Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Most Underreported Stories on the Iraq War in 2005



from Counterpunch by Kevin Zeese

1. Bush Family war profiteering on the war in Iraq. The extent of Iraq contracts going to corporations which involve members of President George W. Bush's family has not been investigated by the corporate media. Among the Bush family members profiting from the war are his brothers Neil and Marvin as well as Bucky and William. This involves contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Often Bush-related firms receive contracts where the corporations have no expertise and certainly the Bush family members have no expertise or experience in these areas.

2. Investigate the alleged war crimes in the assault on Fallujah. The city of Fallujah had once been quiet about the occupation, but U.S. soldiers killing of civilians protesting the military taking of a school led to an uprising. The result: two devastating assaults, accusations of indiscriminate bombings, killing of civilians and the use of chemical weapons. Today, as one unidentified U.S. solder says "Anyone in Fallujah can be an insurgent." Understanding Fallujah will explain why the U.S. cannot win the war in Iraq.

3. The environmental and human impact of depleted uranium needs investigation. The U.S. is using armaments with depleted uranium claiming that there is no risk involved. Yet, there is evidence of danger to U.S. soldiers as well as Iraqis and the environment.

4. Is the United States losing the war in Iraq? In his recent series of speeches consistently claimed that the U.S. will leave Iraq when we win the war. Further, he and the Vice President have been claiming that we are winning the war. They know that many Americans are willing to take U.S. casualties and spend billions of dollars if there is a chance of winning. Yet, there is strong evidence that the war cannot be won and that the U.S. is doing more harm than good by remaining in Iraq.

5. The under counting of U.S. casualties in Iraq demeans the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and is an unpatriotic lie of the Bush Administration. While 15,000 soldiers are reportedly casualties of the war, in fact more than 100,000 have sought medical treatment. The administration undercounts casualties as part of their effort to hide the true costs of the war. The media should pierce this veil of dishonesty and tell the public the truth about the casualty count.

6. The need for a corporate withdrawal from Iraq as a first step toward giving Iraq back to Iraqis. The U.S. has been unable to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq ­ electricity, oil production, sewage treatment, government buildings and other basic infrastructure needs ­ are not being rebuilt at a satisfactory pace. Evidence of widespread corruption by U.S. corporations is institutionalizing corruption in Iraq. Halliburton is a prime example of a government boondoggle ­ ineffective in its rebuilding efforts, unauditable in its billing practices and unfair in its treatment of workers ­ it is a prime example of the need for a U.S. corporate withdrawal from Iraq.

7. Impeachment of the President and Vice President needs to become a part of mainstream political dialog. The evidence of false statements by the administration, and especially Bush and Cheney, has grown in 2005. The public believes that if the President lied he should be impeached. More and more people are openly talking about impeachment, now it is time for the media to examine whether the President and Vice President are above the law. Rep. John Conyers issued a detailed report on these issues and submitted various impeachment-related bills at the end of the session.

8. Examine the real costs of the Iraq War ­ not just the hundreds of billions appropriated for the war, but what these appropriations are costing Americans in their daily lives. With the U.S. budget in high-level deficit spending continued occupation of Iraq ­ at a cost of $6 billion per month ­ means the U.S. cannot fund other projects. Sen. Edward Kennedy has put out a list of what the U.S. could do with the money ­ in health care, education, housing and other necessities of the people. It is time for the American public to know what this war is really costing.

9. Is the U.S. becoming the enemy we abhor? Reports of torture, civilian casualties, use of weapons of mass destruction make the United States more and more similar to Saddam Hussein's Iraq every day. Are these reports of U.S. military atrocities accurate? Shouldn't the U.S. media at least investigate these allegations?

10. The politics of the Iraq War in 2006. Are Democrats at risk of turning off their anti-war base by being unable to enunciate a position on Iraq? Are Republicans risking loss of control of either or both Houses of the Congress? How many voters feel like Cindy Sheehan who says she will not support any pro-war candidate ­ Republican or Democrat? Is the anti-war movement organizing to support anti-war candidates and oppose pro-war candidates?

Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising and a candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Hell on Earth in U.S. Prisons?



Here is one of my favorite satirical news stories in 2005 from The Onion:


Report: 92 Percent Of Souls In Hell There On Drug Charges

October 12, 2005 | Issue 41•41

HELL—A report released Monday by the Afterlife Civil Liberties Union indicates that nine out of 10 souls currently serving in Hell were condemned on drug-related sins.
Report: 92 Percent Of Souls In Hell There On Drug Charges

"Hell was created to keep dangerous sinners off the gold-paved streets of Heaven," ACLU spokesman Barry Horowitz said. "But lately, it's become a clearing-house for the non-evil souls that Heaven doesn't know how to deal with."

The disproportionate number of drug offenders in Hell is a result of God's "get tough" drug policy of the 80s A.D., imposed after Roman emperor Domitian Flavius introduced opium to his people. God's detractors say His reactionary "one sin and you're out" rule places too harsh a penalty on venial drug users.

According to God's law, souls who possess four ounces of illegal drugs at any point during their mortal lives face a mandatory minimum sentence of eternity.

High-ranking seraphim in the Eternal Justice Department defended God's law.

"It's all about accountability," the angel Nathanael said. "The rule of the Lord affords the complementary blessings of freedom and responsibility, and provides the governing framework under which man is punished or rewarded according to his deeds. The rules are very simple: You do the crime, you do the time. Eternity, in this case."

The ACLU report included profiles of hundreds of offenders condemned to eternal perdition under God's law. Among them is Pvt. Robert "Bobby Joe" Hetfield, a World War I fighter and amputee who became addicted to morphine during his last 72 hours of life on a French battlefield in 1918. As punishment, Hetfield has spent nearly a century cleaning Beelzebub's dope house every morning by consuming the urine, excrement, and vomit left by Satan and his revelers.

Another offender listed in the ACLU report is Huachuri, an Incan peasant who used a coca-leaf-based marital aid in 1311. As punishment, he is sodomized continually by a winged, razor-penised goat.
Report: 92 Percent Of Souls In Hell There On Drug Charges

Defenders of God's law argue that eternal punishments like these are the only way to deter other drug users, and preserve order in God's kingdom.

"This is not about revolving-door justice," St. Peter said. "While the word of God will keep some on the straight and narrow, Heavenly studies show that eternal damnation is the only deterrent that really works."

Horowitz said that while drug offenders are literally rotting away in Hell, serial killers and other dangerous sinners are receiving "mere Purgatorial sentences, thanks to the asking-for-forgiveness loophole." Purgatory is a minimum-security state of limbo that affords its occupants the opportunity to repent their sins and eventually gain admittance to Heaven on good behavior.

"Drug offenders, many of whom have committed no prior mortal sin, rack up infinite consecutive life sentences," Horowitz said. "Meanwhile, rapists say they're sorry, recite a few Hail Marys, and wind up basking in God's divine radiance within 10 years."

Among those who oppose God's laws are the stewards of Hell, who argue that his harsh anti-drug penalties have taxed the capacities of the underworld.

"I have one ravenous and overworked hellhound assigned to terrorize 12 methamphetamine users," the demon Abracax said. "After 14 hours in the dog's digestive tract, they are excreted and revived, at which point, I give them another shot of methamphetamine. The dog's exhausted—he was originally intended to be responsible for two users at most."

According to Horowitz, even leaving aside questions of civil liberties in the afterlife, God's drug laws are problematic.

"These laws, simply put, don't work," Horowitz said. "What the Heavenly hosts need to consider is some sort of angelic early-intervention program at the pre-death level, or at the very least, some form of afterlife rehab."


© Copyright 2005, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Evidence Against Evolution


Most outrageous statements of 2005

Summary:

Here are the most outrageous statements Media Matters for America has documented this year. From attacks on women, Muslims, and African-Americans to a call for the assassination of a foreign leader to an open invitation for Al Qaeda to "blow up" San Francisco to a claim that gay marriage would lead to unions between "a man and his donkey," these statements acutely represent the extreme conservative speech we found in the news media in 2005. (We tried to limit the comments to a Top 10 list, but it was simply impossible.)

* Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." [Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America, 9/28/05]

* Pat Robertson: "If [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." [Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, 8/22/05]

* Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 12/8/05]

* Bill O'Reilly, agreeing with caller that illegal immigrants are "biological weapon[s]": "I think you could probably make an absolutely airtight case that more than 3,000 Americans have been either killed or injured, based upon the 11 million illegals who are here." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 4/15/05]

* Rush Limbaugh: "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/12/05]

* Rush Limbaugh on the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq: "I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/29/05]

* Ann Coulter: Bill Clinton "was a very good rapist"; "I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties"; "I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning." [New York Observer, 1/10/05]

* Ann Coulter: "Isn't it great to see Muslims celebrating something other than the slaughter of Americans?" [Syndicated column, 2/3/05]

* Radio host Glenn Beck: "[Y]ou know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 9/9/05]

* Tucker Carlson: "Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." [MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, 12/15/05]

* American Family Association president Tim Wildmon: Liberals "don't have the kind of family responsibilities most people have, and certainly not church responsibilities." [American Family Radio's Today's Issues, 5/11/05]

* David Horowitz on Cindy Sheehan: "It's very hard to have respect for a woman who exploits the death of her own son and doesn't respect her own son's life. ... She portrays him as an idiot." [MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast, 8/16/05]

* Radio host Neal Boortz on the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams: "[T]here will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere. ... The rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting. There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now." [Boortz.com, 12/12/05]

* Pat Buchanan: "Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/1/05]

* National Review editor Rich Lowry: Given EPA-mandated "small-flush" toilets, "[h]ow is it possible to flush a Quran down the toilet?" [Young America's Foundation speech, 8/5/05]

* Neal Boortz, suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution: "I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers." [Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show, 10/24/05]

* Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson: Same-sex marriage would lead to "marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey." [Focus on the Family radio program, 10/6/05]

* Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid: "Have you noticed that many news organizations, in honor of former ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings, have embarked on a quit smoking campaign? So why don't our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle? ... It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking." [Accuracy in Media column, 12/14/05]

Posted to the web on Friday December 23, 2005 at 3:12 PM EST

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

NATURE IS ANCIENT


We Are Wiser Than We "Think"


The following is a very important perspective for me to be reminded of. This comes from Pema Chodron, a North American born Tibetan Buddhist nun who's book "When Things Fall Apart" came into my life when I first got sober. It was invaluable in bringing me centeredness in the chaos created by my addictions. I was blessed to hear her in person a few months ago.


Trusting Our Inherent Wisdom by Pema Chodron
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When we feel discouraged or have any emotional distress - what happens next? Usually we try the same old thing to get more comfortable and therefore keep digging the hole deeper. This is called habituation - the more we run the old pattern, the more it hooks us, and the more it hooks us, the more we run it. For humans and animals, this is usually what happens.

The first thing to remember is "emotional distress happens." We all experience the hook of discomfort and try to do something to get away from it. Let's just call it shenpa, kind of one term fits all. Let us just say, "shenpa happens". You feel this quality of experience - shenpa, hooked. It's just things as they are, a quality of experience. It happens, But it doesn't end there. Then there is the momentum or the storyline and it sweeps us away.

Sentient beings like you and I all over the earth from beginningless time have equated following the momentum with comfort. Of course we get short term relief. However, if you want to examine your own style, follow the momentum with mindfulness and see if it makes you comfortable or makes you uncomfortable.

Buddha's teaching is that following the momentum will not bring happiness. But it is important to experience the hooked quality and taste the bad taste of hooked which we now associate with comfort. This is more an experience in our gut. (It is not intellectual.) Gradually we can begin to see that following the momentum does not bring comfort, it brings suffering.

A question we can ask ourselves is, are we strengthening habits that keep us hooked or not? It is important to not ignore being hooked. It is important to not follow the momentum. Following it makes things worse. If we have an addiction, we know that at some point we just can't buy the storyline any longer (just one one last sip!) It's the same as talking to yourself in negative ways. We keep ourselves hooked.

Find out for yourself. Give yourself five years. Can you yourself experience that it is always about ego telling you to follow the momentum and not stay present? But what discovers that following the momentum will lead to more unhappiness? What is that? That is our natural inherent wisdom. This natural wisdom is not dedicated to self absorption, but dedicated to true liberation. It is called wisdom of Buddha-nature. It is a natural intelligence that we all have. As we practice more, this natural intelligence of Buddha nature will manifest more. It will guide us toward sowing seeds of kindness. Rather than confusion, we begin to trust our own wisdom guide.

©2003 by Pema Chodron. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Dance Out of the Darkness


Lord of the Dance (Traditional)

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun;
I was called from the darkness by the song of the earth,
I joined in the singing and she gave me birth.


(chorus, repeat after each verse)

Dance, then, wherever you may be!
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you on, wherever you may be,
I will lead you all in the Dance, said he!

I sleep in the kernel and I dance in the rain,
I dance in the wind, and through the waving grain,
And when you cut me down, I care nothing for the pain --
In Spring I'll be Lord of the Dance again!


I see the maidens laughing as they dance in the sun,
I count the fruits of the of the harvest, one by one;
I know the storm is coming, but the grain is all stored,
So I sing of the dance of the Lady and the Lord.


We dance ever slower as the leaves fall and spin
And the sound of the Horn is the wailing of the wind;
The Earth is wrapped in stillness and we move in a trance,
but we hold on fast to our faith in the dance.


The sun is in the south and the days lengthen fast,
And soon we'll sing for the winter that is past,
Now we light the candles and rejoice as they burn,
and Dance the dance of the sun's return.


They cut me down, but I leap up high!
I am life that will never, never die.
I'll live in you and you'll live in me --
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he!


The moon in her phases and the tides of the sea,
the movement of Earth, and the seasons that will be
Are rhythm for the dancing and a promise through the years --
The Dance goes on through joy and tears.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi


Lord, make us instruments
of your peace.
Where there is hatred
let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not
so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood
as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving
that we receive;
It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are
born to eternal life.

Amen

Friday, December 23, 2005

Aloneness is not Lonleliness


Osho Zen Tarot : Major Arcana
9. Aloneness

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


Aloneness

When you are alone you are not alone, you are simply lonely - and there is a tremendous difference between loneliness and aloneness. When you are lonely you are thinking of the other, you are missing the other.

Loneliness is a negative state. You are feeling that it would have been better if the other were there - your friend, your wife, your mother, your beloved, your husband. It would have been good if the other were there, but the other is not. Loneliness is absence of the other.

Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.

Osho The Discipline of Transcendence, Volume 1 Chapter 2

Commentary:
When there is no "significant other" in our lives we can either be lonely, or enjoy the freedom that solitude brings. When we find no support among others for our deeply felt truths, we can either feel isolated and bitter, or celebrate the fact that our vision is strong enough even to survive the powerful human need for the approval of family, friends or colleagues.

If you are facing such a situation now, be aware of how you are choosing to view your "aloneness" and take responsibility for the choice you have made.

The humble figure in this card glows with a light that emanates from within. One of Gautam Buddha's most significant contributions to the spiritual life of humankind was to insist to his disciples, "Be a light unto yourself." Ultimately, each of us must develop within ourselves the capacity to make our way through the darkness without any companions, maps or guide.





Copyright © 2005 Osho International Foundation

Peace to Mother Earth

"Harry's Game" by Clannad


Last Minute Gift Ideas for your Guinea Pig



Minn. Woman Designs, Sells Guinea Pig Gear Thu Dec 22, 9:33 PM ET



Looking for the perfect outfit for your guinea pig? Well, a Winona woman may have what you're after. Carly Austin-Kukowski designs and sells guinea pig gear ranging from leopard-print dresses to elf costumes with reindeer hats.

It started as a joke two years ago, when Austin-Kukowski, 25, made a sweater for her own guinea pig to wear outside. After that, she tried other designs.

