Saturday, March 31, 2007


Defamation of Religion: You Have to be Kidding

The link is an A.P. story from yesterday about the UN calling for a ban on the defamation of religion. Right.

I like the UN. I like the idea of the UN better than I like this, though. This idea, calling for a global ban on dissing religion, is reactionary and stupid. It’s tailor-made to please fundamentalists of all varieties. That it came from the Muslim block in the UN and not the fundamentalist Christian right-wing here in the United States is an example of how similar fundamentalist minds work, regardless of ideology.

I’m against such a ban, of course. Anything that squashes free speech is appalling. First they want to go after free speech and then they take after the ideas. Swine.


Outsourcing: a Recipe for Disaster

The disaster that’s overtaken the pet food industry in the U.S. and Canada is a disgrace. Of course—but there are so many. The salad fiasco was a disgrace, too. The government’s shredding of the Bill of Rights, the war on Iraq and the covert war on American freedoms… I kind of wish they’d just hurry up and get it over with.

But, pet food—this week's avoidable disaster. Ultimately, the crucial thing is this: outsourcing. We have no real idea what happens with foods before they get to us. I don't believe that "organic" means the same thing to a field foreman in Guatemala that it does to me; we know many US-banned pesticides are in common use elsewhere; and w.t.f. does the US and Canada have to import wheat gluten, for God's sake! Because it's cheaper.

Around Madras, up by the Warm Springs Reservation, the big cash crop used to be peppermint, but now the peppermint comes from China—it's cheaper for the big corporations to buy it from overseas. Up at Redmond, just north of year, the big crop was potatos; now our potatos are coming from other countries, too. The corporations don't give a rat's turd for farmers here: all they can see is the profit line on the ledger, because that's what determines a company's value on the stockmarket.

Yesterday, I was looking around the on-line catalogue of the Folksways-Smithsonian records and when I glanced through the folk-protest section I found the title of a Barbara Dane album that says it all: "I hate the capitalist system."

'About 70 percent of the wheat gluten used in the United States for human and pet food is imported from the European Union and Asia, according to the Pet Food Institute, an industry group. One veterinarian suggested the international sourcing of ingredients would force the U.S. "to come to grips with a reality we had not appreciated."

"When you change from getting an ingredient from the supplier down the road to a supplier from around the globe, maybe the methods and practices that were effective in one situation need to be changed," said Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University.' <;_ylt=ApqiQRPCQCWq.2pcuzISCGZI2ocA>

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Entitlement: National and Personal

One of our thornier problems is the disintegration of communities. From people to beehives, things ain’t good. Our national policy is a globalized America First policy; the rest of the world clearly exists for the benefit of the United States. Twenty-five percent of the world’s natural resource vanish into...well, Allan Ginsburg called it “Molloch” and he was right.

We have a national sense of entitlement: our nation has assumed the right to be judge and jury for the rest of the world, as well as the ultimate consumer.

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. That’s the way it really is: look at our cities and towns, our families, and our environment. They’re fucked. No matter how much our "leaders" pretend things are getting better, things really aren't getting better.

This is a good essay:


Articles of Faith: The unfortunate age of entitlement in America

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Some will remember the hot book of the 1970s, "I'm OK -- You're OK" by Thomas Harris. Harris' tome was part of the self-esteem movement of the time. Thirty years later, self-esteem seems to have morphed into entitlement.

Perhaps the book for this decade will be, "I'm Entitled and So Are You! (Though Perhaps Not Quite So Much as Me)."

Such a book, popular as it might prove, would lack therapeutic value. A more helpful book might bear the title, "I'm Not Entitled and Neither Are You -- So Get Over It!"

Entitlement issues are increasingly a concern of psychologists and therapists. Pastors and some educators report similar concerns. We seem to have come to the place where we feel entitled to the good life. We're entitled to have everything work for us. If it doesn't, someone must be to blame, and you can be sure of at least this: Whoever is at fault, it isn't us.

What a crazy idea!

Imagine a pile of presents under the Christmas tree as large as Bunker Hill that's taken for granted. That's just the way it's supposed to be. Every kid has a right to presents by the heaps, and even that will disappoint if the latest, coolest thing isn't to be found.

A person standing on a beautiful beach in Hawaii with a frown on his face, muttering, "I really liked our spring vacation better" -- that's an entitlement issue, too.

I read that these days mental health types see young people on a regular basis who are absolutely certain their lives should be better than they are and someone else is to blame. But not only young people. This seems to be an intergenerational dysfunction. Working in an upscale retirement home can be a tough gig! Talk radio shows and their jocks specialize in identifying the culprits and not very often are they us. And when it's our own children who have stepped in it, the self-righteousness of parents can be a wonder to behold.

The upshot is a culture of complaint. We have, it seems, grown fluent in the language of blame, complaint and grievance, while having lost our linguistic capacity when it comes to words such as, "Please," "Thank you," and "I'm sorry."

We also seem increasingly disabled when it comes to those locutions that express personal responsibility for our part in the problems that beset us. After all, how can we possibly say, "It's my fault," when we've been weaned and schooled on self-esteem? If I'm OK and you're OK, then it must be "Them."

A sense of entitlement means that we feel that we have a right or a claim to something, whether it's the best school, a grand home, preferential treatment, or the good life.

How has this pervasive sense of entitlement come to pass? Is it self-esteem run amok? Is it the emphasis on "rights" in speech and thought? Is entitlement a corollary of affluence or a consequence of consumerism? Does it owe to being the world's sole superpower? Whatever the cause, this much seems true: Entitlement is the handmaiden of the ego, the sign of a neglected, malnourished soul.

Entitlement signals a rejection of the very DNA of America. Our national genetic code, at least at one time, was patterned on respect for the common man and woman. It was sequenced by a belief in the dignity of human life that's not the consequence of having, but of being.

My paternal grandmother, who grew up as an orphan in the Midwest, was imprinted with this genetic code and made a point of passing it on to me. During one visit to her quite humble home, I said something that must have sounded either arrogant or entitled. She fixed me with a stern look and said, "Mister, don't you ever think you are any better than anyone else!" It was memorable precisely because I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was special to her, the apple of her eye. And yet putting my self above others was never to be tolerated.

In the end, it's the entitled who, however rich, are truly poor. Instead of knowing life as a gift, life turns into something that's taken for granted -- or worse, begrudged. That's real poverty, and no sense of entitlement can alleviate it.

Anthony Robinson's column appears Saturdays. He is a speaker, consultant and writer. His recent books include "Common Grace: How to be a Person and Other Spiritual Matters," and "Leadership for Vital Congregations." Want to suggest ideas for future columns? He can be reached at

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


San Francisco Bans Plastic Shopping Bags!

There’s a backlash against plastic shopping bags—so not all the news is glum.

Drive along any rural highway or road and count the number of bags hanging on bushes, fences, trees. You can’t count them all. They’re cheap—that’s why the grocery stores like them. Cheaper than paper bags. They’re awful.

But let’s say a thank-you to San Francisco for this. Let’s hope our own communities aren’t far behind.

San Francisco First City to Ban Plastic Shopping Bags
By Charlie Goodyear
The San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday 28 March 2007

Supermarkets and chain pharmacies will have to use recyclable or compostable sacks.

Paper or plastic? Not anymore in San Francisco.

The city's Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking legislation Tuesday to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets in about six months and large chain pharmacies in about a year.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, is the first such law in any city in the United States and has been drawing global scrutiny this week.

"I am astounded and surprised by the worldwide attention," Mirkarimi said. "Hopefully, other cities and other states will follow suit."

