Monday, March 31, 2008

Feel Comforted That Your Cup of Hot Chocolate Might Be the Product of Child Slavery....

Drissa, a former cocoa slave.
Courtesy of K. Bales

Loretta Napoleoni on “Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality”

Guest on Democracy Now:

Loretta Napoleoni, Economist, syndicated journalist and bestselling author of Terror, Inc.: Tracing the Money Behind Global Terrorism. Her latest book is called Rogue Economics: Capitalism"s New Reality.

AMY GOODMAN: US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will unveil his blueprint today for the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression. As the dollar continues to sink and the credit crisis continues to grow, Paulson is expected to outline the Bush administration’s plan for Washington’s role in the market. But some analysts suggest the proposal will have little to do with the real scope of the current crisis.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Italian economist, journalist, author Loretta Napoleoni argues, recent events on Wall Street indicate a much larger upheaval and could “signal the end of the ‘Roaring Nineties,’ nearly two decades of easy money, cheap credit, and soaring global debt.” It’s an argument Napoleoni develops in her latest book called Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality.

We’re joined right now by Loretta Napoleoni, just before she heads back to London. Thank you very much for being with us.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Thank you for inviting me.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by “rogue economics”?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Rogue economics is a sort of umbrella under which we find the criminal economy, the illegal economy, but also those gray areas, gray areas where there is not a proper regulation, where there is not legislation for the economy. Now, these gray areas in this particular crisis are being created by globalization. Now, this happens generally when there are great transformations. We have seen it during the Industrial Revolution, but we also have seen it during the crisis in 1929. The economy suddenly starts moving faster than politics, and politics can’t manage to keep pace with it, so it can’t manage to regulate the economy. So, the current crisis is the product of the 1990s, of the easy money, cheap credit of the 1990s.

AMY GOODMAN: You begin your book with a very provocative idea of democracy and slavery coinciding in many different countries at many different times.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Yes, that’s one of the phenomena of rogue economics. So I found a correlation between the spreading of democracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise in slavery. Now, as countries, former Communist countries, became so-called democratic, people started to be enslaved by their own countrymen.

And the first example is the most shocking example, I would say, is the rise in sex slaves and also prostitution in Western Europe. Women from the former Soviet bloc were lured into prostitution, sex slavery by the Mafia. These women were desperate, because with the collapse of the Communist economy, they were unemployed. I mean, women unemployment went from virtually zero, before the fall of the Wall, to 80 percent. These women were desperate. They had to feed their own children, so they became prostitutes. So this is just one of the examples.

But we also see this phenomenon in the past. I mean, decolonization actually boosted slavery. As foreign powers withdrew from the colonies, people were enslaved by their own countrymen. And we see it in Africa, we see it in Asia.

AMY GOODMAN: Give more examples.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Well, I think one interesting example, for example, is what’s happened in a certain sector, for example, the cocoa production in the Ivory Coast. The majority of the cocoa that we eat, it is actually produced by young kids which are being enslaved in the plantations of the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is the largest producer of cocoa. Now, why does this happen? This happens for a series of complicated reasons, which are also the economic dependency of Africa from the industrialized countries. So, I mean—

AMY GOODMAN: These are large multinational corporations, the cocoa companies.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Yes, absolutely. Cocoa companies are controlled by a group of multinationals. So is coffee. Coffee is controlled by two main multinationals, which is Nestle and Starbucks. So, sometimes when we drink our coffee, we don’t know that this coffee is actually produced by slaves, that it is produced through exploitation of growers in Africa, and this is because of the globalization market.

AMY GOODMAN: What about going back in history to slavery in this country, in the United States?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Well, I think that what we are facing today is something very, very similar to what’s happened in this country several centuries ago, because when I talk about slavery, I do not talk about the new form of slavery. I talk about people who are deprived of their freedom, who are forced to work for, you know, the slave traders, who are given only the sustenance to survive and nothing else. It is true slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you view the US economy as a rogue economy?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Yes, of course, the US economy it is a rogue economy. All Western economies at the moment are rogue economies, for the simple reason that politics has lost control of the economy. And I’ll give you an example. This decision of President Bush, for example, to give a tax rebate could end up being a rogue maneuver without even the President or the administration wanted that. So, we give a tax rebate to people in order to boost consumption. But if these people buy products, which are produced abroad, for example, in the Far East and China, the benefit of this new consumption is not going to stay inside the US economy. And that’s one aspect. The other aspect is how many people will use the tax rebate to pay back part of their credit card debt, because, you know, bankruptcy, personal bankruptcy in this country in 2006 was—the rate of growth was higher than the rate of growth of the GDP. This is a country which is in serious economic problems.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about high-tech as a mixed blessing; why?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Well, I take it as a mixed blessing, because, to a certain extent, it gave us the possibility to spread information through the internet, of course, all over the world. Here we are, and people can watch us, which is fantastic. But at the same time, the internet has become a new vehicle for theft, for criminal activities, prostitution, pornography, and so on and so forth. I mean, for example, pornography, child pornography is the biggest business in the internet. So why is it a mixed blessing? Because nobody can control the internet. So that’s a very good example of rogue economics.

AMY GOODMAN: Back here in this country, the bailout of Bear Stearns, the intervention of the Fed, your analysis of that?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: I think that’s very much in line with what has happened in the United Kingdom with Northern Rock. The panic at the moment is that if one bank folds, then we’re going to have a domino effect. So, this is exactly what has happened in 1929. The crash of 1929 was not really the cause of the Depression. The cause of the Depression was the failure of banks, and people panicking. So what the Fed is trying to do is trying to prevent another massive failure of banks. Now, why Bear Stearns ended up in that situation, that’s the key question. Why was a bank allowed to borrow way over the amount of money that it could actually pay back? This is the key question. And the answer is, lack of regulation. And even this proposal, that is on the table today, I mean, really—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds

LORETTA NAPOLEONI: Well, even this proposal, it would be only a temporary—it would be a band-aid. It’s not going to solve the problem.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for joining us, Loretta Napoleoni. Her book is called Rogue Economics.


The Following is from

Love Chocolate at is a resource that spreads awareness about and promotes activism to eliminate the use of children as slave labor in the cocoa industry.

Partial text from the "So you Love Chocolate" brochure:

Child Slavery

Due to increased poverty, changing traditions, and corrupt governments, Africa is rampant with child slavery in many areas.

Côte d’Ivoire produces 43% of the world’s chocolate, and employs over 200,000 [update: 284,000] children in cocoa, coffee, and cotton (Global Exchange, 2005).

Suffering economies demand cheap labor, leaving parents unable to support large families. Families are bribed to give up their children, promised that paychecks will be sent back, or the workers are simply kidnapped and trafficked to plantations.

