Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Just Try to be Kind........

The Great Way

January 31, 2008

The Great Way is obvious to all my friends. They point it out quite readily on request, sometimes without request. Their words are painful because they threaten my character. I have to choose between the Great Way and me. An easy choice on paper – a hard one in fact.

--Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

©Copyright 2005

Tricycle: The Buddhist Review,92 Vandam Street, New York, NY 10013 Telephone 212.645.1143 | Fax 212.645.1493

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Would #3 Look Like?

The Anthropocene Era

From The Global Sociology Blog
January 16th, 2008 by SocProf

From Le Monde, this article delineates 1995 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen’s contention that we have entered a new geological era: the anthropocene era (the era that follows the holocene ere, which covers the last 10,000 years - holocene meaning "entirely new"). The concept of "anthropocene" is meant to capture the increasing human impact on the biosphere.

The anthropocene era started in the 1800s with the industrial revolution and the massive use of fossil fuels. Ultimately, this is at the heart of the greenhouse gas effect and global climate change. From the 1800s until 1945 was Phase I of the anthropocene era. Since 1945 and expected to last until 2015 is Phase II, characterized by unprecedented human impact on the biosphere. According to Crutzen, humankind is now a "planetary geophysical force" upon which we must act before it’s too late and the damage is irreversible.

If human impact on the biosphere is still in Phase II, that is, still accelerating, there is a positive side: the greater human awareness of such impact and of the need to do something about it. The question is, are we up to the task? International treaties and conventions, scientific research as well as social movements have all contributed to promoting the preservation of biodiversity.
In any even, according to Crutzen, in 2015 and beyond, we will have entered Phase III when we will face three possible scenarios:

1. "Business as usual": we do nothing and hope / pray that human adaptability and the market will have worked their magic to solve these problems. A risky proposal.

2. "Mitigation": through better environmental management, we aim to considerably reduce our impact on the biosphere through environmental restoration and population control which will involve major changes in social values and behaviors (less consumerism and religious natalism). Nice but will that be enough?

3. "Climatic geo-engineering": desperate situations require desperate and radical measures. This would involve powerful manipulation of climates on a planetary scale, such as storing excess CO2 in underground reservoirs. Radical solutions to be sure, but the remedy might be worse than what ails us.

No matter which option we end up adopting (and they are not mutually exclusive), all will be matters of political decisions and all will be matters of political action on a planetary scale, which will require some degree of global cooperation and governance. And, of course, the big polluters should be required to make the most sacrifice for the common good.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Now, Why is Marijuana Illegal???

How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness
By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet

For a generation now, disruptive young Americans who rebel against authority figures have been increasingly diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric (psychotropic) drugs.

Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them "care less" about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa -- powerful tranquilizing drugs -- are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.

Many talk show hosts think I'm kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After I assure them that ODD is in fact an official mental illness -- an increasingly popular diagnosis for children and teenagers -- they often guess that ODD is simply a new term for juvenile delinquency. But that is not the case.

Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior." The official symptoms of ODD include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don't respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.

An even more common reaction to oppressive authorities than overt defiance is some type of passive defiance.

John Holt, the late school critic, described passive-aggressive strategies employed by prisoners in concentration camps and slaves on plantations, as well as some children in classrooms. Holt pointed out that subjects may attempt to appease their rulers while still satisfying some part of their own desire for dignity "by putting on a mask, by acting much more stupid and incompetent than they really are, by denying their rulers the full use of their intelligence and ability, by declaring their minds and spirits free of their enslaved bodies."

Holt observed that by "going stupid" in a classroom, children frustrate authorities through withdrawing the most intelligent and creative parts of their minds from the scene, thus achieving some sense of potency.

Going stupid -- or passive aggression -- is one of many nondisease explanations for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies show that virtually all ADHD-diagnosed children will pay attention to activities that they enjoy or that they have chosen. In other words, when ADHD-labeled kids are having a good time and in control, the "disease" goes away.

There are other passive rebellions against authority that have been medicalized by mental health authorities. I have talked to many people who earlier in their lives had been diagnosed with substance abuse, depression and even schizophrenia but believe that their "symptoms" had in fact been a kind of resistance to the demands of an oppressive environment. Some of these people now call themselves psychiatric survivors.

While there are several reasons for behavioral disruptiveness and emotional difficulties, rebellion against an oppressive environment is one common reason that is routinely not even considered by many mental health professionals. Why? It is my experience that many mental health professionals are unaware of how extremely obedient they are to authorities. Acceptance into medical school and graduate school and achieving a Ph.D. or M.D. means jumping through many meaningless hoops, all of which require much behavioral, attentional and emotional compliance to authorities -- even disrespected ones. When compliant M.D.s and Ph.D.s begin seeing noncompliant patients, many of these doctors become anxious, sometimes even ashamed of their own excessive compliance, and this anxiety and shame can be fuel for diseasing normal human reactions.

Two ways of subduing defiance are to criminalize it and to pathologize it, and U.S. history is replete with examples of both. In the same era that John Adams' Sedition Act criminalized criticism of U.S. governmental policy, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry (his image adorns the APA seal), pathologized anti-authoritarianism. Rush diagnosed those rebelling against a centralized federal authority as having an "excess of the passion for liberty" that "constituted a form of insanity." He labeled this illness "anarchia."

Throughout American history, both direct and indirect resistance to authority has been diseased. In an 1851 article in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright reported his discovery of "drapetomania," the disease that caused slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright also reported his discovery of "dysaesthesia aethiopis," the disease that caused slaves to pay insufficient attention to the master's needs. Early versions of ODD and ADHD?

In Rush's lifetime, few Americans took anarchia seriously, nor was drapetomania or dysaesthesia aethiopis taken seriously in Cartwright's lifetime. But these were eras before the diseasing of defiance had a powerful financial ally in Big Pharma.

In every generation there will be authoritarians. There will also be the "bohemian bourgeois" who may enjoy anti-authoritarian books, music, and movies but don't act on them. And there will be genuine anti-authoritarians, who are so pained by exploitive hierarchies that they take action. Only occasionally in American history do these genuine anti-authoritarians actually take effective direct action that inspires others to successfully revolt, but every once in a while a Tom Paine comes along. So authoritarians take no chances, and the state-corporate partnership criminalizes anti-authoritarianism, pathologizes it, markets drugs to "cure" it and financially intimidates those who might buck the system.

It would certainly be a dream of Big Pharma and those who favor an authoritarian society if every would-be Tom Paine -- or Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, Emma Goldman or Malcolm X -- were diagnosed as a youngster with mental illness and quieted with a lifelong regimen of chill pills. The question is: Has this dream become reality?

Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green, 2007).

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

God Help Us.......

God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the GOP Crusade for Values Voters

The following is excerpted from Sarah Posner's new book, God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. It is reprinted here courtesy of PoliPoint Press. Photo credit for front page image associated with this article: Nina Berman. See more at

Inside the Trinity Christian Church in Irving, Texas, a crowd starts gathering in the afternoon for a Victory Healing and Miracle Service that is to begin at 7 p.m. that evening. People have traveled from as far away as Ohio and Arkansas and Georgia to participate. Most are waiting in the perimeter lobby of the church, camping out with pillows and Bibles, ordering pizza, and waiting for an event that has been hyped on Christian television for months. I approach one woman, an African American member of televangelist Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio. Judging from her clothes, the woman could scarcely afford the plane ticket she bought to see a performance of the preaching phenomenon whose services she can attend three times a week at home in Columbus. She's almost in a trance, barely able to focus on me or what I am asking her, and she brushes me aside as I inquire about her journey. People are waiting to see healings and miracles; Parsley claims a quarter of a million people have mailed in prayer cloths (and money) so that he could put his "anointing" on them. Once returned to the donor, the prayer cloths can be used to heal anything in a broken life, from depression to cancer to joblessness to debt.

