled and monopolized by Roche, the giant French-based pharmaceutical corporation. It manufactures Tamiflu at a single factory in Switzerland. So this anti-viral, which has now become probably the most sought after drug in the world, is an utter monopoly of a single corporation, confined right now to one plant in Switzerland.

A few months ago an a meeting of the World Health Organization, when Thailand and South Africa raised the question, the urgent need to be able to produce Tamiflu generically in their own countries and for the third world, the United States and France blocked the debate. They actually shut down the debate. And essentially, what's happened is that two deals have been cut. The Bush administration has got Roche to agree to open a plant next year to manufacture Tamiflu in the United States, although Americans should be aware we won't have anywhere near an adequate stockpile of this anti-viral until 2007, that we're essentially naked until then.

At the same time, the World Health Organization has abandoned support or criticism of Roche's monopoly, in turn for the donation by Roche of three million courses of Tamiflu to the W.H.O., which proposes to use this to douse an outbreak if that is possible, which most researchers doubt. So in a way the health of the whole world right now is held hostage to the corporate property rights of Roche, supported by the United States and other governments like France.

AMY GOODMAN: Why does it endanger Americans if the U.S. government buys up all the Tamiflu and people in, for example, Vietnam or Thailand don't have it?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, several things. First of all, the U.S. is only trying to buy up Tamiflu. We’re at the back of the queue. The Clinton administration and the Bush administration have been told repeatedly since 1997 by the leading flu researchers and by their own public health officials to build an adequate stockpile. The Bush administration initially put other priorities higher, things like abstinence education and then, after 9/11, throwing billions of dollars at the largely hypothetical threat of bio-terror weapons like anthrax and Ebola fever. So, the U.S. now is trying to buy up a huge amount of this, but it won't really have it for two years. So until 2007 there's only enough Tamiflu in the United States to be fought over by the troops that the President proposes to put in the streets and by critical military personnel. There's no Tamiflu for the ordinary population.

At the same time, because of this limited production of Tamiflu and because the rich countries have bought up most of it, and now orders extend over a period of years, and because it is expensive, manufactured by Roche, selling for $40 to $60 a course, there's essentially no Tamiflu for the third world. The W.H.O., as I say, is receiving a donation, and it’s not clear when that would arrive, which would apply at the beginning of an outbreak somewhere in the third world. But if that fails, as many researchers fear this strategy would, then the rest of the world is essentially helpless. It doesn't have Tamiflu. It has no access to potential flu vaccines, unless heroic decisions are taken and taken quickly.

And what this means is that right now with flu in Europe, you can put the chickens indoors, you can cull the poultry, but inevitably avian flu will begin to appear in countries that have no flu surveillance. And if it achieves a critical mass, if it becomes pandemic in a poor country, it will spread to the rest of the world at the speed of a traveling jet airplane. We already have the experience of SARS in 2003, when a single sick person, a Chinese doctor, infected all the other guests on a floor of a hotel in Hong Kong, many of them aircrew, and within a matter of weeks SARS managed to travel to Singapore, Hanoi and Toronto. And you can be sure that avian flu will have the same kind of travel plan that SARS did.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mike Davis teaches at University of California, Irvine. He is the author of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. We'll be back with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to Professor Mike Davis, Professor of History at University of California, Irvine, author of many books, his latest, Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. I talked to him yesterday about the global threat.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Professor Mike Davis who has written the book, The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. In a recent news conference President Bush held, he said there could be another avian flu epidemic in this country. And he said the military might be needed to enforce quarantines and other emergency measures. Your response, Professor Davis?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, boots on the ground seems to be the administration's one-stop solution to any problem, mainly because they lack the means or they have dismantled the capacities to act in other ways, as we saw with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina. Some people, very rightly, raised the question, ‘Well, is America going to become one single huge squalid Superdome under martial law if there were an avian flu epidemic?’ And indeed, this whole idea of militarizing response to a pandemic, of relying on the Pentagon and Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Health and Human Services, does raise this whole specter that is essentially a coup d’etát in the name of fighting pandemic.

But there's another question that I'm frankly more concerned with. This is this very limited stock of the antiviral Tamiflu. And right now there’s fierce debate going on exactly who should get Tamiflu. But the agreement is that the first priority should be immediate responders, critical medical personnel. However, the Pentagon has never signed on to this principle. And last year in a memo circulated through the Pentagon, the Pentagon asserted that it had first priority both to anti-virals and to potential flu vaccines. So if you militarize the response to a pandemic, if you federalize the National Guard, put the 82nd Airborne in the streets to enforce quarantines, obviously the Pentagon is going to insist that the priority for anti-virals go to the troops in the street. And this sets up a zero sum conflict with the critical medical personnel. The danger here is that you will take the anti-virals from the people who we should assure have first priority at it, and that poses further dangers of a collapse of the public health response to a potential pandemic.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Davis, you talk about the “virulence of poverty.” Can you explain?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, in the current models in how pandemic flu might spread, most of the research has been on influenza in rural regions and at rural densities. The missing link in all of this is the fact that there are now, according to the United Nations, a billion people living in slums in the mega-cities of the third world. This is, of course, an exponentially larger slum population than existed in 1918. Of course, a large portion of the population of poor, urban people live in appalling conditions of public sanitation. They live with medical and public health infrastructures that have been in many cases devastated by debt and by structural adjustment in the 1980s.

So this actually offers the absolute optimum situation not only for the rapid spread of an avian flu epidemic or other potential epidemics, pandemics, but also it preserves its virulence. If a virulent virus can easily jump from one host to another and has a large enough supply of hosts, there's no reason for its virulence to be attenuated. In 1918 the influenza pandemic of that time had had to cross a number of fire breaks and gradually lost its virulence, eventually becoming one of the flus that we now get every year. And some researchers fear that because of concentrated urban poverty across the world, combined with rapid air travel, you're treating conditions that would preserve the virulence, that is, the killing power, of pandemic flu. So, in this aspect it might even be worse than 1918.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how a human being gets it, how it's transferred from one human being to another, and actually what happens in the body when you get avian flu?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, avian flu is just like ordinary influenza, except that it has the ability to penetrate deep into the lung tissue, the ability to cause viral pneumonia, the ability to reproduce at an incredibly higher rate than normal flus. The 1918 flu, which was recently resurrected in a breathtaking but dangerous experiment by the Centers for Disease Control – They literally sent this on. It’s the 1918 flu. And they discovered to its horror that in four days in mice it was producing 39,000 times more flu particles than an ordinary flu.