A friend sarcastically suggested that she try to sell the costumes on eBay.

Austin-Kukowski took her friend seriously, and four months later, she said she has sold about 100 costumes to people as far away as Australia and England. About a third of her orders come from New York City, she said.

Austin-Kukowski, who works as a nurse's aide, has filled custom orders. She made a Minnesota Vikings helmet — braids included. She also made a white lace dress for a guinea pig "wedding."

The original sweater-wearing guinea pig has passed away, but she now has four others.

This week Austin-Kukowski took out a classified ad in a local paper: "Christmas costumes for guinea pigs. $7. Santa, elf, many more. Must see to believe."




Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press.


Copyright 2005 © Yahoo! Inc.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What Was Happening While We Were Shopping ?



Above is an old cartoon. Some things don't change very quickly. To update this we would need to make the Rich guy fatter and probably have a skinnier, working class, husband and wife carrying him.

THESE ARE SOME OF THE DEEPEST CUTS IN SOCIAL SERVICES IN DECADES. THE SENATE HAD PROPOSED A MUCH MORE FAIR AND SENSIBLE BILL, BUT THE HOUSE BILL IS WHAT PASSED. WHERE IS THE MEDIA OUTCRY?

Cheney Casts Tie-Breaking Senate Vote Cutting $40 Billion to the PoorThursday, December 22nd, 2005

http://www.democracynow.org


The $40 billion dollars in budget cuts is dwarfed by the $70 billion dollar cost of a Republican proposal expected to be voted on next year that would extend previous tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. The contentious budget bill was passed by a 50 to 51 vote. Five Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing the measure. Their combined votes would have led to a 50-50 tie. However, Vice President Dick Cheney cut short his trip to the Middle East in order to cast the tie-breaking vote.

As president of the Senate, Cheney was able to break the deadlock and pass the measure. Critics of the bill note that the poor and middle class would bear the brunt of the cuts. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid called it "an ideologically driven, extreme, radical budget. It caters to lobbyists and an elite group of ultraconservative ideologues here in Washington, all at the expense of middle class Americans.” The American Council on Education announced this is the biggest cut in the history of the federal student loan program.




AMY GOODMAN: We are joined in Washington D.C. by Robert Greenstein. He is the Executive Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Welcome to Democracy Now!

ROBERT GREENSTEIN: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, tell us about this budget.

ROBERT GREENSTEIN: This bill, as you noted, cuts over $40 billion over a five-year period, but you really can't get the flavor of it just from citing the budget numbers. If you take, for example, the Medicaid program, which is the principal health insurance program for tens of millions of low-income children, families, elderly people and people with disabilities, this bill makes very major changes in that program. It authorizes states to particularly raise the amounts that people just above the poverty line would have to pay each time they needed to go to the doctor or the hospital. You take a family of three that’s making, say, $17,000 a year, various procedures, inpatient, outpatient, for which they now are charged $3 per visit, under this new bill they could be charged, depending on the treatment, anywhere from $20 to $160 for each one of those treatments or procedures.

We have a body of research, Amy, that is this high that demonstrates that when you put co-payments of even a fraction of that size on low-income people, that in many cases they forgo the treatment or they don't take the medication. Sometimes they will get better on their own, but the research shows that in many cases they get sicker, sometimes seriously so.

The bill also authorizes states to substantially reduce the healthcare services that are covered under the Medicaid benefit package for various groups, such as working poor parents. The changes in Medicaid are pretty significant.

Another change in Medicaid, under this bill, native-born U.S. citizens would have to provide birth certificates or passports to stay enrolled in the Medicaid program. This is expected to have a racially discriminatory effect, because studies show that as many as one in five elderly African Americans don't have birth certificates, in many cases because they couldn't be born in a hospital, because in the South in those days before World War II, blacks often couldn't be admitted to hospitals, and you often got your birth certificate triggered in a hospital.

In the area of child support enforcement we have had a bipartisan consensus for 15 years in Washington with heavy Republican involvement that absent parents should pay their fair share, and there is a program, which the federal government helps fund, to make sure that child support payments are collected and provided to the children and their mothers. This bill substantially cuts federal funding for that program. The Congressional Budget Office, which is Congress's own official analyst of these things, has reported that as a result of this cut, $8 billion less in child support payments owed by non-custodial parents will be collected and provided to the children and their mothers over the next ten years. In other words, this will cause significant increases in poverty.

The changes in welfare are also pretty profound. They’re the biggest changes since the 1996 welfare law, and they rewrite the ’96 welfare law to make it, in key respects, substantially harsher than the ‘96 welfare law itself was. There would be new requirements for the percentage of parents that have to be in workfare type programs that are set in such an unrealistic fashion that states couldn't meet them and would then face fiscal penalties; and the easiest way for the states to deal with, to ease those fiscal penalties, would be by cutting the rolls. In particular, for poor, two-parent families, married parent families, the new standards would be so unrealistic that not a single state in the United States could meet them. They would be required to have virtually every two-parent family in a work program virtually full-time every week of the year. If a parent had to miss a couple days from work because he or she was sick or their child was sick, they wouldn't meet the standard for that month; and if a small number of parents were in that circumstance, the state would fail to meet the standard and would be penalized financially by the federal government. Experts expect that many states will cut large numbers of poor two-parent families from their rolls in coming years in order to avoid these penalties.

As you noted, there are also major cuts in the student loan program. There are major changes in the long-term care part of Medicaid that will make it harder for a number of people to get long-term care coverage when they need it. There are a variety of other changes, as well. What's striking is that the Senate had earlier passed a bill that didn't have a single low-income cut of this sort in it.. None at all. The House, by contrast, had passed an extremely harsh bill, and the difference was that the Senate got a lot of savings in the original Senate bill by restraining well known overpayments to managed care companies in Medicare and dealing with the very large mark-ups that the big drug companies get for drugs provided in Medicaid by reducing the prices Medicaid pays for drugs.

What happened behind closed doors over the weekend was that the drug companies got protected. The cuts that affected them were taken out. The managed care companies got largely protected. Nearly all of the changes that would have restrained excessive payments to them got taken out, and the cuts got redirected more heavily towards low and moderate income families instead. Probably not an accident. If you look at the campaign contribution data, you find that every significant House Republican leader who has something to do with Medicare and Medicaid policy is among the top recipients of campaign contributions for the 2006 election cycle from both the managed care companies and the drug companies.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob Greenstein, Executive Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we only have a minute, but I just wanted to touch on the level of burden on students right now. Nearly a third of all the savings in the final budget bill comes from student aid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Under the bill, college students would pay higher interest rates on loans, banks receive lower subsidies, Education Department will work with the I.R.S. to ferret out students and parents who underreport incomes on financial aid applications. In this last minute, the effect on students.

ROBERT GREENSTEIN: There will be effects on students, I think, both in terms of fees and interest rates. The other thing that should be said is that the savings from the students, from working poor families (who I think will actually be hit harder than students), and everybody else who suffers under this bill, not a dollar of those savings is going to reduce the federal deficit. Every dollar is going to offset a portion of the cost of tax cuts that’ll be passed when Congress comes back after its recess; and those tax cuts will go heavily to very high income people, and, in some cases, a large share of them will go to the people that make over a million dollars a year. So, it’s really a transfer in many – It’s not deficit reduction. We’re talking about a transfer from people who have greater needs to people at very high income levels and powerful forces that make large campaign contributions.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob Greenstein, thanks so much for being with us, Executive Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The website www.cbpp.org, and you can go to our website at democracynow.org for all links.

I’ll end with a couple of paragraphs from the New York Times today: “Republican negotiators said virtually all the cuts in student aid would be borne by banks and other lenders, an assertion sharply disputed by Democrats and college administrators, who said two-thirds of the savings would be at the expense of students and their families. Even as it makes those cuts, Congress is creating a new program for students from low-income families who are eligible for Pell grants. The amount of aid will not be based on financial need. To qualify, students would have to be U.S. citizens, have completed a ‘rigorous secondary school program of study’ and be taking courses full-time at a degree-granting institution of higher education. The student would have to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0. Juniors and seniors will be eligible only if they’ve declared a major in the physical or life sciences, computer science, math, technology, engineering, or a foreign language deemed critical to national security.” College and university groups, as well as most Democrats, oppose the overall bill. As it becomes harder for students to get money for college, it seems increasingly that it puts pressure on young people to go into the military as an avenue to get to college.


www.democracynow.org

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holidays Make Me Feel Like I Need Therapy.....



