Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Time Is Ripe for Urban Agriculture

Time Is Ripe for Urban Agriculture
By Neal Peirce
The Seattle Times

Monday 23 May 2005

Is America ready for a metropolitan agriculture policy? Is the time ripe to take some of the billions in subsidies now flowing to big commodity-crop operators and focus instead on sustainable farm production in and around the citistate regions where 80 percent of us live?

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat--Oregon, and the man who founded Congress' Livability Caucus, argues that with half of federal farm subsidies currently "flowing to six states to produce 13 commodities that in the main we don't need, like corn, wheat, cotton, and rice," there's a dramatically superior alternative.

We should, says Blumenauer, "use that money to build sustainable agriculture, create a farmer's market in every community, help farmers protect our land and water, preserve our viewsheds, foster land banks and control erosion."

Historically, he argues, our metropolitan regions weren't just centers of commerce but areas of fertile fields, often in lush river valleys. Even today, they have some of America's best land for sustainable agriculture. "With small diversions from the agriculture bill," argues Blumenauer, "we could provide grants for communities to develop year-round farmers' markets" and help local producers provide fresh vegetables and fruits, high-quality cheeses, honeys, nuts and more.

It's not hard to dismiss Blumenauer's idea. Small-scale agriculture has been losing out to big (and increasingly subsidized) farm operations for decades. This winter, the Bush administration quickly retreated from its proposal to significantly trim payouts to the mega-producers.

As for our food-raising-and-distribution system, the story is familiar: Big agribusiness processes commodities often high in sugar and fat, raises poultry, beef and pork in factory-like facilities, ships the shrink-wrapped products up to thousands of miles to supermarkets, and relies heavily on flashy packaging and advertising. How could anyone even loosen that hammerlock?

A bunch of reasons, it turns out --
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
-- and to see those reasons, follow the link above.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch

Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch
By Jeff Sharlet

Sharlet is back with another undercover expose of macho evangelicals.
The suburban megachurch, shopping mall-sized full-service protection of entertainment-religion is a symptom of our times as much as the cathedral was a symptom of medieval hierarchy. Here's why you should read about the most influential megachurch in the USA:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The press tends to regard Dobson as the most powerful evangelical Christian in America, but Pastor Ted is at least his equal. Whereas Dobson plays the part of national scold, promising to destroy politicians who defy the Bible, Pastor Ted quietly guides those politicians through the ritual of acquiescence required to save face. He doesn’t strut, like Dobson; he gushes. When Bush invited him to the Oval Office to discuss policy with seven other chieftains of the Christian right in late 2003, Pastor Ted regaled his whole congregation with the story via email. “Well, on Monday I was in the World Prayer Center”— New Life’s high-tech, twentyfour- hour-a-day prayer chapel —“and my cell phone rang.” It was a presidential aide; “the President,” says Pastor Ted, wanted him on hand for the signing of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Pastor Ted was on a plane the next morning and in the President’s office the following afternoon. “It was incredible,” wrote Pastor Ted. He left it to the press to note that Dobson wasn’t there.

No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life. It is by no means the largest megachurch, nor is Ted the best-known man of God: Saddleback Church, in southern California, counts 80,000 on its rolls, and its pastor, Rick Warren, has sold 20 million copies of his book The Purpose-Driven Life. But Warren’s success has come at the price of passion; his doctrine, though conservative, is bland and his politics too obscured by his self-help message to be potent. Although other churches boast more eminent memberships than Pastor Ted’s—near D.C., for example, McLean Bible Church and The Falls Church (an Episcopal church that is, like many “mainline” churches today, now evangelical in all but name) minister to the powerful— such churches are not, like New Life, crucibles for the ideas that inspire the movement, ideas that are forged in the middle of the country and make their way to Washington only over time. Evangelicalism is as much an intellectual as an emotional movement; and what Pastor Ted has built in Colorado Springs is not just a battalion of spiritual warriors but a factory for ideas to arm them....

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dramatic Miracle for Greenpeace

Korean whaling villagers reconcile with Greenpeace protesters.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
"It all began at 6pm as promised. As the local development association leaders walked into the embassy, the police cars idled to a halt outside. The showdown had begun. What followed was a rollercoaster of a meeting with a wonderful result.

The local leaders spent a long time discussing the history of their community, how the number in their ‘dying’ community had dropped form 16000 to 1600 in only 10 years. They talked about how they accepted a polluting factory upwind so that they could have the whale research centre and whale museum as well.

With trembling hands as they spoke, these community representatives obviously did not want to be fighting. They explained that the embassy was okay, but the mounds with the whale tails behind were painful for them, striking an all too real chord of the past, whilst preventing them from embracing the future with oceans day and the opening of the whale museum. At that moment one of the crew ran into the meeting to whisper in our ear that three coach-loads of riot police had just arrived and parked on the ground outside the embassy. After sending climbers up the mast, we continued with our meeting, while the police officers listened close by.