So the point is that an avian flu, a pandemic flu, would spread in the same way as a normal flu, which is approximately the same way as a cold. And the problem here is that you can be spreading viruses 24 hours or more before you're sick, before you show any symptoms. Also with flu, very often they are asymptomatic cases, people who have the virus but never get sick. This has also been the case, apparently, with the current circulating avian flu. This makes quarantines almost impossible. SARS was much easier to defeat because with SARS you weren't contagious until you had the symptoms. So it was obvious who was contagious. This would not be the case with the avian influenza, pandemic influenza.

You would get it as a normal flu. Some people would not experience symptoms probably any worse than the seasonal flu. Other people, in much larger numbers than normal, would develop secondary infections, bacterial pneumonia, something which we're much better prepared to treat with antibiotics today than we were in 1918. But a minority of people, but potential large minority, would get a devastating viral pneumonia. This is what has killed many of the people in Southeast Asia. And this is just a catastrophic illness and perhaps fewer than half the people who got viral pneumonia would be able to be saved. So even in a rich country like the United States, but a country with devastated public health infrastructures with shortages of hospital beds and intensive care facilities would be overwhelmed with the huge number of cases of pneumonia, both bacterial and viral pneumonia. And even more important than possessing stocks of anti-virals or potential flu vaccine really is the basic health of our local hospital system and our public health responders.

AMY GOODMAN: You have a chapter in your book, The Monster at Our Door, called "Plague and Profit," and you start by talking about a multibillionaire based in Thailand.

MIKE DAVIS: Yes. I mean, what's important to grasp is that this isn't just the return of an old monster, but it is a new disease threat that we've partially attended the birth of. That is, the ecology of influenza, like other diseases, has changed dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years because of economic globalization, because of the breakdown of biological barriers between animal and human populations, because of air travel, because of urbanization, but in this case, above all, because of something called the “livestock revolution.” And that's been the generalization around the world of the American model of poultry production, the Tyson model. Tyson is the giant poultry producer, one of the most exploitative corporations in the United States with just an appalling record of working conditions. Tyson kills several billion chickens a year. It's created huge conurbations of chickens, unprecedented concentrations of chickens.

Now this model has spread to East Asia. China has become the biggest consumer of poultry in the world, and the leading company involved in China is a Thai-based firm called C.P., which has used the Tyson model, a vertical integration of concentrating poultry in enormous warehouses. And it was directly involved in the Thai government's cover-up of the initial outbreak of avian flu in Thailand last year. That is, the government gave the corporate poultry producers in Thailand time to clear their inventories to slaughter sick chickens to send them to Europe before it notified or was forced to notify the rest of the world that avian flu existed. It also failed to notify the peasant backyard poultry producers whose children then began to die from the avian flu. So the outbreak of avian flu -- and H5N1 is only one of several subtypes that have managed to jump to human beings. There are other cases in Holland two years ago and even in British Columbia last year. All this indicates that human intervention, the industrialization of poultry, above all, has sped up the evolution of influenza. It’s changed the nature of disease by changing its ecology.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you get avian flu from eating a dead avian flu-infected bird?

MIKE DAVIS: You could get avian flu from the preparation of a dead bird and if you ate it raw. There's no evidence at this point that you can get it from cooked chicken. But people have got avian flu from things like drinking raw duck's blood, which is a traditional delicacy in Vietnam, or sucking the mucous out of the nose of their fighting cock, as happened in one instance in Malaysia. The easiest way for avian flu probably to be spread from poultry is through excrement, through poultry manure. This makes killing flocks very difficult, because the killing crews can actually spread the influenza simply through particles of excrement on their boots or clothing. In other words, amongst birds, influenza is a gastrointestinal disease, where in humans it's almost always a disease of the upper respiratory tract, the lungs, although there is a disturbing case that appeared recently in Vietnam where avian flu actually affected the brain. It took on aspects of meningitis, showed frightening power to infect cells that influenza normally doesn't infect.

AMY GOODMAN: Now with the level of the birds that are killed in this country to eat poultry, the poultry industry, could the excrement wash into rivers?

MIKE DAVIS: It's possible. I mean, the people in the greatest danger, of course, poultry workers themselves. The corporate poultry industries have undertaken an international offensive, claiming that the fault resides entirely with the backyard producers, the tens of millions of small farmers across the world who have free-range chickens in constant contact with ducks and wild birds and children playing amongst them. And although this is part of the ecology of avian flu, the thing that has changed the way that flu emerges, that has amplified, I think, the danger and the speed with which it evolves, are these huge industrialized concentrations. Having said all of that, avian flu at this point is still relatively difficult to get. Some people pick it up. Other people can have intense contact with infected birds, don’t seem to get it. Nobody understands exactly why. Pandemic flu would mean a genetic modification or even just the mutation of a few shifts of a few amino acids that would give it the ability to spread as a normal seasonal flu, able to infect, for instance, up to one-third of Americans in a single season.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Davis, the Swiss drug maker Roche has said it will consider allowing companies, as you said, in countries the right to make the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, if they're ready to do that, if they can deal with it. What about that? Why doesn't every company make Tamiflu right now?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, the problem is that it will take a long time to actually start up production lines for Tamiflu. And even in third world countries, the handful that immediately have the ability to produce Tamiflu, for instance, India, South Africa and Brazil and, of course, Cuba, have the means to start a production of Tamiflu. Perhaps a few other countries. But it remains very expensive to produce. And it can't be produced in quantities really to cover the general population. Its use would apply, we hope, to first line medical personnel. There's always a danger that, in fact, the rich would end up with the Tamiflu. And there are examples for the W.H.O. has actually donated quantities of Tamiflu and had it confiscated by the local military. But right now and for the next several years at the very least, where the real attention has to go, and I totally support the generic manufacture of Tamiflu and breaking Roche's monopoly, but where the greatest priority must be is on the detection and monitoring of influenza in countries that presently don't have that ability and directing resources to the grassroots in poor countries to give them just even the most basic means to deal with large numbers of cases of pneumonia and to know what they're fighting.

The United States and other rich countries have been just scandalously selfish and neglectful in refusing to fund the modest request of Vietnam or the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, just asking basically for a few tens of millions of dollars to reinforce surveillance efforts and to compensate poor peasant farmers for the killing of their flocks. But we've refused to do this. And this is just another one of these, you know, pennywise, pound foolish measures. The Bush administration, where it's proposing to spend billions on buying anti-virals for Americans, but it won't give the aid to Vietnam, a country to which we have the greatest moral debt, which is actually on the front line of avian flu and still the country that I would think that the W.H.O. and the other international organizations must worry about, in terms of the possible center for the emergence of a pandemic variety.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mike Davis, he is author of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. We’ll be back with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to a final excerpt of our interview with Mike Davis, reached him yesterday in San Diego, author of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. I asked him how we know Tamiflu works.