Fifty years ago, plastic bags - starting first with the sandwich bag - were seen in the United States as a more sanitary and environmentally friendly alternative to the deforesting paper bag. Now an estimated 180 million plastic bags are distributed to shoppers each year in San Francisco. Made of filmy plastic, they are hard to recycle and easily blow into trees and waterways, where they are blamed for killing marine life. They also occupy much-needed landfill space.

Two years ago, San Francisco officials considered imposing a 17-cent tax on petroleum-based plastic bags before reaching a deal with the California Grocers Association. The agreement called for large supermarkets to reduce by 10 million the number of bags given to shoppers in 2006. The grocers association said it cut back by 7.6 million, but city officials called that figure unreliable and unverifiable because of poor data supplied by markets.

The dispute led to a renewed interest in outlawing the standard plastic bag, which Mirkarimi said Tuesday was a "relic of the past." Under the legislation, which passed 10-1 in the first of two votes, large markets and pharmacies will have the option of using compostable bags made of corn starch or bags made of recyclable paper. San Francisco will join a number of countries, such as Ireland, that already have outlawed plastic bags or have levied a tax on them. Final passage of the legislation is expected at the board's next scheduled meeting, and the mayor is expected to sign it.

The grocers association has warned that the new law will lead to higher prices for San Francisco shoppers.


Brits Move Closer to Police State; US Not Far Behind

Win some, lose some. The Brits, donkey-led to the end, have endorsed a program that supposedly will allow “problem children” to be monitored—for life.

Tony Blair, paragon of freedom and bosom buddy of George Bush, has brought out a plan that will keep files on children determined by authorities to have the potentiality of becoming criminals (good ol’ Original Sin, yup!), collect more and more DNA, and to restrict “career” criminals’ activities even after they’ve served their time.

Actually, I think Britain may be a proxy for the U.S. in this. Sound properly G.O.P.-ish.

Problem' children to be monitored for signs of criminality
By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 28 March 2007
Tony Blair faced charges of taking a step further towards turning Britain into a surveillance state, after he set out plans to monitor children for signs of criminality, to allow police to collect more DNA samples, and to expand the use of CCTV cameras.

He also announced proposals to restrict the activities of career criminals after their release from prison and to review the operation of the police service.

Critics of the plan, which was published yesterday, said it was an erosion of civil liberties under the cover of fighting crime. Most controversial was a proposal to "establish universal checks throughout a child's development" to "identify those at most at risk of offending".

The tests could take place at key moments in a child's life, including the move from primary to secondary school, but it was unclear what form they would take.

Downing Street also suggested health visitors could intervene before the birth of children judged at risk of falling into a life of crime. They could regularly check on "disadvantaged mothers from pregnancy until the child is aged two", it said.


Re: War on drugs: Canada

On the other hand...our neighbors to the north may have plenty of stupidity but they also have endorsed some policies of compassion. Pretty novel concept, eh?

Judge wants medical marijuana user to get pot in jail
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | 3:31 PM MT
CBC News

A medical marijuana activist in Calgary was sentenced Tuesday to four months in jail for trafficking in marijuana, but the judge ruled that corrections officials must make sure he has access to the drug while behind bars.


War on Pot/War on Iraq—equal stupidity

So, in 35 years, the U.S. government has spent $20B-plus fighting “the scourge of marijuana.” The government—Our Government—has also busted 16.5 million people for marijuana, of which more than three-quarters have been for possession of pot.

There’s stupid, as in the Iraq Occupation, and stupid as in the war on weed. Both campaigns show, I think, advanced governmental senility—or mental disabilities. No logical reasons, other than it gives people jobs. The people thus employed could probably be better employed elsewhere—like fixing city streets or replanting our desecrated forests. There’s plenty of things that need to be done; it’s just diverting the money from idiotic projects to useful ones that’s apparently so hard to figure out. Maybe they should look at an Indian casino for guidance.

It's Been an 'All Out War' on Pot Smokers for 35 Years
By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
Posted on March 22, 2007, Printed on March 28, 2007

Thirty-five years ago this month, a congressionally mandated commission on U.S. drug policy did something extraordinary: They told the truth about marijuana.

On March 22, 1972, the National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse -- chaired by former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer -- recommended Congress amend federal law so that the use and possession of pot would no longer be a criminal offense. State legislatures, the commission added, should do likewise.

"[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use," concluded the commission, which included several conservative appointees of then-President Richard Nixon. "It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior, which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.

"... Therefore, the commission recommends ... [that the] possession of marihuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense."

Nixon, true to his "law-and-order" roots, shelved the report -- announcing instead that when it came to weed, "We need, and I use the word 'all out war' on all fronts." For the last 35 years, that's what we've had.

Consider this: Since the Shafer Commission issued its recommendations:

* Approximately 16.5 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana violations -- more than 80 percent of them on minor possession charges.

* U.S. taxpayers have spent well over $20 billion enforcing criminal marijuana laws, yet marijuana availability and use among the public remains virtually unchanged.

* Nearly one-quarter of a million Americans have been denied federal financial aid for secondary education because of anti-drug provisions to the Higher Education Act. Most of these applicants were convicted of minor marijuana possession offenses.

* Total U.S. marijuana arrests increased 165 percent during the 1990s, from 287,850 in 1991 to well over 700,000 in 2000, before reaching an all-time high of nearly 800,000 in 2005. However, according to the government's own data, this dramatic increase in the number of persons arrested for pot was not associated with any reduction in the number of new users, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the black market price of marijuana.

* Currently, one in eight inmates incarcerated for drug crimes is behind bars for pot, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 billion per year.

Perhaps most troubling, the factor most likely to determine whether or not these citizens serve jail time or not isn't the severity of their "crime," but rather where they live. Today there are growing regional disparities in marijuana penalties and marijuana law enforcement -- ranging from no penalty in Alaska to potential life in prison in Oklahoma. In fact, if one were to drive from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., he or she would traverse more than a dozen jurisdictions, all with varying degrees of penalties and/or tolerance toward the possession and use of pot.

Does this sound like a successful national policy?

There is another approach, of course. The Shafer Commission showed the way more than three decades ago.

Marijuana isn't a harmless substance, and those who argue for a change in the drug's legal status do not claim it to be. However, as noted by the commission, pot's relative risks to the user and society are arguably fewer than those of alcohol and tobacco, and they do not warrant the expenses associated with targeting, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

According to federal statistics, about 94 million Americans -- that's 40 percent of the U.S. population age 12 or older -- self-identify as having used cannabis at some point in their lives, and relatively few acknowledge having suffered significant deleterious health effects due to their use. America's public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals.

Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, D.C.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


Indian casino reaches out to hire disabled workers

Disabled people are politically and economically invisible.

There aren't enough of us to be a source of political financing, so we generally get short shrift from politicians, unless they're on a re-election campaign and want their Look Good to look good. Employers too often resent the costs of employing the disabled; the public sector is one of the few wide-open employers. Yet...yet too often buildings and transportation remain inaccessible—public buildings and transportation.

Nice to see that there are some places reaching out.

Reaching out to the disabled

Casino's program focuses on recruitment, advocacy
By Chet Barfield

March 27, 2007

VIEJAS INDIAN RESERVATION – Since the 1989 accident that put her in a wheelchair, Viejas tribal member Robin Lackie has known many times what it's like to be shunned because of a disability.

The Kumeyaay grandmother has been stuck outside of stores, waving to be helped in to spend money. She has had checkout clerks hand her credit card back to her husband or daughter. “I swear I'm invisible sometimes,” she said.

But since 2002, Lackie has been making up for those indignities by creating new opportunities for others like her. She has carved out a specialty at Viejas Casino, where as Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, she helps recruit, hire and train disabled workers.

Viejas now has more than 100 employees with physical or mental impairments – a cook who is legally blind; a switchboard operator with dwarfism; a one-armed janitor; a cocktail waitress with Tourette's syndrome.