Trinity Christian Church is owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the largest Christian television network in the world, and is on the grounds of the Irving outpost of the Orange County, California-based conglomerate that monopolizes the Christian airwaves with its Word of Faith message of health and wealth. As a movement, not a denomination, Word of Faith has no membership or doctrinal requirements, but its tenets have become embeded in the late-twentieth-century nondenominational movement known as neo-Pentecostalism. Yet while it presents itself as a benign message of hope and purpose, critics of Word of Faith charge that it is a heresy that robs its followers of spiritual fulfillment, an affinity fraud that robs them of their money, and a distortion of the Scriptures, run by authoritarian preachers who rob their followers of their autonomy.

The main tenets of Word of Faith are revelation knowledge, through which the believer derives knowledge directly from God, rather than from the senses; identification, through which the believer is inhabited by God and is another incarnation of Jesus; positive confession, or the power of the believer to call things into existence; the right of believers to divine health; and the right of believers to divine wealth. The believer, a "little god," is anointed and therefore can reject reason in favor of revelation, a "higher knowledge that contradicts the senses." It is through revelation knowledge that the Word of Faith movement has created its alternate universe in which rational thought is rejected and where the media, intellectual thought, science, and any type of critical thinking are scorned. Drawing on the Pentecostal tradition of casting out devils, pursuits associated with the Enlightenment are denounced as the work of Satan.

Parsley has emerged as a leading figure in Christian conservative politics and is a frequent visitor to the Bush White House and Capitol Hill. Many credit him with the GOP victory in his native Ohio in 2004, a result that gave Bush the necessary electoral votes to capture the White House a second time. Although Parsley was well-known in Word of Faith circles for years from his church and his television program, Breakthrough, he became a nationally recognized name in 2004 for his relentless campaigning for Ohio's gay marriage ban.

Well before the service is scheduled to start, the church sanctuary fills up. The best seats are reserved for pastors affiliated with Pars¬ley's franchise, the World Harvest Church Ministerial Fellowship. Soon church employees are shuttling people to overflow rooms inside the TBN studios a couple of parking lots away. I am crammed to the point of immobility in an upper-balcony pew of the four-thousand-seat sanctuary. The praise and worship bands are louder than I've ever experienced at any Word of Faith service, hyping the crowd into a frenzy and making it impossible to talk to anyone around me. People are dancing and singing, reaching their arms out toward the stage and holding their palms cupped upward, all set to receive the anointing.

The overamplified pop music of the Crabb Family, a band frequently featured on TBN programming, is nothing compared to the collective shriek of thousands of whistles that Parsley's assistants pass out in buckets. The whistles, it turns out, are surrogate shofars (the ram's horn blown in synagogues on high holidays) because, Parsley tells us, he couldn't find actual shofars. Parsley has a real shofar for himself, and after he blows it, he anoints himself the arbiter identified in the Gospel of Luke who will announce Jubilee. It's Jubilee, Parsley says with his characteristic absence of humility, "when the prophetic voice announces it. And I'm here to tell you, it's Jubilee." As pandemonium breaks out in the crowd, Parsley continues: "It's time for a perpetual party. Your long face is out of order. Your depression has got to go. . . . No more quiet services, mundane Christianity has got to go. Shout it, it's Jubilee!" He implores his audience to blow their whistles, which he claims can miraculously heal; he proclaims, "All tumors, swallowing problems, and cataracts are healed as people blow the whistles."

Parsley pays homage to his TBN patrons, who are broadcasting the service, saying "Let's thank God for Paul and Jan for making this night possible. We love you." The Crouches, who first hosted Parsley on their programming in 1983, when he was only twenty-six years old, have proclaimed Parsley a prophet who "challenged God's people to break through beyond status quo Christianity - invade enemy territory and overthrow the kingdom of darkness." Parsley recounts that Jan Crouch had "something wrong with her throat for years and God gave her a tremendous healing" after she used one of Parsley's prayer cloths.

Over the course of the evening, Parsley will slay people in the Holy Spirit, lay hands on them, and profess to heal their cancer, homosexuality, and financial problems. He will walk over the pews as people sway and fall to the floor. He will take credit for a woman's new job as a marketing and database manager, which she says she got after she sent Parsley her last $6. He will claim, with two members of his congregation as his witnesses, that he cured their adopted baby who was born without a brain. "His head was the size of his shoulders, nothing but water in that globe," Parsley boasts. "They brought him into service, we laid hands on him. The six o'clock news carried it; the eleven o'clock news carried it. Here are the brain scans. Here's the child with no brain. Here is the child after the prayer with a fully developed, completely normal functioning brain."

Parsley recognizes that for many people his faith healing doesn't quite jibe with his recently acquired -- and carefully cultivated -- status as a political player. In a relatively short time, Parsley has hoisted himself onto the national political stage. He has been named one of the fifty most influential Christians in America and one of the ten most influential GOP religious kingmakers shaping the 2008 race for the White House. In a television broadcast a week before this service, Parsley claimed to be "the only preacher brave enough to be in the White House one day and praying over prayer cloths the next, casting out devils." But his in-your-face attitude spills over into a nationally televised nose-thumbing at his critics, in which he showcases the Word of Faith revelation knowledge. As one Word of Faith follower told me, "In a nutshell, that's what faith is. Believing the word instead of the circumstances." As a result, scholarship, journalism, and other non-biblical pursuits of truth are derided.

Parsley, a Bible college dropout, notes that his political celebrity has mushroomed despite the efforts of skeptics. "Somebody said to me the other day, 'You are the strangest person I've ever seen. . . . One day you're in the halls of Congress and the next day you're shouting and screaming in other tongues and laying hands on prayer cloths.'" Parsley sneers at his imaginary critics. "That's because I don't determine my theology based on my experience. Don't let anybody back you down on truth. Don't let anybody stare over the brim of their glasses with a circle of smoke enwreathing their head. Don't let anybody sitting on a university or college campus or behind a news desk somewhere intimidate you from truth. Once you know you've got ahold of absolute truth, you let nothing turn your plow." The crowd cheers wildly, and people are speaking in tongues, but the din is eclipsed by the earsplitting screech of the whistles.

Like Bush's 2000 campaign slogan, Compassionate Conser¬vatism, Word of Faith preachers often give lip service to their church's community service projects yet worship at the altar of hyperindividualism and unregulated capitalism. Many of these televangelists spend millions of dollars of church funds on luxury jets, take huge salaries out of church coffers to build themselves mansions, and treat themselves to other luxuries like clothes, vacations, and high-end dinners. They use the free advertising of their churches and television shows to sell countless books, tapes, and DVDs of their sermons, raking in millions that go into for-profit church-related enterprises that line their own pockets. All of this activity is rationalized as obeying Jesus' command to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Yet it is all possible precisely because there is virtually no oversight of the preachers' activities. Tax-exempt churches do not file tax returns and are under no obligation to divulge their finances to donors or the public. Where profit-driven church meets the cornerstone of conservative economic ideology, televangelists have been enriching themselves in an unregulated marketplace trading on God, the cult of personality, and American dreams of riches and success.

Although some observers of the 2006 election have pronounced the conservative Christian movement dead, Parsley's preaching in the service reveals exactly why the Word of Faith movement will play a big role in keeping it alive through the 2008 elections and beyond. While Parsley's audience is under his spell, the mayhem is suddenly suspended when Parsley yells, "Stop! I just heard the Holy Ghost." The audience falls silent, hoping for a direct line from God. Instead, Parsley delivers a political speech.