There the children are subject to horrible conditions, abuse, and punishment for any resistance. Those who manage to escape are shunned and must find work on their own, creating a new kind of orphan.

If this generation of workers is paid decent wages, they are more likely to afford education and a childhood for their children that does not include the violence they endured.

Companies Responsible

Major chocolate manufacturers are aware of the atrocities occurring daily on many cocoa plantations in West Africa. In 2001 the Harkin-Engle Protocol was proposed, setting labor standards, monitoring, and certification for chocolate farms.

But this is only in writing. Little progress has been made in the industry: the companies choose to ignore this issue, their representatives have no data to present, and because the companies are so large, they can get away with this not-so-secret horror.

U.S. law "prohibits the importation of products made with ‘forced or indentured child labor’ under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1307 (1997)" (International Labor Rights Fund, 2004).

Slaves' ChocolateSome major companies that knowingly use chocolate produced by slave labor:

  • Hershey’s
  • M&M/Mars
  • Nestlé
  • Kraft
  • Toblerone
  • Hauser Chocolates
  • and others...

• Please remember that companies carry several lines of candy — read the label to determine the parent company! (eg. Snickers is made by M&M/Mars)

Fair Trade Chocolate

There are many companies that make an effort to only purchase fair trade cocoa, often from South American farms instead of West African ones. Most of these companies make organic, high quality chocolate bars that distinguish them from possible slave-made, mass-produced cheap chocolate. Although these chocolates are more expensive, buying them supports labor rights and human dignity, which is worth the price.

Fair trade companies are more likely to be found in grocery stores that make organic or fair trade foods their mission. Try looking in local stores, family owned markets, or chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Fair Trade Certified LogoSome companies that do not use chocolate produced by slave labor:

  • Green & Black’s
  • Global Exchange Chocolate
  • Newman’s Own Organics
  • Clif Bar
  • Teuscher
  • The Endangered Species Chocolate Co.
  • Montezuma’s Chocolates
  • and more!

• Look for a Fair Trade Certified logo ( that may appear on some products, and not only on chocolate!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why Do Capitalists Only Believe In Capitalism When They Are Getting Rich?

and why does the working class have to pay for it?

Ten Days That Changed Capitalism

Officials Improvised
To Rescue Markets;
Will It Be Enough?

By DAVID WESSEL for the Wall Street Journal
March 27, 2008

The past 10 days will be remembered as the time the U.S. government discarded a half-century of rules to save American financial capitalism from collapse.

On the Richter scale of government activism, the government's recent actions don't (yet) register at FDR levels. They are shrouded in technicalities and buried in a pile of new acronyms.

But something big just happened. It happened without an explicit vote by Congress. And, though the Treasury hasn't cut any checks for housing or Wall Street rescues, billions of dollars of taxpayer money were put at risk. A Republican administration, not eager to be viewed as the second coming of the Hoover administration, showed it no longer believes the market can sort out the mess.

"The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II," economist Ed Yardeni wrote to clients.

First, over St. Patrick's Day weekend, the Fed (aka the Lender of Last Resort) and the Treasury forced the sale of Bear Stearns, the fifth-largest U.S. investment bank, to J.P. Morgan Chase at a price so low that a shareholder rebellion prompted J.P. Morgan to raise the price. To induce J.P. Morgan to do the deal, the Fed agreed to take losses or gains, if any, on up to $29 billion of securities in Bear Stearns's portfolio. The outcome will influence the sum the Fed turns over to the Treasury, so this is taxpayer money; that's why the Fed sought Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's OK.

Then the Fed lent directly to Wall Street securities firms for the first time. Until now, the Fed has lent directly only to Main Street banks, those that take deposits from ordinary folks. That's because banks were viewed as playing a unique economic role and, supposedly, were more closely regulated than other types of lenders. In the first three days of this new era, securities firms borrowed an average of $31.3 billion a day from the Fed. That's not small change, and it's why Mr. Paulson, after the fact, is endorsing changes to give the Fed more access to these firms' books.

Increased Leverage

In the days that followed, the Republican Treasury secretary leaned on two shareholder-owned, though government-chartered, companies -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- to raise capital that their boards didn't want to raise. In exchange, their government regulator allowed them to increase their leverage so they can buy about $200 billion more in mortgage-backed securities.

So Fannie and Freddie will get bigger, a welcome development when mortgage markets are in trouble. Already, they have regained lost market share. They accounted for 76% of new mortgages in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 46% in the second quarter, Mr. Paulson said Wednesday. But everyone knows that if Fannie or Freddie stumble, taxpayers will get stuck with the tab.

And then, the federal regulator of the low-profile Federal Home Loan Banks, which are even less well capitalized than Fannie and Freddie, said they could buy twice as many Fannie and Freddie-blessed mortgage-backed securities as previously permitted -- more than $100 billion worth.

Was this necessary? It's messy, uncomfortable and undoubtedly flawed in many details. Like firefighters rushing to a five-alarm fire, policy makers are making mistakes that will be apparent only in retrospect.

Too Great to Ignore

But, regardless of how we got here, the clear and present danger that the virus in the housing, mortgage and credit markets is infecting the overall economy is too great to ignore. The Great Depression was worsened because the initial government reaction was wrong-headed. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spent an academic career learning how to avoid repeating those mistakes.

Is it working? It is helping. One key measure is the gap between interest rates on mortgages and safe Treasury securities. A wide gap means high mortgage rates, which hurt an already sickly housing market. A lot of recent activity, including Wednesday's previously planned auction in which the Fed is trading Treasurys for mortgage-backed securities, is aimed at increasing demand for those securities to drive down mortgage rates.

The gap remains enormous by historical standards, but has narrowed. On March 6, according to FTN Financial, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were trading at 2.92 percentage points above the relevant Treasury rates; Wednesday the gap was down to 2.22. Normal is about 1.5 percentage points. Money markets are still under stress, as banks and others hoard cash and super-safe short-term Treasurys.

Is it enough? Probably not. Although it's hard to know, the downward tug on the overall economy from falling house prices persists. The next step, if one proves necessary, is almost sure to require the explicit use of taxpayer money.

Cushion the Blow

The case for doing more is twofold. One is to cushion the blow to families and communities, even if some are culpable. The other is to disrupt a dangerous downward spiral in which falling prices of houses and mortgage-backed securities lead lenders to pull back, hurting the economy and dragging asset prices down further, and so on.

In ordinary times, a capitalist economy lets prices -- such as those of homes, mortgage-backed securities and stocks -- fall to the point where the big-bucks crowd rushes in, hoping to make a killing. But if the big money remains on the sidelines, unpersuaded that a bottom is near, the wait for bargain hunters to take the plunge could be very long and very painful.

