Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oh Yeah...The U.S. is waging war in Iraq...I almost forgot.

Before reading this please watch this excellent video for Peace

- Alan

Iraq's humanitarian catastrophe: the facts and figures

As General Petraeus presents his own report on the US military "surge", here is Avaaz's digest of the harsh realities of the Iraqi humanitarian catastrophe in facts and figures:

Biggest refugee exodus in the world today.

Over 4 million Iraqis are refugees from their homes - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that over 2 million refugees have now fled the country and 2.2 million are internally displaced, totalling over one-sixth of Iraq's population. Over 60,000 are currently leaving their homes every month.

Savage ethnic cleansing.

Deliberate ethnic cleansing - often by government-linked militias - is central to the refugee exodus. Baghdad, a city of over 5 million people, has undergone the worst of the ethnic cleansing under the eyes of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. The capital city's population is reported by US military officials to have changed from 65% Sunni to 75% Shiite over the last four years (of the millions of Sunni Baghdadis, well over half have been forced out, along with Christian and Palestinian communities). Baghdad now has almost no multi-confessional neighbourhoods left.

More deaths than Darfur?

Iraq is a complex conflict in a collapsing state which the media has found it hard to cover. It is thus extremely difficult to verify the true scale of killing. A controversial 2006 Johns Hopkins University study estimated the death count at 655,000 (though elements of its methodology have been questioned, it took a similar approach to estimates previously made for Darfur and the Congo). Most experts -- including those involved in smaller verified counts - now acknowledge that the true death total runs into hundreds of thousands: as Iraq breaks down, much of the violence cannot adequately be tracked.

The killing has accelerated between 2006 and 2007.

US officials have made much of a brief fall in "number of attacks" and narrowly-defined "ethno-sectarian violence" by comparison with December 2006 (a truly terrible month). But most independent sources suggest that this badly misrepresents the facts. Associated Press reports have documented almost twice as many Iraqi civilians on average dying daily this year - 62 per day in 2007, against 33 per day in 2006.

Other independent figures on fatalities tend to support this trend, and suggest that the US military surge concentrated on Baghdad has displaced violence outside the capital. One recent report suggests that the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior may have begun to manipulate casualty figures.

Electricity, food and water supplies are running short.

US ambassador Ryan Crocker reported in July 2007 that Baghdad residents now have on average only an hour or two of electricity each day. Total power generation is falling, and insurgents and militias are sabotaging facilities and stealing power. The US has now washed its hands of the electricity crisis, and some provinces have started to disconnect their power plants from the national grid.

Billions in development assistance have been squandered on poor projects, further "security" measures, and through corruption. Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq report that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished, four million people regularly cannot buy enough to eat, and 70% are without adequate water supplies. The World Health Organisation has been fighting a cholera outbreak in the supposedly safe north. Iraqi officals report that the food rationing system on which millions depend is breaking down.

Iraqis have little or no confidence in the US, and in their own government.

An August 2007 BBC/ABC/NHK poll of Iraqis found that only 15% now express confidence in coalition forces - the lowest figure since 2003. 70% of Iraqis believe that both security and the conditions for political dialogue in their country have worsened over the six months of the US military "surge", and 72% believe the presence of US forces is making security worse, not better. 46% think US withdrawal will make civil war less likely, and only 35% think it will be more likely. Almost two-thirds of Iraqis say the Maliki government is doing a bad job, and disapprove of the prime minister personally.

Most people in Iraq and around the world want withdrawal soon - but it's just not happening.

79% of Iraqis oppose the continuing presence of Coalition forces in Iraq, and 47% are so desperate as to want an immediate departure. Their views are echoed by citizens around the world: 67% of those polled in a massive international survey by the World Service want withdrawal within a year.

There are currently 168,000 US troops in Iraq. General Petraeus has announced the possibility of 30,000 combat troops being withdrawn by summer 2008. This would only bring the US troop level back to the point it was at in January 2007 - and, indeed, in 2003. Withdrawal is not yet on the cards - nor is real political reconciliation.

But most Iraqis support reconciliation in a single, non-confessional Iraq.

As of August 2007, 62% of Iraqis want a unified, central Iraqi state rather than partition - the strongest support on record. 98% say that the separation of people along sectarian lines is a bad thing.

Click here and act now to stop this catastrophe. Join over 100,000 people in calling for an international peace conference held by impartial mediators, to broker a political solution to the war and full US withdrawal. Time is running out for Iraq.

This article from

A Good Question.....

Friday, September 28, 2007

China Foreign Policy Sounds A Lot Like U.S. Foreign Policy...

Burma: the history behind the protests
Michael Charney (for New Statesman)

Published 26 September 2007

Burma specialist Dr Michael W Charney, author of the History of Modern Burma, gives his analysis of the current crisis in the south east Asian country

Burma (officially named Myanmar) has been under de facto military rule, in one guise or another, since 1962. In 1987, Burma received least developed nation status, inflation was out of control, and demonetization of Burmese bank notes had impoverished the middle class.

A spark was provided by a fight between students and locals at a teashop in 1988, but like the present demonstrations, which were initiated by increases in fuel prices, protests quickly coalesced around the issue of Democracy, whose introduction, it was widely believed, would invite effective government and sound economic policies.

Instead, the military reacted swiftly and harshly. In general appearance, the present demonstrations appear eerily reminiscent of those in July and August 1988.

Nevertheless, there are key differences. Of course, the current demonstrations are on a smaller scale, even given the recent crowd of 100,000 in Rangoon (also known as Yangon), but this may change over the next few days or weeks if they are not quickly suppressed by Burmese riot police and soldiers.

More importantly, while monks did participate in the 1988 demonstrations, they did not lead them, which is a unique feature of the present protests. Monastic garb provides some protection against soldiers who might easily fire on a civilian, but who would suffer a serious loss of merit in harming or even killing a monk.

Moreover, while government propaganda has for two decades portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition party the National League for Democracy (NLD) as agents manipulated by the West, hurting their appeal, monks command the respect of most in Burmese society both outside the army and within it.

Although according to the Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic code, monks are not supposed to involve themselves in mundane politics, in Burmese history monks have played an important role in social activism, especially in the 1920s when they led rural opposition to colonial authorities and urban moneylenders. This is due to colonial heritage.

As the British turned the traditional intermediaries between the throne and the villager, the village headmen, into agents responsible only to the colonial state in the 19th century, Burmese communal identity and cooperation centred on monks. In a society where the two main institutions are the military and the monastic order, it is only natural, when the regime permits no other outlets for dissent, that monks should stand up and play again their historic role in voicing the complaints of Burma’s general population against military rule.

In September 1988, a military coup established the first of two military 'councils' that have ruled the country and whose members and their respective families have pillaged the economy through privatization ever since. At the time, the regime promised to improve the economy, provide peace, and ensure stability to set the right conditions for the transfer of power to an elected government. Although the regime permitted elections in 1990 it refused to recognize the sweeping victory of the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi, who continues to remain under house arrest.

The Western and Japanese response to the failure of the regime to recognize the NLD’s 1990 electoral victory was too slow and fluctuating to be effective. Sanctions imposed on the country in the last two decades have thus appeared to be ineffective in the short term.

A lifeline was also thrown to the regime by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) who were more interested in gaining an economic stake in the country than supporting Democracy. As Western sanctions have expanded and ASEAN has begun to reconsider the domestic situation in Burma as a threat to stability in the region, the regime has had time to reorient itself economically to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), which was just as anxious to draw Burma into its economic orbit, gain access to its natural gas and oil reserves, and to gain more direct access to Indian Ocean trade.

However, Western sanctions may have been crucial in an indirect way over the long term. The regime’s dependence on the PRC has made it vulnerable to shifts in the PRC’s international relations. Although the PRC has played a key role in stymieing attempts to bring the Burmese situation up before the UN Security Council, it is also concerned about improving its international profile now that it is sponsoring the 2008 Olympics and is eager to counter the negative press resulting from recent problems with Chinese exports to the US and elsewhere.

Moreover, the PRC is most interested in political stability on its frontiers. Although backing the military regime in Burma has appeared to be a safe bet in pursuit of this goal, widespread domestic opposition in Burma and the promise of rallying at the UN against the regime may change this view.

Indeed, recent reports suggest that the PRC is finally pressuring the military regime in Burma to engage in serious negotiations with the Democratic opposition. Unable to turn to anyone else, the regime is increasingly finding itself stuck in a corner and will either have to fold or more completely isolate itself from the international community.

It is well past the time when the kind of increased US sanctions promised by President George Bush would have had any tangible impact on Burma’s domestic political situation. Currently, the only realistic chances for Western states to encourage a peaceful transfer of power in the country is to exert soft pressure on the PRC to persuade Burma’s military leadership to relinquish control of the state to those elected in 1990.

Michael Charney is currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at SOAS and is a specialist in Burmese history. His research focuses on Burmese intellectual and religious history. He is the author of Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma’s Last Dynasty, 1752-1885 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 2006) and has recently completed his manuscript for The History of Modern Burma for Cambridge University Press.

WAR......WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?.........

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Moment of Silence................

Due to a family illness I missed the fact that Marcel Marceau died on Sunday. He was an inspiration to me and to the World. I am so grateful to have experienced his gifts. His funeral was held Wednesday. You can read about his funeral at CNN.