To his rapt audience, Parsley answers the question he says many people are asking him in the wake of the 2006 midterm election that was a disaster for Republicans. "What happened to the values voters?" Parsley insists that they didn't go away; they just became what he calls "integrity voters," meaning that "they stood up and said regardless of what you espouse with your rhetoric, if your lifestyle doesn't produce godliness, you're not going to have our vote."

Parsley takes his self-created opportunity to parlay his own rendering of "integrity" into his speech, melding his prosperity gospel with a message of individualistic entitlement that fuels the Word of Faith movement. Parsley's own wealth is built on the tithes and offerings he solicits through his church, television show, and Web site, but he justifies taking the donations by claiming that he serves God's kingdom by giving some of the money away. He says that "the government cannot do what the church must," insisting that the church must focus on issues of justice in addition to those of "righteousness." He claims that "if every church in Ohio had done what mine has done in the last year, there would not be one hungry person in the state. Not one hungry person." But he doesn't say what it is his church has done; did it take in the homeless or help people find jobs? That is not clear. But the Word of Faith message, the gospel of money and greed is clear, and Parsley implies - though he offers no proof - that his wealth is godly because he redistributes it. "It's time we stop being intimidated by the naysayers who say it's godly to have nothing. That's a lie, that's a lie. It's godly to believe for more than enough because there are always those who don't have enough."

He will not document his generosity, however. Parsley operates his ministry under tight familial control, with a complete lack of transparency and accountability. But mixed up in his contrived message of his own generosity, he implores his audience to be generous to him. That, the Word of Faith credo goes, will result in givers being blessed with their own financial harvest. With the thousands in the audience repeating each phrase, he tells them to "throw your hands up and say, 'Bless me, Lord! I'm a giver. I'm a tither. I'm going to bless your kingdom. And I receive financial abundance!'"

Sarah Posner has covered the religious right for The Nation, The American Prospect, AlterNet, and other publications, and writes The FundamentaList for The American Prospect Online. Her new book is God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters (PoliPoint Press).

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Artists Still Live, Buried in Popular Culture....

Serj Tankian: Alternative Rock's Political Poet

System of a Down singer Serj Tankian talks about going solo, his Armenian Genocide activism, Dennis Kucinich, and the decline of Western civilization.

Gary Moskowitz
Mother Jones

November 09 , 2007

While relaxing backstage an hour before a recent performance in San Francisco, Serj Tankian had some unexpected visitors. Representatives from Mayor Gavin Newsom's office arrived with a proclamation in hand, declaring October 28, 2007 "Serj Tankian Day" in the city by the bay.

A big, yet slightly humble smile washed over Tankian's face. After fronting the Grammy Award-winning, Los Angeles-based alternative rock band System of a Down for more than 10 years, he's now touring to support Elect the Dead, his first solo effort. But Newsom's proclamation wasn't for Tankian's music; it was in recognition of the messages behind it. On and off stage, he is helping to lead the fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide through his lyrics and the political activism of Axis of Justice, a group he co-founded with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

In performance, Tankian, the 40-year-old Beirut-born grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors, appears as a sort of traveling carnival ringleader; he sports a top hat, a long goatee, and a constant wide-eyed grin on his face, and surrounds himself with guitars, keyboards, microphones and even a theremin. In conversation, he has a relaxed, Zen-like demeanor and an insatiable desire to talk about history and politicians' efforts to re-write it. Catching him just before his tour of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Mother Jones spoke with Tankian about going solo, his activism, Dennis Kucinich, and the decline of Western civilization.

Mother Jones: Why did you make this solo album, and how would you describe the music?

Serj Tankian: I've got my own studio, and I've got four- to five-hundred unreleased tracks. I've got stuff that's electronic, orchestral, jazz, I've got rock, I've got metal, you know, I don't have polka. [laughs.] I've been doing film compositions, licensing to video games, collaborations, and remixes. The record is something I've been wanting to do for a while. And the experience I gained, by producing other bands, and writing and composing music over the years gave me the tools I needed to successfully make this record.

MJ: You've got a lot of political commentary on the album, with songs like "The Unthinking Majority," and "Elect the Dead." What are some of the issues you're addressing with these songs?

ST: "The Unthinking Majority" is the most blatant political song on there. It was important for me to make a statement, not just put out a record. Putting out a record to me is an experience, not just selling music. "The Unthinking Majority" is a very blatant, punk-attitude critique not just of our leadership now, but it could apply to Rome, it could apply to any empire, or any type of situation where you have a failed democracy, where you have a democracy taken hostage by ulterior motives. It's also a critique of society in general, a society that has allowed themselves to be kidnapped.

MJ: Many people can point to a specific time at which they started to become politically engaged. When did that happen for you?

ST: I was pretty young. Being Armenian and growing up in the U.S. where the government does not recognize the [Armenian] massacres as a genocide because of geopolitical expediency or economic expediency having to do with Turkey being a NATO ally and all of that, it made me feel like, "If this is a truth that's out there being denied because of ulterior motives, what other truths are there out there being denied for other reasons?"

MJ: The Armenian National Committee of America announced three days before this interview that the Armenian Genocide resolution, co-authored by Adam Schiff (D-CA) would be delayed in coming to the house floor, again, until later this year or in early 2008. How involved are you with that resolution?

ST: I actually work with Congressman Schiff, and the Armenian National Committee in terms of recognizing the genocide. The year before last, I went to D.C. with John from my band, and we held a meeting with about 20 congressman and a few senators, talking about the resolution. For me it's a personal thing, because my grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. And it is the door that opened me up to other activism, so it is very personal, and the crux of where my activism comes from. It's a part of who I am.

MJ: A New York Times article from a week and a half earlier talked about the fact that U.S. troops and supplies go through Turkey, and since Turkey is an ally in the war right now, Bush doesn't want to rock the boat right now by bringing up genocide recognition. What's your take on that?

ST: I understand the idea behind the Incirlik Air Force Base (a large military base in southeastern Turkey, and a key re-supply hub for Iraq) and the utilization of that to supply forces of ours in Iraq. I read a New York Times article in which a general said the air base is definitely useful, but we can make do without it if we have to. We have other supply lines. It will take some time, and it will take some work, but we can get it through Kuwait, we can get it through Jordan, we can make it happen. To me, it's an expediency issue. It's a commitment to convenience issue. To deny a genocide because of convenience and expediency having to do with an illegal war or occupation in Iraq to me, is double hypocritical.

MJ: So if you are Turkey, how do you move forward?

ST: Part of the problem with Turkey is that to them, they feel like they have to redefine their whole nation if they accept this. What are they going to tell their own people, whole generations that are growing up thinking it never happened, to suddenly saying yes it happened? To them, it's a national identity issue.

MJ: You formed the nonprofit group Axis of Justice with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello a while back to fight for social justice issues. How does it address some of the things we're discussing?

ST: We raise funds for worthy causes, and we use it as a mouthpiece for his and my activism, as well as other things that people in the organization bring in. Tom's worked with different organizations working with New Orleans and Katrina. He works with a lot of domestic labor issues. I work with foreign policy, the Iraq war, and genocide. So, if we were running a government [laughs], I would be the foreign policy guy, he'd be the interior guy.

MJ: How do you and Tom Morello connect, exactly, and how does that make Axis of Justice work? Do you both agree on everything? What do you argue about?

ST: We argue about the Beatles. I'm a bigger Beatles fan than he is.

MJ: What music inspires you?

ST: When I was younger, I was listening to a lot of Armenian music, you know, revolutionary music about freedom and protest. In the 70s I was listening to soul and the Bee Gees and ABBA, and funk. In the 80s I was listening to a lot of goth and new wave, and in the late 80s I got into rock and metal and punk, and pop and hip-hop, and death metal. In the last few years I've been listening to jazz more than anything else. I listen to a lot of world music and experimental here and there.