“We look at what they have to offer as a whole,” Lackie said.

She describes her program as rare, if not unique among California Indian casinos and most other industries. The goal is to make often minor accommodations to put disabled people to work, she said.

Stroke victims with memory loss carry cards listing step-by-step tasks. Diabetics have breaks scheduled around their dietary needs. The near-blind cook uses a large magnifying glass.

“You can negotiate a job description,” Lackie said. “You can change it and modify it a little bit. ... How much does it cost? Nothing, usually.”

Lackie knows about adapting. Assertive and outspoken by nature, she was an Army nurse after high school. Then she became one of National City's first female cops in 1977, mainly because she'd been told she couldn't do it.

In 1989, she was working at an aerospace plant in Long Beach when a crane hook struck her head. The injury left her in a wheelchair and with impaired vision. She relies on an aide dog to help her lift heavy things and get around.

Lackie hadn't planned on a casino career. But at tribal meetings, she kept complaining about difficulties she had getting her wheelchair into and around the casino. Mainly to appease her, the tribe gave her a part-time job working with managers and building engineers on improvements such as sidewalk curb cuts, ramps and wider bathroom stalls.

Drawing on her experiences, Lackie argued the casino would more than make up those costs by drawing more patrons who use walkers and wheelchairs.

Within a year, Lackie was working full time as a liaison for customers with disabilities, and as a recruiter, trainer and advocate for disabled workers.

“Everyone here is expected to do their jobs,” said parking control officer Chris Merritt, 32, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. “There's not any special treatment.”

Merritt came to Viejas two years ago because it offered full medical benefits and better pay than his former job as a lot attendant downtown.

Viejas spokesman Bob Scheid said the tribe and casino hire the disabled “because they're a community asset and they're often overlooked.”

“What they contribute has been very significant in their absolute commitment to their jobs . . . and (in) inspiring other people, both customers and employees,” Scheid said.

A growing number of employers in many sectors are willing to hire workers with disabilities, but few have programs like Viejas' that emphasize outreach and creative accommodations, said Mark Berger, CEO of Partnerships with Industry, a San Diego firm that finds contract work for people with developmental disabilities. A crew of his clients cleans the carpets at Viejas.

“The nice thing with Viejas is they've been willing to look and say what are the kinds of things that this group of people can do that may not have been part of the original plan,” he said.

Bingo caller Patricia Neilson seems to fit that description. She came to Viejas 14 years ago when others wouldn't hire her because she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Neilson, 62, said her bosses and colleagues have been supportive as she has gone in and out of treatment. The cancer now has metastasized to her bones, which often causes severe pain in her hip and back, yet Neilson rarely misses work and tries to cheer others with her upbeat personality.

“When it comes to the day when I need a wheelchair, they will build me a ramp up to the caller's table,” she said. “Nowhere else would they do that.”

A childhood head injury left poker-room host Vincent Denham, 42, without use of his right arm. He worked in a stock-supply room and at a grocery store before coming to Viejas 4½ years ago. He said what he appreciates most is that most co-workers and customers don't seem to notice or care that he has a disability.

“That's a compliment,” he said. “I'm no different than anybody else in the casino.”

Chet Barfield: (619) 542-4572;

Find this article at:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Spanish Judge: Try Bush for War Crimes

And, as long as we’re on a roll, here’s this from the World Socialist Web Site:

World Socialist Web Site

WSWS : News & Analysis : Europe : Spain
Spanish Judge calls for architects of Iraq invasion to be tried for war crimes
By Vicky Short
27 March 2007

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who sought to prosecute Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, has called for US President George W. Bush and his allies to be tried for war crimes over Iraq.

Writing in El Pais on the fourth anniversary of the invasion, Garzón stated, “Today, March 20, marks four years since the formal start of the war on Iraq. Instigated by the United States and Great Britain, and supported by Spain among other countries, one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history began.

“Breaking every international law, and under the pretext of the war against terror, there has taken place since 2003 a devastating attack on the rule of law and against the very essence of the international community. In its path, institutions such as the United Nations were left in tatters, from which it has not yet recovered.”

“Instead of commemorating the war,” Garzón continues, “we should be horrified, screaming and demonstrating against the present massacre created as a consequence of that war.”

He then writes that George W. Bush and his allies should eventually face war crimes charges for their actions in Iraq: “We should look more deeply into the possible criminal responsibility of the people who are, or were, responsible for this war and see whether there is sufficient evidence to make them answer for it.”

“For many it would be merely a question of political responsibility, but judicial actions in the US are beginning to emerge, as is the case of the verdict passed on one of vice-president Cheney’s collaborators, [I. Lewis Libby] which point in a different direction.”

“There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation and inquiry to start without more delay,” he added.

Garzón then turns his scathing criticisms towards the former Spanish Prime Minister, José María Aznar, who followed British Prime Minister Tony Blair in supporting Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq.

“Those who joined the US president in the war against Iraq have as much or more responsibility than him because, despite having doubts and biased information, they put themselves in the hands of the aggressor to carry out an ignoble act of death and destruction that continues to this day.”

Aznar still defends the invasion of Iraq. He reluctantly admitted last month that he now knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, but added that “the problem was not having been clever enough to know it earlier.”

Garzón answers this in his article: “If he didn’t know enough, he should be asked why he didn’t act prudently, giving United Nations inspectors more leeway instead of doing the opposite in total submission and fidelity to President Bush.”

Fearful of the extension of the insurgency in Iraq throughout the Middle East and internationally, Garzón declares that “the North American bellicose action, and that of those who supported it, has determined or at least has contributed to the creation, development and consolidation of the biggest terrorist training camp in the world.... In some way, with a terrible lack of awareness, we have been and are helping this monster grow more and more and strengthened by the minute, so that it is probably invincible.”

Garzón has investigated everything from Basque terrorism to the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, whose alleged perpetrators are currently on trial. He led the investigation into the rightist terror group Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL), whose creation was attributed to the Socialist Party (PSOE) government of the day. He also banned Herri Batasuna, the political arm of ETA—the first political party to be outlawed since the death of Franco in 1975.

Back in 1996 the Progressive Union of Prosecutors filed criminal complaints against the Argentine and Chilean military for the disappearance of Spanish citizens under the dictatorships that ruled them in the 1970s and 1980s. One year later, Garzón issued an arrest order that included Argentine Navy Captain Adolfo Scilingo, who made a televised confession in 1995 of “death flights” in which hundreds of detainees were thrown from airplanes to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean. Scilingo was detained after travelling to Spain voluntarily.

Former Chilean President Pinochet was arrested during a medical check-up in London in 1998 based on a warrant issued by Garzón. For months the judge attempted to have the dictator extradited to Spain to be tried for heading the military coup in 1973 that overthrew the elected president Salvador Allende and the subsequent murder of thousands of students and workers. He has also signalled his intention to question Richard Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger about events in Chile, after declassified documents released by the US State Department and the CIA suggested that Kissinger was well aware of what was happening.

The fact that such a prominent international judicial figure openly speaks of bringing war crimes judgement against the leaders of the US, UK and Spain is an indication that the entire Iraq campaign is heading towards a disaster and a response to the mounting opposition around the world.

Yet his statement was given only the most cursory coverage by the media in the United States and internationally. No publication chose to make an editorial comment and most simply reproduced or slightly amended a Reuters report.

Such is the level of hostility to the Iraq war and occupation in Spain, however, that even sections of ex-Prime Minister Aznar’s Popular Party (PP) are publicly declaring that his attendance at the meeting in the Azores that supported Bush in his decision to invade Iraq was an error.

Reporting on their criticism, the right-wing newspaper El Mundo commented on March 20, “The PP should not continue avoiding an auto-criticism on Iraq.”