MIKE DAVIS: Well, some questions have been raised whether Tamiflu works, and this is largely based on the fact that it's effective only if given within the first 24-36 hours of symptoms. Laboratory studies have shown that Tamiflu has been effective against H5N1 and has also shown that it even works on the 1918 flu. But the current avian flu is evolving and changing very rapidly. Whole numbers, dozens of different strains, have existed at one time or another. And now there's laboratory evidence of the emergence of resistant strains. And this is only to be expected.

Right now, Tamiflu is the major frontline weapon of choice. There's another anti-viral which works on the same principles as Tamiflu called Relenza, which might even be better, but it's a flu, and it’s very difficult to store and use. But we can expect that Tamiflu will work forever. Right now, it is a sensible investment to build strategic stockpiles of it, but somehow the illusion has been created that Tamiflu is really the difference of life and death in case of a pandemic. And the far more important variable here is local public health, is hospital surge capacity, the ability to cope with large numbers of cases of pneumonia.

And here's where the United States really joins the third world, rather than Europe, because we have lost that capacity. And in city after city simulations or the experience with just even normal seasonable heights and influenza or other respiratory diseases has shown that that capacity doesn't exist. We don't have the hospital beds. We don't have the intensive care facilities. And in large part this is the byproduct, not only of federal and state neglect, but the H.M.O. revolution which works on the principle of increasing bottom lines by reducing the number of hospitals, reducing the number of hospital beds, leaving Americans incredibly vulnerable in the face of any kind of epidemic or pandemic disease.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Davis, let's pursue this point, that the idea that the best way to fortify national security would be overall better health care system. What would that look like from health insurance to the entire hospital clinic structure in this country?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I mean, we should begin with the 40 or 50 million Americans who lack health coverage, per se. And my believe is, of course, that there is no fix for this problem within the current market economy and depending on the private provision of medicine, particularly when you read in today’s paper about how yesterday's most powerful unionized workers in America, the auto workers, are now forced to suffer swinging cutbacks in medical coverage. The whole system of workplace-provided, contractually provided medicine and healthcare in America has broken down. We must have some kind of national health system.

Secondly, we must have adequate, proactive preventative public health, a priority that's consistently neglected despite the fact that administrations, including the Bush administration, has actually thrown billions of dollars in infectious disease but in the wrong places -- hypothetical or imaginary diseases -- and a lot of the money going to big corporate contractors or large labs, big pharma, and not enough of it percolating down to where it's absolutely essential at the local level.

And thirdly we must increase the surge capacity of medicine at the local levels. We need more hospital beds, more intensive care facilities. This is the only wealthy country I know of where during a pregnancy a woman is sent home within 24 hours of delivering a baby. And we will pay a terrible price for this in the event of a pandemic or an epidemic. What will happen in many American cities, will look more like what's happening in the third world than, for instance, to our neighbor north of us, Canada, which probably has right now the best planning, the most adequate preparation to deal with avian influenza or, for that matter, almost any pandemic.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Davis, the issue that we're talking about, avian flu and how it ties into healthcare in this country and the first responders, we all know about what happened with Hurricane Katrina, with Michael Brown, Bush's Brownie, who he called “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” head of FEMA. But many are pointing out now that that goes well beyond FEMA, that we're talking about the scientific agencies of this country, the medical agencies of this country losing their most talented people, like, for example, the Centers for Disease Control, people leaving more and more and getting more hacks and political appointees in there. Can you talk about how this affects the avian flu?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, the person who has the most immediate frontline managerial responsibility for preparing for an avian flu epidemic, pandemic and combating it is Stewart Simonson. He’s the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Infectious Disease Preparedness, for Emergency Medical Preparedness. And he has quite extensive background in running railroads. He worked with -- as an administrator for Amtrak. He’s a protege and appointee of the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson. And I don’t -- not to be unfair to the Assistant Secretary, whether he’s the same kind of incompetent that Mr. Brown was in FEMA, but he's obviously someone without any real background in dealing with public health system or with infectious disease, a position that should go to someone of the most eminent stature and with years, if not decades, of experience.

So the problem that's haunted the response to Katrina, of political appointees, of hacks, of broken morale, of lavish plans that in the field break down and don't work at all, of huge promises by the administration to protect the safety and health of Americans which evaporate in the first emergency. Katrina was a trial run for what would happen with pandemic influenza. And the danger is that we would have 40 or 50 New Orleans-type situations in the United States. And, indeed a simulated influenza pandemic, a simulation that was run in Chicago not too long ago, showed the public health system breaking down almost immediately in response. The national pandemic strategy, which The New York Times recently was leaked a draft of the final version of it, has apparently harrowing images of panic, rioting, breakdown on a local level.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, and the President can promise us that things are getting better all the time. But the evidence is that Americans are in great and absolutely unnecessary peril from the government's lack of preparation, a failure to build strong policy and, most of all, the running down of America's health system over the last generation.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Davis is our guest. His new book is The Monster at Our Door. You wrote a piece, “25 Questions about the Murder of New Orleans.” Tell us what those questions are.

MIKE DAVIS: Well, all I was doing -- I was in New Orleans for a week and then in southwest Louisiana during Hurricane Rita. This was simply a piece I wrote with a local friend of mine, Anthony Fontenot, just relaying questions that local people were raising about what happened, about why certain levees fell, why so little attention has been given to probably the biggest hit-and-run accident in American history: A privately owned, corporate barge which was hurled through the industrial canal’s flood wall and was probably responsible for the death of several hundred people. Questions about government incompetence, negligence at almost every level from the city administration up to the White House itself, including the Pentagon. Very interesting questions can be raised about the role of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

But, of course, all of these questions echo in any debate about avian flu or any other kind of national emergency. And what's so shocking is that the real response to this, apart from the President's empty promises that he made in Jackson Square a month or so ago, the real response to this is always to use more military. Smart disaster preparation, everywhere in the world, is disaster preparation that builds from the grassroots. The buttresses, the ability of local medical responders and emergency responders to act, that mobilizes the population in an active role to take care of themselves and their neighbors and their neighborhoods, not this system where we're told, you know, ‘Store toilet paper and bottled water and wait to be dug out of the rubble.’