.... but I've never found a therapist that understands me.
In reality, I have been meeting with a therapist who does understand the human condition enough to realize that the answers to my dilemma are in my spirit and soul. He has helped me clarify that my thinking drives me away from the solutions. He has given me tools for discovering the suppressed emotions that are physically locked in my body. I'm still crazy but people close to me say they see growth and improvement.

Peace, Alan

Monday, December 19, 2005

SANTA RIOT


I found the following on yahoo new from Rueters. The above picture is a Santa who participated in the Sanarchy event in NYC.


40 drunken Santas...six geese a-laying.. Mon Dec 19,11:45 AM ET



Forty drunken Santas rampaged through central Auckland, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards, the New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday, in a protest against the commercialization of Christmas.

Police said some of the Santas threw beer bottles, one tried to climb the mooring rope of a cruise ship and a security guard was punched during the fracas.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," convenience store staff member Changa Manakynda told the Herald, which reported the Santas also attacked a Christmas tree.

The event organizer, Alex Dyer, had warned the antics would only stop when someone was arrested, said the Herald, which linked the incident to "Santarchy."

Santarchy (www.santarchy.com) and online encyclopedia wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) record protests going back around 10 years in the United States, with participants marking Christmas in anti-commercial manner involving street theater, pranks and public drunkenness.

Police said identification was a key issue as they tried to sort out which of the 40 men and women had done what.

"With a number of people dressed in the same outfit, it was difficult for any witnesses to confirm the identity of who was doing what," Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers told Reuters.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Can you say Richard Nixon ?


The above photo is titled "Vietnam Mobilization
Washington, D.C., November 1969" ©1999 Ken Light

Ken Light, the photographer, and I were friends when this picture was taken. He has continued to do important work. You can see more at his website www.kenlight.com.



The following is a message I posted to a yahoo group of fellow freaks (hippies) that I have recently connected with. We are coming together to create a "Hippie Museum". You can learn more at www.hippiemuseum.org. I thought I would share it with you.

Can you say Richard Nixon?

It's the same forces that we faced off against during the Viet Nam
war. Wolfowitz(sp?) and Rumsfeld were cronies in the Ford
administration. Yes, the administration appointed by Nixon to pardon
Nixon. They began plotting the invasion of Iraq at that time. Their
strategy of that time was to establish a base for military operations
in the Middle East to protect U.S. interests (oil?). Our main enemy
at the time was the Soviet Union. Iraq, with the cooperation of
Turkey, served the strategic purpose of cutting off the Soviet Union
from Saudi Arabia and most of the Middle East.

What we as a political movement started doing was organizing at a
local level. We started in the college communities that many of us
lived in. We recognized that the same forces, driven by greed and
power, were effecting us locally and this bubbled up to a national
level. When the War ended and the immediate threat was removed, as a
counter-culture, many moved back to a self-centered approach to life.
This was fueled also by the media and a genuine need to find ourselves
spiritually.

To make a long story short, the result has been that once unifieddd
movement based on the ideals of peace, love and understanding; also
liberty, justice and brother/sisterhood has become splintered and self-
centered. The challenge is, how do we unify a movement around our
common interests, around the innate human trait of a desire for mutual
aid, not survival of the fittest.

It's easy for us to talk to each other and agree what beautiful,
amazing beings we are, but how do we unify on a broader scale?
Political agendas create room for disagreement and division around
superficial issues. The "hippies" and the "Christians" unifying
around their support for those in distress from Katrina and the
irresponsibility of the governments gives hope.

I know for me, it's important that I open up and begin once again to
carry my message by sharing myself, my heart and all my
vulnerabilities with the rest of the human community. It's also
continuing to focus on my spiritual development. For me, mind
altering substances got in the way of doing that. I used to think
marijuana was not only harmless but a boost to my spiritual state.
I've discovered, for me, that was a mistake. Being stoned gave me the
illusion of feeling closer to God, when in reality I was creating a cushion for
myself from the pain of life in a human body. I was communing with my
inflated sense of self, thinking it was God. I was viewing the world
as if I were God.

Blah, Blah, Blah. Sorry for getting off on all this, but I have few
in my life that understands what the hell I'm talking about. In many
of you I am finding my tribe that I separated from, years back. One
last thing: I have started reading a book that addresses many of these issues
for me, where I'm at now. It is "Change of Heart....The Bodhisattva
Peace Training" by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche.

Peace and Joy,

Alan

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Nothing New About Political Deception and Lies



Check out this Christmas story from U.S. history. I wonder why I don't remember this from history class. Oh yea, the education system participated in the deception.

This is from Counterpunch.

Zachary Taylor vs. the Seminoles
Remembering the First Quagmire at Christmastime

By WILLIAM LOREN KATZ

As the number of U.S. war dead edges toward three thousand, and Iraqi casualties soar into the tens of thousands, it might be useful to remember the an earlier Iraq -- the first U.S. invasion and occupation of a foreign land. The United States sunk into a quagmire soon after its troops invaded Florida in 1816 to capture runaway slaves and to close down the largest station of the underground railroad in North America which was run by escaped Africans and their Seminole allies and had been attracting thousands of enslaved people. The U.S. violent occupation lasted forty-two years, resulted in 1500 U.S. military deaths, and cost Congress and taxpayers $40,000,000, and brought devestation and misery to the penninsula.

The war's most dramatic moment came the day before Christmas in 1837 when U.S. troops under Colonel Zachary Taylor pursued a band of red and black Seminoles to the northeast corner of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida. Wild Cat and his African American sub-chief John Horse had assembled 380 to 480 fighters who awaited Taylor, their sharpshooters perched in tall grass or trees. Taylor's large army included 70 Delaware Indian mercenaries, 180 Missouri riflemen and 800 soldiers from the U.S. Sixth, Fourth, and First Infantry Regiments.

The Delawares quickly sensed disaster lurking in the tall grass, and fled. Next the Missourians broke and ran.

Taylor then ordered his U.S. troops forward only to find that pinpoint Seminole rifle fire brought down "every officer, with one exception, as well as most of the non-commissioned officers" and left "but four . . . untouched." After a two and a half hour battle Wild Cat, Horse and their Seminoles forces had made their point felt that by decimating the enemy leaders. As they fled across the lake in canoes a night of pain and loss descended on the U.S. survivors.

On Christmas Day Colonel Taylor's men awoke to find 26 U.S. dead and 112 wounded. Four dead Seminoles died and none had been captured. The battle at Lake Okeechobee was the most devestating U.S. defeat in more than four decades of Florida warfare, and one of its of the worst defeats in centuries of aggression against Native Americans.

Taylor's army limped back to Fort Gardner, and as his men tended the wounded and mourned the dead, he wrote a report that declared victory and claimed "the Indians were driven in every direction."

The U.S. Army accepted Taylor's conclusion, promoted him to General, and he used his military reputation to become the 12th President of the United States.

The Black and Red Seminoles fought on until 1858 when most of its red and black members agreed to migrate to Oklahoma. But others stayed in their Florida homes, deeply proud of their victory over the mighty United States and its armed forces.

William Loren Katz is the author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. His new, revised edition of THE BLACK WEST [Harlem Moon/Random House, 2005] also includes information on the Philippine occupation, and can now be found in bookstores. He can be reached through his website: www.williamlkatz.com

ONE WORLD that's all we got!!

"Where is the Love" by Black Eyed Peas


Friday, December 16, 2005

Not to be Redundant but call your Congressperson


It's dirty tricks all over again
By Arianna Huffington

December 15, 2005

READING THE new reports that the Pentagon is conducting surveillance of peaceful antiwar groups and protests, I feel like I'm having a bad '60s flashback.