It continues that, although the present critics were in the main opposed to sending troops to Iraq at the time, today “even if only a few dare to say it aloud ... the vast majority in the PP accept in private that Aznar made a mistake. In his zeal to make Spain more of an Atlantic country, trusting Bush blindly, he only succeeded in fertilising the rank anti-Americanism of a sector of Spanish society, as well as neglecting the repercussions this would have on domestic affairs, which, as the new (PSOE) government is demonstrating, demanded more attention than our projection abroad.”

A few hours after the El Pais article by Garzón had reached the shops, the secretary of organisation for the PSOE, José Blanco, declared in an interview in Telecinco that someone had to pay the consequences for the decision to invade Iraq. And if Bush, Blair and Aznar were to be made legally accountable, then he would support this.

Copyright 1998-2007
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


'Cuff Kissinger, Dano!

I'm feeling almost optimistic about the news these days!

Even though Henry Kissinger has become a celebrity elder statesman, the fact remains this: the man engineered an incredible series of war crimes. Uruguay, Viet Nam, Cambodia—’cuff him, Dano!

Yahoo! News
Kissinger's extradition to Uruguay sought over Operation Condor;_ylt=ApaScBCvQ2s6B3z4NEgCvX3Za7gF
Sun Mar 25, 3:00 AM ET

An attorney for a victim of Uruguay's 1973-1985 dictatorship has asked his government to request the extradition of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger over his alleged role in the notorious Operation Condor.

Condor was a secret plan hatched by South American dictators in the 1970s to eliminate leftist political opponents in the region. Details of the plan have emerged over the past years in documents and court testimony.

The Latin American dictatorships of the time "were mere executors" of a "plan of extermination" hatched in the United States by a group led by Kissinger, said attorney Gustavo Salle, who represents the family of Bernardo Arnone.

Uruguayan prosecutor Mirtha Guianze has received the request and is studying the case, according to news reports.

A leftist activist, Arnone was arrested in October 1976 and flown to Argentina with a group of political prisoners that vanished and were presumably executed.

Kissinger played a dominant role in US foreign policy between 1969 and 1977, and was a strong supporter of right-wing regimes across Latin America.

The extradition request comes as the topic of rights violations during Uruguay's dictatorship is making headlines again, with Salle citing evidence from declassified US State Department documents.

Witnesses are set to testify in April in a case that began in September against eight retired regime officials over rights violations.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse.


Instand Karma Starts Striking Bush Team

“The worst thing about Instant Karma,” the Wasco elder said, “Is that it works.”

I was thinking about that in terms of Tony Snow, and thinking about what an uptight, ahhh, asshole he is, and about Gonzales. We know that Snow hasn’t taken a “normal” shit in years...Ahhh, shouldn’t think that! But I did.

Gonzales Runs Out Of Conference To Avoid Scandal Questions
Chicago Tribune | Jeff Coen | Posted March 27, 2007 03:57 PM

Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales today cut short a press conference about Internet safety, leaving the room at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago when reporters questioned him about the firings of U.S. attorneys.

The questioning was to have lasted about 15 minutes, but it ended after less than three.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Moonday New Non-Flash

So, it's official: A. N. Smith died of an O.D.. What a surprise, eh? My partner used to watch the reality series sometimes: it was depressing to see someone whacked out of their skull get attention for being whacked out of her skull. I saw enough of that forty years ago, thank you.

New flash: drug addicts often die of drug O.D.s.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The Secret Police State. Again.

Secret Police. Not only is the U.S. becoming a police state, it’s becoming a Secret Police state. Again: back during the 1950s and ‘60s, there were plenty of secret police running around at demonstrations, on college campuses, and any place something illegal might or might not be going on. It was a running joke at Communist Party meetings that the only people who ever paid their party dues were FBI agents. The feds financed several left-wing political parties that way.

Welcome back. It’s the new and improved Secret Police State! Now the local cops even get free trips to Europe at the taxpayers' expense.

March 25, 2007
City Police Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Jeb Bush Denied Honorary Degree

Proving that now and then a little justice escapes from the American penal system, Jeb Bush has been refused a honorary degree from the University of Florida. That’s weird: he’s a remarkably powerful man in Florida, and has many low friends in high places. But not enough, apparently. Good.

We can only hope the Bushes sink into the swamps and remain there indefinitely.

The New York Times
March 24, 2007
University of Florida Senate Denies Degree to Jeb Bush
MIAMI, March 23 — Pondering his options after eight years in office, former Gov. Jeb Bush can cross one off the list, honorary degree recipient at the University of Florida, the largest university in the state.

The Faculty Senate there rejected a proposal on Thursday to award Mr. Bush an honorary degree this spring. Some members openly criticized his policies.

It is the first time in memory that the group has rejected a nominee put forth by its honorary degrees committee, said J. Bernard Machen, the university president.

The Senate voted, 38 to 28, against the proposal, which came from a former president of the university and was supported by two university trustees appointed by Mr. Bush.

The Senate chairwoman, Denaya Wright, said the nomination was a mistake, not just because some faculty members dislike Mr. Bush, a Republican who called himself “the education governor,” but also because he did not have the right background for an honorary degree.

“Recipients have pretty much always been distinguished scientists, engineers, artists, nurses, doctors,” Ms. Wright said.

The university, based in Gainesville, has awarded honorary degrees to five former governors, including Bob Graham in 2004 and Reubin Askew in 1983. All were Democrats. It also bestowed one on Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in 2004.


Asylum to Asylum: What a long strange trip it's been...

St Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., is famous for having been the home of the American poet Ezra Pound, after World War Two. Pound, one of the outstanding poets of the post-World War One period, had been living in Italy when the second war broke out. Always a crank, Pound became a spokesman for fascist Italy. When the war ended, Pound was brought back to the states, found to be crazy, and imprisoned at St. Elizabeth's. He died there.

In the Satire is Truly Dead Department, we find this item:

DHS has plan for new HQ in lunatic asylum

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is setting up its new HQ in a former lunatic asylum.

The DHS says it will consolidate most of the 60 offices it has across the Washington, D.C. region into a single new headquarters building.

The $3 billion move will begin in 2011, according to a plan prepared by the DHS, once a new building is ready in the grounds of the former mental hospital, St. Elizabeth's.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Income Gap Grows and Grows and Grows...

I can imagine a quote from Bush that goes “Is Americans better off than they was? Yes, they is. And I’m happy to say that west is east and down is up.”

Truth is, we’re worse off. We’re a lot worse off, in the long run, and a lot of folks are worse off in the short run, too. The rich are getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer and poorer, This is no more an abstract concept than the National Debt. The widening gap between the rich and everybody else is going to require a lot of fences, gates, bodyguards, body armor, and prisons. So just as “Corrections” is a growth industry, so’re weaponry and private security. That ain’t good. Welcome to the wonderful world of neo-fascism.

Posted on Thu, Feb. 22, 2007

U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty
By Tony Pugh
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975.

The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades. But since 2000, the number of severely poor has grown "more than any other segment of the population," according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began," said Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, who co-authored the study. "We're not seeing as much moderate poverty as a proportion of the population. What we're seeing is a dramatic growth of severe poverty."

The growth spurt, which leveled off in 2005, in part reflects how hard it is for low-skilled workers to earn their way out of poverty in an unstable job market that favors skilled and educated workers. It also suggests that social programs aren't as effective as they once were at catching those who fall into economic despair.

About one in three severely poor people are under age 17, and nearly two out of three are female. Female-headed families with children account for a large share of the severely poor.

Nearly two out of three people (10.3 million) in severe poverty are white, but blacks (4.3 million) and Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) make up disproportionate shares. Blacks are nearly three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be in deep poverty, while Hispanics are roughly twice as likely.

Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, has a higher concentration of severely poor people - 10.8 percent in 2005 - than any of the 50 states, topping even hurricane-ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana, with 9.3 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively. Nearly six of 10 poor District residents are in extreme poverty.


A few miles from the Capitol Building, 60-year-old John Treece pondered his life in deep poverty as he left a local food pantry with two bags of free groceries.

Plagued by arthritis, back problems and myriad ailments from years of manual labor, Treece has been unable to work full time for 15 years. He's tried unsuccessfully to get benefits from the Social Security Administration, which he said disputes his injuries and work history.

In 2006, an extremely poor individual earned less than $5,244 a year, according to federal poverty guidelines. Treece said he earned about that much in 2006 doing odd jobs.

Wearing shoes with holes, a tattered plaid jacket and a battered baseball cap, Treece lives hand-to-mouth in a $450-a-month room in a nondescript boarding house in a high-crime neighborhood. Thanks to food stamps, the food pantry and help from relatives, Treece said he never goes hungry. But toothpaste, soap, toilet paper and other items that require cash are tougher to come by.

"Sometimes it makes you want to do the wrong thing, you know," Treece said, referring to crime. "But I ain't a kid no more. I can't do no time. At this point, I ain't got a lotta years left."

Treece remains positive and humble despite his circumstances.

"I don't ask for nothing," he said. "I just thank the Lord for this day and ask that tomorrow be just as blessed."

Like Treece, many who did physical labor during their peak earning years have watched their job prospects dim as their bodies gave out.

David Jones, the president of the Community Service Society of New York City, an advocacy group for the poor, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee last month that he was shocked to discover how pervasive the problem was.

"You have this whole cohort of, particularly African-Americans of limited skills, men, who can't participate in the workforce because they don't have skills to do anything but heavy labor," he said.


Severe poverty is worst near the Mexican border and in some areas of the South, where 6.5 million severely poor residents are struggling to find work as manufacturing jobs in the textile, apparel and furniture-making industries disappear. The Midwestern Rust Belt and areas of the Northeast also have been hard hit as economic restructuring and foreign competition have forced numerous plant closings.

At the same time, low-skilled immigrants with impoverished family members are increasingly drawn to the South and Midwest to work in the meatpacking, food processing and agricultural industries.

These and other factors such as increased fluctuations in family incomes and illegal immigration have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate in at least 32 years.

"What appears to be taking place is that, over the long term, you have a significant permanent underclass that is not being impacted by anti-poverty policies," said Michael Tanner, the director of Health and Welfare Studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, disagreed. "It doesn't look like a growing permanent underclass," said Sherman, whose organization has chronicled the growth of deep poverty. "What you see in the data are more and more single moms with children who lose their jobs and who aren't being caught by a safety net anymore."

About 1.1 million such families account for roughly 2.1 million deeply poor children, Sherman said.

After fleeing an abusive marriage in 2002, 42-year-old Marjorie Sant moved with her three children from Arkansas to a seedy boarding house in Raleigh, N.C., where the four shared one bedroom. For most of 2005, they lived off food stamps and the $300 a month in Social Security Disability Income for her son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Teachers offered clothes to Sant's children. Saturdays meant lunch at the Salvation Army.

"To depend on other people to feed and clothe your kids is horrible," Sant said. "I found myself in a hole and didn't know how to get out."

In the summer of 2005, social workers warned that she'd lose her children if her home situation didn't change. Sant then brought her two youngest children to a temporary housing program at the Raleigh Rescue Mission while her oldest son moved to California to live with an adult daughter from a previous marriage.

So for 10 months, Sant learned basic office skills. She now lives in a rented house, works two jobs and earns about $20,400 a year.

Sant is proud of where she is, but she knows that "if something went wrong, I could well be back to where I was."


As more poor Americans sink into severe poverty, more individuals and families living within $8,000 above or below the poverty line also have seen their incomes decline. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University attributes this to what he calls a "sinkhole effect" on income.

"Just as a sinkhole causes everything above it to collapse downward, families and individuals in the middle and upper classes appear to be migrating to lower-income tiers that bring them closer to the poverty threshold," Woolf wrote in the study.

Before Hurricane Katrina, Rene Winn of Biloxi, Miss., earned $28,000 a year as an administrator for the Boys and Girls Club. But for 11 months in 2006, she couldn't find steady work and wouldn't take a fast-food job. As her opportunities dwindled, Winn's frustration grew.

"Some days I feel like the world is mine and I can create my own destiny," she said. "Other days I feel a desperate feeling. Like I gotta' hurry up. Like my career is at a stop. Like I'm getting nowhere fast. And that's not me because I've always been a positive person."

After relocating to New Jersey for 10 months after the storm, Winn returned to Biloxi in September because of medical and emotional problems with her son. She and her two youngest children moved into her sister's home along with her mother, who has Alzheimer's. With her sister, brother-in-law and their two children, eight people now share a three-bedroom home.

Winn said she recently took a job as a technician at the state health department. The hourly job pays $16,120 a year. That's enough to bring her out of severe poverty and just $122 shy of the $16,242 needed for a single mother with two children to escape poverty altogether under current federal guidelines.

Winn eventually wants to transfer to a higher-paying job, but she's thankful for her current position.

"I'm very independent and used to taking care of my own, so I don't like the fact that I have to depend on the state. I want to be able to do it myself."

The Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that, in a given month, only 10 percent of severely poor Americans received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 2003 - the latest year available - and that only 36 percent received food stamps.

Many could have exhausted their eligibility for welfare or decided that the new program requirements were too onerous. But the low participation rates are troubling because the worst byproducts of poverty, such as higher crime and violence rates and poor health, nutrition and educational outcomes, are worse for those in deep poverty.

Over the last two decades, America has had the highest or near-highest poverty rates for children, individual adults and families among 31 developed countries, according to the Luxembourg Income Study, a 23-year project that compares poverty and income data from 31 industrial nations.

"It's shameful," said Timothy Smeeding, the former director of the study and the current head of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. "We've been the worst performer every year since we've been doing this study."

With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs.

One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more.

These estimates apply only to non-immigrants. If illegal immigrants were factored in, the numbers would be worse, Rank said.

"It would appear that for most Americans the question is no longer if, but rather when, they will experience poverty. In short, poverty has become a routine and unfortunate part of the American life course," Rank wrote in a recent study. "Whether these patterns will continue throughout the first decade of 2000 and beyond is difficult to say ... but there is little reason to think that this trend will reverse itself any time soon."


Most researchers and economists say federal poverty estimates are a poor tool to gauge the complexity of poverty. The numbers don't factor in assistance from government anti-poverty programs, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and the Earned Income Tax Credit, all of which increase incomes and help pull people out of poverty.

But federal poverty measures also exclude work-related expenses and necessities such as day care, transportation, housing and health care costs, which eat up large portions of disposable income, particularly for low-income families.

Alternative poverty measures that account for these shortcomings typically inflate or deflate official poverty statistics. But many of those alternative measures show the same kind of long-term trends as the official poverty data.

Robert Rector, a senior researcher with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, questioned the growth of severe poverty, saying that census data become less accurate farther down the income ladder. He said many poor people, particularly single mothers with boyfriends, underreport their income by not including cash gifts and loans. Rector said he's seen no data that suggest increasing deprivation among the very poor.

Arloc Sherman of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues that the growing number of severely poor is an indisputable fact.

"When we check against more complete government survey data and administrative records from the benefit programs themselves, they confirm that this trend is real," Sherman said. He added that even among the poor, severely poor people have a much tougher time paying their bills. "That's another sign to me that we're seeing something real and troubling," Sherman said.

McClatchy correspondent Barbara Barrett contributed to this report.