MJ: You have this acrobatic vocal range where you're kind of all over the place. You do a falsetto, operatic thing that can be a challenge to listen to sometimes, and mid-range melodic type of things, and there's also some shouting in there, too. What do you think about when you're coming up with ideas of things to express vocally, and is there something in particular you're trying to achieve, or are you just sort of letting it all go?

ST: Just letting it all go.

MJ: What about taking heat for your music and your activism? I'm sure you've gotten some negative backlash at some point.

ST: Oh yeah. I think the worse backlash I got was for writing an article called "Understanding Oil", which I posted to the band's website on September 12, the day after 9/11. At the time our album Toxicity was coming out, and we had our top single "Chop Suey" being dropped by program directors, and Howard Stern dissing me. I had hate mail, I had death threats. But in retrospect, now people come up to me and say "you were right." The letter was a harmless plea for peace. I was just trying to make sense of the helplessness that I felt.

MJ: How do you see things going in 2008? Do you any of the issues you're talking about will come to the surface more and guide how people will vote?

ST: A presidential election, nor a candidate, is no magic bullet. I think the only way is for us to be aware of what's going on as a populace. I think we should get rid of the electorate. I think it's a useless, outdated system that allows someone to manipulate or reverse majority rule, or popular vote. I think every major candidate should be given equal TV airtime. Right now people vote for who they think might win, not who they think really represents them. Let's make it about the issues again. Even if it's Dennis Kucinich, who is my favorite candidate, to be honest, because the only one that didn't vote for the war, because he was smart enough to know it was bullshit. But even if he became president, we're so far gone as a civilization. It will be really difficult to bring the reins back.

MJ: Have you ever performed in Turkey before?

ST: No, but in '98 we were supposed to open up for Slayer there, and the show promoter there said they could not guarantee our security. Sony, who was our label at the time, also could not guarantee our security. We said we're not going to do this show because we don't have the ability to speak freely in your country. Then I noticed a very specific attack in the media. They had these outrageous assertions that we printed tickets for shows that said "No Turks Allowed." Just ridiculous shit like that. Then Rolling Stone Turkey did an interview with me. I spent hours talking, writing, everything. My only thing was, I told them they had to print the interview in its entirety or not at all, because they can change your words. And they would not. That article is still not printed. I'm not a radical, dude. I'm just asking for truth, whether it's that country or our country. It's no different. And that's not being radical, that's being human.

MJ: Are you spiritual or religious in any way? Do you practice any organized religion?

ST: When people ask me what religion I am, I always say, see that tree outside, go ask the trees the same thing, you know? I believe very firmly that indigenous populations had a really good, intuitive understanding of why we're here. And we're trying to gain that same understanding through psychology and intellect in modern civilization. We're not there. I've been doing an interesting experiment with journalists, that after they interview me, we send them a question from me to answer, which is "What does civilization mean to you, and what would its ending bring to the world?"

MJ: Am I going to get that question?

ST: Yes, you are. We're getting a lot of interesting answers. What I've noticed is that we equate humanity with civilization, which is really interesting, because man's been on this planet for millions of years and civilization has been around for 10,000 years. What we call history is 10,000 years old. My assertion is that we are addicted to the cities of civilization. We're like that guy sitting at home that orders pizza every night, and if that pizza doesn't come, we're fucked. That's how I think of civilization. But I'm part of that, too. I'm a city boy.

MJ: If you were to stop doing music someday, what do you see yourself doing?

ST: I think I might write a book. I like writing. People have asked me if I would get into politics, but I think I feel a lot more effective being a representative of truth through the arts. I think music and poetry should be a truth-telling narration of our times, like a Dylan song represents the 60s in some ways, or the Beatles, or whatever. My two interests are spirituality and politics. I would mesh them in some way; maybe try to figure out the politics of spirituality, or the spirituality of politics. Or maybe come up with this really crazy naïve solution for the end of civilization.

Gary Moskowitz is a senior online fellow at Mother Jones.

This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2007 The Foundation for National Progress

Monday, January 21, 2008

Irony? President Bush Honoring MLK.

Historians fear MLK's legacy being lost


Nearly 40 years after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some say his legacy is being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

"Everyone knows — even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King — can say his most famous moment was that 'I have a dream' speech," said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo. "No one can go further than one sentence. All we know is that this guy had a dream. We don't know what that dream was."

King was working on anti-poverty and anti-war issues at the time of his death. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War and was in Memphis when he was killed in April 1968 in support of striking sanitation workers.

King had come a long way from the crowds who cheered him at the 1963 March on Washington, when he was introduced as "the moral leader of our nation" — and when he pronounced "I have a dream" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

By taking on issues outside segregation, he had lost the support of many newspapers and magazines, and his relationship with the White House had suffered, said Harvard Sitkoff, a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire who has written a recently published book on King.

"He was considered by many to be a pariah," Sitkoff said.

But he took on issues of poverty and militarism because he considered them vital "to make equality something real and not just racial brotherhood but equality in fact," Sitkoff said.

Scholarly study of King hasn't translated into the popular perception of him and the civil rights movement, said Richard Greenwald, professor of history at Drew University.

"We're living increasingly in a culture of top 10 lists, of celebrity biopics which simplify the past as entertainment or mythology," he said. "We lose a view on what real leadership is by compressing him down to one window."

That does a disservice to both King and society, said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

By freezing him at that point, by putting him on a pedestal of perfection that doesn't acknowledge his complex views, "it makes it impossible both for us to find new leaders and for us to aspire to leadership," Harris-Lacewell said.

She believes it's important for Americans in 2008 to remember how disliked King was before his death in April 1968.

"If we forget that, then it seems like the only people we can get behind must be popular," Harris-Lacewell said. "Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one."

In becoming an icon, King's legacy has been used by people all over the political spectrum, said Glenn McNair, associate professor of history at Kenyon College.

He's been part of the 2008 presidential race, in which Barack Obama could be the country's first black president. Obama has invoked King, and Sen. John Kerry endorsed Obama by saying "Martin Luther King said that the time is always right to do what is right."

Not all the references have been received well. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came under fire when she was quoted as saying King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

King has "slipped into the realm of symbol that people use and manipulate for their own purposes," McNair said.

Harris-Lacewell said that is something people need to push back against.

"It's not OK to slip into flat memory of who Dr. King was, it does no justice to us and makes him to easy to appropriate," she said. "Every time he gets appropriated, we have to come out and say that's not OK. We do have the ability to speak back."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Damn Dams

Tricycle's Daily Dharma: January 19, 2008

The river flows rapidly down the mountain, and then all of a sudden it gets blocked with big boulders and a lot of trees. The water can't go any farther, even though it has tremendous force and forward energy. It just gets blocked there. That's what happens with us, too; we get blocked like that. Letting go at the end of the out-breath, letting the thoughts go, is like moving one of those boulders away so that the water can keep flowing, so that our energy and our life force can keep evolving and going forward. We don't, out of fear of the unknown, have to put up these blocks, these dams, that basically say no to life and to feeling life.

--Pema Chodron, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1 from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Amazing, What a Simple Idea Can Do.....

Smurfs Mark 50th Birthday in Belgium

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — They're turning 50 without a hint of gray.

Just blue. Lots of blue.

The Smurfs are hitting the half-century mark, and Papa Smurf and Smurfette helped kick off a year of celebrations Monday with sarsaparilla juice and — naturally — Smurfberry cake.