But this time, I'm not seeing psychedelic lights and thinking I can fly. I'm remembering how the Defense Department aggressively infiltrated antiwar and civil rights groups during that era, spying and compiling files on more than 100,000 Americans — and how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI used every dirty trick in the "black bag operation" handbook to sabotage the antiwar and civil rights movements.

Now it looks like those ugly days of government paranoia and officially sanctioned lawbreaking might be making a comeback. A secret Defense Department database obtained by NBC News and the Washington Post this week indicates that Pentagon intelligence and local law enforcement agencies are using the guise of the war on terror to keep an eye on the constitutionally protected activities of antiwar activists.

The Pentagon appears to be doing so despite the existence of strict legal restrictions on the military maintaining records on domestic civilian political activity. According to NBC, the database includes "at least 20 references to U.S. citizens," while other documents indicate that "vehicle descriptions" are also being noted and analyzed.

And it's not just the Pentagon. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has been recording the names and license plate numbers of peaceful antiwar protesters.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield: There's something happening here … and what it is is painfully clear.

The Bush administration has a long and ignominious history of rhetorical intimidation, routinely equating dissent with a lack of patriotism and a lack of support for our troops. Now, however, it seems to be moving on to actual intimidation.

No one denies that in the post-9/11 world, the need for greater domestic intelligence gathering, processing and sharing is paramount.

Indeed, don't we all wish someone in authority had been paying attention to the Phoenix memo and the one from FBI Agent Coleen Rowley before the 2001 attacks?

The national security agencies responsible for the Pentagon database were originally tasked with creating "a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats." This intelligence-gathering system is a tangle of acronyms — including CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity), TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice), and NORTHCOM (U.S. Northern Command) — but they are all geared toward helping the government keep ahead of terrorists.

There is even a U.S. Army-operated 800 number for reporting suspicious activity, 1-800-CALL-SPY. I kid you not, dial it and you will hear: "You've reached the U.S. Army Call-Spy Hotline….Please leave a detailed message of the incident you wish to report. Your call is important. If you wish to be contacted, please leave your name and telephone number…."

But, as usual with this administration, these agencies now appear to be overreaching, moving away from identifying "possible terrorist pre-attack activities" and heading into the murky waters of spying on U.S. citizens who are doing nothing more than voicing their objections to U.S. policy.

President Bush and many of his closest associates have always positioned themselves as a counterpoint to the '60s counterculture. (Indeed, Bush was so detached from it that he once claimed he had no memory of antiwar activity at Yale during his time there — even though the campus was a hotbed of student protest when he graduated in 1968.) And now his administration has adopted the worst domestic intelligence practices of the '60s establishment.

That's why Congress needs to flex its oversight muscle — and make sure that the tragic mistakes of the past are not repeated.

It wasn't that long ago that Hoover's notorious COINTELPRO program was illegally infiltrating Students for a Democratic Society and setting out to destroy the reputations and lives of "Negro radicals" such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our government lied, cheated, harassed, intimidated, burglarized, vandalized, framed and spread false rumors — to say nothing of keeping voluminous files on everyone from John Lennon to Lucille Ball — in an effort to quash legitimate dissent against the Vietnam War and the racist practices of the South.

We can't let it happen again.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON is editor of huffingtonpost.com.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

THEY'RE BACK


Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?
Secret database obtained by NBC News tracks ‘suspicious’ domestic groups

By Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak, Rich Gardella and the NBC Investigative Unit
Updated: 6:18 p.m. ET Dec. 14, 2005


WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.


“I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far,” says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.

The Department of Defense declined repeated requests by NBC News for an interview. A spokesman said that all domestic intelligence information is “properly collected” and involves “protection of Defense Department installations, interests and personnel.” The military has always had a legitimate “force protection” mission inside the U.S. to protect its personnel and facilities from potential violence. But the Pentagon now collects domestic intelligence that goes beyond legitimate concerns about terrorism or protecting U.S. military installations, say critics.

Four dozen anti-war meetings
The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat and a column in the database concludes: “US group exercising constitutional rights.” Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense — yet they all remained in the database.

The DOD has strict guidelines (.PDF link), adopted in December 1982, that limit the extent to which they can collect and retain information on U.S. citizens.

Still, the DOD database includes at least 20 references to U.S. citizens or U.S. persons. Other documents obtained by NBC News show that the Defense Department is clearly increasing its domestic monitoring activities. One DOD briefing document stamped “secret” concludes: “[W]e have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest groups using the [I]nternet,” but no “significant connection” between incidents, such as “reoccurring instigators at protests” or “vehicle descriptions.”

The increased monitoring disturbs some military observers.


“It means that they’re actually collecting information about who’s at those protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests,” says Arkin. “On the domestic level, this is unprecedented,” he says. “I think it's the beginning of enormous problems and enormous mischief for the military.”

Some former senior DOD intelligence officials share his concern. George Lotz, a 30-year career DOD official and former U.S. Air Force colonel, held the post of Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight from 1998 until his retirement last May. Lotz, who recently began a consulting business to help train and educate intelligence agencies and improve oversight of their collection process, believes some of the information the DOD has been collecting is not justified.

Make sure they are not just going crazy
“Somebody needs to be monitoring to make sure they are just not going crazy and reporting things on U.S. citizens without any kind of reasoning or rationale,” says Lotz. “I demonstrated with Martin Luther King in 1963 in Washington,” he says, “and I certainly didn’t want anybody putting my name on any kind of list. I wasn’t any threat to the government,” he adds.

The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing — but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer.

“Some people never learn,” he says. During the Vietnam War, Pyle blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests when he published an article in the Washington Monthly in January 1970.

The public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S.

But Pyle, now a professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, says some of the information in the database suggests the military may be dangerously close to repeating its past mistakes.

“The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again,” he says.

Too much data?
Some Pentagon observers worry that in the effort to thwart the next 9/11, the U.S. military is now collecting too much data, both undermining its own analysis efforts by forcing analysts to wade through a mountain of rubble in order to obtain potentially key nuggets of intelligence and entangling U.S. citizens in the U.S. military’s expanding and quiet collection of domestic threat data.

Two years ago, the Defense Department directed a little known agency, Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, to establish and “maintain a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of Defense.” Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also established a new reporting mechanism known as a TALON or Threat and Local Observation Notice report. TALONs now provide “non-validated domestic threat information” from military units throughout the United States that are collected and retained in a CIFA database. The reports include details on potential surveillance of military bases, stolen vehicles, bomb threats and planned anti-war protests. In the program’s first year, the agency received more than 5,000 TALON reports. The database obtained by NBC News is generated by Counterintelligence Field Activity.

CIFA is becoming the superpower of data mining within the U.S. national security community. Its “operational and analytical records” include “reports of investigation, collection reports, statements of individuals, affidavits, correspondence, and other documentation pertaining to investigative or analytical efforts” by the DOD and other U.S. government agencies to identify terrorist and other threats. Since March 2004, CIFA has awarded at least $33 million in contracts to corporate giants Lockheed Martin, Unisys Corporation, Computer Sciences Corporation and Northrop Grumman to develop databases that comb through classified and unclassified government data, commercial information and Internet chatter to help sniff out terrorists, saboteurs and spies.


One of the CIFA-funded database projects being developed by Northrop Grumman and dubbed “Person Search,” is designed “to provide comprehensive information about people of interest.” It will include the ability to search government as well as commercial databases. Another project, “The Insider Threat Initiative,” intends to “develop systems able to detect, mitigate and investigate insider threats,” as well as the ability to “identify and document normal and abnormal activities and ‘behaviors,’” according to the Computer Sciences Corp. contract. A separate CIFA contract with a small Virginia-based defense contractor seeks to develop methods “to track and monitor activities of suspect individuals.”

“The military has the right to protect its installations, and to protect its recruiting services,” says Pyle. “It does not have the right to maintain extensive files on lawful protests of their recruiting activities, or of their base activities,” he argues.