States with the most people in severe poverty:

California - 1.9 million
Texas - 1.6 million
New York - 1.2 million
Florida - 943,670
Illinois - 681,786
Ohio - 657,415
Pennsylvania - 618,229
Michigan - 576,428
Georgia - 562,014
North Carolina - 523,511

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

© 2007 McClatchy Washington Bureau and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


Macbeth Goes Native

Life’s been intense lately. My sweetie pie is over on the other side of the mountains with family because of a family death. She’s supposed to be back this afternoon. Her neice has moved in with us. That’s disruptive, until we get back in balance or harmony.

It isn’t chaotic around here—it’s just different.

Part of this results in me running late on posts. This one’s a week old; I have one coming up that’s like a month old (but it’s important because it’s about the increasing number of poor people in this country). So, that’s the way it’s been.

The Tlingit People up in SW Alaska have always had a remarkable culture: they have always been into prestige and wealthy, and do not match any of the popular stereotypes about Indian people.

'Macbeth' production explores cultural ties with Alaska Natives
© Indian Country Today March 14, 2007. All Rights Reserved
Posted: March 14, 2007
by: The Associated Press
By Anne Sutton -- Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Battles are waged to the beat of drums, witches as land otters slink across the stage and Banquo's ghost dons a raven mask in a Tlingit language adaptation of Shakespeare's brutal and bloody tale of a murderous Scottish lord.

Sprung from the rainforests of southeast Alaska, this Washington, D.C.-bound production of ''Macbeth'' marries the Elizabethan tragedy with an ancient indigenous culture - an elaborate conceit that its players say brings new life to both worlds.

The idea took root more than 25 years ago when director Anita Maynard-Losh, a San Francisco transplant, came to live in the remote community of Hoonah, a largely Tlingit village bound by Tongass National Forest and the icy waters of the Inside Passage.

She knew ''Macbeth'' well; she had taught Shakespeare in schools and as she began to learn about the Tlingit culture, she was struck by certain similarities.

''When I was in Hoonah, I started seeing these connections: the society built on clan systems; the connection with the supernatural, which is very strong; and the fierce warfare that the Tlingits were famous for, the Scots also were quite renowned for,'' Maynard-Losh said.

Northwest Native lore also abounds with moral tales of the treacherous host, she said, as when Macbeth murders Duncan in his castle.

But the basic element of what it means to be a tribal society, putting the well-being and survival of the group over individual liberties, is what really struck her.

''That seemed like a huge piece of this play: What happens when somebody starts not caring about the good of the group and just caring about their own success,'' she said.

In January 2004 and again on a statewide tour later that year, Maynard-Losh first put her ideas on stage directing Tlingit ''Macbeth'' in English for Juneau's Perseverance Theatre.

Though now director of Community Engagement at Washington's Arena Stage, she agreed to return to Juneau this winter to restage the Perseverance production for performances March 8 - 18 at the National Museum of the American Indian, part of a theater festival called ''Shakespeare for a New Generation.''

This time, however, she wanted to take it to the next level.

The play, at least most of it, was translated into Tlingit, an endangered language that only Tlingit elders speak fluently.

The psychological impact of bringing Tlingit to the stage has been profound, she said.

''To hear young people speaking Tlingit and acting and talking about big ideas and big emotions is something so unique; it was really moving and exciting to hear,'' Maynard-Losh said.

The decision to base the play in Tlingit won over Lance Twitchell, one of three new players in the cast and the language coach.

Soft-spoken and earnest - he leads a Tlingit prayer at the end of rehearsals - the 31-year-old former tribal leader is one of about 15 young adults in the state working toward becoming the first fluent speakers in more than a generation.

''When I heard about the play and heard that [elder] Johnny Marks was the translator, I thought that was great. Johnny is as good as they come for Tlingit speakers,'' he said.

Twitchell first began learning Tlingit 12 years ago from his grandfather, the late Cy Dennis Sr.

''He would say things like 'eil,' the word for salt, and I'd try to say it and he'd laugh. My goal was just to get him to not laugh at me,'' he said.

A simple word, it would seem, but rooted in one of the most difficult and complex sound systems in the world. According to linguists, Tlingit contains sounds that are not shared with any other language.

Twitchell's grandfather's generation witnessed a turning point in the history of this language and culture that are thousands of years old. In the early 1900s, Native languages across the nation were under attack by missionaries and government school teachers who considered the languages barbarous and uncouth. Native children were punished for speaking their own language in Alaska's segregated schools, a policy that lasted for six decades.

The purge, and eventually the pressure to assimilate, was largely successful. It is estimated that fewer than 300 people in the world are fluent Tlingit speakers, but now a revival is under way among those who believe, like Twitchell, that language is the lifebreath of the culture.

It's why he studies Tlingit, teaches it to children, works on interactive language programs and, though not an actor, jumped at a chance to play Ross in Tlingit ''Macbeth.''

''You will never get the culture unless you get the language. And it will never really be carried on unless the language is carried on. It will just be like a shell of what once was,'' he said.

Indeed, the journey to the nation's capital carries a special significance for him.

''There was a calculated effort ... to kill this language and this culture,'' said Twitchell. ''And yet, we are still here, we are still speaking, we are still learning in our own different ways and times.''

For more information, visit www.


Brit Study: Alcohol, Tobacco Worse than Pot & LSD

Tobacco is more harmful than pot, according to a common-sense study in England. So's alcohol.

It’s about time somebody, anywhere, showed some sense about drugs. America spends billions every year on the lost lost lost War on Drugs; we have the world’s largest prison population. The only good thing about the way America’s drug policy works is that it gives jobs to a lot of otherwise disreputable people—like narcs, drug lawyers, and assorted other low friends in high places.

England has always had a more rational approach to intoxicants than the United States. I’m glad to see they’re continuing their grand tradition.

Tobacco and alcohol 'are more dangerous than LSD'
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Published: 23 March 2007
Alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than many illegal drugs including the hallucinogen LSD and the dance drug ecstasy, according to a new scale for assessing the dangers posed by recreational substances.

Drug specialists say the current system for ranking drugs - class A for the most dangerous to class C for the least dangerous, as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act - is irrational, arbitrary and "lacking in transparency".

Scientific evidence shows that heroin and cocaine are correctly ranked as class A drugs as they do cause the most harm. But LSD and ecstasy come close to bottom of the league in terms of harm caused, yet they are also labelled as class A.

Alcohol is legal and widely used but comes fifth in the "harm" table, ahead of amphetamines and cannabis, which are ranked as class B and class C respectively. Tobacco is also ranked as more harmful than cannabis.

The league table of 20 drugs drawn up by drugs specialists is intended to provide a scientifically based model for policy makers of the harm they cause. It shows that the dangers they pose bear little relationship to the official classification, on which the penalties for drug use are based. The eight drugs ranked as most dangerous include two that are unclassified while the eight judged least dangerous include two class A drugs.

The report comes a fortnight after an independent commission called for a radical overhaul of Britain's drug laws which it said were driven by a "moral panic". The commission, set up by the Royal Society of Arts, said the aim of public policy should be to reduce the harm drugs cause, not send people to jail. It proposed reclassifying drugs - legal and illegal - according to the harm they do.

Professor David Nutt, who works in addiction psychiatry at the University of Bristol and who led the latest research, said: "The current drug classification system is arbitrary in the way it assesses harms. It is not fit for purpose. We have tried to come up with a better system by looking at the factors that contribute to drug use and the harms they cause. We should review the penalties for drug use in the light of the harms they cause and have a more proportionate response."

Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council and co-author of the study, said: "The object was to bring a dispassionate approach to a very passionate issue. Some conclusions might appear to be liberal in stance, but that was not our starting position. We intended to reach conclusions that were evidence-based."