Mime Legend Marcel Marceau Dies

PARIS, France (AP) -- Marcel Marceau, who revived the art of mime and brought poetry to silence, has died, his former assistant said Sunday. He was 84.

Marceau died Saturday in Paris, French media reported. Former assistant Emmanuel Vacca announced the death on France-Info radio, but gave no details about the cause.

Wearing white face paint, soft shoes and a battered hat topped with a red flower, Marceau, notably through his famed personnage Bip, played the entire range of human emotions onstage for more than 50 years, never uttering a word. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said.

A French Jew, Marceau survived the Holocaust -- and also worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children.

His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. Marceau, in turn, inspired countless young performers -- Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."

Marceau performed tirelessly around the world until late in life, never losing his agility, never going out of style. In one of his most poignant and philosophical acts, "Youth, Maturity, Old Age, Death," he wordlessly showed the passing of an entire life in just minutes.

"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?" he once said.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon praised Marceau as "the master," saying he had the rare gift of "being able to communicate with each and everyone beyond the barriers of language."

Marceau was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, France. His father Charles, a butcher who sang baritone, introduced his son to the world of music and theater at an early age. The boy adored the silent film stars of the era: Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and he also was a fan of the Marx brothers.

When the Germans marched into eastern France, he and his family were given just hours to pack their bags. He fled to southwest France and changed his last name to Marceau to hide his Jewish origins.

With his brother Alain, Marceau became active in the French Resistance. Marceau altered children's identity cards, changing their birth dates to trick the Germans into thinking they were too young to be deported. Because he spoke English, he was recruited to be a liaison officer with Gen. George S. Patton's army.

In 1944, Marceau's father was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.

Later, he reflected on his father's death: "Yes, I cried for him."

But he also thought of all the others killed: "Among those kids was maybe an Einstein, a Mozart, somebody who (would have) found a cancer drug," he told reporters in 2000. "That is why we have a great responsibility. Let us love one another."

When Paris was liberated, Marcel's life as a performer began. He enrolled in Charles Dullin's School of Dramatic Art, studying with the renowned mime Etienne Decroux.

On a tiny stage at the Theatre de Poche, a smoke-filled Left Bank cabaret, he sought to perfect the style of mime that would become his trademark.

Bip -- Marceau's on-stage persona -- was born.

Marceau once said that Bip was his creator's alter ego, a sad-faced double whose eyes lit up with child-like wonder as he discovered the world. Bip was a direct descendant of the 19th century harlequin, but his clownish gestures, Marceau said, were inspired by Chaplin and Keaton.

Marceau likened his character to a modern-day Don Quixote, "alone in a fragile world filled with injustice and beauty."

Dressed in a white sailor suit, a top hat -- a red rose perched on top -- Bip chased butterflies and flirted at cocktail parties. He went to war and ran a matrimonial service.

In one famous sketch, "Public Garden," Marceau played all the characters in a park, from little boys playing ball to old women with knitting needles.

In 1949 Marceau's newly formed mime troupe was the only one of its kind in Europe. But it was only after a hugely successful tour across the United States in the mid-1950s that Marceau received the acclaim that would make him an international star.

Single-handedly, Marceau revived the art of mime.

"I have a feeling that I did for mime what (Andres) Segovia did for the guitar, what (Pablo) Casals did for the cello," he once told The Associated Press in an interview.

In the past decades, he has taken Bip to from Mexico to China to Australia. He's also made film appearances. The most famous was Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie": He had the only speaking line, "Non!"

As he aged, Marceau kept on performing at the same level, never losing the agility that made him famous. On top of his Legion of Honor and his countless honorary degrees, he was invited to be a United Nations goodwill ambassador for a 2002 conference on aging.

"If you stop at all when you are 70 or 80, you cannot go on," he told The AP in an interview in 2003. "You have to keep working."

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Those Crazy Fascist Chinese........

China Issues New Rules on Reincarnation

August 22, 2007

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has already said that he will not be reborn in an are under Chinese control. How does he know this? "Logically," he says, "the previous life escaped from Chinese hands so the next life should also be out of Chinese control." That might strike some as a little silly, but far from laughing, the People's Republic recently issued a proclamation banning tulkus from reincarnating without government permission. Now that is surely totalitarianism at its best, right up there with Stalin telling Lenin's widow, "If you can't behave, we'll find Lenin a new widow."

It isn't clear why an officially atheist government with ironclad control over a small and dwindling Tibetan minority would bother with regulating reincarnation, but remember that China is also fighting with the Vatican over the right to appoint bishops. They fight with everyone who operates within their borders (except certain businesses) and many who do not. Why are businesses exempt? China's ambassador to the U.S. puts it this way: "The most urgent and realistic task for China is to concentrate on economic growth," Zhou said, "and to create a better life for people."

So China is in deadly earnest with this policy, which they say is merely a formalization of a long-standing government position. They are tireless in interfering with the succession of senior monks. They are ultimately hoping to install a new Dalai Lama, of course, so expect the Tibetan government-in-exile to have some tricks up its sleeve when the time comes.

Copyright 2006

Tricycle: The Buddhist Review,

92 Vandam Street, New York, NY 10013

Telephone 212.645.1143 Fax 212.645.1493

Toby Keith Admits Selling His Soul..........

Country music deserts George Bush

By Tim Shipman in Washington (for The Telegraph)
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007

Country music has thrived for years as the soundtrack to redneck America, supplying the Republican heartlands with a diet of knee-jerk jingoism that has included flag-waving anthems supporting the war on terror.

But as the US death toll rises in Iraq and public patience with the conflict — and with George W. Bush — diminishes, many anti-war songs are emerging from Nashville, Tennessee, home of the genre.

No one has moved further than Toby Keith and Darryl Worley, two of the biggest names in country music.

In 2002, Keith had a huge hit with Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, which includes the lyric: "You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A, 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass — it's the American Way."

Worley's Have You Forgotten in 2003 justified the Iraq invasion as a response to the September 11 attacks. The military liked it so much he was presented with a flag that had flown over the Pentagon.

advertisementNow Keith says he is a lifelong Democrat and has claimed he never supported the war, while Worley has had a hit with I Just Came Back from a War, about a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tim McGraw — the biggest contemporary country star — has a hit single with If You're Reading This, about a dead soldier's last letter home, and the Dixie Chicks, boycotted in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London: "We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," won five Grammy Awards this year.

The changing tone reflects a growing scepticism in heartlands that have disproportionately contributed the young soldiers who have been fighting and dying.Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said: "Popular music is reflecting the culture, as it always does."

Keith's switch, however, has angered conservative country fans and anti-war activists alike. Jon Iwanski, a blogger in Chicago, said Keith had "damaged his credibility", while opponents of the war accused the singer of opportunism.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Who's Thoughts Are You Thinking?

The Homogenization of Global Consciousness: Media, Telecommunications and Culture

Written by Jerry Mander for Lapis Magazine

With all the recent focus on war and terrorism, the question of the globalization of media has slipped into the background. It needs, however, to return rapidly to center stage in our awareness. The war has shown us more clearly than ever the crucial need for independent media voices. And the disturbing changes currently proposed by the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate corporate control of media markets are slipping by almost unnoticed despite their capacity to further homogenize opinion and limit freedom of expression.

Jerry Mander is one of the foremost critics of current trends in globalization and technology. He is the program director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, co-founder of the International Forum on Globalization, author of In the Absence of the Sacred, and co-author of The Case Against the Global Economy.

This article is an excerpt of a lecture given at the Technology & Globalization 2001 conference, cosponsored with Lapis, IFG and the New York Open Center.

One of the main goals of economic globalization is that every place on earth should be more or less like every other place. Whether it's the US, Europe, or once-distant places like Asia, Africa, or South America, all countries are meant to develop the same way. The same franchise fast food, the same films and music, the same jeans, shoes, and cars, the same urban landscapes, the same personal, cultural, and spiritual values. Monoculture. If you've traveled a lot, you've seen that this is rampantly happening already.

Such a model serves the marketing and efficiency needs of the huge global corporations that the system is designed to benefit. Whether cultural, political, or biological, diversity is a direct threat to the efficiency goals of global corporations, which operate on a scale that requires, as far as possible, similar appeals in every market in the world.

Free trade agreements and bureaucracies like the WTO, NAFTA, and the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement, have the specific mandate to create and enforce rules that accelerate the global homogenization process -- the economic integration of all countries into the same set of standards and rules created because they work best for corporations -- meanwhile preventing any country from regulating corporations to protect local resources, livelihoods, culture, labor rights, or health standards. Such local rules defy central planning and control.

But that is only the external homogenization process. To be truly efficient and successful, they also seek to make over our internal landscape, to remake human beings themselves -- our minds, ideas, values, behaviors, and desires -- to create a monoculture of humans that's compatible with the redesigned external landscapes so that our minds and values will match the systems and technologies around us, like standard-gauge railways or compatible computers.

This assignment of internal homogenization goes to the global telecommunications system -- television, advertising, computers, the Internet, and e-commerce. We could surely add film, radio, music, and education, which are increasingly merging with technology. These instruments speak directly into the minds of people everywhere, imprinting them with a unified pattern of thought, a unified set of imagery and ideas, a single framework of understanding for how life should be lived, thus carrying the homogenization and commodification mandate directly inside the brain. What results is a homogenized mental landscape that nicely matches the franchises, freeways, suburbs, and high-rises.