The late cartoonist Pierre Culliford — best known by his pen name, "Peyo" — first introduced the tiny blue figures in a comic strip in October 1958. He called them Schtroumpf; they became known worldwide as the Smurfs.

The Smurfs, forest dwellers who live in little white-capped mushroom homes, developed their own "Smurf" language in which nouns and verbs were interchanged.

Their debut on U.S. television in 1981 launched their global rise to stardom and made the Smurfs a household name. A Smurf is a Pitufo in Spanish, a Schlumpf in German, Nam Ching Ling to the Chinese, a Sumafa in Japan and Dardassim in Hebrew.

"I think that if he could see all that has been done with his characters since his death and the success and interest that the Smurfs still attract, he would be very, very, very, very happy and very proud," said Peyo's son, Thierry Culliford.

To mark 50 years of Smurfdom, organizers are planning everything from a 3-D animation feature film expected to be released next year to new comic book collections and a remastered release of the popular 1980s television animated series, Peyo's family said.

Peyo's widow and two children will help kick off a European birthday tour in Brussels. The Smurfs celebration will continue in Paris and Berlin.

The Smurfs also will team up with the UNICEF to promote children's rights and education worldwide, said Yves Willemont of UNICEF Belgium.

"The Smurfs and UNICEF have a lot of values in common — values about joy, happiness and respect," Willemont said. "We also have in common the fact that we are dedicated to the cause of children and to the promotion of every child and the right of every child to survive."

UNICEF and the Smurfs joined forces two years ago to raise the plight of ex-child soldiers in Africa.

Born in Brussels, Peyo worked as a movie projectionist before entering the world of comic strip drawing.

The Smurfs appeared as a supporting cast of characters in Peyo's 1958 "Johan and Pirlouit" cartoon, which was set in the Middle Ages.

The Smurfs quickly grew in popularity and by 1960, the Smurfs had their own comic strip series and. With the help of the Hanna-Barbera Productions, the Smurfs became an animated cartoon in 1981.

Thierry Culliford said the Smurfs promote love and friendship. He said many who grew up watching the Smurfs on TV during the 1980s and 1990s now are parents and want to introduce the Smurfs to their children.

Demand for Smurf stories continues, said Hendrik Coysman, managing director of IMPS, which controls the rights of the Smurf brand worldwide.

"Thousands of fans are asking for more stories and these will be based of course on the fantastic asset that Peyo has left us," Coysman said.

Peyo, who died 15 years ago, "would be very happy if he were here today" to see Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Handy, Jokey and the troop of 96 others celebrate 50 years of Smurfmania, daughter Veronique Culliford said.

On the Net:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Now It's time for Something Completely Different.....

It's Never Too Late

The old couple go to their lawyer and announce that they want a divorce.

The lawyer says: ''What? You're both wellover 100 years apiece. You've been married since you were kids. Why now?''

The wife says, ''We were waiting for the kids to die.''

-(from Shitao's web site)

80 year old woman marries for the 4th time

The local news station was interviewing an 80 year old lady because she had just gotten married again for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation.

'He's a funeral director,' she answered.

'Interesting,' the newsman thought. He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living.

She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she'd first married a banker when she was in her early 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, later on a preacher when in her 60's, and now in her 80's, a funeral director.

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained, 'I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go.'

-(From my friend Margo)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pity a Dream Shattered...........

Photos by Jill Greenberg

“Pity the Nation,”
after Khalil Gibran.

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation—oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.


Monday, January 07, 2008

The Number 1 Most Censored Story of 2007

No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”

Consortium, October 19, 2006
Title: “Who Is ‘Any Person’ in Tribunal Law?”
Author: Robert Parry

Consortium, February 3, 2007
Title: “Still No Habeas Rights for You”
Author: Robert Parry

Common Dreams, February 2, 2007
Title: “Repeal the Military Commissions Act and Restore the Most
American Human Right”
Author: Thom Hartmann

Student Researchers: Bryce Cook and Julie Bickel
Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, Ph.D.

With the approval of Congress and no outcry from corporate media, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, ushered in military commission law for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in the New York Times October 19, have given false comfort that we, as American citizens, will not be the victims of the draconian measures legalized by this Act—such as military roundups and life-long detention with no rights or constitutional protections—Robert Parry points to text in the MCA that allows for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional justice system for “any person” regardless of American citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus rights for “any person” arbitrarily deemed to be an “enemy of the state.” The judgment on who is deemed an “enemy combatant” is solely at the discretion of President Bush.

The oldest human right defined in the history of English-speaking civilization is the right to challenge governmental power of arrest and detention through the use of habeas corpus laws, considered to be the most critical parts of the Magna Carta which was signed by King John in 1215.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist #84 in August of 1788:

The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. The practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious [British eighteenth-century legal scholar] Blackstone, in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital:

“To bereave a man of life” says he, “or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.”

While it is true that some parts of the MCA target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to US citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with non-citizen residents and foreigners.

Section 950q of the MCA states that, “Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter [of the MCA] who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission.”1

Section 950v. “Crimes Triable by Military Commissions” (26) of the MCA seems to specifically target American citizens by stating that, “Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct.”1

“Who,” warns Parry, “has ‘an allegiance or duty to the United States’ if not an American citizen?”

Besides allowing “any person” to be swallowed up by Bush’s system, the law prohibits detainees once inside from appealing to the traditional American courts until after prosecution and sentencing, which could translate into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables for Bush’s tribunal process to play out.

Section 950j of the law further states that once a person is detained, “ not withstanding any other provision of law (including section 2241 of title 28 or any other habeas corpus provision) no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”1

Other constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights, such as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable bail, and the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” would seem to be beyond a detainee’s reach as well.

Parry warns that, “In effect, what the new law appears to do is to create a parallel ‘star chamber’ system for the prosecution, imprisonment, and possible execution of enemies of the state, whether those enemies are foreign or domestic.

“Under the cloak of setting up military tribunals to try al-Qaeda suspects and other so-called unlawful enemy combatants, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress effectively created a parallel legal system for ‘any person’—American citizen or otherwise—who crosses some ill-defined line.”

In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales opined at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, 2007, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended.”

More important than its sophomoric nature, Parry warns, is that Gonzales’s statement suggests he is still searching for arguments to make habeas corpus optional, subordinate to the President’s executive powers that Bush’s neoconservative legal advisers claim are virtually unlimited during “time of war.”

1. “Military Commissions Act of 2006” Public Law 109-366, 109th Congress. See


The Consortium series on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 pointed out that the law’s broad language seems to apply to both US citizens and non-citizens, contrary to some reassuring comments in the major news media that the law only denies habeas corpus rights to non-citizens. The law’s application to “any person” who aids and abets a wide variety of crimes related to terrorism—and the law’s provisions stripping away the jurisdiction of civilian courts—could apparently thrust anyone into the legal limbo of the military commissions where their rights are tightly constrained and their cases could languish indefinitely.

Despite the widespread distribution of our articles on the Internet, the major US news media continues to ignore the troubling “any person” language tucked in toward the end of the statute. To my knowledge, for instance, no major news organization has explained why, if the law is supposed to apply only to non-citizens, one section specifically targets “any person [who] in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States.” Indeed, the “any person” language in sections dealing with a wide array of crimes, including traditional offenses such as spying, suggests that a parallel legal system has been created outside the parameters of the US Constitution.

Since publication of the articles, the Democrats won control of both the House and Senate—and some prominent Democrats, such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have voiced their intent to revise the law with the goal of restoring habeas corpus and other rights. However, other Democrats appear hesitant, fearing that any attempt to change the law would open them to charges that they are “soft on terrorism” and that Republicans would torpedo the reform legislation anyway. Outside of Congress, pro-Constitution groups have made reform of the Military Commissions Act a high priority. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union organized a national protest rally against the law. But the public’s lack of a clear understanding of the law’s scope has undercut efforts to build a popular movement for repeal or revision of the law.