"Alcohol and tobacco are way up there in the league table, not far behind heroin and cocaine and street methadone. Society has not only come to terms with alcohol and tobacco but is well aware of the harms associated with them so we felt it was useful to include them as calibration points for other drugs."

All drugs were marked on the physical harm they caused to the individual user, their tendency to cause dependence and their social harm, including their effect on families, communities and society [such as crime and NHS costs]. Each was given an overall harm score by two separate groups of experts which yielded roughly similar results.

There was little evidence that ecstasy caused extensive harm, despite its widespread use by young people in clubs and pubs at weekends. Cannabis has been cited as a cause of schizophrenia but the authors said a causal relationship had not been established. If it were, evidence showed no more than 7 per cent of cases could be attributed to use of the drug.

Professor Leslie Iversen, of the University of Oxford, said there was a widespread myth that skunk, from the tips of the cannabis plant, was 20 to 30 times more powerful than that available 30 years ago. "It is simply not true," he said. "The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs looked at this carefully. Cannabis resin [hash] has changed little and is about 5 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Skunk has 10-15 per cent THC. That makes it two to three times more powerful, not 20 to 30 times."

The study, which took five years to complete, is published today in The Lancet. Professor Blakemore said: "We hope that policy makers will take note of the fact that the resulting ranking of drugs differs substantially from their classification in the Misuse of Drugs Act and that alcohol and tobacco are judged more harmful than many illegal substances."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Persecution of Medical Maijuana Advocate

As I’ve said before, medical marijuana is OK. I don’t smoke dope because...well, I forget. Actually, I do remember: when I smoked it things seemed to get worse for me, so I quit. Been almost 20 years since I did. However—

—I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with medical marijuana, and I do believe there are good things about it. The federal government is incredibly stupid and vindictive. Ed Rosenthal's case is about punishing him, and nothing more.

Rosenthal Trial Postponed While Prosecutors Consider Appeal
by Bay City News Service, CBS 5 News

A federal judge in San Francisco today delayed a possible trial for Oakland marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal while prosecutors decide whether to appeal the judge's dismissal of half the charges against him.

Judge Delays 'Guru Of Ganja' Trial Pending Possible Appeal
NBC 11 News
A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday delayed a possible trial for Oakland marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal, the self-described "Guru of Ganja," while prosecutors decide whether to appeal the judge's dismissal of half the charges against him.

Judge Urges Feds To Drop Charges In 'Ganja Guru' Trial
Associated Press
A federal judge told prosecutors Friday to consider dropping pot-growing charges against self-proclaimed marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal.


Born-Again Virginity? Celibacy? Sure!

What women do with their bodies isn’t any business of mine, really. I do worry about my nieces who go through (eventually, I hope) “boy-crazy” phases. These days the loosened sexual mores include more risks, I’m sorry to say. In my earlier life there was a nice window for sexual exploration...and, of course, we all believed we were bullet-proof.

Anyhow, I like the idea of women being OK with themselves and not needing the validation of some horny jerk who’s going to make them unhappy, or worse. I don’t think anything’s wrong with the word “celibate.”

'Born-Again Virginity' in the Age of Girls Gone Wild
By Amy DePaul, AlterNet
Posted on March 20, 2007, Printed on March 20, 2007

Oh Ashley... it's been three weeks, am I a virgin again? heart graphicRamona

Born-again virgins, usually young people with a sexual past pledging to start fresh and commit to abstinence, take endless abuse on MySpace. Here, in Web pages filled with youthful accounts of hook-ups, parties and daily minutiae, writers muse over what constitutes born-again virginity, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Is it a year without sex, or as Ramona (above) might suggest, something more short term?

"I used to have a roommate who was a 'born-again virgin'," one Myspace user asserts in a typical posting, " -- what a crock of shit that was." Popular depictions of born-again virgins do little to add credibility. For example, Luanne from the animated sitcom "King of the Hill" vowed in a church ceremony never again to have premarital sex. A later episode depicted her pregnant, however.

Further reinforcing doubts are provocative musical treatments like singer Noa Tylo's 2001 album, "Born Again Virgin," which one reviewer called "a dark and broody dance-music exploration of sexual intensity." Hardly monastic!

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Cindy Alexander's song "Born Again Virgin" begins, "Hey it's nice to meet you/I'm a born-again virgin" and later proposes, none too coyly, that "maybe we could touch." (Blame it on Madonna's 1984 hit, "Like a Virgin.")

Rooted in Evangelical dogma, born-again virginity has become easy to mock. But, for a large number of teens, abstinence supporters -- and, surprisingly, a cadre of mature single women - born-again virginity is no laughing matter. What, then, is the appeal of born-again virginity, and does it work?

AKA 'secondary virginity'

Born-again virginity originated from chastity campaigns organized by Evangelical Christians in the early 1990s. Currently groups such as Silver Ring Thing (www. silverringthing. com) and Worth the Wait (www. iamworththewait. org) promote teen abstinence on a massive scale, encouraging young people to take virginity pledges and seal the deal with wallet pledge cards and purity rings.

Does pledging work? In the short term, yes. But not in the long term, which is where born-again virginity comes into play. Abstinence pledges are successful with young and mid-adolescents, often delaying sex by 18 months, according to a 2001 study by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner. Still, a follow-up study by the same authors showed that 88 percent of pledge-takers eventually had premarital sex.

"Secondary" or "renewed" virginity, then, may be a key retention strategy of the abstinence movement because it allows fallen pledge-takers back into the fold.

Virginity pledgers who break their vows are welcomed home with the proviso that they stop having sex and re-commit to abstinence: "If you have already had sex," it says on the Worth the Wait Web site, "don't throw in the towel just yet. You CAN start over and take a vow of renewed abstinence." Silver Ring Thing offers a similar message: "We recognize the fact that many students who attend the SRT are or have been sexually active, and they need to know if it is possible to begin again. The answer is YES, YOU CAN START OVER and, in fact, for this reason many students attend our program."

In this way, pledge groups touting secondary virginity operate in much the same way as Alcoholics Anonymous, which positions itself as a support system for all problem drinkers -- whether they are on, or off, the wagon.

Seriously, born-again virginity

There is a strong argument to be made on behalf of women -- Christian or not -- taking control of their bodies and making choices that are right for them.

This is essentially the approach that author Wendy Keller took in her 1999 book The Cult of the Born-Again Virgin. Keller had been working as a successful literary agent and stumbled onto born-again virginity in a social circle where you might least expect it: among 30- and 40-something high-powered career women. Rather than emulating Sex and the City's Samantha Jones, who uses her sexual prowess to dominate men and feel powerful, the women depicted in Keller's book had decided that taking themselves off the dating treadmill would empower them, and it did.

"I was at a cocktail party in Philly with a client at a friend's house," Keller recalls. "A woman was there who was dynamic and vivacious and successful and pretty. I asked if she was dating anybody and she said, 'No, I'm a born-again virgin and believe in being celibate until I find the right guy.'" Keller's first thought was to avoid the woman but when she heard the term again at a brunch in New York City and then later in Malibu, she knew she was on to something. She began researching born-again virginity and developed a self-help book advocating it.

Her book encourages women to stop using the pursuit of men as an excuse to avoid confronting their own problems. After it was published, Keller recalls, "There was a nuclear explosion." She appeared on hundreds of radio shows and garnered an overwhelming response: "I had everything from teenagers calling me on the radio crying because they'd had sex with nine boys and needed to make better choices to husbands saying, 'My wife has decided to become a born-again virgin.'"

Keller found herself under attack from different camps: Playboy and Maxim chided her for her supposed prudishness because she advised sexual restraint. Meanwhile, Christian broadcasters were incensed that she would not advocate premarital abstinence.