Toxic TV

Television is the most important thing in the world that we need to start talking about again. Television is a more efficient medium for cloning global consciousness with a homogenized set of corporate values. I'm going to give you a sense of its scale and impact by repeating some astounding statistics from the United States, but similar patterns can be found all over the world.

In the United States, 99.5% of all homes have television sets. Ninety-five percent of the population watches television every day. The average home has a TV set going more than eight hours per day, even if no one is watching. The average adult viewer watches TV more than four hours a day. The average child age eight to thirteen watches about four hours per day. At age two to four, they watch almost three hours. That's not counting television in school.

These are amazing statistics, when you stop to think about them. Half the population is watching more than four hours per day. How is that even possible? By heavy viewing every night and then all weekend also. People watch more TV in the United States than they do anything else besides sleeping, working or going to school. In the United States, television is the main thing people do. It has replaced community life, family life, culture. It has replaced the environment. It has become the environment that people interact with every day. It has become the culture too, and it's not "popular culture," which sounds somehow democratic. It expresses corporate culture, and that of very few corporations at that. Ours is the first generation to have essentially moved its life inside media, to have largely replaced direct contact with people and nature for simulated, edited, recreated versions. Television is the original virtual reality.

If you were an anthropologist from the Andromeda Galaxy sent to study earth people, and you hovered over the United States chances are you'd report back something like this: They're sitting night after night in dark rooms; they're staring at a light. Their eyes are not moving. They're not thinking. Their brains are in a passive-receptive state -- and nonstop imagery is pouring into their brains from thousands of miles away. These images being sent by a very small number of people are of toothpaste and cars and guns and people running around in bathing suits. The whole thing looks like some weird experiment in mind control. And that is what it is.

I was once in the advertising business, for many years, actually. I quit that some time ago, but I learned that people really doubt the invasive power of television imagery. You are smart. You are educated. You can select from among the images that you see. But let's try again. Let me ask you this. Can you get a picture in your brain of Ronald McDonald? The Energizer bunny? How about the Taco Bell Chihuahua? Or Dave, the owner of Wendy's. Or Jerry Springer. Or David Letterman. Or O.J. Simpson.

These images live in your brain. Can you erase them? I don't think so. They're yours forever. Every advertiser knows that images are unstoppable. Your intellect cannot save you from them.
The average television viewer is seeing about 23,000 television commercials every year. One may say "toothpaste," one may say "car," but the intent of every one of those 23,000 messages is identical: to get people to view life as a nonstop stream of commodity satisfactions. Buy something. Do it now. Commodities are life. This message is the same everywhere on earth.

The last time I checked the numbers, about eighty percent of the global population had access to television. Most industrialized countries report similar viewing habits to our own. In Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Greece, Poland, and many countries in Europe and South America, the average person watches three or four hours per day. In Japan and Mexico, they watch more than here. In many parts of the world, the TV they see comes from the United States and other countries in the West, with very few local programs. Even in places on earth where there are no roads--tiny tropical islands, icy tundras of the north, or log cabins--they are sitting night after night watching a bunch of white people in Dallas driving sleek cars, or standing around swimming pools or drinking martinis while plotting ways to do each other in, or Baywatch, the most popular show in the world. Life in Texas, California, and New York is made to seem the ultimate in life's achievements, while local culture, even where it's still extremely vibrant and alive, which is true still for a fair amount of the earth, is made to seem backward and unworthy.

People everywhere are beginning to carry the same images that we do, and are craving the same commodities that we crave, from cars to hair sprays to Barbie dolls to Palm Pilots. TV is turning everyone into everyone else. It's cloning cultures to be like ours. In Brave New World, Huxley envisioned this cloning process via drugs and genetic engineering. We have those too. But TV does nearly as well.

The Global Corporate Monster

The next question, of course, is who is sending us these images? The vast majority of global television imagery, as well as film, books, newspapers, and entertainment imagery, are being sent out to billions of people and now Internet outlets as well, by a tiny number of gigantic global corporations, that are getting bigger and bigger through mergers and consolidations. This process is directly assisted by the rules of the WTO and other global institutions that grease the pathways for their investments and takeovers and mergers.

We're talking about AOL-Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and maybe three or four others controlling a great majority of the world of broadcast, publishing, and entertainment systems.

Here is a quick briefing on what AOL-Time Warner owns, (besides AOL and Time Warner): Warner Brothers Films and Television, CNN, TNT, TBS, Court TV, HBO, Cartoon Network, CineMax, New Line Films, Time Magazine, Fortune, People, and Sports Illustrated; the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves, the Hanna Barbara animation studio, as well as major shares in movie theater companies, dozens of TV stations, satellites, cable systems everywhere on earth including Asia, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. Disney owns Disneyland, Disney World, Euro Disney, Disney Channel, ABC TV, ABC Radio, ESPN, A&E, Entertainment and the History Channel, Miramax, Touchstone and Walt Disney Pictures, as well as the Anaheim Angels and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. They have tremendous holdings in TV stations, cable systems, and satellites throughout the world.

Fox News Corporation owns Fox TV Network, Fox News Channel, Twentieth Century Studios, Golf TV Channel, twenty-two US TV stations, 130 daily newspapers, twenty-three magazines, Harper Collins Publishers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have interests in satellite companies, TV stations, and other media throughout Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc.

Whose Ideal is the Internet, anyway?

Why are we not in front of Disney and Time Warner? Do we love them ourselves? That's something we have to start to look at. It's got to be included in our activism. And that's just television, the old technology. Now we have computers. We have the Internet. Now we are free and involved and interactive and independent. We can network with each other and get organized and mold the world to our wishes. But is the Internet really our technology or is it theirs? Is it really decentralizing? The ultimate politics of the computer revolution are still unclear. But it's surely the oddest of revolutions, since everybody on all sides seems to be in agreement about it.

Everyone thinks it's great, the right and the left, the corporations and the anti-corporate activists, the Al Gores and the George Bushes, the engineers and the artists, all express utopian visions of democracy and empowerment brought by computers and the Internet. But is this right? Is it really a new democracy? Is equity improved?

We know that corporations are pretty excited about this revolution and they keep selling it to us via terms like "empowerment" and "freedom" in millions of dollars worth of ads. A decade ago we saw TV commercials of lines of depressed men in gray suits marching in a dreary world. Computers would set them free. Now the ads show happy monks in Asia, happy children in Africa, happy farmers in Japan, all joining the Internet revolution. Which you had better do, too. Everyone should think different, but all at the same time and with the same machine.

Meanwhile, political leaders advocate wiring up every classroom here and in the rest of the world, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. This despite research that proves that immersing kids in computers doesn't make them happier or smarter or more creative or alive. Maybe the opposite: alienated, lonely, and depressed. Kids don't learn better from computers, they learn best from nature, other kids, live play, teachers. But we're in a technological stampede.

Are computers empowering? Well, yes and no. They serve us well in many ways, even I don't deny that. They help us organize our work, write, edit, and communicate with like-minded people around the world. We can disseminate ideas, build web pages, we can build demonstrations through our e-mails. That's the good news. But what's the rest of the story? There are a couple of points advertisers have left out.

What will they do to our privacy? Make a purchase online and you are automatically adding to huge accessible data banks that know everything about you, your job, your family, your buying habits, credit status, social security number, and habits you might rather nobody knew about. Computers have let loose the greatest invasion of privacy in history and there is a thriving industry selling data about you. The same technology is being used in the workplace to achieve a kind of surveillance impossible until now. Anyone with a clerical job has to worry a lot about having their keystrokes counted and I'm not even mentioning its uses in military or police surveillance or corporate surveillance.

Are we empowered yet?

What about the digital revolution's impact on our environment? They love to describe computers as a "clean" industry, unlike those dreadful smokestack industries, but the real difference is that the junk from computers goes into the ground and water rather than into the air. Computer chip manufacture is responsible for more superfund sites than any other industry, especially in California, and we now realize that silicon chip manufacture requires huge amounts of pure water, exacerbating the global water crisis.

What about e-commerce? The gigantic effort by the United States government to push rules through the global trading system to ban all tariffs and taxes on e-commerce is cynical and undemocratic. It was one of our least-noted victories that we stopped that "no taxes, no tariffs on e-commerce" in Seattle. That would have been a deathblow to an entire class of hands-on, small-scale retailers and artisans, particularly in the Third World. This entire effort amounts to the old planned obsolescence strategy, but this time to entire economic systems, and in many cases, entire ways of life.

The editors of Wired magazine like to say the computer revolution has brought a new political structure to the planet. The symbol of today is no longer the atom, it's the Web, a decentralized form. The new Web structure "elevates the power of the small player" and brings a new techno-spiritualism. Judging by the amount of people ritually engaged with their computers, I would say techno-spiritualism is here. But this idea that the old political center has been wiped out by PCs and e-mail and web pages, and that we're now in a new, computer-enhanced democracy. Well, somebody forgot to tell the transnational corporations that the real power is no longer in the center and that they have lost control.