So the next step, no matter how it is dressed up, is likely to involve the government's moving in ways that put a floor under prices, hoping that will limit the downside risks enough so more Americans are willing to buy homes and deeper-pocketed investors are willing, in effect, to lend them the money to do so.

Write to David Wessel at capital@wsj.com3

The Fed Packages Corruption as Sound Public Policy

By David Sirota, Creators Syndicate
Posted on March 21, 2008, Printed on March 21, 2008

The Federal Reserve Bank's decision last week to address the housing crisis by extending $200 billion of taxpayer-financed credit to Wall Street banks was met with a stunned reaction typical of surprising events. But really, the move was the expression of longstanding isms that routinely package corruption as sound public policy.

Some background: During the housing boom, banks doled out home loans to financially strapped borrowers, often on predatory terms. On the creditor side, these same banks packaged many of the loans as complex securities and sold them off to unwitting investors, generating a handsome profit on the paper transactions. At the same time, Wall Street used campaign contributions to coerce Congress into blocking anti-predatory-lending bills and repealing a landmark law regulating how banks could buy and sell securities.

Predictably, many borrowers are now defaulting on their loans, meaning losses for financial institutions that hold mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed responded with what author Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism -- the age-old practice of using a crisis to enrich corporate interests. In this case, the Fed is using the housing emergency to justify giving taxpayer cash to Wall Street in exchange for its worthless mortgages.

"What the Fed really did was lend money to banks and accept the counterfeit currency as collateral, treating it just as though it were real money," says Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

But this is not only disaster capitalism, it is also Big Boy Bailout-ism -- the kind we've become accustomed to since the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. It is an ideology that rewards wealthy political donors for irresponsible behavior and ignores the real victims.

If you are a banking executive whose risky loans go bad, your industry's campaign donations get you Big Boy Bailout-ism that makes taxpayers "take the bad loans off the banks' books," as one financial analyst gushed this week. If you are a regular Joe who can't pay your home loan, you get foreclosed on.

The Fed's scheme also embraces Feed-the-Beast-ism -- an ideology that prescribes pumping taxpayer money into a crisis, rather than demanding reforms.

Confronting an energy and climate emergency, Republicans' answer was not massive alternative energy investments, but a 2005 energy bill giving tax breaks to the carbon-belching fossil fuel companies that finance the GOP. In the face of a health care catastrophe, the Bush administration's 2003 Medicare bill didn't crack down on pharmaceutical industry profiteering, but instead created a system that effectively subsidizes drug industry campaign donors. The list of examples goes on, and now includes the housing crisis.

The Fed's action says the solution to the credit crunch is not to re-regulate the banking industry or force it to clean house, but to loan Wall Street your hard-earned taxpayer money, allowing the same destructive system to remain and permitting the same vultures to stay in their jobs -- and, of course, to keep writing big campaign checks.

But worst of all is the Trickle Down-ism. For three decades, our government has said economic challenges can be solved with tax cuts for the wealthy -- the same people who, not coincidentally, underwrite political campaigns. Trickle Down-ism claims that the wealthy will spend the tax cuts and the benefits will "trickle down" to us commoners.

It's the same nonsense with housing today. The root of the financial crisis is mortgage defaults -- brought on, in part, by Trickle Down-ism's original failure to raise wages. Yet, rather than help borrowers pay or restructure their mortgages, the government is covering the banks' losses, claiming that aid will eventually "trickle down" and benefit the rest of us.

During the Great Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt said, "We need not fear any isms if our democracy is achieving the ends for which it was established." It's the "if" part that has become the problem.

David Sirota is a nationally syndicated weekly newspaper columnist for Creators Syndicate. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government and How We Take It Back (Crown 2006). He is also a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network. His second book, The Uprising, is due in the Spring of 2008.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Sky Really is Falling........

Bush Diplomacy: Predator Planes Are Conducting Assassinations by Air

By Tom Engelhardt, Posted March 17, 2008.

Attacks all over the planet by U.S. Predator planes suggest Bush thinks he has the "right" to kill civilians.

Imagine, for a moment, that you live in a small town somewhere near the Southern California coast. You're going about your daily life, trying to scrape by in hard times, when the missile hits. It might have come from the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) -- its pilot at a base on the outskirts of Tehran -- that has had the village in its sights for the last six hours or from the Russian sub stationed just off the coast. In either case, it's devastating.

In Moscow and Tehran, officials announce that, in a joint action, they have launched the missile as part of a carefully coordinated "surgical" operation to take out a "known terrorist," a long-term danger to their national security. A Kremlin spokesman offers the following statement:

"As we have repeatedly said, we will continue to pursue terrorist activities and their operations wherever we may find them. We share common goals with respect to fighting terrorism. We will continue to seek out, identify, capture and, if necessary, kill terrorists where they plan their activities, carry out their operations or seek safe harbor."

A family in a ramshackle house just down the street from you -- he's a carpenter; she works at the local Dairy Queen -- are killed along with their pets. Their son is seriously wounded, their home blown to smithereens. Neighbors passing by as the missile hits are also wounded.

As it happens, there are no terrorists in the vicinity. Outraged, you organize your neighbors and march angrily in protest through the town, shouting anti-Russian, anti-Iranian slogans. But, of course, there is nothing you can really do. Iran and Russia are far away, their weaponry powerful, your arms nonexistent. The state of California is incapable of protecting you. This is, in fact, at least the fourth time in recent months that a "terrorist" has been declared "taken out" from the air or by a ship-based cruise missile, when only innocent Californians have died.

As news of the "collateral damage" from the botched operation dribbles out, the Russian and Iranian media pay next to no attention. There are no outraged editorials. Official spokesmen see no need to comment further. No one is held responsible and no promises are made in either Tehran or Moscow that similar assassination strikes won't be launched in the near future, based on "actionable intelligence," possibly even on the same town. In fact, the next day, seeing UAVs once again soaring overhead, you load your pick-up and prepare to flee.

Swatting Flies in Somalia

Philip K. Dick meet George W. Bush. When it comes to such a thing happening in the United States, we are, of course, at the wildest frontiers of science fiction. The U.S. is a sovereign nation. We guard our air space and coastal waters jealously. Any country violating them for purposes of aggressive action, no less by launching a missile against an American town, would be committing an act of war and would certainly be treated accordingly.

If, somehow, such an event did occur, it would be denounced in Washington and on editorial pages across the country as a shocking contravention of international legal conventions and a crime of war unless, of course, we did it in a country where sovereignty has been declared meaningless.