Lotz agrees.

“The harm in my view is that these people ought to be allowed to demonstrate, to hold a banner, to peacefully assemble whether they agree or disagree with the government’s policies,” the former DOD intelligence official says.

'Slippery slope'
Bert Tussing, director of Homeland Defense and Security Issues at the U.S. Army War College and a former Marine, says “there is very little that could justify the collection of domestic intelligence by the Unites States military. If we start going down this slippery slope it would be too easy to go back to a place we never want to see again,” he says.

Some of the targets of the U.S. military’s recent collection efforts say they have already gone too far.

“It's absolute paranoia — at the highest levels of our government,” says Hersh of The Truth Project.

“I mean, we're based here at the Quaker Meeting House,” says Truth Project member Marie Zwicker, “and several of us are Quakers.”

The Defense Department refused to comment on how it obtained information on the Lake Worth meeting or why it considers a dozen or so anti-war activists a “threat.”


© 2005 MSNBC.com

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards All


Quotation of the Week

"The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of
those who look at it without doing anything. Nothing that I can do will change
the structure of the universe. But maybe by raising my voice I can help the
greatest of all causes ... goodwill among men and peace on earth."

-- Albert Einstein

A CHANGE OF HEART


How do we make peace. When I was living in the fullness of self-centered delusion I thought I had answers. If only people would see and let go of their greed and hunger for power. If only they would let go of being right. If only they would work for the common good and practice mutual aid. If only, If only...........

Now I see that on a more subtle level I have expressed the same violence, towards those I loved no less. How could I propose peace and demonize those I saw as violent when I was violent and selfish myself?

I have been led to a book I have begun to read that I think holds some answers. It is "The Bodhisattva Peace Training" by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. "In the last fourteen years of his life, Rinpoche gave the Bodhisattva Peace Training to hundreds of individuals in a multitude of settings"

I was blessed to have had Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche come into my life, a few years back, in a time of immense fear and impending doom. I opened up a piece of mail and there was his face beaming forth. I knew immediately that things were going to be fine. I have kept his picture in my living space and his image in my meditations since. I was blessed to have experienced one of his teachings and to have met him and looked into his eyes. It was the closest I have been to seeing God. The other place I have seen God is in the eyes of a newborn baby.

I share with you this excerpt from page six:

"For the spiritual power of peace to touch every person on this earth, it must radiate out from a profound peace within our own mind: across political and religious barriers, and across the barriers of ego and self-righteousness. To this end, we should seek an inner peace so pure and stable that we cannot be moved to anger by violence or to selfish attachment and fear by those who view or confront us with contempt and hatred. We can achieve such stability only by purifying mind's poisons--ignorance, anger, attachment, jealousy, and pride; then we can clearly see that war and suffering are but their outer reflections. The essential difference between true peace-makers and those who wage war of any sort is the presence of extraordinary patience and discipline in the minds of the peacemakers as they work with these pervasive poisons. If we truly understand this, we will never allow ourselves to be defeated from within or without."

This is my goal, but I have a long way to go. I pray that each day and each step I move closer to living peace. I apologize for the hatred and resentment that is often in my message as I try to bring to light many of the horrors waged upon innocent people by selfish hypocrites in places of power. Progress not perfection. May I be stripped of my own selfishness and hypocrisy.

Peace,

Alan

Monday, December 12, 2005

THOU SHALT NOT KILL


The so called "Christian Right" makes such a fuss over having the ten commandments on public property but turn a blind eye towards capital punishment, not to mention rascist murder.

The following is from "Counterpunch".

December 12, 2005

If a Black Man Dies in America, Does It Make a Sound?
Killing Tookie Williams


By NATE MEZMER

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? Most of those who support his state sponsored murder do not live in war torn regions of the Golden State of California. Thus it is difficult for these privileged people to understand the benefits of Stan's contributions on behalf of non-violence. However, because blacks are sentenced to death twice as frequently as whites who've been convicted of the same crime it appears that this may be more than a misunderstanding.

If a young black man is shot in South Central does it make a sound in Thousand Oaks?

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? Stan was convicted of four murders 25 years ago in connection with armed-robbery however the key witnesses were felons who recieved 'benefits' in exchange for their testimony. ( facts of the case). I have encountered many people who say that since Stan was a gang-banger and a co-founder of the Crips that such facts alone should condemn him despite his transformation. This notion is almost laughable if it were not so dubious, especially in light of the fact that our own country, the United States of America, is currently disguising the hostile takeover of oil-rich Iraq as a righteous crusade for freedom.

If a young black man is shot in Hunter's Point does it make a sound in Hillsborough?

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? The current administration in the White House is the most mafia regime in the history of the country and is thus run by some of the biggest gangsters in the world. The war in Iraq, a war based on falsehoods and conspiracies, collusion and neglegence, has been responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians and has taken the lives of more than 2,100 US soldiers. This being said, no one is calling for the execution of the president?

If a young black man is shot in Watts does it make a sound in Orange County?

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? Indeed, lessons in retribution and justice in the form of war and execution never seem to get the job done. After, 9/11 we haphazardly attacked two countries, enraging large portions of the global community and subsequently created a greater terror threat than had existed before. Maybe if we had stopped to understand why the attacks had occurred in the first place our nation and its soldiers would not be in the same deadly predicament? Furthermore, becasue violence begets violence, as the bumper sticker says, "why do we kill people who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong?"

If a young black man is shot in Richmond does it make a sound in the Oakland hills?

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? Unlike the Christian re-birth of President Bush, the spiritual re-awakening of Stan Tookie Williams has been synonymous with peace. As documented, over 150 youth have pledged that Stan's writings and works have been responsible for their decision to remove themselves from the gang life. Since, 2001 Stan Tookie Williams has been nominated for 5 Nobel Peace Prizes and has won several awards for his work concerning non-violence. In that same time George W Bush has managed to invade two countries in the middle-east.

If a young black man is shot in South Sacramento does it make a sound in Granite Bay?

If Stan Tookie Williams is executed tomorrow who will feel the negative effects? After witnessing the government's reaction to Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans it seems that our nation is comfortable with stranding its black population. Although the tragedy did eventually spawn some national concern, we have since failed to address the real problem that blacks have been drowning in America for years. Thus the very fact that blacks are left to fend for themselves in ghettos and slums across the country does not bode well for an individual of the same color, who speaks out about such injustice and who's ultimate fate rests in the hands of the same people and the same system that creates such inequality.

If a black man is murdered in America does it make a sound?

Nate Mezmer is a political Hip-Hop artist and resident of Davis, CA . He can be reached at: mezmerfmk@yahoo.com

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Know Thyself

i am citizen. show me what to think.


The following was published at "Americas Best Political Newsletter" COUNTERPUNCH.

December 10 / 11, 2005

Advertisements, Infomercials and Stacatto News
The Widening Wasteland of the American Media


By RALPH NADER

There are times when unchallenged commercial greed morphs into institutional insanity. I am referring to the overall advertising-saturated, trivialized performance of the media conglomerates' utilization of our public airwaves 24 hours a day and their dominance of the ever-expanding scores of cable channels.

Take a test. If you are an average consumer of TV or radio broadcasts or newspapers and magazines, you are ready for your exam. Have you ever seen coverage of the following three long-standing civic organizations working on very important aspects of our society's needs and failures?

Lois Gibbs came out of the struggle over Love Canal's toxified residential neighborhoods to start and lead the nationwide Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) in Falls Church, Virginia. Over the years the Center has organized thousands of small but vigorous community groups who are challenging or stopping the presence of toxic chemical particulates and gases in largely lower-income neighborhoods. Lois and her associates have trained thousands of ordinary people, committed to protecting their families, and educated scores of communities about the nature of these toxics and what can be done about them with law, action and exposure.

They have victory after victory to show for their efforts, but so intense and widespread has been the poisoning of America over the decades by corporations that there is always more to discover and do.