And as far as I know, the only American locality which really has a different model of how to deal with disaster is San Francisco, because in San Francisco, the city's actually identified on a block-to-block basis. People with medical skills, people with important skills like firemen or even construction workers or engineers, to mobilize those people as a vast army of first responders and to ensure that if San Francisco were to crumble in an earthquake or be faced with avian influenza, there would be somebody who would know when to turn off the gas in an old woman's house or know where the house-bound person in a wheelchair was that needs aid. The government's formula is basically to militarize disaster response and to turn every situation into some version of its occupation of Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Davis, do you think global warming fits into this picture? Or how does it fit into the picture, from the hurricanes to just the general climate in this country and around the world, and has any links that might be interesting to highlight with an outbreak of avian flu?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I'm not sure that we could associate avian flu directly with global warming or global environment change, but there's, of course, a huge scientific literature warning us that climate change, global warming will first of all extend the geographical boundaries, so tropical diseases into the subtropics, even into temperate countries. You see the return of malaria, the spread of dengue fever. Environmental change will bring about new and unexpected contacts between species which have had little contact or have been separated by biological barriers. Global change, global warming has huge implications for infectious disease. Sea level rise will be implicated in the spread of things like cholera.

And as Laurie Garrett and others have been pointing out for years, the combination of economic globalization and a changing world environment demand that preventative medicine and world-scale public health infrastructure must be the number one priority. But, of course, what's happened along with economic globalization is in so many countries been actually the dismantling of the ability to respond to epidemic diseases. The immigration of doctors and nurses. The closure of local public health clinics. This is one of the things, of course, responsible for the human holocaust of H.I.V.-AIDS in Africa.

So one of the most effective steps you could take immediately in fighting disease and increasing the health of the world would simply to end the debt payments, the tribute paid from poor countries to rich. But it is a global problem. And one of the great illusions that now exists around avian flu is that you can build a national fortress. You can build fortress Britain or fortress America, stockpile anti-virals, work on your own vaccine and not worry about the public health of the rest of the world. This is a total illusion. We may be two humanities, in terms of income and power, but biologically we remain one humanity. And avian flu will be a great equalizer.

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

Love yourself, Love your children, Love your community, Love Life.

Peace, Alan

Friday, October 14, 2005

Is Bill Cosby Right?

I have to share this with you. This is the message about the state of democracy and justice in these so called United States of America. I was a naive boy from rural Ohio when the Viet Nam war thrust me into a reality I had not been prepared to experience. The concept of racism and injustice were quite foreign to me having grown up in white farm country. My first exposure was visiting my cousin in Florida in 1960 when I was 12. I was at a department store and was thirsty. I started drinking from the water fountain. My cousin told me to stop drinking. I asked her why. She told me to read the sign. It said "Colored Water". I looked and looked. Finally I said, "This water isn't colored, it's clear."

Later on that trip I was at the beach at a lake or river. I thought it very strange that all the "colored people" as they were referred to, were swimming about a quarter mile away. My only other exposure was going to dinner at my Dad's boss's house. The waiter, dressed in a clean white waiters jacket was the same man who was the Janitor at the bank my Dad worked at. The waiter/janitor was the only Black man living in our town. I couldn't comprehend the significance at my young age but it gave me the creeps. I believe I was born with an acute sense of Justice.

The following speech so eloquently expresses what I have learned about the state of justice in this country. I learned this 30 some years ago, searching for the cause of such a horror as was unleashed upon the people of Viet Nam and the young Americans who were killed and dehumanized as a result. Many liberals are under the impression that there has been significant improvement in the racist, segregationist qualities of our institutions and culture. Mr. Dyson so powerfully destroys that delusion.

I encourage you to go to http://democracynow.organd watch the video. Mr. Dyson is an eloquent and moving speaker.

Friday, October 14th, 2005
Professor Preacher Michael Eric Dyson on the State of the Country: "Some of Us are In First Class, But The Plane Is In Trouble"

One of the expected speakers at the Millions More Movement event tomorrow in Washington DC is Michael Eric Dyson. He is a professor, author, cultural critic and a Baptist minister. His latest book is titled, "Is Bill Cosby Right?"
Professor Dyson spoke a few weeks ago at the first annual Unvarnished Truth Awards in Washington D.C. The awards were organized by Pacifica and were held the same weekend as thousands came to D.C for the massive anti-war march.

Michael Eric Dyson, professor and preacher. His latest book is titled "Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind?"

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: This is what Michael Eric Dyson had to say.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: White supremacy is the conscious or unconscious belief or the investment in the inherent superiority of some, while others are believed to be innately inferior. And it doesn't demand the individual participation of the singular bigot. It is a machine operating in perpetuity, because it doesn't demand that somebody be in place driving. That's the vicious ingenuity of white supremacy. It has become institutional.

And when white supremacy becomes institutional, it begins to harm the very people who are not simply outside of it because of their race, it begins to harm the folk who look like the folk who want to be in charge. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this, Malcolm X understood this, James Baldwin really understood this. And so, so much of my life has been trying to lay bear the presuppositions of white supremacy, because they have damaged the very people who would allegedly and ostensibly benefit from some of that madness.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once in the jail said to his jailer, “You are white and poor. You will never benefit from Jim Crow. You will never be able, except psychologically, to derive benefit from your white skin.” What we now know as white skin privilege, what Dubois in 1935 in his magisterial tome, Black Reconstruction, called the psychic wages of whiteness. King said, “You will never be able to derive benefit as a result of that. You are more like me than you are like them.”

And so when we think about warring against white supremacy in American society, it is so seductive to believe and invest in the mythology of superiority, especially among white ethic brothers and sisters, who having been closed out of so much in American society, hold fast to that lie, hold fast to that myth, hold fast to that illusion, because they have been so disenfranchised otherwise that they have to pump up the mythology of their inherent superiority.

I’ve tried to fight against that, but I’ve also tried to fight against the occupied minds of people of color who pay uncritical deference to dominant culture, who, without understanding, they have internalized the vicious mythologies by which others have been made to live. James Baldwin, in reflecting on his own father, said in that poignant phrase he “believed the lie.” And so many of us have believed the lies.

And I have tried to spend some of my career, some of my vocation, some of my time as a professor and preacher and social activist and paid pest, trying to get at some of these I ideologies that challenge the fundamental dignity of our common humanity. But itÂ’s also true that I have tried, as Dean Richards has so graciously said, I've tried to also ask the question within the community from which I emerge, because if we take the notion from our Quaker brothers and sisters speaking truth to power, then it can't just be power outside the community. It's got to be power within that community.