In fact, an almost exact replica of the above fictional incident -- at least the fourth of its kind in recent months -- did indeed take place at the beginning of March in the embattled failed state of Somalia. (For that country's most recent abysmal collapse, the Bush administration, via an invasion by Ethiopian proxy forces, can take significant credit.) One or two houses in Dobley, a Somali town, were hit, possibly by two submarine-launched Tomahawk Cruise missiles in what a U.S. official termed "a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists."

The missiles were evidently meant for Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, an al-Qaedan suspect in the bloody bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He was, however, not in Dobley, despite the "actionable intelligence" on hand. Accounts of the dead and wounded in the town vary. One report claimed only wounded Somalis (and two dead cows); most spoke of anywhere from four to ten dead civilians. Local district Commissioner Ali Nur Ali Dherre told CNN that three women and three children had been killed and another 20 people wounded. While a "U.S. military official said the United States is still collecting post-strike information and is not yet able to confirm any casualties. He described [the] strike as 'very deliberate' and said forces tried to use caution to avoid hitting civilians."

For the dead Somalis, not suprisingly, we have no names. In stories like this, the dead are regularly nobodies and, though the townspeople of Dobley did indeed march angrily in protest yelling anti-American slogans, just about no one noticed.

In our world, only the normal smattering of small news reports dealt with this modest sidebar in the President's Global War on Terror (GWOT). On the GWOT scorecard -- if you remember, for a long time George Bush kept "his own personal scorecard" of top terror suspects in a desk drawer in the Oval Office, crossing off al-Qaedan figures as U.S. forces took them down -- this operation hardly registered. One terrorist missed, and not for the first time, possibly a few dead peasants in some god-forsaken land. Please, move on

In a recent Pentagon briefing for reporters featuring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen, who had just returned from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, 4,500 words of back-and-forth were interrupted by this question from a reporter:

"Secretary Gates, the strike on Somalia two days ago -- did the missiles that were fired -- did they strike their target? And was the target Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan? Do you have a report back from the field? And Admiral Mullen, what message did you give to President Musharraf, and why did you meet with him?"

Gates responded to the Somali part of the question in eight words: "You know we don't talk about military operations." He might have added: …unless they're successful.

That was evidently all that the incident and its minor "collateral damage" deserved in such a global war. So Gates and Mullen moved on immediately. So many matters more important than a single "decapitation" strike that didn't succeed to consider.

The Decapitation Strike as Global Policy

Minor as that Somali mis-strike might seem, this is not, in fact, a small matter. Think of that strike and the many like it around the world over these last years as reflections of George Bush's post-9/11 update of globalization. After all, the most basic principle of his Global War on Terror has been the erasure of global boundaries and whatever international agreements about war-making might go with them.

Across the Islamic world, in particular, boundaries simply no longer matter. In fact, in such regions no aspect of sovereignty can now constrain a U.S. president from acting as he pleases in pursuit of whatever he may personally define as American interests.

"Assassinations by air" are, writes David Case in Mother Jones magazine, "a relatively new tactic in warfare." By the beginning of 2006, however, U.S. Predator drones "bearing Hellfire missiles -- the preferred weapon in decapitation [strikes] -- had already hit 'terrorist suspects overseas' at least 19 times since 9/11." Such strikes and other similar operations by air, land, and sea have been a crucial follow-on to the Bush administration's proclamations, immediately after 9/11, that there would be no "safe havens" for terrorists on the planet, nor safety for those countries which housed them, inadvertently or otherwise. Within days of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, Bush administration officials were already identifying up to 60 countries-cum-targets.

This aspect of the Bush Doctrine, of what the President likes to call staying "on the offensive," when mixed with a couple of decades of "advances" in air warfare, including the development of sophisticated, missile-armed drones, "smart bombs," "precision-guided munitions," and the like, has resulted in a lethal globalizing brew of assassination and destruction. It recognizes neither boundaries, nor sovereignty across much of the planet. With all its "actionable" possibilities, it will surely be with us long after George W. Bush has left office.

Of course, those few nameless dead or wounded Somali civilians -- swatted like so many flies and forgotten as quickly as flies would be -- don't faintly match up against the "dozens" of Iraqi civilian deaths that, according to Human Rights Watch, were caused by 50 decapitation strikes launched against the top officials of Saddam Hussein's regime back in March 2003. (Not a single official was harmed.) Nor do they quite make it into the company of the "Afghan elders" being taken to President Hamid Karzai's inauguration back in 2001, who were mistaken "for a Taliban group" and bombed, with 20 killed; nor the 30 or more guests at an Afghan wedding party back in 2002 blown away by 2,000-pound bombs after celebratory gunfire was evidently mistaken for an attack (no apologies offered); nor that wedding party in the Western desert of Iraq near the Syrian border wiped out in 2004 with 42 deaths, including 27 in one extended family, 14 children in all. They were, of course, taken for terrorists. (As U.S. Major General James Mathis put the matter in offering an explanation: "How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?") And these are just a few prominent cases, not including the civilians killed in periodic Predator and other strikes in Pakistani border areas, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere whom no fuss is ever made about -- not here, anyway.

After all, there's always going to be "collateral damage" when you keep your eye -- and your 2,000-pound bomb or Hellfire missile -- focused on the prize.

The "Right" to Kill Civilians

Remember back in the 1990s, when the glories of an economically borderless world were being limned? Just after September 11, 2001, the Bush administration proudly declared us to be in a far darker world without borders (except, of course, when it came to our own). In this new world, whether we knew it or not, whether we cared or not, we granted our highest officials -- specifically our military and intelligence services -- the full powers of prosecutor, defense counsel, judge, jury, and executioner, as well as the right to report on such events only to the extent, and as, they wished. This was the sort of power that monotheistic religions normally granted to an all-powerful god, that kingdoms generally left to absolute rulers, and that dictators have always tried to take for themselves (though just, of course, in the domains under their control).

Our domain, it seems, is now much of the globe, when it comes to the bloody work of assassinating individuals via bombs or missiles that, however precise, surgical, and smart, are weapons meant to kill en masse and largely without discrimination.

There are still limits of sorts on such actions. These put bluntly -- though no one is likely to say this --- are the limits imposed, in part, by racism, by gradations, however unspoken, in the global value given to a human life.

The Bush administration has, so far, only been willing to carry out "decapitation" strikes in countries where human life is, by implication, of less or little value. It has yet to carry one out in London or Hamburg or Tokyo or Moscow or the Chinese countryside, even though "terrorist suspects" abound everywhere, even (as with the Anthrax attacks of 2001) in our own country. On the other hand, given the impetus of this kind of globalization, who knows when such a strike might come. After all, the CIA has already carried out clearly illegal, sovereignty-violating "extraordinary rendition" operations (kidnappings of terror suspects) on the streets of European cities.