To learn more about the movement to rewrite the Military Commissions Act, readers can contact the ACLU at

On June 8, 2007 the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act on an 11-8 vote. If approved, the bipartisan bill, authored by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, will restore habeas rights that were taken away last year by the Military Commissions Act. The bill will move to the full Senate for vote late June 2007.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

2nd Most Censored Story of 2007

Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
From Project Censored

Toward Freedom , October 25, 2006
Title: “Bush Moves Toward Martial Law”
Author: Frank Morales

Student Researchers: Phillip Parfitt and Julie Bickel
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Merrifield, Ph.D.

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, which was quietly signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, the very same day that he signed the Military Commissions Act, allows the president to station military troops anywhere in the United States and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”

By revising the two-century-old Insurrection Act, the law in effect repeals the Posse Comitatus Act, which placed strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. The 1878 Act reads, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” As the only US criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people, it has been our best protection against tyranny enforced by martial law—the harsh system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Historically martial law has been imposed by various governments during times of war or occupation to intensify control of populations in spite of heightened unrest. In modern times it is most commonly used by authoritarian governments to enforce unpopular rule.1

Section 333 of the Defense Authorization Act of 2007, entitled “Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law,” states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service—to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or “refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order—in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

Thus an Act of Congress, superceding the Posse Comitatus Act, has paved the way toward a police state by granting the president unfettered legal authority to order federal troops onto the streets of America, directing military operations against the American people under the cover of “law enforcement.”

The massive Defense Authorization Act grants the Pentagon $532.8 billion to include implementation of the new law which furthermore facilitates militarized police round-ups of protesters, so-called illegal aliens, potential terrorists, and other undesirables for detention in facilities already contracted and under construction, (see Censored 2007, Story #14) and transferring from the Pentagon to local police units the latest technology and weaponry designed to suppress dissent.

Author Frank Morales notes that despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007’s Defense Authorization Act contained a “widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order without the consent of the nation’s governors.”

A few weeks later, on September 29, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had “grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report,” the language of which, he said, “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.” This had been “slipped in,” Leahy said, “as a rider with little study,” while “other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”

Leahy noted “the implications of changing the [Posse Comitatus] Act are enormous.” “There is good reason,” he said, “for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.”

Morales further asserts that “with the president’s polls at a historic low and Democrats taking back the Congress it is particularly worrisome that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.”

1. See, “Martial Law,” May 2007


On April 24, 2007, Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the Adjutant General, Washington National Guard, and Director of the Washington Military Department, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on “The Insurrection Act Rider and State Control of the National Guard.” He was speaking in opposition to Section 1076 of the recently passed 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Bush quietly signed into law this past October 17. The law clears the way for the President to execute martial law, commandeer National Guard units around the country and unilaterally authorize military operations against the American people in the event of an executive declaration of a “public emergency.”

This move toward martial law, which is intended to facilitate more effective counterinsurgency measures on the home front, took place, according to Lowenberg, “without any hearing or consultation with the governors and without any articulation or justification of need.” This, despite the fact that Section 1076 of the new law “changed more than one hundred years of well-established and carefully balanced state-federal and civil-military relationships.” In other words, with one swipe of the pen, says the General, “one hundred years of law and policy were changed without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change.”
Its “Federal Plans for Implementing Expanded Martial Law Authority” are to be executed via the recently created domestic military command, the Northern Command or NORTHCOM. “One key USNORTHCOM planning assumption,” says Lowenberg, “is that the President will invoke the new Martial Law powers if he concludes state and/or local authorities no longer possess either the capability or the will to maintain order.” In fact, this “highly subjective assumption,” as Lowenberg puts it, has been in the works for some time now. According to the General, the “US Northern Command has been engaged for some time in deliberative planning for implementation of Section 1076 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization. The formal NORTHCOM CONPLAN 2502-05 was approved by Secretary of Defense Gates on March 15, 2007.”

Further, according to the General, the 2007 NDAA provisions “could be used to compel National Guard forces to engage in civil disturbance operations under federal control.” In that case, NORTHCOM will effectuate its move to martial law, its “CONPLAN,” by way of its very own “civil disturbance plan,” Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, code-named Garden Plot. Major Tom Herthel, of the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General School, recently laid out the Rules of Engagement & Rules for the Use of Force during the implementation of “GARDEN PLOT,” which according to Herthel, is ”the plan to provide the basis for all preparation, deployment, employment, and redeployment of all designated forces, including National Guard forces called to active federal service, for use in domestic civil disturbance operations as directed by the President.” Among other things, the “rules” allow for the use of lethal force during domestic “civil disturbance operations.”

That is why many are urging Congress to repeal Section 1076 of the 2007 NDAA through immediate enactment of Senate Bill 513. Introduced in February 2007, and sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill seeks to repeal, or as the Congress puts it, “revive previous authority on the use of the Armed Forces and the militia to address interference with State or Federal law, and for other purposes,” through the “Repeal of Amendments made by Public Law 109-364-Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007.”

It is critical that Senate Bill 513 becomes law, and that our popular struggle succeeds in beating back the President’s attempt to further codify the immoral and criminal seizure of state control via woefully ill-advised and dictatorial moves toward martial law and military rule.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

3rd Most Censored Story in 2007

AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources

Source: 2/21/2007
Title: “Understanding AFRICOM”
Author: Bryan Hunt

Student Researcher: Ioana Lupu
Faculty Evaluator: Marco Calavita, Ph.D

In February 2007 the White House announced the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control of Africa’s oil and its global delivery systems.

The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade and investment in Africa threatens to substantially reduce US political and economic leverage in that resource-rich continent. The political implication of an economically emerging Africa in close alliance with China is resulting in a new cold war in which AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving full-spectrum military dominance over Africa.

AFRICOM will replace US military command posts in Africa, which were formerly under control of US European Command (EUCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM), with a more centralized and intensified US military presence.

A context for the pending strategic role of AFRICOM can be gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle East. CENTCOM grew out of the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a “vital interest” of the US, and affirmed that the US would employ “any means necessary, including military force” to overcome an attempt by hostile interests to block that flow.

It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa that the US military force is most rapidly increasing, as this area is projected to become as important a source of energy as the Middle East within the next decade. In this region, challenge to US domination and exploitation is coming from the people of Africa—most specifically in Nigeria, where seventy percent of Africa’s oil is contained.

People native to the Niger Delta region have not benefited, but instead suffered, as a result of sitting on top of vast natural oil and natural gas deposits. Nigerian people’s movements are demanding self-determination and equitable sharing of oil-receipts. Environmental and human rights activists have, for years, documented atrocities on the part of oil companies and the military in this region. As the tactics of resistance groups have shifted from petition and protest to more proactive measures, attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have curtailed the flow of oil leaving the region. As a Convergent Interests report puts it, “Within the first six months of 2006, there were nineteen attacks on foreign oil operations and over $2.187 billion lost in oil revenues; the Department of Petroleum Resources claims this figure represents 32 percent of ‘the revenue the country [Nigeria] generated this year.’”

Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting to link these resistance groups to international terror networks in order to legitimize the use of the US military to “stabilize” these areas and secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found however to link the Niger Delta resistance groups to international terror networks or jihadists. Instead the situation in the Niger Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any means necessary, toward the political objective of self-determination. The volatility surrounding oil installations in Nigeria and elsewhere in the continent is, however, used by the US security establishment to justify military “support” in African oil producing states, under the guise of helping Africans defend themselves against those who would hinder their engagement in “Free Trade.”