So, for me when I wrote a book about Bill Cosby, itÂ’s not that I am trying to playa-hate on a great iconic figure, the American patriarch, but don't forget he emerged simultaneously with Ronald Reagan in the early '80s, when the Reagan junta and the Reaganomics, the Reagan regime came forth in 1980, and Cosby emerged in the shadow of Reagan, Reagan as the great grandfather, Cosby as the great patriarchal father. It was an achievement of sorts, because for the first time the imagination of the seminal father figure rested in black pigment. That was an achievement, to be sure. And yet, at the same time the outlines of that patriarchy have been viciously revealed to be contradictory at their heart, because this great father of African American and, indeed, American society, laid waste to the most vulnerable people in our culture.

And so, I chose to speak back to him to try to leverage whatever fame, authority, visibility, teaspoon of influence that I might be able to muster and to say, “Those people who will never be able to talk back to you – Shaniqua and Taliqua and Mohammed and Shanene – those people who will never have a voice, those people who will never be able to stand up on their own two feet and to speak back to you, because the global media landscape is so deep and your bully pulpit is so wide, it stretches across the world, how can they justly speak back to you?”

And so, my work was just a small effort to express an outrage and an edifying resentment of the premise by which Mr. Cosby or upon which Mr. Crosby rested. That is to say, that poor black folk have let down black communities and the Civil Rights Movement, more broadly. Well, my Bible tells me to whom much has been given, much is required. And that means you don't start with the folk at the bottom, you got to start with the folk at the top. And whether you agreed with him or not, when you saw Mr. Harry Belafonte on Larry King's show, he was picking on somebody his own size when he went after Colin Powell, when he said that Colin Powell was a lapdog for the empire, when he said that Colin Powell was nothing more than a house Negro on a white plantation whose inability to tell the truth made him in league with the master. That's picking on somebody your own size.

And then the difficult assignment of trying to parse in public the shades and nuances of racial discourse even among enlightened liberals who reproduce the pathology of elite racism. What dat mean? IÂ’m saying that when Ms. Goodman so brilliantly called attention to how the Fourth Estate, as sister [inaudible] spoke about it, holding the collective feet of the media to the fire, what IÂ’m saying is that often it is not the bodies of those who are minority that cause the minds of those who are blessed to move into action. The difficult truth is that we live by narcissism, and when it happens to us, we better understand it.

But by the same token it does suggest that for so many years, those who have been dying before our eyes, those whose lives have been poured out measure by measure, and it never affected us because it didn't happen to us, we never understood until the plight became personal. And I am not suggesting by any measure that most of us are not moved by having personal experience catapult us into politics. That's the beautiful story of Sister Sheehan, is that because of her particular loss she began to understand the broader implications.

But travel with me now to imagine that so many other mothers have lost their sons without so much of a peep by a dominant media that refuses to acknowledge the nature of the loss. Come with me as we tour the inner city and the barrio and the Native indigenous people's reservation. Come with me through the post-industrial urban collapse of mothers who have long since surrendered the ability to exercise and leverage authority over the lives of their children, because the state has been in cahoots with an underground economy, expanding the possibility of a drug economy, while the above-ground economy takes the jobs away from their men and their mothers and their sisters. The state has conspired to do dastardly deeds and to do ultimate damage to vulnerable black and brown and yellow and red people, without so much as a peep from a media that has been standing there agog, arms akimbo, wondering about the penetrating madness that these people must inevitably experience.

If you ain't a white girl and you disappear, you ain't got much luck. If you a black mama -- a black mama might not even had the possibility of being a martyr and a hero like Ms. Sheehan, because they might have been disallowed to even get near the Bush compound and ranch, because they would be suspicious already. Thank God that Cindy Sheehan went undercover. Thank God she looked just like a feckless, harmless white woman who just was going to the ranch. Who knew that she had a behemoth inside of her that was going to challenge the dominant society? But there are so many others who have the same impulse who will never be acknowledged, because they can't even get that far.

And so my own truth telling, as far as I’m able to muster up the courage to say what needs to be said, and that thing is on a continuum because all of us are made cowards by the realization that ultimately we have never said everything we’re supposed to say. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I have said so poorly what I have seen so clearly.” And that's the truth.

We see it when we see the vicious forms of assault upon our women. The reason I wrote a book, Why I Love Black Women, I was just tired of these rappers talking about women in nasty and vicious ways. But they ainÂ’t started it. I knew that. I knew Snoop Dog didn't start misogyny. I knew that Tupac Shakur didnÂ’t start sexism, and God knows that Dr. Dre didn't start patriarchy. Yet they extended it in vicious form within their own communities. They made vulnerable people more vulnerable. But at the same time, we know that traditions of misogyny and sexism and patriarchy are deep and are profound and as American as apple pie.

And so we have to tell the truth, on the one hand, balancing our attempt to hold these young people accountable, while acknowledging the degree to which these dominant institutions in America have done the same funky file nefarious thing from the get-go. And so, for me, it means telling that truth.

That's why I’m with brother Damu in support of my man Kanye West. I ain't saying he's a gold digger. But George Bush don't f-- fool with no broke people. That's what Kanye was trying to say. Kanye said that “George Bush doesn't care about black people.” He wasn't talking about George Bush, the individual. He wasn't speaking about George Bush, the private citizen. He’s speaking about George Bush, the face of the government, George Bush, the face of democracy. He's speaking about George Bush as the symbolic head of a nation that refuses to acknowledge the humanity of black people.

And why is that so controversial in a nation that has lynched and looted and rioted and castrated, looting in the face of white riots, when lynchings were attended by families in their Sunday best to see the sexual organs of black men stoked by the sexual jealousy that continues to roil beneath the collective unconscious of the American psyche? How can we be surprised by the statement of a young person that America doesn't care, in the form of George Bush, about black people, when such rituals have never been consciously not only apologized for, but engage? And then beyond that, in a society that tells you through the poison of the media that you are not worth as much, because your face will not be on television, you will not be heard as much on the radio, you will not appear in ads that celebrate the inherent beauty of American society, is it any wonder that Kanye West is steeled and condensed into an acceptable and understandable, saying what so many millions of others have already felt and with greater analytical precision got down to?