"I got a lot of heat from the Christian community because I would not say it's a good idea to be celibate until married. It [premarital abstinence] was a bad choice for me. There were people who had made that choice and paid a high price for it," Keller says. "The way I see it, the born-again virginity movement is temporary celibacy, and it's about not waiting for a man to fix every aspect of your life. The point is to get your life working."

Sex, lies and born-again virginity

Recent research raises troubling conclusions about secondary virginity. Janet Rosenbaum, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, last June published findings in the American Journal of Public Health that adolescents are prone to recanting virginity and secondary virginity pledges. She found that those who take pledges are likely to recant their sexual histories.

By documenting the extent to which young people lie about their sexual experiences, her findings raise concern over whether teens might take their virginity renewal literally, believing that if they stop having sex they can conceal their past from a spouse or doctor and, in so doing, spread or ignore STDs.

Perhaps this concern highlights a need to reinvent born-again virginity so that it does a better job meeting the needs of the people who choose it. First, teens need to know that born-again virginity doesn't mean they can pretend they never had sex and leave diseases undetected and untreated. Second, born-again virginity should be a feminist-inspired route to autonomy of mind and body: a recourse for adolescent girls seduced by exploitative and ultimately fraudulent media depictions of youth sexuality. In this era of porn on-demand and girls-gone-wild, it's easy for girls to believe that early promiscuity will make them powerful, when it is more likely to lead to unplanned pregnancy and STDs, if not shattered self-esteem.

Third, every young woman deserves candid conversations -- not about purity for the sake of her future husband -- but about desire, responsibility, self-respect and self-determination. For herself.

Amy DePaul is a writer and college instructor who lives in Irvine, Calif. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post and many other newspapers.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Attorney General and the Final Solution

When our current attorney general first appeared on the scene, he had a walk. The slow balls the judiciary committee tossed at him were so far outside the strike zone it was a joke. Many of us shuddered at the way Gonzales was put on base. And he’s turned out to be just as bad as that religious fool that preceded him.

Worse, because he’s the one who engineered the dismantling of habeas corpus, finished polishing the Patriot Act into the framework for a police state, and who still is in office. We get daily noise about “investigations” and “hearings,” but all they amount to, so far is white noise. Relax, folks, everything’s moving right along. It’s all under control.

Yeah, but who’s control?

Nothing seems to have changed. Hell, nothing’s changed since Reagan. The country is being run by a group of ideologues and opportunists that hasn’t had a new idea sine the Congress of Vienna.

Gonzales is the man employed to implement the final solution.

Sunday, March 18, 2007



Are things getting better in this country? I don't think so. The Demicans got a lot of support last November, but they can't seem to do shit. Well, actually, shitting is about what they do—on us. Taking the cue from the Republicans, yes. Nothing. Nothing has changed.

At least I'm not the only person feeling this way. Check out Stephen Pizzo's

And then get back to me. He says it better than I can.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Where I've been, what I've done...

The world hasn't blown itself up, yet, but it appears to be as trigger-happy as ever. Two weeks since my last post. I know where I've been, so I know I'm not "losing time."

We went up to visit friends in Anacortes, WA., for a week, and, since we've been back we've had some stuff to deal with. Beth's Uncle Fred passed last Monday. S., Beth's neice has moved in with us, coming over from Portland. S. is 19. Those three things amount to plenty of changes.

And I just don't feel as dedicated to my raps and rants as I did. The only way for me to maintain what sanity I have is to not get utterly involved in the political morass out there. Yeah, I'm still a political junkie, but I'm trying to taper off...Trying to taper off of politcis and current events may be like trying to taper off tobacco or heroin, but at least I keep trying to step back and have some sort of distance. All that crap is going to outlive me, anyhow. Bush's legacy will continue through the next couple of decades: the ravaging he's done to our homeland is going to take a long time to repair. The Middle East...well, that's been ravaged forever, so it may just go on the way the it's been; but, I believe the do-gooders will try to fix it all up. Christ, they can't even fix up Harlem—or Congress.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Latest Extra-Legal Vigilante Group Shoots Self in Foot

The latest incarnation of the old nativist, essentially racist, and downright militant gun-toting vigilante groups in America appears to have burst into flames. It may be heading for a crash landing. We can only hope.

It was pretty much bound to happen. There are too many people eager to donate money to a cause that would “increase” American security, and a group (led by a weirdly charismatic idiot) that would appear to be a home-grown minuteman-like gang...There’s always been this bizarre do-it-yourself trend in this country. The Abolitionists and pro-slavery gangs shooting it out in Kansas, bloody Kansas; the Green Valley Boys, Regulators and Vigilantes, people eager for the opportunity to go out and shoot other people—or to at least support ones who do or threaten to do…. Lawlessness is as American as apple pie and SUVs.

The Washington Times
Board members take over Minuteman border group
By Jerry Seper
Published March 1, 2007

The leadership of the Minuteman Project, whose civilian patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2005 fueled a nationwide immigration debate, is under attack by advisory board members who say they now control the organization.
The Rev. Marvin L. Stewart, a Veterans Affairs accounts receivable technician and minister who heads the My Lord's Salvation Ministries Inc., told The Washington Times this week that he had taken over the Minuteman Project because of "gross mismanagement" by James Gilchrist, the group's chairman, and others.
He said Minuteman Project leaders have not been able to account for $400,000 of the $750,000 that a direct-mail company helped raised last year for the organization.
Mr. Gilchrist, Minuteman Project founder, has vowed a court fight to oust them. He asked a California court this week for a restraining order to halt the takeover, which he called illegal, but acknowledged the bitter internal battle could lead to the organization's demise.
"It certainly could come to that," Mr. Gilchrist told The Times. "We have led the fight for stricter immigration enforcement, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the people I am fighting against, including the open-border lobbies, are better than the people I'm fighting for."
Orange County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson set a follow-up hearing for March 21.
Mr. Gilchrist co-founded the Minuteman Project with former Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper publisher Chris Simcox and set up border vigils in April 2005.
The two men split in December 2005 after bitter disagreements over funding. Mr. Simcox has since formed the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), whose financial accountability also has been questioned by some current and former members.
"We believe it is absolutely necessary to have an open and aboveboard review of the Minuteman Project's administrative functions," Mr. Stewart said. "We want to assure our members who have placed their trust in us to defend and protect them when the federal government fails to enforce immigration law."
Mr. Stewart said Mr. Gilchrist did not obtain nonprofit status for the Minuteman Project and improperly used a discount postal rate to solicit donations. He also said that Mr. Gilchrist and the organization's executive director, Steve Eichler, used Minuteman Project funds for personal gain, and that Tim Bueler, national media director, was guilty of "disloyalty."
"This public effort is meant to dispel that cloud of doubt and to reassure our members that the leadership will take whatever steps are necessary when those circumstances arise and demand clarity of purpose," he said.
He was joined in the complaint by Minuteman Project advisory board members Deborah Courtney, Barbara Coe and Scott Powelson.
Mr. Gilchrist, a retired certified public accountant and Vietnam veteran, is thought to have raised about $1.3 million in donations from advocates of immigration enforcement. He said that Mr. Stewart and others were seeking to "hijack the Minuteman Project" with false accusations and that as advisory board members, they had no legal authority to vote his ouster.
In court papers, he accused his opponents of hacking into the Minuteman Project Web site,, stealing money from its bank accounts and diverting other cash belonging to the organization to accounts they control.
"They think they can 9/11 us, but they can't," Mr. Gilchrist said, adding that the advisory board members, including Mr. Stewart, told him to resign or they would embarrass the organization. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
"I refused to resign, and they have no power to vote me out," he said.

Copyright © 2007 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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