The news might surprise the two-hundred largest corporations in the world that amount for thirty percent of all economic activity on the planet. They don't seem to have noticed that they lost power. They keep cutting down forests, building huge dams, monopolizing oil, dominating communications, and controlling publications. They know their powers are growing and computers have had a central role in encouraging corporate giantism. In fact, the modern global corporation could not exist at its present scale, operate at the speed that it does, without the global networks to keep thousand-armed enterprises in touch seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, instantaneously moving billions of dollars in assets around the world without the ability of any nation state to regulate it.

So what kind of revolution is this? To use a term like "individual empowerment" to summarize the effects of the computer revolution is badly misjudging the ultimate social, political, and economic outcomes of this revolution. While the Internet and computer surely can help us feel powerful and are terribly useful in very many ways, while we're e-mailing and networking among our virtual communities, global corporations use these same instruments at a scale that makes our use pale by comparison. When they hit their keys they move billions of dollars from banks in Geneva to, say, Sarawak, and a forest gets cut down. Or they buy billions in national currencies, resell them an hour later, causing whole currencies to crash. While we move information, they express power. There's a difference.

And, in conclusion, I'll say there's a homily to remember: it's not just who benefits from this technology, it's who benefits most. It's like dear old George Bush's tax plan. He says everybody benefits -- and everybody does. But who benefits most? You may get a hundred-dollar rebate at the end of the year; he and his friends get hundreds of thousands. So it is with the computer revolution. It's not the small player that benefits most, it's the big players. And for the rest of us, it's a net loss. I think that some day we will conclude that global computer networks that we've celebrated for their democratic potential, that we call empowering, are facilitating the greatest centralization of unregulated, unaccountable global corporate power ever.

It's crucial for democracy and for our own effectiveness that we think this through. It's not that we should give up computers, but let's stop calling them empowering.

For more information:
The International Forum on Globalization
1009 General Kennedy Avenue #2
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-7650

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Local Boy Makes Good.......

A few years ago I was sitting in the Blue Lamp, watching the weekly Blues Jam when a skinny kid walks in all hyper and shy. All the musicians knew him. A bit later he pulled out his guitar, steps up on stage, and commenced to blow me away with his playing (piano and harmonica too), singing, songwriting and charisma. He soon became all the rage in Sacramento and the Blues festival circuit. He started being groomed to be the next big thing by experienced management. His shows became too produced and calculated. I never saw him play again with the energy and enthusiasm as that first night. That young man was Jackie Green. I'm so happy to see him playing with a master like Phil Lesh. He will graduate from Dead School playing at a whole other level. Check out his website at We all need a miracle every day.

Rocker Jackie Greene savors the chance to play the Dead

By Chris Macias - Sacramento Bee Pop Music Critic

A gig with Phil Lesh & Friends is a kind of miracle ticket, a chance to gig at some of the finer venues around the country and jam on classic Grateful Dead tunes.

And that's where Jackie Greene finds himself, playing a Jerry Garcia-like role with Lesh -- the Grateful Dead's bassist -- and a cast of musicians who've had stints with the likes of Bob Dylan (multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell) and Bruce Hornsby & the Range (drummer John Molo).

It's not that Greene was a hardcore Deadhead before landing his role in Phil Lesh & Friends, which performs Sunday at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. The former Sacramentan knew only the staple Grateful Dead albums -- "Workingman's Dead," "American Beauty" -- so it's been a crash course for Greene in some of the deeper areas of the Grateful Dead's archives.

Greene's usually busy enough touring with his own band and recording solo albums. But being one of Phil's "Friends" sure has its benefits.

"Phil saw us play about two years ago," says Greene, calling on his iPhone while driving to a rehearsal with Lesh and Friends. "And about six months ago, he just called me (in serious voice): 'Jackie, this is Phil Lesh.' He wanted to get together and we hung out and played. We've been hanging out a lot, playing music, going to dinner, all the fun stuff."

So Greene will spend the fall crisscrossing the country with Lesh and company. The tour kicks off Saturday at the Santa Barbara Bowl, lands in Berkeley on Sunday, and reaches such venues as the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver plus a 10-night stand at the Nokia Theater in New York's Times Square.

"We're playing some huge places," says Greene. "I've been an opening band at Red Rocks, but never been there as a headliner. And these are long shows: four hours. It's a lot of time, but we end up making it fun, and they're all great to play music with. It's a totally different thing for me, which is why I'm so excited about it."

The hours-long set pays homage to such Grateful Dead classics as "Casey Jones" and "Ripple," includes cover tunes, and the concert even showcases such Greene songs as "Gone Wanderin'" and "Down in the Valley Woe."

Greene's in the spotlight during much of the show, handling lead vocals and many guitar solos. But it's not like Greene will get a free ride from Lesh's fans. Deadheads can be an especially picky bunch when it comes to adaptations of Grateful Dead tunes. Americana star Ryan Adams was especially put on blast after his stint with Phil Lesh & Friends.

"I do realize that this music means so much to so many people," says Greene. "And I might not ever really know, like some people who've been there since the beginning when Jerry was alive, so the only thing I can do is to honor the songs the best way I know how. Honestly, I think that's what Jerry would want."

Playing with Lesh means that Greene has to put his solo career on hold for the next few months. It'll also mark a time of regrouping.

Greene signed a major-label deal with Verve Records in 2005 but opted out of his contract earlier this year. Sales of his major-label debut, "American Myth," were disappointing (25,000 copies, according to the music tracking service Nielsen SoundScan). Greene meanwhile hopes to release a new solo album in February through 429 Records, a boutique label that specializes in adult contemporary and indie-rock music.

"It's got some funkier stuff, some darker stuff, some (messed)-up drum sounds," says Greene about the album-in-progress. "It goes farther than anything I've ever done before.

"I don't have any regrets with Verve," Greene says. "Those were the songs I had at the time and I'm still happy with it -- and I'm still happy the album's still in print. For all of Verve's flaws, they were very good to me. All we can really do as musicians is do our thing, and it doesn't really matter what label puts things out, especially today."

But now it's time for a long and potentially strange trip through the world of Deadhead-dom.

"I'm really excited but at same time I'm really nervous," says Greene. "I want to do well and do my best. I sound like a schoolboy, but I'm going to try really hard. I just feel very lucky to be considered, let alone being hired. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play these classic songs with one of the guys that was there."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Sand?

Greenspan Misses Cheney’s Memo
Former Fed head spills the beans on oil

By Ray McGovern
Published: Tuesday September 18th, 2007
by Guerrilla News Network

For those still wondering why President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney sent our young men and women into Iraq, the secret is now “largely” out.

No, not from the lips of former secretary of state Colin Powell. It appears we shall have to wait until the disgraced general/diplomat draws nearer to meeting his maker before he gets concerned over anything more than the “blot” that Iraq has put on his reputation.

Rather, the uncommon candor comes from a highly respected Republican doyen, economist Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, whom the president has praised for his “wise policies and prudent judgment.” Sadly for Bush and Cheney, Greenspan decided to put prudence aside in his new book, The Age of Turbulence, and answer the most neuralgic issue of our times-why the United States invaded Iraq.

Greenspan writes:

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Everyone knows? Would that it were so. But it’s hardly everyone. Sometimes I think it’s hardly anyone.

There are so many, still, who “can’t handle the truth,” and that is all too understandable. I have found it a wrenching experience to be forced to conclude that the America I love would deliberately launch what the Nuremburg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime”-a war of aggression-largely for oil. For those who are able to overcome the very common, instinctive denial, for those who can handle the truth, it really helps to turn off the Sunday football games early enough to catch up on what’s going on.

60 Minutes

On January 11, 2004, viewers of CBS’ 60 Minutes saw another of Bush’s senior economic advisers, former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill discussing The Price of Loyalty, his memoir about his two years inside the Bush administration. O’Neill, a plain speaker, likened the president’s behavior at cabinet meetings to that of “a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.” How does he manage? Cheney and “a praetorian guard that encircled the president” help Bush make decisions off-line, blocking contrary views.

Cheney has a Rumsfeldian knack for aphorisms that don’t parse in the real world- like “deficits don’t matter.” To his credit, O’Neill picked a fight with that and ended up being fired personally by Cheney. In his book, Greenspan heaps scorn on that same Cheneyesque insight.

O’Neill made no bones about his befuddlement over the president’s diffident disengagement from discussions on policy-except, that is, for Bush’s remarks betraying a pep-rally-cheerleader fixation with removing Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq.

*Why Iraq? ‘Largely Oil’

O’Neill began to understand better after Bush’s inauguration when the discussion among his top advisers abruptly moved to how to divvy up Iraq’s oil wealth. Just days into the job, President Bush created the Cheney energy task force with the stated aim of developing “a national energy policy designed to help the private sector.” Typically, Cheney has been able to keep secret its deliberations and even the names of its members.

But a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit forced the Commerce Department to turn over task force documents, including a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, terminals, and potential areas for exploration; a Pentagon chart “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts;” and another chart detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects-all dated March 2001.

On the 60 Minutes, program on December 15, 2002, Steve Croft asked then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “What do you say to people who think this [the coming invasion of Iraq] is about oil?” Rumsfeld replied:

“Nonsense. It just isn’t. There-there-there are certain…………. things like that, myths that are floating around. I’m glad you asked. I-it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.”