In this country, we still theoretically venerate the sovereign self ("the individual") and that self's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Despite George Bush's "Freedom Agenda," however, the sovereignty, not to say the life, liberty, and happiness of other peoples, individually or collectively, have not really been much on our minds these last years. Our freedom of action, our safety, has been the only freedom, the only "security," to which we have attached much global value. And don't for a second think that, when the "actionable intelligence" comes in to John McCain's, Hillary Clinton's, or Barack Obama's Oval Office, those Predators won't be soaring or those cruise missiles leaving subs lurking off some coast -- and that innocent civilians elsewhere won't continue to die.

In places like Somalia, we deliver death, and every now and then an American bomb or missile actually obliterates a terrorist suspect. Then we celebrate. The rest of time, it's hardly even news. When the deeper principle behind such global strikes is mentioned in our papers, in some passing paragraph, it's done -- as in a recent Washington Post article about a Predator strike, piloted from Nevada, that killed a suspected "senior al-Qaeda commander" in Pakistan -- in this polite way: "Independent actions by U.S. military forces on another country's sovereign territory are always controversial" (Imagine the language that the Washington Post would use, if that had been a Pakistani drone strike in Utah.)

This version of globalization is already so much the norm of our world that few here even blink an eye when it's reported, or consider it even slightly strange. It's already an American right. In the meantime, other people, who obviously don't rise to the level of our humanity, regularly die.

And here's the thing: In our world, there is a chasm that can never be breached between, say, a Sunni extremist clothed in a suicide vest who walks into a market in Baghdad with the barbaric intent of killing as many Shiite civilians as possible, and an air or missile attack, done in the name of American "security" and aimed at a "known terrorist," that just happens to -- repeatedly --- kill innocent civilians. And yet, what if you know before you launch your attack, as American planners certainly must, that the odds are innocents (and probably no one else) will die?

Not so long ago in the United States, presidentially sanctioned assassinations abroad were illegal. But that was then, this is so now. Nonetheless, it's a fact that the "right" to missile, bomb, shell, "decapitate," or assassinate those we declare to be our enemies, without regard to borders or sovereignty, is based on nothing more than the power to do it. This is simply the "right" of force (and of technology). If the tables were turned, any American would recognize such acts for the barbarism they represent.

And yet, late last week, like clockwork, the Associated Press brought us the latest notice: "In Afghanistan, a spokesman for the American-led coalition said troops had used 'precision-guided munitions' to strike a compound about a mile inside Pakistan…" This operation was, as they all are, said to be based on "reliable intelligence"; in this case, "senior" Taliban commanders were said to be in residence.

As it happened, according to the Pakistani military and the AP reporter who made it to Tangrai, a village of about forty houses, the residence hit was that of "Noor Khan, a greengrocer who said the house was his family home." The AP reporter added that "only one of its four walls was standing amid a tangle of mud bricks, bedding and cooking pots." And Noor Khan, who was quoted saying, "We are innocent, we have nothing to do with such things," claimed that six of his relatives, four women and two boys, had been killed. (The Pakistani military, on investigating, reported that two women and two children had died.)

This was but the latest minor decapitation strike, and -- we can be sure of this -- not the last. Philip K. Dick move over. We're already in your future.

[Note: Let me strongly recommend David Case's article, "The U.S. Military's Assassination Problem," in the March/April issue of Mother Jones magazine, quoted in the above piece. A well researched, thoughtful, and rare discussion of what we know about the Bush administration's global assassination campaign from the air, it is an accomplishment. I have relied on it in writing this essay.]


See more stories tagged with: predator planes

Tom Engelhardt, editor of, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture.

Give Peace a Chance........

The 50th Anniversary Of The Peace Symbol

March 23, 2008
(CBS) We all know the Peace Symbol, which Americans of a certain age associate with the protests against the Vietnam War. Fewer know that the symbol is much older than that, dating back to ANOTHER protest across the sea in Britain. Richard Roth tells us all about it:

Fifty years ago on a cold, grim Easter holiday, a protest was meant to be a watershed: a global call to ban the bomb.

People marched from London to a factory in the countryside where Britain built its atomic bombs. Pat Arrowsmith was among those early campaigners for nuclear disarmament.

"It was quite clear that we were not just against the tests, and we were not just against the British bomb," Arrowsmith said. "We were against the Soviet bomb and against the U.S. bomb."

The nuclear weapons industry at Aldermaston is still very much alive. But so is the spirit of that protest fifty years ago. It lives on in a symbol born here that became an icon.

Gerald Holtom was the artist and textile designer who created it.

A conscientious objector during World War II, he was driven to the nuclear disarmament campaign, he said, by a feeling of despair.

Holtom's daughter Anna Scott, also an artist, remembers the image of her father's despair, in the paintings of Goya.

"He used the Goya painting of the despairing image of the person who was being shot, in Spain - I don't know whether the despair was to do with his personal situation or whether it was to do with the world situation, and sometimes these can be muddled up, can't they?"

Working in his West London studio, Holtom sought to transform that muddled despair into something tidy and neat: a symbol for the campaign for nuclear disarmament, based on the Naval sign language of semaphore.

Michael Randle was there in 1958 when Holtom explained his idea: matching the 'N' for nuclear & a straight up-and-down 'D' for 'Disarmament,' with a circle around it. "That's the symbol, very simple and straightforward," Randle recalled. "It was that explanation coupled with his vision of what the march would be like, his sketch of what the march would be like, that really sold it to us and we said, 'Right, we will adopt that.'"

Not without controversy. It was inevitable that Holtom's simple three lines and a circle would bewilder at least one of the anti-nuclear campaigners.

"He looked at it and he said, 'What on earth were you three thinking about when you adopted that symbol? It doesn't mean a thing and it will never catch on.' Of course, he was thinking of the traditional things of a broken rifle, or a dove or something that would be immediately associated in people's minds with peace, and if you're looking at it now it's impossible to separate it from all the history that has gone on since."

Impossible, almost, to imagine some history without it.

The 'n' and 'd' of nuclear disarmament were its source, but its meaning quickly embraced a bigger cause: as a symbol for protest in the broadest sense, more specifically as a sign for peace.

An international brand that became as familiar as a stop sign - from grim and gritty, to groovy, like a universal trademark, according to design consultant Richard Williams.

"The clever thing about it is, it's a mark we can all remember," Williams said. "Because we can all draw it. You have to see it once to be able to draw it and there are very few marks that work that way. That's why it can grow so quickly, why so many people can adopt it, because they can just scribble it. So when people were making placards they didn't get it wrong, they knew what it was."

And because Gerald Holtom and the anti-nuclear campaign deliberately didn't copyright the symbol, no one owns it - or, perhaps everyone does.