And so now, we going to be mad, we talk about these rappers, talk about broads and behinds and boozing and bosoms. My God, we're sick and tired of this bling-bling culture. And yet, when one of them steps up, we are so cowardly that we can't even stand behind them. Our politicians start to making excuses, and they begin to have their statements die the death of a thousand qualifications. ‘Well, it's not so much that -- well, it's not –’ Just tell the truth! Just tell the truth! You’re worried about whether you can get re-elected. Why don't you stand up to begin with? Why don't you come in with an understanding that maybe you gonna be a one-term brother or a one-term sister, because you are put there to represent the people. It said, “We, the people,” not “We, the Supreme Court,” not “We, the Congress.” It said, “We, the people!”

And those profound words that were articulated by a mass of flawed but imaginative framers suggest to us that you and I are part of a democratic experiment that is made sharper and more luminous and incredibly lucid by the difficult work of struggle by the ordinary folk who never get the credit. And as I end and take my seat, that's why itÂ’s so important to link all this stuff going on. This war in Iraq has been terrible before it started. We've lost 2,000 lives. Iraqis have lost over 100,000.

We speak about these babies that these poor black women have. Where are they? They're on the front line. We talk about a society where young people are throwaway, poor white people, poor Latino people, poor African American people. These are the people who bear the brunt of the responsibility of waging war by people who will never step on that ground, people who send them, but who will never go. And so there's a relationship. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about it. Paul Robeson talked about it. Ella Baker understood it. JoAnn Robinson imagined the day when we understood how fundamentally they were united.

And what I beg all of my constituencies and what I beg as a part of a multiple kinship group, as the anthropologists call it, I beg every community to understand we in the same boat. You might be in the anti-war movement and speaking out tomorrow, but don't forget the folk in Katrina. That's the beauty of what Sister Goodman was talking about and Brother Damu was talking about, what Sister Cindy Sheehan understands. It ain't just there. It's not when those bodies die, and God bless them, itÂ’s not simply when white bodies perish and white girls disappear, itÂ’s also about the unheralded casualties of people who are yet on earth, and yet the life blood has been sucked by the vulture of American empire.

And these people will never be spoken for, because they are the walking wounded and the living dead. And so I beg of you that as -- that those of us who are able to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised understand we in the same boat. The anti-war movement has been generated by this fearless woman who has moved forward in the name of a sense of outrage at the libel and the mis-telling of truth that has been put forth by this political ventriloquist whose strings are being pulled by corporate capitalism to make him say what he's saying.

And at the same time, don't miss how it’s operating down in Halliburton and down in New Orleans and Mississippi and in Alabama. These black people, you see -- people say, ‘Well, it’s not about race, it’s about class.’ What you talking about? Race often is the language class speaks. Race makes class hurt more. See, even poor white brothers and sisters are not necessarily going to school in concentrated effects of poverty. Even some white brothers and sisters are able to escape their poverty, making more money than some black people who have gone to college. But the reality is, poor white folk got more in common with poor black folk and poor brown folk and poor yellow folk than they got in common with the white overseers and the black over-rulers and the Latino sellouts who have abdicated their responsibility to represent the people.

And so, as I end, I beg you, please gird up your loins and tell the truth where you are. You see in Palestine, and as the Palestinians were struggling for self-determination with their Israeli brothers and sisters, they both came to a common declaration. They said we want the quiet miracle of a normal life. That's what I want for so many millions of people both here in the country and around the globe. There's so many people who suffer, who don't have our education. They don't have our bank accounts. They don't have our sense of leisure and luxury. And if you and I can't see beyond our own myopic, narcissistic self-preoccupation to help somebody else, to open up our minds, so we can open up our hearts, so we can open up our lives, and God knows our pocketbooks.

But it is more than the charity. People said in the Katrina, ‘Well, you see,’ and some of the rightwing conservatives said, ‘Well, the most people who were helping there were white folks trying to lift those helicopter things down to help those folk.’ Well, charity ain’t justice. Charity is beautiful, but you ain't got to be charitable to me if I already got justice. If I already got a sense of participation, you ain't got to be charitable to me. Just treat me right every day.

And as I end, that's why you and I are on the same ship. In fact, we travel in the same plane. You might be in first class eating filet mignon; IÂ’m eating peanuts back in row 55. We're on the same boat. Don't cut a hole in the boat to suck water out, to sink the Titanic. And if you're on the plane, being in first class ain't going to stop you from going down with the rest of us. When there is turbulence, there is turbulence everywhere. Everybody be shaking. And if that plane goes down, you might die first in first class. Yes, some of us are in first class, but the plane is in trouble! What will you do to speak to the pilot, to tell the pilot to tell the control center that we've got to change directions unless the turbulence leads us to our own death! That's the truth we've got to tell. That's the courage we've got to muster, and that's the beauty of soul we must reveal to one another in the quietness of our own individual lives. Thank you so very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Eric Dyson on Democracy Now!
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Evolution vs. Creationism what a Farce!!

The two sides of the evolution vs. creationism debate argue their narrow minded views as if they are some exhaustive explanation for the origin of life. Both arguments would get C+ at best in middle school debate class. Yet people's passions run so high they are blind and indifferent to reality and logic. How did these arguments ever come to represent the two choices of truth? Why are they presented as mutually exclusive? The greater likelihood in my humble opinion is that the truth has elements of both.

I ask, "How could consciousness grow out of nothing by chance and natural selection only?" How could so much beauty exist as a result of natural selection driven by survival of the fittest? It's obvious by just studying known history that evolution is a dynamic process that is very much present. The most insight into evolution that I have come across are expressed by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian seer. His theories and experiences go far beyond anything that I have experienced but they all make sense to me. But what I believe is based on what I can experience, otherwise for me it is a hypothesis that I may or may not use to influence my decisions until a I find a more convincing hypothesis.

Steiner does present symptomaticly observable evidence for the evolution of consciousness based on cultural expressions and observations from ancient Egypt, through ancient Greece into the present era. What is obvious is that mankind's experience of his environment has changed and perhaps more significantly his perception of himself relative to the cosmos has changed. These changes appear to be part of a process of growth and growing awareness and self-centeredness. This can easily be construed as an evolution in consciousness. Many quantum physicists are apparently coming to similar conclusions in regards to an evolution in the laws of physics and mans ability to be conscious of this.

What is the point of this my latest ramble? It is that science and spirituality are two elements of a holistic search for meaning and truth. They can be of service to each other. For whatever reason there are forces at work that want these realms to be at war with each other. I would call them evil forces if the word evil itself wasn't so infected with more narrow minded prejudice.