Au Contraire

Greenspan’s indiscreet remark adds to the abundant evidence that Iraq oil, and not weapons of mass destruction, was the priority target long before the Bush administration invoked WMD as a pretext to invade Iraq. In the heady days of “Mission Accomplished,” a week after the president landed on the aircraft carrier, then-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz virtually bragged about the deceit during an interview. On May 9, 2003, Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair:

“The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason…”

That was seven weeks after the invasion; no weapons of mass destruction had been found; and Americans were growing tired of being told that this was because Iraq was the size of California. Eventually, of course, Wolfowitz’ boss Rumsfeld was forced to concede, as he did to me during our impromptu TV debate on May 4, 2006: “It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.”

But three years before, during that heady May of 2003 when all else seemed to be going along swimmingly, the inebriation of apparent success led to another glaring indiscretion by Wolfowitz. During a relaxed moment in Singapore late that month, Wolfowitz reminded the press that Iraq “floats on a sea of oil,” and thus added to the migraine he had already given folks in the White House PR shop.

But wait. For those of us absorbing more than FOX channel news, the primacy of the oil factor was a no-brainer. The limited number of invading troops were ordered to give priority to securing the oil wells and oil industry infrastructure immediately and let looters have their way with just about everything else (including the ammunition storage depots!). Barely three weeks into the war, Rumsfeld famously answered criticism for not stopping the looting: “Stuff happens.” No stuff happened to the Oil Ministry.

Small wonder that, according to O’Neill, Rumsfeld tried hard to dissuade him from writing his book and has avoided all comment on it. As for Greenspan’s book, Rumsfeld will find it easier to dodge questions from the Washington press corps from his sinecure at the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

Eminence Grise…or Oily

The other half of what Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff at the State Department, calls the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal” is still lurking in the shadows. What changed Cheney’s mind toward Iraq from his sensible attitude after the Gulf War when, as defense secretary, he defended President George H. W. Bush’s decision not to attempt to oust Saddam Hussein and conquer Iraq? Here is what Cheney said in August 1992:

“…how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?…not that damned many. So I think we got it right…when the president made the decision that we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”

Cheney’s rather transparent remarks as CEO of Halliburton in autumn 1999 suggest what lies behind the cynical exploitation of genuine patriotism to recruit throwaway soldiers to trade for the chimera of control over the oil in Iraq:

“Oil companies are expected to keep developing enough oil to offset oil depletion and also to meet new demand…So where is the oil going to come from? Governments and the national oil companies are obviously in control of 90 percent of the assets. Oil remains fundamentally a government business. The Middle East with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Not only Cheney, but also many of the captains of the oil industry were looking on Iraq with covetous eyes before the war. Most people forget that the Bush/Cheney administration came in on the heels of severe shortages of oil and natural gas in the U.S., and the passing of a milestone at which the United States had just begun importing more than half of the oil it consumes. One oil executive confided to a New York Times reporter a month before the war: “For any oil company, being in Iraq is like being a kid in F.A.O. Schwarz.”

Canadian writer Linda McQuaig, author of It’s the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil, and the Fight for the Planet (2004) , has noted that decades from now it will seem to everyone a real no-brainer. Historians will calmly discuss the war in Iraq and identify oil as one of the key factors in the decision to launch it. They will point to growing US dependence on foreign oil, the competition with China, India, and others for a share of the diminishing world supply of this precious, nonrenewable resource, and the fact that Iraq “floats on a sea of oil.” It will all seem so obvious as to provoke little more than a yawn.

Other Factors Behind the Invasion

There were, to be sure, other factors behind the ill-starred attack on Iraq-the Bush administration’s determination to acquire large, permanent military bases in the area outside of Saudi Arabia, for one. But that factor can be viewed as a subset of the energy motivation-the need to have substantial influence over the extraction and disposition of the oil in Iraq. In other words, the felt need for what the Pentagon prefers to call “enduring” military bases in the Middle East is a function of its strategic importance which, in turn, is a function-you guessed it-of its natural resources. Not only oil, but natural gas and water as well.

I find the evidence persuasive that the other major factor in the Bush/Cheney decision to make war on Iraq was the misguided notion that this would make that part of the world safer for Israel. Indeed, the so-called “neo-conservatives” still running U.S. policy toward the Middle East continue to have great difficulty distinguishing between what they perceive to be the strategic interests of Israel and those of the United States. And in my view, they show themselves extremely myopic on both counts.

Why Are Americans Silent?

Could it be that most of us Americans remain “good Germans” because we are unwilling to recognize the moral implications of starting what is likely to be the first of the resource wars of the 21st century?; because we continue to be comfortable hogging far more than our share of the world’s natural resources?; and because we prefer to look the other way when our leaders tell us that aggressive war is necessary to protect that siren-call, “our way of life,” from attack by those who are just plain “jealous?”

Perhaps a clue can be found in the remarkable reaction I received after a lecture I gave two and a half years ago in a very affluent suburb of Milwaukee. I had devoted much of my talk to the implications of what I consider the most important factoid of this century: the world is running out of oil.

Afterwards some twenty folks lingered in a small circle to ask follow-up questions. A persistent, elegantly dressed man, who just would not let go, dominated the questioning:

“Surely you agree that we need the oil. Then what’s your problem? Some 1,450 killed thus far are far fewer than the toll in Vietnam where we lost 58,000; it’s a small price to pay… a sustainable rate to bear. What IS your problem?”

I asked the man if he would feel differently if one of the (then) 1,450 already killed were his own son. Judging from his abrupt, incredulous reaction, the suggestion struck him as so farfetched as to be beyond his ken. “It wouldn’t be my son,” he said.

And that, I believe, is a HUGE part of the problem.

*Ray McGovern *works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. A former CIA analyst, he is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Do The Banks Want Next?......The Shirts Off Our Backs?

ATM Fees Soon to Surpass Minimum Wage

Last week, the banking behemoth Bank of America quietly raised the fees it charges non-customers to use its ATMs, to $3 per transaction, a record high. The rest of the big banks are likely to follow suit, according to USA Today. The Bank of America fee is likely to come on top of fees charged by the non-customers' own bank ATM fees, too, meaning that getting fast cash will cost many Americans nearly as much as an hour of work at a minimum wage job.

Bank of America defended the increase with the dubious claim that it will improve ATM access for its own customers. But I suspect that it's not a coincidence that the fee increase comes at the same time the mortgage industry is melting down. Banks can make a lot of money by nickel and diming the public. I wonder how high the fees will have to go before people will simply stop using ATMs and go back to standing in line at the branch?

(H/T Consumer Law and Policy blog)
- Stephanie Mencimer

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Is The Democratic Party The Answer?......I Think NOT!!!

DES MOINES, IA – Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said Iowa Democratic Party leaders and other groups aligned with the entrenched political power structure are "rigging the game in Iowa" by excluding him from two Presidential events this week.

"The whole purpose of the primary and caucus season is to provide voters with opportunities, not to enable a carnival of interest groups to subvert the process," Kucinich said. "When Party leaders and their allies pre-select which candidates they will allow the voters to hear, it's a disservice to the voters. Iowans deserve better than a rigged game."

Congressman Kucinich, (D-OH), was not invited to Sunday's Democratic Steak Fry in Indianola, nor to a Democratic Presidential Forum Thursday in Davenport. Representatives of both events have falsely claimed that Kucinich does not have a sufficiently "active organization" in Iowa.

However, statewide and national polls consistently show Kucinich running ahead of Senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd, who were invited to participate. A recent American Research Group poll in Iowa showed Kucinich getting 3% of the vote, ahead of Biden and Dodd, who were at the bottom with 1% each. In the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll in Iowa two weeks ago, Kucinich and Biden were both at 2% and Dodd was at 1%.

In the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Kucinich was at 3% nationally, Biden was at 2%, and Dodd was below 1%. Another national poll, Rasmussen Reports, showed Kucinich tied with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in fourth place, behind Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and former Senator John Edwards. Richardson was also invited to participate in the Iowa events. Kucinich also won a post-debate poll on ABC's website after the last Iowa debate.

"We're doing better than some of the establishment candidates, and we're moving up," Kucinich said. "Instead of spending millions of dollars on high-priced consultants, and slick advertising, we have a highly motivated grassroots organization."

He also questioned the decision by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Iowa Public Television to exclude him from Thursday's Democratic Presidential Forum, which will focus on the issues of health care and financial security.

"The Presidential debate on health care has been largely fake, with phony claims from candidates that they are providing ‘universal health care’ when, in fact, they are preserving the for-profit system of private insurance companies who make money not providing health care," Kucinich said.

"I am the only Presidential candidate to offer a true universal healthcare plan for America, HR676, Medicare for All. It is a comprehensive, not-for-profit, national health insurance plan, and everyone is covered," Kucinich said. "No premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments."

"How can AARP and Iowa Public Television claim they are committed to educating and informing the voters of Iowa on the Number One domestic issue in this campaign when they deny a voice to the only candidate who is leading the effort to bring real reform to the health care system by ending the control of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies? Since the AARP's own insurance sales interests would be affected by HR 676, serious questions must be raised about their decision to deny me a place on the platform," Kucinich said.

In one highly publicized incident in July, unaware that their microphones were still on and the cameras were still rolling, Clinton and Edwards whispered to each other on stage about eliminating some candidates from future debates. "It is most interesting," Kucinich noted, "that a number of post-debate analyses determined that I performed better than all the other candidates (AFL-CIO, ABC, Howard University, Logo Forum). I can well understand why the other candidates do not want competition, but the credibility of the Democratic process is at risk if sponsoring organizations join in the subversion of that process."