"We believe that brands don't belong to companies, they belong to people, they're made in people's minds," Williams said. "This isn't a brand, this is much more than that. This is a movement and an attitude of mind.

"It's the dream of every brand owner to get in there and own the territory, and [this] happened to do it and did it very well."

CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, is still doing it: printing signs, preparing for another march. It never managed to ban the bomb. But the spirit of its symbol is still booming.

"It's been used as a badge against tyranny in Greece," recalled Arrowsmith. "It's been used as a badge against apartheid in South Africa, it's been used just as a general peace logo, it's been worn by U.S. U.S. troops opposing the war in Vietnam, it's become very much an anti-war symbol, but also an anti-tyranny symbol.

"I think it's a good symbol because it is actually quite simple"

Simple, as simple as the three lines and a circle, etched on the headstone of Gerald Holtom's grave.

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Feedback Terms of Service Privacy Statement

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I Think We're Getting Fooled Again.......

Won't Get Fooled Again
The Who

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Hour Has Come......

Hopi Elders' Prophecy
Oraibi, Arizona, June 8, 2000

You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you
must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are
things to be considered. . . .

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader.

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, "This could be a
good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and
swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on
to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer
greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let
go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes
open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in
history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For
the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the one wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word 'struggle' from your attitude and your vocabulary. All
that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Tricycle's Daily Dharma: March 13, 2008

Three Friends and A MonkThere's a story of three people who are watching a monk standing on top of a hill. After they watch him for a while, one of the three says, "He must be a shepherd looking for a sheep he's lost." The second person says, "No, he's not looking around. I think he must be waiting for a friend." And the third person says, "He's probably a monk. I'll bet he's meditating." They begin arguing over what this monk is doing, and eventually, to settle the squabble, they climb up the hill and approach him. "Are you looking for a sheep?" "No, I don't have any sheep to look for." "Oh, then you must be waiting for a friend." "No, I'm not waiting for anyone." "Well, then you must be meditating." "Well, no. I'm just standing here. I'm not doing anything at all." ...[S]eeing Buddha-nature requires that we... completely be each moment, so that whatever activity we are engaged in--whether we're looking for a lost sheep, or waiting for a friend, or meditating--we are standing right here, right now, doing nothing at all.

--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Where is a Leader When You Need One????

Swim Against the Current: Jim Hightower on Grassroots Struggles to Change Healthcare, Religion, Banking and More

We speak with syndicated columnist, author and radio commentator, Jim Hightower about his latest book, Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow. Hightower served two terms as Texas agriculture commissione, and served as a superdelegate at the 1992 Democratic Convention. He has endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests in studio are George McGovern, the former senator, Democratic presidential candidate of 1972—he has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president; Jim Hightower is also with us, the syndicated columnist, rabble-rouser, national radio commentator, bestselling author. He has just gone on the road with his new book Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.

Jim, you are—you were a superdelegate, and you have been stumping for Barack Obama; why?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, a superdelegate—I’m going to have to freshen up my resume, I think. I don’t have that listed on there. But I felt really super about it in 1992. It didn’t mean anything back then.

AMY GOODMAN: Who chose you?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Just as Senator McGovern was indicating, you’re chosen by the party officials. I had just been the agriculture commission and so was allowed. I didn’t want to take a slot of a real delegate, so it was possible to slip me in there into that. And as I say, it didn’t mean a damn thing. You were still the same sort of delegate. You had the same level of vote and everything. But this time it’s different.

And yeah, I support Barack Obama. To me, the significant thing about the Obama phenomena is not him, it’s the phenomena, the fact that we have millions of new voters, excited voters, people who have not been voting in the past, but who feel that this time they matter and that they have a potential not just to send Obama to the White House, but for them to go into the White House, not just the party operatives, not just the usual special interests, but for the people themselves to be able to go in. I don’t think anybody thinks that Obama—and I don’t even think he thinks that there’s any sainthood here, there’s any magic going to come, just by him being president. But with him, I think we’ve got a potential to have a real progressive government, because the people themselves would be a force in it.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator George McGovern, you’ve made a different decision; you’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton.

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, I endorsed Hillary last October. And I have to say that friendship had a lot to do with it. She and her then-boyfriend, a guy by the name of Bill Clinton, were the coordinators of the McGovern campaign in Texas in 1972. That was a brave undertaking. As Jim Hightower can testify, trying to sell George McGovern in Texas in 1972 was a daunting task. They worked their fannies off for me in ’72 all across that state. And so, when she decided to run for president, in a sense, it was kind of a “It’s my turn now.”

I have to tell you this, Jim, that I have ten grandchildren. All ten of them are working for Barack Obama. That’s an indication of the influence I have in my own family. I’ve got three daughters and one son. They’re all working for Barack. So I’m the old fogey in the McGovern family this year, unlike ’72, when I was way out in front.

But I agree with everything Jim Hightower said here, that Barack Obama has touched on a theme and a style and a content to his program that has brought millions of new people into the fold. That’s precisely what I did in 1972. We ran into all kinds of trouble once I was nominated, but we steered many of the same currents that are moving now. So I’ll be happy to support either Hillary or Barack, depending on which one wins the nomination. And whichever one wins, we’ll have a candidate that’s a country mile ahead of the opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator McGovern, if you were endorsing today, who would you endorse?

GEORGE McGOVERN: I would stay with Hillary. I don’t change my mind on things like this in the middle of the battle. I made the decision to back her, and I’ll stay with her. I don’t want to be jumping around from one candidate to another. And as I said, we’ve got two excellent candidates here, both well qualified. And I’ll be out campaigning for whichever one wins. Am I ducking your question? Yes.


GEORGE McGOVERN: Because I want to stay with the person I chose six months ago.

AMY GOODMAN: There was an interesting piece in the New York Times about how your whole group in 1972, they’re coming together around Hillary Clinton—“’72 McGovern Team Rallies for One of Its Own.” It says, “Frank Herrera, a prominent lawyer in Texas, was sitting at home two Saturdays ago when he received a [telephone] call. The voice at the end of the line was that of an old friend from Senator George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, who had since become the godfather, at least to some, of the Democratic Party. ‘We’ve been with you all these years,’ former President Bill Clinton said, according to Mr. Herrera. ‘Now the time has come for you to be with us,’” talking about Herrera, going back to your 1972 campaign.

“Garry Mauro, a veteran Texas Democrat who ran the Youth for McGovern operation, [is] now Mrs. Clinton’s state director. Roy Spence, an Austin advertising executive who created advertisements for the McGovern campaign, [is] deeply involved in [Mrs.] Clinton’s media strategy in Texas. Even a receptionist from the McGovern campaign, Nancy Williams, has been called back to lend a hand to the Clinton operation, conducting delegate training sessions from the campaign’s headquarters” in Austin.