Right now, the Center has its community associations "fighting to block local schools from being built on contaminated land in Alabama, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island." CHEJ's new report--Building Safe Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions--covers the laws and situations in 250 states. Here is one example of many:

"In Birmingham, Alabama, Wenonah High School is being constructed on contaminated soil. The site is also across the street from the largest gasoline storage facility in the state and is adjacent to a railroad track and a junkyard. The site was further contaminated this past July by a gas spill when a train and gas truck collided right in front of the site of the future school."

For more information, see www.childproofing.org.

For an astoundingly-optimistic demonstration of what science can do for the people, consider the Appalachia Science in the Public Interest (ASPI) out of Livingston, Kentucky. Founded in the '70s by one of our former public interest scientists, Dr. Albert Fritsch, ASPI has shown what can be done for peoples' houses, cars, and larger buildings with "proven energy conservation, healthy home and renewable energy solutions." It connects "consumers with marketers of related products and services".

It is the moving force, with state agencies, renewable-energy companies and college institutions, behind the annual Bluegrass Energy Expo. The 2005 event featured, among others, the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Solar Car. The Expo has taught many people in what one writer called "a rich land with poor people" about sustainable forests, water purification and conservation. It is a very hands-on organization that makes you want to obtain its recommended products pronto. See its web site: www.a-spi.org. And send for its wonderfully-engrossing Simple Lifestyle Calendar 2006 for $7.50 (to ASPI Calendar, 50 Lair Street, Mt. Vernon, KY 40456).

In Washington, D.C. another unsung group of Americans is working hard at the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). END TWO There are hundreds of thousands of homeless people in our wealthy country. According to the Homeless Coalition, "60% are living in emergency shelter or transitional housing, and 40% are living on the streets. The majority, 53% are single adults, 42% are families and 5% are homeless/runaway youth."

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, says NCH, "multiplied the homeless population along the Gulf Coast by as much as a hundred fold." All this is in the face of the Bush regime's proposed slicing of federal subsidies for housing by 40%. That proposal, sent to Congress, does not cut the burgeoning budget for the number one occupant of public housing--George W. Bush in the White House.

NCH reports, organizes and lobbies all over the country. They are supporting legislation, introduced by Rep. Julia Carson, of federal homeless policies that "tackle the root causes of homelessness and poverty in this nation." For more on NCH, see its web page: www.nationalhomeless.org.

Now back to the mostly maniacal mass media's priorities. 90% of radio and television are devoted to advertisements and entertainment. Often the rest is staccato news, weather and sports repeated throughout the day. There are, of course, he sterling exceptions such as weekly sections of 60 Minutes or the two and a half minute investigations on the network nightly TV news.

Cable is a widening wasteland. With infomercials (bracelets and necklaces, etc.), re-run movies, sports and comedy shows, and endless silly drivel, it does not matter how many new cable channels are added. There will not be any devoted to the wholesome activities and successes of groups such as the aforementioned to life up people, get them more active and introduce the young to practical citizenship that solves serious problems.

That is, not until enough people around America become serious about the need for serious media and reassert some control over the public airwaves they own and the no-rent licenses given out to radio and television companies by the Federal Communications Commission. Communities that license cable companies also need to feel the enlightened heat of local residents and neighborhood groups. It is ours for the demanding.

Let's start demanding.

A Man Who Transformed the World as We Knew it.


Richard Pryor, comic voice of black America, dies

Ned Temko
Sunday December 11, 2005
The Observer


Richard Pryor, whose genius for turning personal tragedy and social injustice into humour made him one of the most influential American comedians of the last four decades, died yesterday. Pryor, who was 65, had been ill for several years with multiple sclerosis.

Born in the Midwestern state of Illinois and brought up in a brothel, he began, like many black comedians at the time, by trying to appeal to respectable audiences. All that changed after what he later called a stage 'epiphany' in 1967, before a posh hotel audience in Las Vegas. He looked into the crowd, paused, suddenly said into the microphone 'What the fuck am I doing here?' - and walked off stage.

What followed was a redefined Pryor, a self-styled angry 'nigger' who combined the profanity of Lenny Bruce with the perfect timing of old Vaudeville. Over the next two decades, he made a huge impact as a stand-up comedian with a foul mouth and a sharp wit, inspiring a generation of artists from Eddie Murphy to Robin Williams.

Pryor moved from stand-up to a series of hit film comedies during the Seventies and Eighties, starring in films including Stir Crazy, and Silver Streak.

He didn't tone things down after he became famous. In his 1977 NBC television series The Richard Pryor Show, he threatened to cancel his contract with the network. NBC's censors objected to a skit where he appeared naked except for a flesh-coloured loincloth to suggest he was emasculated.

His stage routine and films often drew on personal tragedy, particularly when he set himself on fire while using cocaine in 1980. This led to a painfully funny stand-up act recorded in a film, Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip. He once told an interviewer it was 'much easier for me to talk about my life in front of 2,000 people than one-to-one. I'm a real defensive person ... If you were sensitive in my neighbourhood, you were food.'

Even when he was in poor health with MS, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, comedy remained a lifeline. During one performance in the early Nineties, he asked: 'Is there a doctor in the audience?' All he got was nervous laughter so he added: 'No, I'm serious. I want to know if there's a doctor here.'

A hand finally went up. 'Doctor,' Pryor said, 'I need to know one thing. What the fuck is MS?'

The comedian once marvelled that 'I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that.'

Friday, December 09, 2005

I am Sorry for Comparing Bush to Hitler


In my "Please, Please, Please....." posting I think I got a little carried away with my enthusiasm and concern for the current state of the world effected by U.S. foreign policy. I think the comparison was an insult to both. I don't think Bush has the intelligence or will to lead a political force to unleash the horrors manifested by Hitler. Bush is a puppet for the forces and personalities that have a Hitleresque vision for the world. I can't put their picture in my post because they are hiding in the shadows. They might make appearances at Bohemian Grove and at other secret meetings of U.S. and world leaders, but I doubt it. I think the are hiding deeper than that and have their representatives appear at these gatherings.

I stand by my warning, but apologize to George Bush and Adolf Hitler. Probably the most available representative person to have compared to Hitler would have been Dick Cheney. I think he is quite conscious of what he is doing and expressing through his office and the performance of his President.

George is a fool who has been groomed to give this performance. Reagan transformed the Presidency from that of a leader to one of a performer playing the role and reading the script prepared for him by his playwrights and directors. Bush thankfully doesn't have the skills and experience of Reagan. Beware of Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the movie roles that have prepared him the thought of him in the White House is definitely a Hitleresque nightmare.

The following satire is from "The Onion".



Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom
December 7, 2005 | Issue 41:49

WASHINGTON, DC: Telephone logs recorded by the National Security Agency and obtained by Congress as part of an ongoing investigation suggest that the vice president may have used the Oval Office intercom system to address President Bush at crucial moments, giving categorical directives in a voice the president believed to be that of God.

President Bush sits at his desk in the Oval Office, where he received messages from an intercom voice identifying itself as "God" and thought to have been Vice President Cheney.

While journalists and presidential historians had long noted Bush's deep faith and Cheney's powerful influence in the White House, few had drawn a direct correlation between the two until Tuesday, when transcripts of meetings that took place in March and April of 2002 became available.

In a transcript of an intercom exchange recorded in March 2002, a voice positively identified as the vice president's identifies himself as "the Lord thy God" and promotes the invasion of Iraq, as well as the use of torture in prisoner interrogations.

A close examination of Bush's public statements and Secret Service time logs tracking the vice president reveals a consistent pattern, one which links Bush's belief that he had received word from God with Cheney's use of the White House's telephone-based intercom system.

Officials privately acknowledged that there is reason to believe that the vice president, as God, urged Bush to sign legislation benefiting oil companies in 2005.

"There's a lot of religious zeal in the West Wing," said a former White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's possible that the vice president has taken advantage of that to fast-track certain administration objectives."

An ex-Treasury Department official and longtime friend of Cheney was asked to comment on the vice president's possible subterfuge. "I don't know. I certainly don't think it's something [Cheney] planned," he said. "I do know that Mr. Bush was unfamiliar with a phone-based intercom, and I suppose it is possible that Dick took advantage of that."