I know that a creative force much bigger than my imagination and comprehension is at work in my life and in all life. I know that there is some reasoning motivating the unfolding of my life. I know that my knowledge is only a tool for me to use in the creative process called living, but it is not "Truth". Truth is something that I am moving towards and is gradually revealed through inspiration and insight opening up in my experience through no power of my own. I once asked a psychology professor, who claimed to be an agnostic, "Where does an idea come from?". A true idea is something absolutely unique and original that implicitly can not be deduced. It has to come from some point of creation. An idea has yet to be created in a laboratory.

I will leave you with this quote from one of our most revered scientists:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest---a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and foundation for inner security.

--Albert Einstein

Peace, Alan

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Busy, Busy,Busy

I've been doing a lot more than usual. Sunday I went to Berkeley and had a wonderful visit with my daughter Eva. We walked from her house through the UC Berkeley campus. It's a lovely campus but, in my mind doesn't compare to her alma mater UC Santa Cruz. We discussed graduate school options and the high cost of those options. I put myself in a funk about the fact that I do not have the resources to be of much help with the costs. She is an incredible woman and will be of tremendous service to those who she meets on her path.

Monday I got back in town and then went with Ellen to see one of my favorite bands CAKE. I have known John McCrea, the driving force of the band, and his family since he was a teenager and attending the Sacramento Waldorf School. He write incredibly well crafted songs. I remember when he used to have the goal of making enough money to afford health insurance. I think he has been successful. The concert was a benefit for Habitat for Humanity and a fund for New Orleans Musicians who need health care and can't afford it. John's suggestion was to go out and buy an album by Professor Longhair, one of the legendary New Orleans piano players and composers. He would really appreciate the revenue, which he has received little of compared to the tremendous gift he gave to the evolution of American music. You can check out what CAKE is about at

Tuesday and Wednesday, I have been getting rid of a virus I got on my computer, securing it to the max, and getting Ellen's computer secured. She just got comcast cable internet. They never bothered telling her about how to secure her computer or even how to access her email. I got virus protection loaded for her, ran a scan for viruses and she had seven trojans on her computer. I'm baffled by how people who aren't technically knowledgeable are supposed to operate on the malicious seas of the internet. It keeps me hopping and I've been involved with personal computers since their introduction to the marketplace. We have anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, firewalls, browser security, phishing blah, blah, blah. There is software to protect but it needs maintained, properly configured and even then things happen. I learned that windows XP often has a few steps you have to do manually, even if your anti-virus protection caught the virus before it executed. Then Wednesday I got my new issue of PC WORLD and it is a "Special Security Issue". I think part of my calling might be to get back up to speed on my knowledge and become a home computer security consultant.

God is Great.

Peace, Alan

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why Does Life End With Death, Why Not With a Dance?

If I were God (and it's a true blessing for me and everyone that I'm not), I would have life end with a big party. All the people in our lives who we have loved and who have loved us would gather together to reminisce and share how we have grown through those experiences and since.

Tears have come into my eyes as I write this. There are so many people in my life that I have loved. I didn't express to any of them how much I love them and how much I am grateful for them being in my life. I have been a failure at relationships. I have especially failed at leaving them, or at not continuing them. The end of every relationship is a death. Someone near and dear to us is gone, probably forever. In the heat of the moment, often I have felt glad that it was ending. This was because of my own selfishness and the desire to not take responsibility. But then one day I woke up and realized that they were gone and I never said goodbye. I never said thank you. I never told them how beautiful they were.

I now see more than ever my part in the "problems" of my relationships. A big part is that I have never let anyone all the way in to me. I realize that at a very young age I realized that I had been psychically abandoned. This was no fault of my parents who loved me and let me know it in so many ways. But it was due to me being different than anyone they were prepared to perceive. It hurt. It hurt to be three or four years old and realize that I was invisible to those around me. My great grandmother Casey was the only one who saw me. When she died I was all alone and it hurt. Losing her hurt and I decided at that time to never let anyone get close enough to me to hurt me like that again.

So I have spent a lifetime in relationships in which I let people get close enough to touch each others souls but never close enough to truly make contact on the deepest soul levels. I desperately clung to those relationships when I was in them, loving to the best of my ability, but there was always something missing; me. I never showed up because I thought you couldn't see me, or I thought you would see that I wasn't worthy and abandon me or I might let you in and love you and you me and then you would die and once again I would be alone and in pain.

Fear of loss is the most wicked of monsters, for it explicitly denies us that which we fear losing. To spend the better part of 57 years denying myself what I fear losing is pathetic and insane. In the process I am now in I have identified and named many of my fears. I am currently identifying, naming and describing the effect of my character defects which arise out of those fears. I pray that I will persevere. One of my biggest fears is that I will grow weary and give up.

This writing was inspired by two events. One, a woman in the community of people in recovery of which I am a part committed suicide this week. I didn't know her personally but people who I am close to knew her well. She touched many lives. She had been clean and sober for over six years. But she couldn't find enough purpose, reason or motivation, enough faith, enough whatever to be willing to live with the loneliness and pain she must have felt. That's familiar territory for the alcoholic. We have all been there. Through the process of having a spiritual awakening and maintaining our spiritual health on a daily basis, many of us are able to live sober one more day. As a dear friend of mine said to me, "I feel like I'm hanging by a thread and only my faith gives me the strength to hang on."

The other event was seeing an interview with Kurt Vonegout on PBS tonight. Kurt was perhaps the most influential writer in my life. I hated reading and was not very interested in learning until I happened across his first novel, "Cat's Cradle", in about 1968 or 69. It was like blinders were lifted from my consciousness. Through the visions I imagined while reading this novel I began to see the world in a way that finally made sense. I had met someone who saw me, and he had never even met me. I all of the sudden felt part of the human community. I read the rest of his novels with the thirst of one finding an oasis after ages in the dessert.

Kurt is getting along in years and has a new book out. I get the feeling that it is his closing comments on this world and this life. Watching him I felt the fragility of life and the tragedy of how recklessly we squander these incredible gifts we are so freely given. He likened the current stage of civilization as the Earth's immune system beginning to kick in and shed itself of the infection by the human race.

My view differs from his slightly. I believe that there is intelligent design and will at work, (God if you will). I can't believe that all would be created only to be destroyed by a race to ignorant to do any different. I believe, as Rob Brezsny expresses in his new book "Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings" that "we are in fact living through the apocalypse" at this time. I believe that we are being called to die away from the materialism and fear that has imprisoned us and that has caused such violence and destruction and to be reborn into a new dimension of consciousness. I believe that a quantum shift in the physical laws of the universe is in process and one will need to transform to a higher state of consciousness in order to survive it. The language varies but many of the worlds religions, esoteric schools and philosophies point towards this. I also believe this because it is the only logical way I can imagine the survival of our human race in this form.