"You would think that the Iowa Democratic Party leaders, fighting to preserve the state’s status as the first caucus state, would be a little more careful about giving other states the impression that they and they alone have the right to determine who the next President will be." Kucinich said.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Imagine There's No Borders.......

MUSIC-CUBA: Rap Calls for 'Revolution Within the Revolution'
by Dalia Acosta
Published in The Global Intelligencer (

HAVANA, Cuba (IPS) - In makeshift studios, Cuba's hip hop movement keeps on recording music that goes to the heart of the country's troubles, in spite of the indifference of record companies and the media, and the negative response of society, which is perhaps afraid of hearing its defects exposed in song lyrics.

"People are making hip hop music in a very basic way, that is, with a computer and a microphone. They just squeeze into a small room or a bathroom," said Alexei "El Tipo Este" Rodríguez. A member of the duo Obsesión along with Magia López, Alexei is one of the few women rappers on the island.

They both had "a really bad experience" when they recorded with the state-owned company EGREM (Recordings and Musical Editions Company). "They lied to us about sales in the United States, and people in Cuba never got to hear about the album because they handled it so badly," said Alexei, 35, who has been in the hip hop movement for more than a decade.

"I think Cuban record companies are only looking for music that markets itself on its own, like salsa, reggaeton -- dance music," said Afro Velásquez, a member of the group Hermanazos, which with Obsesión. Together the two groups make up the independent recording project La Fabri_k, a response to the indifference of national recording studios to including rap in their catalogues.

"Our dream is to sign a contract with a foreign record company," said Rodríguez. "But the most radical, the most orthodox, don't want to be bound to any recording company."

Among the "orthodox" is Papá Humbertico, the driving force behind the Real 70 project, which produces rap discs and videos. The 23-year-old has become an almost legendary figure because of his tenacious defense of "underground" hip hop, following the rules of urban poetry and disdaining commercialism.

Real 70 emerged in 2001 as a result of the need for instrumental backing for rappers in this Caribbean island nation. "Very few people within rap were devoted to music production, and they charged prices that were impossible at the time," Humbertico said.

His studio is a room in the house where he lives with his family, in the town of Barreras, east of Havana. Groups will either pay for a recording or background music, or get them free, depending on their aims. "If we see they feel the same way as we do, they become part of the project," he said.

But hip hop isn't just a way of earning a living. "I'm doing something that gives me strength to live and carry on," said Humbertico, who was expelled from several schools before he found his true vocation. "If I hadn't become a rapper, I'd now be involved in dogfights or cockfights somewhere."

In 2002 his name hit the international media because of the controversy sparked by a song of his against "police brutality against young people," which finally got him hauled into the office of a high-ranking Havana police chief. "I see that as an achievement: I wrote that song, and it hit home where I wanted it to," he said.

Humbertico is also a member of the Mano Armada duo. He says that the country needs to "revolutionize the political sphere and the minds of the people" through new ideas. His latest disc, "Revolution within the Revolution," spells out these thoughts.

On a separate but parallel road, La Fabri_k's Third Symposium of Cuban Hip Hop, held last July, attempted to consolidate organization of the movement on the island and relaunch its community work, one of the core practices of Obsesión and Hermanazos' project.

"We are asking ourselves whether we are really progressive and revolutionary," López said. "We are marginalized, but that's not an impediment to organizing our work. The symposium has helped me see that the art of rapping, being a disc jockey, spraying graffiti or dancing isn't all there is to hip hop culture, because there's much more to it, it includes lifestyle and everything you can do to make the world a better place," Velásquez said.

Now La Fabri_k is working on a disc against violence, which will bring together various rap groups. The chosen tracks are about different expressions of violence in modern society, such as police brutality, wars, family and domestic violence, and violence promoted by the media. "It's a disc about violence, but in itself it isn't violent, because it's about finding love, which is so necessary," Rodríguez emphasized.

The aggressive gestures and lyrics of hip hop are one reason why this music style has been criticized in Cuba. "If (rappers) are aggressive on stage, it's because they've been downtrodden for 500 years, and because they live on a small plot, in a house that's falling down, and have no chance of recording a disc," said Carmen González, a poet and independent researcher who is writing a book about women's voices in Cuban rap.

According to González, the racial equality that was decreed after the 1959 triumph of the Cuban Revolution has not been effective because of the "five centuries of social disadvantage" suffered by black people, who comprise the majority of hip hop movement artists. "It's very hard for our society to recognize that there is a group that has been left out, and that is spelling this out to the country in art," she said.

As well as providing immediate social commentary, Cuban rap calls on people to think, poses historic themes anew, and attacks red-hot problems like homophobia and racism. "From a reality-based viewpoint, it is setting forth proposals, but people haven't learned to see and recognize what hip hop is proposing," said González who is also editor of the Movimiento magazine of the Cuban Rap Agency, devoted to hip hop in Cubaaid. "You can't just turn your back on them and say, 'this is just for marginal people.'"

"This must be defended in the way society works / it's not just about being clever at rhyming words /," López sings on a track of the first disc produced by La Fabri_k, while her partner Rodríguez appears to reinforce her message, singing on the same disc "don't mix up scarcity / with lack of honesty."

Look What I found........

Do not search--but find.
To search comes from what is old,
a wanting-to-find what is already known.
To find is totally new!
The new being also in movement!
All paths are open
and what is being found is as yet unknown.
It is an adventure-a holy adventure.

The uncertainty of such adventures
can be carried by those
who know themselves safe on unsafe ground--
who can trust the invisible star in the dark--
who do not determine the goal by narrow limits,
but let themselves be drawn by the goal.

This openness to every new perception
outwardly and inwardly:
that is the essence
of the modern human being,
who being greatly anxious, lets go, yet experiences
the grace of being supported in this openness for new

- Pablo Picaso

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Let's All Heal Together.......

Due to life's circumstances I am living with trauma on a daily basis due to events affecting a my Son. I was shown the work of Dr. Peter Levine today and suddenly so much of my stuckedness, that of my Son and that of modern civilization began to make sense. We are suffering from cultural trauma due to man's inhumanity to man and our lack of connection with the divine. I share this with you today with the hope that it may help some find their way out of the soul prison called trauma.



''Somatic Experiencing®'' (SE) is a short-term naturalistic approach to the resolution and healing of trauma developed by Dr. Peter Levine. It is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized. Animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors. These mechanisms provide animals with a built-in ''immunity'' to trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ''charged'' life-threatening experiences.

Although humans are born with virtually the same regulatory mechanisms as animals, the function of these instinctive systems is often overridden or inhibited by, among other things, the ''rational'' portion of our brains. This restraint prevents the complete discharge of survival energies, and does not allow the nervous system to regain its equilibrium. The un-discharged “survival energy” remains “stuck” in the body and the nervous system. The various symptoms of trauma result from the body's attempt to ''manage'' and contain this unused energy.

SE employs the awareness of body sensation to help people ''renegotiate'' and heal their traumas rather than relive them. With appropriate guidance with the body's instinctive ''felt sense,'' individuals are able to access their own built-in immunity to trauma, allowing the highly aroused survival energies to be safely and gradually discharged. When these energies are discharged, people frequently experience a dramatic reduction in or disappearance of their traumatic symptoms.

Because traumatic events often involve encounters with death, they evoke extraordinary responses. The transformation process can allow people to deepen their sense of self and others. The healing journey can be an ''awakening'' to untapped resources and feelings of empowerment. With the help of these new allies, people can open portals to rebirth and achieve an increased sense of aliveness and flow. The experience can be a genuine spiritual awakening, one that allows people to re-connect with the world.

The very structure of trauma, including hyper-arousal, dissociation. and freezing, is based on the evolution of the predator/prey survival behaviors. The symptoms of trauma are the result of a highly activated incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. By enabling this frozen response to thaw, then complete, trauma can be healed.

Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the dangerous event itself. They arise when residual energy from the event is not discharged from the body. This energy remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Wild animals have the ability to “shake off” this excess energy. The key for humans in dispelling traumatic symptoms lies in our being able to mirror wild animals in this way. Dr. Levine has developed a safe, gradual way to help trauma survivors develop their own natural ability to resolve the excess energy caused by overwhelming events.


Trauma, Healing, and Spirit
by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

Trauma is an internal straitjacket created when a devastating moment is frozen in time. It stifles the unfolding of being, strangling our attempts to move forward with our lives. It disconnects us from our selves, others, nature and spirit. When people are overwhelmed by threat, we become frozen in fear. It is as if our instinctive survival energies are ''all dressed up with no place to go.''

Trauma is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to be a life sentence. We humans have the natural capacity to ''thaw'' these frozen moments, and move on with our lives. By understanding why animals in the wild are rarely traumatized-though their lives are threatened routinely, we find the key to healing trauma. We do not have to cling to the past, reliving devastating events again and again. By gently awakening this innate capacity for resilience that we share with all living organisms, the straitjacket is loosened. As we are unbound from the past, a future abundant with new possibilities unfolds. Our ability to be in the present expands, revealing the timeless essence of the ''now.'' Trauma can be hell on earth; transformed, it is a divine gift.


Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. is the originator and developer of Somatic Experiencing® and the President of the Foundation for Human Enrichment. He holds doctorate degrees in both Medical Biophysics and Psychology. During his thirty year study of stress and trauma, Dr. Levine has contributed to a variety of scientific, medical, and popular publications. His best selling book, Waking the Tiger; Healing Trauma, is available in ten languages. He is presently working on two other books. It Won't Hurt Forever is a guide to the prevention and healing of trauma with children. The other book is presenting trauma theory and practice with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Levine's method, under the title Healing Trauma, Restoring the Wisdom of the Body, is available in an audio cassette tape learning series produced and distributed by "Sounds True, 1999. Peter was a consultant for NASA during the development of the Space Shuttle, and has taught at hospitals and pain clinics in both Europe and the U.S., as well as at the Hopi Guidance Center in Arizona. He lives in Colorado, on the banks of the St. Vrain River.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Make an Extra Effort to Bring Joy Into a Child's Life Today

—Courtesy Sheri Schrier, Happy Hats for Kids

Project puts smiles on children’s faces
By Don Haines, Woodbine, Md.
From Brave Heart Magazine

When Sheri Schrier, of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., watched her grandmother, her father and her younger brother die of cancer, the pain was almost too much to bear. She watched helplessly as the physical pain of the disease and the emotional trauma of hair loss following chemotherapy devastated her loved ones. But she saw something else, too. There were wounds not readily apparent to anyone, such as loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation, sadness and fear.

It was then that Sheri realized sick children, in particular, needed something to change their focus, to get their young minds off the everyday routine of hospital life, and to distract them from their pain and discomfort. She also believed sick children need to play and have fun, despite their medical conditions, and that emotional support plays an equally important part in the healing process as medical intervention. An idea was born, and her mission became bringing joy to hospitalized children. Transforming her idea from thought to action would take a lot of hard work and would involve a lot of frustration, but with the help of her husband, Gene, Happy Hats for Kids was founded in 1991.

Sheri had been a hat designer by profession for a long time, but the hats she had in mind for the children would not be for warming their heads or making them look stylish. Instead, the hats she imagined would be created with the sole purpose of evoking laughter – giddy, silly laughter. She wanted hats that would change the somber atmosphere of a pediatric ward into a magical land of enchantment – at least for a little while.

Sheri and Gene knew from the beginning that in order to produce the millions of needed Happy Hats, a lot of labor would be required, and it had to be labor that wouldn’t cost a lot of money. While there were some local companies that had been generous with financial support, the big question was how to get the hats made. There was only one place where inexpensive labor could be found – in state prisons in California. The first prison that showed any interest, and that had a sewing facility, was The California Institute for Women, in Chino. Since the first prison signed on, other prisons in other states have joined the effort as well.

In 2002, Happy Hats for Kids came to The Maryland House of Correction, in Jessup. Employees and inmates alike were enthusiastic about the program. Officials decided to get involved to allow the inmates an opportunity to give something meaningful back to the community. The inmates make the hats in the Garment Plant at the House of Correction, and they work for nothing. All shipping expenses are paid by Happy Hats.

Charles Keim, manager of the Garment Plant, says Happy Hats is a great program, and those who work under his direction wholeheartedly agree.

“I get a kick out of making something that will make a sick kid laugh, especially one who might be terminally ill,” says one prisoner. Keim says they’ve turned out more than 15,000 hats so far.

The hats are distributed four times a year on various holidays, and the hats are styled with themes for that particular holiday. For instance, if you visit a pediatric ward on April Fool’s Day, you’ll find both patients and staff, including doctors, decked out in a Jester’s hat, complete with jingling bells. Fourth of July brings about Uncle Sam hats, and the Mad Hatter hat celebrates Halloween. A Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat can be found come January, as children tend to be down just after the Christmas holidays, and Happy Hats figures a Dr. Seuss hat is just the thing to get them smiling again. And while the children laugh at each other on Happy Hat day, it’s the doctors and nurses who create the most merriment. The sight of a staid surgeon making his rounds in a Court Jester or Dr. Seuss hat produces plenty of laughter from the children.

As Happy Hats for Kids grows, testimonials flow in from all over the country. One California mother speaks glowingly about the program, saying, “From a mother’s heart, I want to thank you for brightening my son Adam’s day on July 2. Your red, white and blue hat brought a smile to his face, and instantly lifted his spirits. He also thought it was great to see his doctor wearing a funny hat. It took some of the pain out of his doctor’s visit. The entire atmosphere of that ward was transformed by those hats.”

A pediatrician was effusive in his compliments: “Having a cancer-ridden, balding child connected to multiple IV bags smile and giggle with excitement is a rare and treasured sight. Recently, a Happy Hat visit was made to the waiting room of our surgical center. Here, at their worst, were parents waiting for news of their child’s operation. When Happy Hats appeared, we could all see their faces relax and their demeanor change. If that wasn’t enough, seeing doctors and nurses wearing Happy Hats on top of their scrub hats was enough to lighten anyone’s load.”

One prison warden who visited a hospital on Happy Hat day had an unforgettable experience: “There was a boy in his room with a look of despair on his face. I took a Happy Hat off my head and put it on his. Suddenly, a smile began to emerge and grow from ear to ear, then he laughed out loud. When I left the room, there was a nurse standing there crying. I asked her what was wrong. She said the little boy had not smiled or laughed since his admission to the hospital. It was like a miracle. The Happy Hat once again had accomplished its mission.”

The most powerful testimonies, however, come from those who labor behind prison walls, turning out the thousands of Happy Hats. One woman, a prisoner for 14 years, said, “When they first told me about Happy Hats, I said no. But when they said it was for sick kids, something clicked. It got to the point where I’d lay awake at night thinking that the more hats I could make, the more those sick kids would have something funny to laugh at. Happy Hats has changed my life. I don’t get into trouble anymore …”

It’s obvious that the children are not the only ones to benefit. ~BH

— For more information on Happy Hats for Kids, visit the Web site

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer of Love: 40 Years Later - Michael Rossman

This analysis is right on from my perspective
- Alan Springwind

MICHAEL ROSSMAN, writer who continues to focus on counter-culture topics and building a huge poster archive at his home in Berkeley. THEN: One of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement, the UC Berkeley event that launched the era of student protest, Rossman became a regular visitor to the Haight-Ashbury and its community events.

I'm an old new leftie. I came up with the start of the new left before it was called the new left. I was at HUAC in '60 and a leader of the Free Speech Movement in '64. Came on to the Haight-Ashbury with considerable head of steam, in a couple of different ways. This is getting into too much details ...

Part of what was amazing about the Free Speech Movement is that it launched a movement for education reform, reform in higher education which came first to affect college campuses around the country and then spread out in the communities. After the FSM, I got very involved in that. I spent fall of '65 and early spring traveling from Berkeley to SF State, where the country's first working experiment called the Free University was in brilliant operation. Also in late '65, the rock dances started happening, the first public events of what came to be called the counter-community or in this local case, the Haight Ashbury. I spent a lot of time in the Haight Ashbury, coming in there wearing two or three hats. I was motivated as a curious man, thrill seeker and someone who wanted to come and dance to this amazing music. I was motivated as a sociologist who liked to stand back and observe cultural phenomenon. I was motivated as a political person because there was a deep and joyous strain of politics surfacing in the Haight. For that matter, I was motivated as a spiritual person because so much that was opening on that front became publicly identified with the Haight and I was curious to meet its representatives. Lastly, I was motivated as an educator interested in frontiers of thought and experience, particularly forbidden frontiers. The Haight was a working casebook for all of the above.

I got to travel pretty easily also for two reasons. I had a lot of political cachet from having been an FSM leader, so I could [approach] anybody in political, in mover circles who was straight enough to remember what the FSM was. And also I carried a camera bag over my shoulder because I had relatively recently become a very serious photographer and somewhat of a photojournalist. And in the time before media burn made people more camera shy, the person with the camera who recorded what was going on was a central part of the community and had entrance to all kinds of spaces, intimate and public. So I could just walk casually before the concerts at the Fillmore, I could go casually backstage and schmooze with people who didn't know I was a political person. The musicians were out of town and I don't know if it would matter to them. I could wander back and forth and I had a wonderful time playing out all those roles together.

I was living in Berkeley all that time. But crossing the bridge was not like crossing the bridge today. We could look at each other at ten minutes to eight on a Friday and say hey let's go dance at the Fillmore, we could be walking into the Fillmore at ten minutes after eight.

People would say the Haight is counter-cultural and Berkley is political, but the fact is that there were both counter-cultural and political happenings in both cradles at the same time -- just the relative weight was different on the two sides of the bay.

There was a definite difference in style between us in Berkeley who went through the Free Speech Movement and the SF State folks who were doing the experimental college and who were more like the Haight. We went though the FSM, sat patiently and listened. People tended to talk for a long time in structured presentations that had beginnings, middles and ends and asked for clear response. The SF State people talked in short darts of interchange that were not as logically coherent although they were very bright folks. There was a more reflective, didactic if you will, quality to speech in Berkeley and perhaps to the development of the counter-culture.