A highly placed NSA official who has reviewed the information released Tuesday said Cheney masked his clipped monotone, employing a deeper, booming voice.

Said the NSA source: "It sounded as though the speaker, who identified himself as God, stood away from the intercom to create an echo effect."

On Capitol Hill, sources are expressing surprise that Cheney, a vice president with more influence than any other in U.S. history, would have resorted to such deception.

"The vice president has a lot of sway in this administration," said a former White House aide. "But perhaps when President Bush was particularly resolute and resistant to mortal persuasion, the vice president chose to quickly resolve disputes in his favor with a half-decent God impression."

For many, the revelation explains Bush's confusion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I was very surprised by the president's slow response in New Orleans," political commentator Bill Kristol said. "The president told me that he was praying every day in his office, but had received no reply. I had no idea what he meant, but of course, it all makes sense now."

At the time of Katrina, Cheney was on a fly-fishing trip, from which he returned on Sept. 1.

According to highly placed White House sources, Bush's senior advisers are trying to shield the president from the news. Aides are concerned that too harsh an awakening might shake Bush's faith, which has been a central part of his life for nearly 20 years.

"It's hard to tell the leader of the free world that he has been the butt of an elaborate and long-term ruse," a former staffer said. "Maybe it would be easier to take if it came from Cheney's God voice."

© Copyright 2005, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

A WORKING CLASS HERO IS SO HARD TO BE


Imagine


John Lennon

Born: October 9, 1940

Assassinated: December 8, 1980


IMAGINE

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try,
No hell below us, above us only sky,
Imagine all the people, living for today.
Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too,
Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

STILL FURTHER


The merry pranksters and their bus "Further" were a major influence on me and the community I lived with. Their story is told in the book "Electric Koolaid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe.

Furthur lives on

Kesey’s Merry Pranksters’ bus rises from the swampBy JOHN FOYSTON
The Oregonian


PLEASANT HILL — Four decades ago, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters rolled across the country as psychedelic shock troops in a brightly painted bus called Furthur.

Recently some remaining Pranksters — plus kids, companions, young acolytes and dogs — met at Kesey’s farm to help his son Zane make Furthur roll again.

The Pranksters were lysergicized proselytizers, the transition from the Beats to the hippies, a rainbow-hued crew seeking to wake America from two decades of self-satisfied slumber. They were harbingers of a tectonic shift in American culture — a shift that doubled back on them in the early 1970s, submerging the subculture once again.

Furthur is one of the enduring symbols of that time. But it was road-weary and

50 years old when Kesey towed it to oaky bottomland at his farm near Eugene. He built a replica from a newer bus as the original languished in the swamp, and Kesey, who died four years ago following liver surgery, stoutly resisted all suggestions to move it.

That’s why the most recent journey on a late October day was more significant — heavier, even — than its distance might imply: Zane Kesey and crew towed the bus just a couple hundred yards from the swamp to a flat spot up by the barn.

Short as it was, it was a journey that many of the Pranksters never thought they’d see. “It’s sweet to see it back out of the swamp,’’ said Prankster Mike Hagen, a quiet man who uses the word ‘sweet’ often and can even get away with the occasional ‘far out.’ “Who would’ve believed it?’’

“I don’t know what Kesey would think about it, but we can’t worry about that now. I’ve been trying to e-mail him, but the server must be down,’’ joked Ken Babbs, who knew Kesey for 43 years.

“It’s been a miraculous day because we had no idea what would happen. We didn’t know if the brakes were seized and the wheels would even roll. We didn’t know if it would break in half when we got a chain on it, but the vibe was right.’’

What happens next is the question.

“Our goal is to restore the bus and tell its story,’’ said David Houston, who owns Barney’s Beanery, a famous Los Angeles restaurant. “This is a priceless piece of American history.’’

Lit by full sun for the first time in years, Furthur looked the part. Festoons of moss drooped from its flanks; ferns grew from its fenders; mice had colonized the interior, which was stripped bare except for the driver’s seat where Neal Cassady often sat. Furthur’s once flamboyant, fanciful hide is faded and rusted — making it look like the relic of a lost civilization that it is.

But it’s beautiful and imposing for all that — or because of it: it’s a faded Renaissance fresco or an aging beauty still possessed of the most amazing cheekbones. It’s imposing because history happened here. This was the locus of many lives and so much energy that you want to encapsulate it — moss, rust and all — in a block of Lucite and appreciate it as the cultural artifact it has become.

“This feels like a perfect time for a new subculture,’’ said Stephen Greene, Houston’s partner in the possible restoration of Furthur.

“It feels like something was pulling it out of the swamp. Since Jerry Garcia died, another of the doorways to a different culture closed. We want to restore Furthur and take it on the road for kids to learn different ways to live and how to take care of each other. ”

But which Furthur do you restore? Set aside the problems of restoring a machine ravaged by age and you face a philosophic question — Furthur was the constantly evolving work of dozens of creative souls. As inspiration enshrined, its livery might change overnight and then again in a month or a year.

“Oh, I remember when it was that color, I think I painted that,’’ said Mountain Girl, a longtime Prankster and mother of Kesey’s daughter, Sunshine. “I remember every one of these flakes.’’

She pored over multicolored paint chips that flaked off the bus when it was pulled out from between two trees that tightly flanked it. (So tightly that the trunk of one had to be notched to allow the open bus door to pass without snagging.)

Mountain Girl (her driver’s license may show a different name, but the world knows her as Mountain Girl and her friends call her MG) looked up as people pushed the bus around a corner to ready it for the tow up the hill.

“We used to do that a lot,’’ she said. “We used to have to push it to get it started when the starter motor didn’t work. Usually one of three things — the starter, the brakes or the clutch — was always either busted or just fixed and ready to go out again in about three days. We got to know every junkyard and parts store in the West.’’

Zane Kesey allowed two days to extricate Furthur, but it was out of the swamp shortly after noon of the first day. Which is not to say the operation went off with military precision — that’s just not the Prankster way.

No, the scene down in the swamp (a mercifully dry swamp, thanks to a lack of rain) was marinated in the same cheerful anarchy that Kesey and the Pranksters brought to those long ago Acid Tests.

“No control freaks,’’ Sunshine Kesey said. “Keep it loose. Dad encouraged randomness.’’

Dogs and kids romped, mostly ignoring the trampled blackberry vines. Characters milled about — young neo-

hippies, one of whom later unslung a mandolin to sing “All You Need Is Drugs’’; a documentary film crew; silver-bearded Prankster Izzy Whetstine in Technicolor tie-dye: Zane Kesey in purple tie-dye of his own; and Phil Dietz, who calls himself the last Prankster and who tapped a hand drum as people took a strain on the ropes and chains.

Picture this: Zane Kesey on a small farm tractor hitched to a Chevy flatbed where seven people crouched to increase traction. A yellow tow strap hitched the truck to chains looped around Furthur’s rear axle. But it wasn’t enough to overcome years of immobility.

So they lashed a thick rope to the tow strap, and people grabbed the robe in a tug-of-war with Time itself. Black smoke snorted from the tractor’s stack, the truck’s engine revved and its rear wheels spun, then bit. The pullers put their backs into it and Furthur inched backward as David Tipton walked alongside and shouted steering commands to Prankster George Walker in the driver’s seat.

“Is there a new plan?’’ Izzy Whetstine asked Hagen as the crew readied for the third and last attempt.

“It’s a constantly moving plan,’’ Hagen said.

“Was there an old plan?’’

“It was old the moment it became a plan.’’

But Kesey’s daughter was OK with the plan, whatever it may be.

“My dad would’ve been thrilled that there’s a new surge of energy behind the bus,’’ Sunshine Kesey said. “It’s not necessary to leave it as a story of the past because he wanted other people to take the craziness on the road.

“To him it wasn’t just the bus, it was the action of people coming together to make something happen. His philosophy was live in the moment and call the dance.’’


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