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, that makes me feel good, because I’ve noticed over the years that while we took a terrific beating at the hands of Richard Nixon in the fall, those so-called McGovern people are still in there battling for better government, for stronger candidates. I think they’ll be there the rest of their lives. And it’s one of the reasons, frankly, that I stand with Hillary in this effort, because I’ve got a long memory, and I know who stood for me thirty-five years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Barack Obama would have?

GEORGE McGOVERN: I think he’s a marvelous figure on the political scene. I had never met him at the time I endorsed Hillary, hadn’t even shaken hands with him at that time. But I’ve been very impressed with him. I see some of the same things in him that Jim Hightower does, and I’m glad he’s a candidate this year. I think he has shaken things up, and whether we win or lose with that particular candidacy, he’s already contributed a lot to the enrichment of American politics.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your quick comment, Senator McGovern, on something that is playing out right now in the state you’re visiting in New York, and of course it’s about the Governor, Governor Eliot Spitzer. I actually was in Albany yesterday as news of the allegations that he was caught in a federal sting calling an escort service. I was in Albany, interestingly enough, to give a keynote along with Governor Spitzer on the issue of reproductive rights and politics. A thousand people were there, and he canceled. It was yesterday morning. David Paterson, who could become the next governor of New York, was also there speaking, the Lieutenant Governor. But do you see a danger of a kind of explosion within the Democratic Party?

GEORGE McGOVERN: I don’t think it’s going to explode the Democratic Party. What we’re talking about here is a sin that’s as old as human beings. The two people I feel the sorriest for are the Governor and his wife. This is going to be a tough thing for them. I hope they can survive it. But Governor Spitzer has had an almost flawless public record over the years. I don’t know of any scandal that has touched this man. It seems like that in politics, when the Republicans get into trouble with sin, it’s over money. Somebody misplaced a billion dollars or $300 million or whatever it is. When the Democrats get in trouble, it’s sex. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you have Senator Vetter from Louisiana, got in trouble with an escort. He’s still senator from Louisiana, just introduced legislation that Native American women can’t have abortions with federal funding. And then, of course, you have the scandal around Larry Craig, which was very different, but he remained senator, though he—

GEORGE McGOVERN: Look, one of the most-honored figures in the Bible was King David, the man that wrote those wonderful psalms and who—you go to Israel today, and you stay in the King David Hotel in Israel. He had—he fell in—got a crush on the wife of one of his lieutenants, and he sent the poor guy up to the battlefront and got him killed so he could have his wife. Eliot Spitzer hasn’t done anything like that. I’m not trying to minimize this—

AMY GOODMAN: Are you comparing Eliot Spitzer to King David?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Yeah, in a way. King David asked God to forgive him, and I believe he did. He asked the people to forgive him, and I believe they did. And he went on to become a great religious and political leader of the Israelis. So we have to take these things in some kind of perspective. Should the Governor have thought more carefully about what he was doing before he got mixed up with this woman? Of course, he should. So should King David have thought more carefully about his actions. But this is a sin, not a crime, as I understand it. I don’t think he’s accused of any crimes. I think it’s obviously a sin and something that’s very embarrassing and horrendous for his wife and his family. But I’m going to leave it in their judgment. I’m not going to try to pass judgment on somebody else’s sin.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Hightower?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Maybe the greatest sin here was that it was not just a street prostitute, but a $5,000-an-hour prostitute. You know, I mean, people can’t make their house payments, and here this guy is laying down $5,000. I don’t know about you, George, but I would be worried. What if you ran over a couple of minutes? I mean, is it another $5,000?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of sin, perhaps it’s something you considered a sin decades ago—the Vietnam War. I wanted to ask, bringing it to the 2008 presidential race, Henry Kissinger has endorsed John McCain. Your thoughts on that?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, I worry about John McCain. He’s one of the few people in public life that still thinks the war in Vietnam was a good idea. It was an utter, unmitigated disaster. And anyone who can’t see that after all these years, I have some questions about, in terms of where they may lead us in the future. He voted for the war in Iraq and not only thinks that was a good idea, he wants more troops over there. I think it was a disastrous idea and that we ought to be bringing our troops home, not talking about surges and sending more troops over there to be shot at.

The paper today has a story that five soldiers were in a market in Baghdad yesterday, got blown up by one of these hand bombs. We’re never going to have peace and stability in Iraq until we get our troops out of there. Part of the trouble is a revolt on the part of the people of Iraq against the presence of a foreign army in their country. You can always find a few people who are glad they’re there, but they’re a small minority, according to the polls. So, rather than have Senator McCain still basking in the glories of Vietnam and still supporting this unfortunate war in Iraq, I think we need somebody like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, who say, if they’re elected, they’re going to get the troops out of there.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you think they are?


AMY GOODMAN: They have not talked about immediate withdrawal.

GEORGE McGOVERN: No, they haven’t, and I wish they would. I wish—I’d like to have a time certain. I wrote a book with one of our best Middle East experts, Bill Polk, in which we called a year-and-a-half ago for a six-month withdrawal period. There’s no reason why it should take more than six months. People ask how we’re going to do it. One way to do it is to put them in trucks and head for the border. That’s how we got in there.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Hightower, your book, Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow, is about going against the current. Talk about.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, there’s all this excitement about change in this political election year, but what Senator McGovern was indicating earlier was a lot of the people who were involved in his campaign have been a part of change all of those years and will continue to be. And we have a whole new generation, as well, of people who didn’t just start with the Obama campaign, didn’t just start this year, but have been developing change at a grassroots level for some time in the political sphere, in business, in healthcare, in religion, even in banking, in a lot of different ways. And Susan DeMarco and I have—we’ve come across these people in our many travels as we go around the country, and we realize these are the mutts and mavericks that really make up America and the very best spirit of people who buck the system. And we thought, well, why not tell their stories?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, tell us some of their stories. You talk about escaping the corporate tentacles.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, take business. We write about a fellow, Chris Johnson, who’s a pharmacist making $100,000 a year with a chain drugstore down in Texas, and he said, “It just made me sick to my stomach.” And what made him sick was, people would come up with their prescriptions, he would fill them, present them to them and present the bill, and they would back away and walk out without their money—without their prescription. They couldn’t afford them. Yet, as a corporate functionary, he had no ability to say, “Well, wait a minute. We’ll work something out here.”

And so, he spun off and created MedSavers, a little company that is a single pharmacy, a barebones operation, serving people who have no insurance at all or whose policies don’t include prescriptions, primarily generic drugs. And he’s able to provide medicine—for example, a pill that sells for $59 for ninety capsules, he can sell for $16. He knew the obscene profits that were built into those medicines, and he’s able to cut that down to a manageable level for families.