Whatever the accuracy of that theory, times are going to get tough. We are quickly using up our natural resources and destroying ecosystems. Mother Nature will take care of her survival. We as a human race can no longer take our place on earth for granted, we must earn it or we will lose it.

Here is an excerpt from his book:

A Man without a Country
by Kurt Vonnegut
Seven Stories Press
Copyright © 2005 by Kurt Vonnegut
ISBN: 1-5832-2713-X

Available for purchase at


I used to be the owner and manager of an automobile dealership in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, called Saab Cape Cod. It and I went out of business thirty-three years ago. The Saab then, as now, was a Swedish car, and I now believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: Why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature. Old Norwegian proverb: “Swedes have short dicks but long memories.” Listen: The Saab back then had only one model, a bug like a VW, a two-door sedan, but with the engine in front. It had suicide doors opening into the slipstream. Unlike all other cars, but like your lawnmower and your outboard, it had a two-stroke rather than a four-stroke engine. So every time you filled your tank with gas, you had to pour in a can of oil as well. For whatever reason, straight women did not want to do this. The chief selling point was that a Saab could drag a VW at a stoplight. But if you or your significant other had failed to add oil to the last tank of gas, you and the car would then become fireworks. It also had front-wheel drive, of some help on slippery pavements or when accelerating into curves. There was this as well: As one prospective customer said to me, “They make the best watches. Why wouldn’t they make the best cars, too?” I was bound to agree.

The Saab back then was a far cry from the sleek, powerful, four-stroke yuppie uniform it is today. It was the wet dream, if you like, of engineers in an airplane factory who’d never made a car before. Wet dream, did I say? Get a load of this: There was a ring on the dashboard, connected to a chain running over pulleys in the engine compartment. Pull on it, and at the far end it would raise a sort of window shade on a springloaded roller behind the front grill. That was to keep the engine warm while you went off somewhere. So, when you came back, if you hadn’t stayed away too long, the engine would start right up again.

But if you stayed away too long, window shade or not, the oil would separate from the gas and sink like molasses to the bottom of the tank. So when you started up again, you would lay down a smokescreen like a destroyer in a naval engagement. And I actually blacked out the whole town of Woods Hole at high noon that way, having left a Saab in a parking lot there for about a week. I am told old timers there still wonder out loud about where all that smoke could have come from.

I came to speak ill of Swedish engineering, and so diddled myself out of a Nobel Prize. It’s damn hard to make jokes work. In Cat’s Cradle, for instance, there are these very short chapters. Each one of them represents one day’s work, and each one is a joke. If I were writing about a tragic situation, it wouldn’t be necessary to time it to make sure the thing works. You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present. But a joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it is supposed to snap.

I still listen to comedy, and there’s not much of that sort around. The closest thing is the reruns of Groucho Marx’s quiz show, You Bet Your Life. I’ve known funny writers who stopped being funny, who became serious persons and could no longer make jokes. I’m thinking of Michael Frayn, the British author who wrote The Tin Men. He became a very serious person. Something happened in his head.

Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be, to protect yourself. Finally, you get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn’t work anymore. Somebody like Mark Twain thought life was quite awful but held the awfulness at bay with jokes and so forth, but finally he couldn’t do it anymore. His wife, his best friend, and two of his daughters had died. If you live long enough, a lot of people close to you are going to die.

It may be that I am no longer able to joke—that it is no longer a satisfactory defense mechanism. Some people are funny, and some are not. I used to be funny, and perhaps I’m not anymore. There may have been so many shocks and disappointments that the defense of humor no longer works. It may be that I have become rather grumpy because I’ve seen so many things that have offended me that I cannot deal with in terms of laughter.

This may have happened already. I really don’t know what I’m going to become from now on. I’m simply along for the ride to see what happens to this body and this brain of mine. I’m startled that I became a writer. I don’t think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don’t have that feeling. I don’t have that sort of control. I’m simply becoming. All I really wanted to do was give people the relief of laughing. Humor can be a relief, like an aspirin tablet. If a hundred years from now people are still laughing, I’d certainly be pleased. I apologize to all of you who are the same age as my grandchildren. And many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government. Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any “Good Old Days,” there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.”

There are old poops who will say that you do not become a grown-up until you have somehow survived, as they have, some famous calamity— the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, whatever. Storytellers are responsible for this destructive, not to say suicidal, myth. Again and again in stories, after some terrible mess, the character is able to say at last, “Today I am a woman. Today I am a man. The end.” When I got home from the Second World War, my Uncle Dan clapped me on the back, and he said, “You’re a man now.” So I killed him. Not really, but I certainly felt like doing it. Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a male can’t be a man unless he’d gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” We are not born with imagination. It has to be developed by teachers, by parents. There was a time when imagination was very important because it was the major source of entertainment. In 1892 if you were a seven-year-old, you’d read a story—just a very simple one—about a girl whose dog had died. Doesn’t that make you want to cry? Don’t you know how that little girl feels? And you’d read another story about a rich man slipping on a banana peel. Doesn’t that make you want to laugh? And this imagination circuit is being built in your head. If you go to an art gallery, here’s just a square with daubs of paint on it that haven’t moved in hundreds of years. No sound comes out of it.

The imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues. A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo. But it’s no longer necessary for teachers and parents to build these circuits. Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there’s the information highway. We don’t need the circuits any more than we need to know how to ride horses. Those of us who had imagination circuits built can look in someone’s face and see stories there; to everyone else, a face will just be a face. And there, I’ve just used a semi-colon, which at the outset I told you never to use. It is to make a point that I did it. The point is: Rules only take us so far, even good rules.

Who was the wisest person I ever met in my entire life? It was a man, but of course it needn’t have been. It was the graphic artist Saul Steinberg, who like everybody else I know, is dead now. I could ask him anything, and six seconds would pass, and then he would give me a perfect answer, gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania, in a house where, according to him, “the geese looked in the windows.”

I said, “Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?” Six seconds passed, and then he said, “God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.”

I said, “Saul, I am a novelist, and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we are in two very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?” Six seconds passed, and then he said, “It’s very simple. There are two sorts of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other. But one responds to the history of his or her art so far, and the other responds to life itself.”

I said, “Saul, are you gifted?”

Six seconds passed, and then he growled, “No, but what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.”

Peace, Alan