The December 2006 invasion of Somalia was coordinated using US bases throughout the region. The arrival of AFRICOM will effectively reinforce efforts to replace the popular Islamic Courts Union of Somalia with the oil industry–friendly Transitional Federal Government. Meanwhile, the persistent Western calls for “humanitarian intervention” into the Darfur region of Sudan sets up another possibility for military engagement to deliver regime change in another Islamic state rich in oil reserves.

Hunt warns that this sort of “support” is only bound to increase as rhetoric of stabilizing Africa makes the dailies, copied directly out of official AFRICOM press releases. Readers of the mainstream media can expect to encounter more frequent usage of terms like “genocide” and “misguided.” He notes that already corporate media decry China’s human rights record and support for Sudan and Zimbabwe while ignoring the ongoing violations of Western corporations engaged in the plunder of natural resources, the pollution other peoples’ homelands, and the “shoring up” of repressive regimes.

In FY 2005 the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative received $16 million; in FY 2006, nearly $31 million. A big increase is expected in 2008, with the administration pushing for $100 million each year for five years. With the passage of AFRICOM and continued promotion of the Global War on Terror, Congressional funding is likely to increase significantly.

In the end, regardless of whether it’s US or Chinese domination over Africa, the blood spilled will be African. Hunt concludes, “It does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.”

Update by Bryan Hunt

By spring 2007, US Department of Energy data showed that the United States now imports more oil from the continent of Africa than from the country of Saudi Arabia. While this statistic may be of surprise to the majority, provided such information even crosses their radar, it’s certainly not the case for those figures who have been pushing for increased US military engagement on that continent for some time now, as my report documented. These import levels will rise.

In the first few months following the official announcement of AFRICOM, details are still few. It’s expected that the combatant command will be operational as a subunit of EUCOM by October 2007, transitioning to a full-fledged stand-alone command some twelve months later. This will most likely entail the re-locating of AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, where EUCOM is headquartered, to an African host country.

In April, US officials were traversing the continent to present their sales pitch for AFRICOM and to gauge official and public reaction. Initial perceptions are, not surprisingly, negative and highly suspect, given the history of US military involvement throughout the world, and Africa’s long and bitter experience with colonizers.

Outside of a select audience, reaction in the United States has barely even registered. First of all, Africa is one of the least-covered continents in US media. And when African nations do draw media attention, coverage typically centers on catastrophe, conflict, or corruption, and generally features some form of benevolent foreign intervention, be it financial and humanitarian aid, or stern official posturing couched as paternal concerns over human rights. But US military activity on the continent largely goes unnoticed. This was recently evidenced by the sparse reporting on military support for the invasion of Somalia to rout the Islamic Courts Union and reinstall the unpopular warlords who had earlier divided up the country. The Pentagon went so far as to declare the operation a blueprint for future engagements.

The DOD states that a primary component of AFRICOM’s mission will be to professionalize indigenous militaries to ensure stability, security, and accountable governance throughout Africa’s various states and regions. Stability refers to establishing and maintaining order, and accountability, of course, refers to US interests. This year alone, 1,400 African military officers are anticipated to complete International Military Education and Training programs at US military schools.

Combine this tasking of militarization with an increased civilian component in AFRICOM emphasizing imported conceptions of “democracy promotion” and “capacity-building” and African autonomy and sovereignty are quick to suffer. Kenyans, for example, are currently finding themselves in this position.

It is hoped that, by drawing attention to the growing US footprint on Africa now, a contextual awareness of these issues can be useful to, at the very least, help mitigate some of the damages that will surely follow. At the moment, there is little public consciousness of AFRICOM and very few sources of information outside of official narratives. Widening the public dialogue on this topic is the first step toward addressing meaningful responses.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

4th Most Censored Story in 2007

Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
From Project Censored
Oxfam International, March 2007
Title: “Singing Away The Future”

IPS coverage of Oxfam Report March 20, 2007
Title: “Free Trade Enslaving Poor Countries”
Author: Sanjay Suri

Student Researcher: Ann Marie O’Toole
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Ph.D.

The Oxfam report, “Signing Away the Future,” reveals that the US and European Union (EU) are vigorously pursuing increasingly destructive regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements outside the auspices of the WTO. These agreements are requiring enormous irreversible concessions from developing countries, while offering almost nothing in return. Faster and deeper, the US and EU are demanding unprecedented tariff reductions, sometimes to nothing, as the US and EU dump subsidized agricultural goods on undeveloped countries (see story #21), plunging local farmers into desperate poverty. Meanwhile the US and EU provide themselves with high tariffs and stringent import quotas to protect their own producers. Unprecedented loss of livelihood, displacement, slave labor, along with spiraling degradation of human rights and environments are resulting as economic governance is forced from governments of developing countries, and taken over by unaccountable multinational firms.
During 2006, more than one hundred developing countries were involved in FTA or Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations. “An average of two treaties are signed every week,” the report says, “Virtually no country, however poor, has been left out.”

Much of the recent debate and controversy over trade negotiations has revolved around the increasingly devastating trade-distorting practices of rich countries versus the developing countries’ needs for food security and industrial development. The new generation of agreements, however, extends far beyond this traditional area of trade policy—imposing a damaging set of binding rules in intellectual property, services, and investment with much deeper consequences for development and impacts on the poor.

Double standards in the intellectual-property rights chapters of most trade agreements are glaring. As new agreements limit developing countries’ access to patented technology and medicines—while failing to protect traditional knowledge—the public-health consequences are staggering. The US-Colombia FTA is expected to reduce access to medicines by 40 percent and the US-Peru FTA is expected to leave 700,000 to 900,000 Peruvians without access to affordable medicines.

US and EU FTAs also require the adoption of plant-breeder rights that remove the right to share seeds among indigenous farmers. The livelihood of the world’s poorest farmers is thus made even more vulnerable, while profit margins of the world’s largest agribusinesses continue to climb. US FTAs are now pushing for patents on plants, which will not only limit the rights of farmers to exchange or sell seeds, but also forbid them to save and reuse seed they have grown themselves for generations. Under US FTAs including DR-CAFTA, US–Peru and US–Colombia FTAs, developing-country governments will no longer be able to reject a patent application because a firm fails to indicate the origin of a plant or show proof of consent for its use from a local community. As a result, communities could find themselves forced to pay for patented plant varieties based on genetic resources from their own soil.

New rules also pose a threat to essential services as FTAs allow foreign investors to take ownership of healthcare, education, water, and public utilities.

Investment chapters of new FTAs and BITs allow foreign investors to sue for lost profits, including anticipated future profits, if governments change regulations, even when such reforms are in the public interest. These rules undermine the sovereignty of developing nations, transferring power from governments to largely unaccountable multinational firms. A growing number of investment chapters and treaties further tip the scales of justice by preventing governments from screening or regulating foreign investment—banning the use of all ‘performance requirements’ in all sectors including mining, manufacturing, and services.

More than 170 countries have signed international investment agreements that provide foreign investors with the right to turn immediately to international investor-state arbitration to settle disputes, without first trying to resolve the matter in national courts. Such arbitration fails to consider public interest, basing decisions exclusively on commercial law.

Not only is the legal basis for investment arbitration loaded against public interest, so are the proceedings. Despite the fact that many arbitration panels are hosted at the World Bank and the United Nations, the investment arbitration system is shrouded in secrecy. It is virtually impossible to find out what cases are being heard, let alone the outcome or rationale for decisions. As a result, there is no body of case decisions to inform governments of developing countries when drafting investments agreements.