There was a question that was made general all over the country in movement circles from 1965 on and it was, Does the use of psychedelic drugs -- in which category I will count marijuana -- does the use of these drugs bring people into political activism or take people away from political activism? And the truth, of course, was both. But the argument really strictly polarized, and most classical leftists, new old leftists to speak, of most of the ideological sectarian groups after the new left found itself lacking on the issue of imperialism, they were down on that. Progressive Labor was prototypical on that. You couldn't belong to Progressive Labor if you smoked marijuana. Of course, that was, among other things, a way of breeding hypocrisy among the membership because there were always, of course, young dissident people who enjoyed smoking marijuana and wanted to smash the state and didn't see why these propositions were antithetical.

In spring 1970 Playboy published a poll of college student attitudes. The interesting part of what they said -- I'm making these figures up, you'd have to fact-check them, they're good figures, they represent roughly what the figures said -- roughly 97 percent of the people who smoked pot were against the war in Vietnam and roughly 97 percent of the people who were against the War smoked pot. There was as much coincidence of these two as you would find for any major thing that would characterize the generation. They published this a few months after the Cambodia/Kent State time when two million people flooded out in the streets and if you had gone out and counted the people who flooded the streets, you would have found an awful lot of them smoked marijuana. Noting that the ranks of the anti-war movement grew exponentially from '65 to '70, at a time when the ranks of marijuana smokers and acid takers were also growing exponentially, I think you'd have a real hard time making a case that weed deterred people from activism. What it did do was change their ways, modes and styles of activism as you can see in a superficial way by reflecting on differences in costumes. The uniform of the old left was the blue jeans and blue denim jackets of the SNCC field workers. The new left drew its roots from campus intellectuals who, so to speak, their stereotypical wear had been Army surplus wear. The new left was dowdy all through the Free Speech Movement. It's the next morning culturally when posters begin to appear and people change their costumes. By the time we go down to get the s--t beat out of us at the Oakland Induction Center in '67, we are out wearing helmets, but the helmets are painted bright colors, and we're wearing bells and feathers, and we're banging drums and in a great frame of jollity because you somehow had to maintain the spark of bright spirit when you were facing this interminable, ghastly thing that was happening. All that was an attitude that the old left didn't have. It wasn't until the Free Speech Movement that I saw a political pamphlet with a sense of humor. The old left didn't joke around.

The thing about weed and political action, in that era, when you sucked on a joint, you inhaled not simply some smoke, but you inhaled this whole complex of cultural attitudes, not only opposition to the war, but a liking for Madras bedspreads, an inclination to taste new and interesting foods, to feel less guilty about cutting class, to disrespect authority more because they were trying to make you a criminal for having these experiences and changes of perspective. When you made millions of young people criminals this way, on the narrow issue of whether they could put this plant's smoke or that plant's smoke in their bodies, you corrupted their attitudes about a whole lot in the culture.

This was a time when still in order to smoke the marijuana we locked the front door, we turned out all the lights, crowded in the bathroom and stood around the toilet ready to flush if the cops were going to knock on the door. We got high, went out and looked at MC Escher and listened to Bach with a new ear So when the Haight emerged as a place where people smoked marijuana openly, it was a deeper kind of transgression and statement of liberation than can be understood in this day or by people who didn't live through that time. God knows it drove the authorities nuts.

Draw a circle, cut it in half. Label the top half outer and the bottom half inner and draw a whole bunch of wedges to make a pie graph. Then start labeling. Wedges. The bottom part we label psychodrama, encounter groups, meditation, yoga, macrobiotic food, taking grass and acid and a number of the things and the intimate end of communal living and for that matter, free sex, freer sex.

That bottom half is the Haight as it came to be known, and came to be advertised across the country by the partially cooperating media and as a lot of people came simply to remember it, as a laboratory of exploration into the depths of the inner being -- from what it was like to live in a body and feed and so on, onto what it was like to share emotions with people on to spiritual being. But there was another Haight in the same time, the same place by people who shared the inner quest in various ways and ultimately effecting everybody who was involved in the inner questing. So we start labeling the pie slices in the upper half. Here's the Free Clinic (it was, by the way, the first free clinic in the country; four years later there's 200 hundred free clinics around the country). Here's a free grammar school and a free high school where the free not only stands for free tuition but for the spirit of education that is going on in them. Here is free legal services for the community. Here's a switchboard which is connecting all kinds of people -- a communication medium for the many social service agencies that are springing up in this community. Here is draft counseling. Here is the Digger's food distribution service. Here is the group linking with the emergent family farms 20 to 40 miles outside of SF. Here is - a primitive form of light industry, but it certainly is there - the making of bongs and psychedelic paraphernalia. Here is the communication company which is a free publication service. It publishes short and long things. You bring in something, they publish and distribute it. In that very limited time, limited place, these young people are experimenting with re-creating practically the whole range of social institutions. I forgot to mention Huckleberry House, the haven for runaways, detox. In a short time and space, they are at play with experiments on this very broad social canvas. Besides the wonderful breadth of the social curriculum is the fact that they're happening in the same time and place. When you put them all together, there was a kind of integrity, a fragile but deep integrity to this development in this place before it came to be known as The Haight. And it was that integrity that was the most precious and the most difficult to maintain and the easiest to destroy. Look downstream the next decade and what you see, if you look at the lore about the Haight is that any reference to the upper part of that diagram is completely missing. The Haight is a place where people freaked out, had good music and lots of sex and got crab lice and clap in public memory. The wedges of the bottom half have been separated out one by one and peddled as commodities -- consumable commodities -- for the entertainment of the middle class. Here is your yoga class, here is your encounter group, here is Swaami Yammi, and so on and so on. Your essentially commercialized and cult-like enterprises sprang up in each slice of the pie to set up franchise operations across the country.

When the Haight was healthiest was when it wasn't known as the Haight, particularly when it wasn't known as the Haight Ashbury publicly. There's a funny thing. I've known a number of people who've become famous and, by and large, the experience is really destructive. I think there's a rather precise way about how the experience happens. People come at you with some media image of you and they want to see you act like that and you act like that. But the image is not really you and it leads you progressively farther away from whatever your center is. That's a really short way of putting it. I saw Jerry Rubin lose his soul in this way and become a parody of Jerry Rubin. Why do I mention this? Because something certainly as destructive happened from media attention to the Haight. I haven't thought through it. . .I know it was a deep destruction. I saw it happen over and over in the late '60s after the Haight in smaller enterprises. . .

It was bad enough already when the Haight was basically just this unknown community growing by word of mouth in '65. By late '65/early '66, the era of the underground newspaper begins and it becomes a more visible place and more and more people come to see the Haight, where more and more of them come not just to stroll down Haight St. on a sunny afternoon not just to look at the hippies on the corner, but actually talking to them and having the time to take up their invitation of come visit our commune. But the real killer is when overground media get to it and the Haight becomes national and hungry kids all over the country who are going nuts in the swamp water of American delusion and cynicism and living in the straight towns and circumstances and getting shat on for growing their hair a little long and smoking roadside dope and getting popped, they give it up and they come out here because they hear this thing is happening that will meet their needs in ways that they couldn't possibly begin to define, but that is the feeling. So the much hyped Summer of Love is a kind of collapse, a kind of falling over the face of what's happening. These things would have happened anyway, if these same brave adventurous people who were trying to take some responsibility for the civic character of the Haight Ashbury as a whole -- of whom I count the Digger group at the very foremost -- the people who were trying to organize negotiations with the various levels of the municipal government from the police to the Mayor's office to the sanitation to the health services to get them to stop persecuting the various natural developments in the Haight, get them to respond to the various types of epidemics that were happening and stop doing cluster sweeps with the cops on the street arresting and beating people up. There were people who were not only trying to be responsible for the internal civic health of the Haight, in trying to get merchants to do a voluntary tax to support various types of ameliorating efforts and so, but were trying to interface with the larger society. They were the people who said, well, we're going to have Summer of Love. People were coming from all over the country. Well, people were coming from all over the country already. The Haight was in deep trouble by the dawn of 1967.

By the time the cold weather turns after winter '66 because the Haight is basically doomed because people are headed to it from all over the country.

The phenomenon that was happening was bigger than the Haight. The Haight was emblematic, for a time, a pressure cooker where the true vast curriculum outer and inner were being pursued. When the Haight got crushed as a functioning social environment, people were at work in many, many places around the country on both wings of this agenda though less and less often together. So by the time the Haight goes down, there's some semblance of counter-community in at least 100 American cities. By counter-community I mean more than just people dropping acid and protesting the war, but groups of people who actually say, this is our community, let's do something to make it work better. It needs a front end to deal with the town's police so fewer kids get hurt.

The range of experiments that characterized the Haight continued all over the country because it was a hydra with no central head. The whole range of inner exploration. . .We're 40 years downstream and if you go cruise the telephone poles you still see the advertisements for the gurus and the wellness center and the yoga classes.

The positive sides of the explorations have been very important in changing our attitudes. I myself -- this is peculiar perspective -- I think the modern ecology movement when a couple of hippies are sitting on Hippie Hill in the Panhandle and they're smoking a joint. They lean back and lie on the grass and one of them says 'Whoa, this stuff is alive -- the grass has a spirit -- I feel its spirit.' Because certainly there was some deep kind of revitalization, some reawakening of our connection with the earth that came through the counter-culture and was mediated specifically by psychoactive drugs that changed the perspectives as well as greatly multiplied the forces of the ecology movement. Shall we say gave the Sierra Club second wind.

-- Joel Selvin