He feels better about himself. He’s got his hours set now, so he can be at home with his children in the morning for breakfast, take them to school, be at home, put them to bed. His whole life has improved. He has a relationship with the people who come in; they shoot the breeze. It’s a more personal thing, and he says it’s a matter of setting your work according to your values. And people are doing that all across the country, people are, in business, in politics and across the board.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the conscience of an evangelical.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, this is one of the more remarkable things that the progressive side has not figured out yet. There’s a profound change taking place among evangelical Christians, really a generational change. They speak of young people, by which they mean younger than fifty. But the older leaders, primarily political leaders of the evangelical movement—James Dobson, Pat Robertson, these folks—are so out of touch with their own movement that the movement is now going around them.

And we write about a fellow, Rich Cizik. He’s the chief lobbyist of the National Association of Evangelicals in Washington, D.C. This is the main line. These are not the liberals. This is the main line, thirty million people, 45,000 churches. He had what he calls a second altar call, when he went to a scientific meeting in London on global warming. He was overwhelmed by the science, and then he realized: I have to go talk about this; I can’t just be quiet, because the Bible is very clear, you must be the steward, you have to take care of the garden. And obviously, we’re not taking care of the garden. And so, it became a biblical awakening. That’s how it reached them.

But however it reached them, it doesn’t much matter, because the result is that evangelical leaders, particularly some of the younger ones, are now teaming up with Nobel Prize-winning scientists to present a very bold agenda on—not just that we must personally take responsibility, but they talk of a structural sin, by which they mean corporations. We’ve got to reel in these corporate powers and governments that are sanctioning these corporate actions to be better stewards of our world.

AMY GOODMAN: Clean elections?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Oh, this is the most wonderful story in America, I think, and underreported, except on great shows like Democracy Now! People say, oh, well, you can’t get the corrupt money out of politics; they find loopholes around them. Well, you’ve got to tell that to the people of Maine and North Carolina, New Mexico and Arizona, Connecticut and other states and cities that have passed public financing of their elections. And it just has remarkable results.

In Maine, for example, they’ve now had four election cycles with public financing, meaning if you take—if you don’t take private money, you get an equivalent sum of money that makes you competitive from public funds. The result in Maine has been that now 83 percent of their senate, 84 percent of their house, had been elected without taking a dime in corporate money. And it’s totally changed the politics of that state.

North Carolina has done it just for their judicial elections, and the result of that—by the way, they had a real fun thing to win it. The Republicans in the legislature had opposed it as a bloc. And one of their strategies of the coalition that was pushing the clean election alternative was to get school teachers to call their former students who were in the legislature and say, “Johnny, don’t make me have to come to Raleigh. Did you learn anything that I taught you?” But one more point, that now in North Carolina, they’ve had two election cycles. Of the six seats up in 2004 on the Supreme Court and Appeals Court down there, five were elected without corporate money. And in the last election, six of the five were elected again, including four women—now have a woman chief justice of the Supreme Court. She says, “Clearly, without public financing, I could not have done it.”

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Senator McGovern, two big stories of this year, not counting how many votes Barack Obama has, how many votes Hillary Clinton has, in each caucus and primary, and even John McCain, but adding them all together, this phenomenal explosion of new voters coming in or voters returning, that’s one part. The other part, what Jim is referring to right now, is also the money, the hundreds of millions of dollars, tens of millions so far, well over, that is being spent. Do you ever think we’ll see clean campaign funding, public campaign financing?

GEORGE McGOVERN: I think that’s the trend. It is almost mind-boggling, the amount of money that has been raised already by these candidates. I read where—I think it was Barack had raised $50 million in one month. If you go back to ’72—

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll see a billion-dollar election.

GEORGE McGOVERN: Yeah, I think so. But back in ’72, I won eleven primaries, won the nomination, went to the national convention, found out the Democratic National Committee was broke. My campaign paid for the national convention. Then we had the general election against Nixon. The whole thing, from the day I announced for the nomination until I conceded to Nixon, $32 million. Each candidate is spending that much every month in this race. So I’m all with Jim Hightower on the need for public financing. We could then put some limitation on how much money went to each of the candidates, the challenger and the incumbent. And it’s the only way to really ensure honest elections, the public financing of campaigns.

JIM HIGHTOWER: And by the way, Senator Dick Durbin has legislation in the Congress right now for national public financing of congressional races.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jim Hightower and Senator George McGovern, I want to thank you both for being with us. I know, Jim, you’ll be tonight at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York tonight at 7:00. Senator McGovern, thanks for being here. Good to have you in New York.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The U.S. Spends $400 million per day on the War in Iraq....What if we built Cities rather than destroy them???

The New York Times
Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

February 5, 2008

Car-Free, Solar City in Gulf Could Set a New Standard for Green Design

In an ever more crowded world facing environmental limits, the push is on to create entire communities with reduced needs for energy, water, land and other resources.

The latest effort comes not in some green hub like Portland, Ore., but in the Persian Gulf, fueled as much by oil wealth — and the need to find postpetroleum business models — as environmental zeal.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Saturday for Masdar City, a nearly self-contained mini-municipality designed for up to 50,000 people rising from the desert next to Abu Dhabi’s international airport and intended as a hub for academic and corporate research on nonpolluting energy technologies.

The 2.3-square-mile community, set behind walls to divert hot desert winds and airport noise, will be car free, according to the design by Foster + Partners, the London firm that has become a leading practitioner of energy-saving architecture.

The community, slightly smaller than the historic district of Venice, will have similar narrow pedestrian streets, but shaded by canopies made of photovoltaic panels. It will produce all of its own energy from sunlight.

Water will flow from a solar-powered seawater-desalinization plant. Produce will come from nearby greenhouses, and all waste will be composted or otherwise recycled, said Khaled Awad, property manager for the project.

The first phase, to be completed over the next two years, will be construction of the Masdar Institute, a graduate-level academic research center associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Readers can see a simulated video tour of the city and post comments on the Dot Earth blog.

Attempts at such green communities have had mixed results. Arcosanti, the ecotopian town in the Arizona desert, was started three decades ago. Still a work in progress, it is now being encroached on by Phoenix’s suburban expansion.

China, with help from American partners, has embarked on building instant rural communities and cities designed to limit environmental impacts, but recent reports have disclosed many problems.

Still, environmental campaigners appear enthusiastic about Masdar City, which is part of a planned $15 billion investment in new energy technologies by Abu Dhabi.

At an international energy conference in that city last month, Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, director of the One Planet Living initiative of the environmental group WWF International (known in North America as the World Wildlife Fund), said independent monitoring would help ensure that the project lived up to its billing.