Oxfam notes that the only group privy to this information is an increasingly powerful select group of commercial lawyers, whose fees often place them out of reach of developing-country governments. These lawyers, according to the Oxfam report, are eager to advise foreign investors regarding opportunities to claim compensation from developing countries under international investment agreements.

Strong opposition is growing to the political asymmetry inherent in these bilateral trade and investment agreements (see stories #8, #19, and #21). As Oxfam notes, “It is in nobody’s long-term interest to have a global economy that perpetuates social, economic, and environmental injustice.”


While real progress toward achieving a development-friendly outcome in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round is still quite elusive, the negotiation of bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) that would undermine development continues at an unabated pace.

In the United States, the new Democratic leadership in Congress recently negotiated changes in the areas of labor, environment, and intellectual property in regard to access to medicines that are to be incorporated into the completed FTAs awaiting Congressional ratification. If implemented as agreed, these changes would mean important progress in enforcing core International Labor Organization standards and multilateral environmental agreements, and in promoting public health over private profits by reducing onerous protections for pharmaceutical monopolies. Still, more must be done in these areas, and harmful provisions remain in several other areas that will adversely affect developing countries, particularly the poor.

Without further changes, the FTAs create a profoundly unfair situation in which the US provides massive domestic agricultural supports and subsidies that allow products to be exported below their cost of production, while developing country trading partners are left with no means of protection. With large portions of their populations dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods, the FTAs provide no effective safeguard to protect poor farmers from unfair competition. In addition, investment rules in the FTAs will hinder local and national governments from directing foreign investment so that it contributes to sustainable development. The investment chapter will give foreign companies leeway to challenge investment regulations, such as laws to protect the environment and public health. These and other provisions would deny developing countries the policy space needed to further their own development.

The US Administration hopes to bring FTAs with Peru, Panama, Colombia and Korea to a vote this year, although it remains doubtful whether there would be sufficient Congressional support to move the latter two. Congressional leadership is insisting that Colombia must also address its serious problems of violence and impunity, particularly as suffered by trade unionists, and has raised market-access concerns with regard to South Korea.

In a similar vein, the European Union has proceeded with FTA negotiations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries by pushing forward negotiating texts that will undermine the ability of poor countries to effectively govern their economies, protect their poorest people, improve livelihoods, and create new jobs. Going beyond the provisions negotiated at a multilateral level, the EU is making requests that would impose far-reaching, hard-to-reverse rules in the areas of market access, agriculture, services and intellectual property. At the same time, the EU is proceeding to open formal negotiations with Central American countries for an FTA that would impose similar rules that undermine development. A similar agreement with Andean countries is expected to follow, and plans have been announced to open negotiations with ASEAN, India, and South Korea. In all of these negotiations, the EU, like the US, is failing to put development first.

For more information, please see

5th Most Censored Story in 2007

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
From Project Censored

CorpWatch, October 17, 2007
Title: “A US Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build World’s Largest Embassy”
Author: David Phinney

Student Researcher: Kristen Kebler and Angela Purcaro
Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, Ph.D.

The enduring monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq will be the most expensive and heavily fortified embassy in the world—and is being built by a Kuwait contractor repeatedly accused of using forced labor trafficked from South Asia under US contracts. The $592 million, 104-acre fortress equal in size to the Vatican City is scheduled to open in September 2007. With a highly secretive contract awarded by the US State Department, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting has joined the ranks of Halliburton/KBR in Iraq by using bait-and-switch recruiting practices. Thousands of citizens from countries that have banned travel or work in Iraq are being tricked, smuggled into brutal and inhumane labor camps, and subjected to months of forced servitude—all in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone, “right under the nose of the US State Department.”

Though Associated Press reports that, “The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy are far more numerous than at any other US mission worldwide,”1 there is no mention in corporate media of the 3,000 South Asian laborers working for contractors in dangerous and abysmal living and working conditions.

One such contractor is First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting. FKTC has procured several billion dollars in US construction contracts since the war began in March 2003. Much of its work is performed by cheap labor hired from South Asia. The company currently employs an estimated 7,500 foreign laborers in theaters of war.

American FKTC employees report having witnessed the issuance of false boarding passes to Dubai, and passport seizure from planeloads of South Asian workers, who were instead routed to war-torn Baghdad. Former US Embassy construction manager for FKTC, John Owen, disclosed to author David Phinney that the deception had all the appearance of smuggling workers into Iraq.

On April 4, 2006, the Pentagon issued a contracting directive following an investigation that officially confirmed that contractors in Iraq, many working as subcontractors to Halliburton/KBR, were illegally confiscating worker passports, using deceptive bait-and-switch hiring practices, and charging recruiting fees that indebted low-paid migrant workers for many months or even years to their employers.

Section 1. (U) of the Pentagon directive states, “An inspection of contracting activities supporting DoD in Iraq revealed evidence of illegal confiscation of worker (Third Country National) passports by contractors/subcontractors; deceptive hiring practices and excessive recruiting fees, substandard worker living conditions at some sites, circumvention of Iraqi immigration procedures by contractors/subcontractors and lack of mandatory trafficking in persons awareness training. This FRAGO [fragmentary order] establishes responsibilities within MNF-1 for combating trafficking in persons.”
An April 19, 2006 memorandum from Joint Contracting Command in Baghdad to All Contractors again states that, “Evidence indicates a widespread practice of withholding employee passports to, among other things, prevent employees ‘jumping’ to other employers. All contractors engaging in the above mentioned practice are directed to cease and desist in this practice immediately.”

The Pentagon has yet to announce, however, any penalty for those found to be in violation of US labor trafficking laws or contract requirements.

In a resignation letter dated June 2006, Owen told FKTC and US State Department officials that his managers at the US Embassy site regularly beat migrant workers, demonstrated little regard for worker safety, and routinely breached security. He also complained of poor sanitation, squalid living conditions and medical malpractice in labor camps where several thousand low-paid migrant workers, recruited from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan lived. Those workers, Owen noted, earned as little as $10 to $30 for a twelve-hour workday.

Rory Mayberry, a medic subcontracted to FKTC to attend construction crews at the Embassy, shares similar complaints about treatment of migrant laborers. In reports made available to the US State Department, the US Army, and FKTC, Mayberry called for the closure of the onsite medical clinic, listing dozens of serious safety hazards, unsanitary conditions, as well as routine negligence and malpractice. He furthermore called for an investigation into deaths that he suspected resulted from medical malpractice. Mayberry is not aware of any follow-up on his allegations.

Owen says that State Department officials supervising the US Embassy project are aware of abuse, but apparently do nothing. He recalls, “Once when seventeen workers climbed the wall of the construction site to escape, a State Department official helped round them up and put them in virtual lockdown.”

Phinney says that more FKTC employees are stepping forward to say that Owen’s and Mayberry’s testimonies “only begin to scratch the surface” of the conditions workers are forced to endure in building this monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq.

1. Associated Press, “New US Embassy in Iraq Cloaked in Mystery,” MSNBC, April 14, 2006.

When I first heard that Project Censored would recognize this story on the low-wage migrant laborers from South Asia building the US embassy in Baghdad, I admit I felt the story was a failure. Allegations of forced labor, lousy treatment of workers and beatings struck me as something that should rise to the level of torture at Abu Ghraib. Despite what appears to be a whitewash review of the embassy project by the State Department Inspector General that exonerated the contractor—even though more than a dozen sources on the site say conditions were abysmal—I am now encouraged by a recent effort at the US Justice Department to investigate allegations of labor trafficking and other matters. But the problem of labor abuse has been found to be “widespread” among contractors in the theater of war in Iraq. Unfortunately, not one contractor has been penalized—in fact, many are being rewarded with new US-funded contracts. That is a crime to humanity that may haunt the United States for years to come.