We explained that the whale tail mounds were erected by us to illustrate the certain demise of whales and whaling communities if whaling is ever resumed. We offered to take down the mounds to show the genuine intentions of our goodwill, both to the whales and to the coastal fishing communities as well. They could not believe what they heard and were genuinely blown away. We explained that we would like to help find alternative ways to economically revive the community in a sustainable but profitable way.

Suddenly the president of the community group said he wanted to learn about whale watching and would welcome all the advice that we could give him on this. The guy next to him said that he would like to get the children from Jangsaengpo school to come and meet us and help design banners for oceans day to hang from the mast. Obviously over the moon, they added that because it was so obvious that we meant well, that Greenpeace could stay until the end of the IWC, and if we have any problems, then we should get in contact with them immediately. After a brief discussion of whale watching history in Australia, we all agreed that we would meet very soon to talk about each other’s concerns in more detail.

The meeting ended with a spontaneous round of applause and by the time we emerged from the embassy, the riot police had gone, disappearing as mysteriously as they had arrived. And so it was that the organization that wanted to blockade the Rainbow Warrior in Ulsan port last month and that publicly promised direct action against Greenpeace only 24 hours ago, ended up agreeing to reconnect our water, meet soon to discuss whale watching, send their children to the embassy to learn more about whales and insist on having a group photo together before they left.

We have now opened up a dialogue and potential friendship with the most historically pro-whaling community in Korea, and a group who are pushing for the whale factory as a means of reviving the community. We now have a month to create, persuade and help sell an alternative future for the community of Jangsaengpo.

The feeling in the camp is great and we are having pizzas to celebrate!"

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Whole story & how to help out at:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Corn & Potatoes: genetically modified threats

Human kidney

Human corn

Rats fed GM corn due for sale in Britain developed abnormalities in blood and kidneys.
Must read at:

And, a major newspaper in the UK, The Independent, has published an expose of suppressed research results that showed very worrisome health threats from genetically modified potatoes and corn. Excerpt:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
. . . Dr. Arpad Pusztai was then the bogeyman of the British scientific establishment. No less a figure than Lord May - then the Government's chief scientific adviser, now president of the Royal Society - had accused him of violating "every canon of scientific rectitude", and ministers and top scientists had queued up to denounce him.

His crime had been to find disturbing evidence that the GM potatoes he was studying damaged the immune systems, brains, livers and kidneys of rats - and to mention it briefly in a television programme before his research was completed and published.

His punishment was draconian; his research was stopped, his team disbanded and his data confiscated. He was ostracised by his colleagues, forced into retirement and gagged for seven months, forbidden to put his case. I was the first journalist to interview him at length, spending six hours with him.

I arrived, very sceptical, at his semi-detached house in the granite city, where he had worked for the prestigious Rowett Research Institute for 37 years, with two handwritten pages of hostile questions. But I was surprised by what I found.

For a start, he proved to be no wild-eyed maverick, but the world's acknowledged top authority in his field, a small, vital, precise man with 270 papers to his name and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Far from a headline-seeker, he was evidently a bewildered stranger to public controversy, cautious in his language, anxious to cross every scientific "t" before venturing a conclusion.

Perhaps most surprising of all he turned out to be, in his words, "a very enthusiastic supporter" of genetic modification who had fully expected his experiments - approved and funded by the Government - to give it a "clean bill of health".

"I was totally taken aback," he told me. "I was absolutely confident that I wouldn't find anything. But the longer I spent on the experiments, the more uneasy I became." . . . .

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
See whole story at:

Encouraging Words: Howard Zinn

In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. This year on May 15th, he was invited back to give the commencement address. Short excerpt below:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa. The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed, and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give up. That's when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government was bombing the villages of Vietnam -- bombing schools and hospitals and killing ordinary people in huge numbers -- it looked hopeless to try to stop the war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing to join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do -- to get jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life. . . .

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Howard Zinn's commencement address continues at:

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where does he find these guys?

Dr. W. David Hager, the George W. Bush-appointed adviser to the FDA and a vocal opponent of emergency contraception, abortion, and pre-marital sex, was accused by his ex-wife of anally raping her on a regular basis over many years.

Hager is the author of the books As Jesus Cared for Women and, with his wife, Stress and the Woman's Body.

This according to Harper's Weekly.

For more incredible details on this Christian pervert, see the dope over at


But they won't stop.

"Last night I watched the weather channel, as is my habit. Elsewhere in the world there are floods: roiling brown water, bloated cows floating by,survivors huddled on rooftops. Thousands have drowned. Global warming is held accountable: people must stop burning things up, it is said. Gasoline, oil, whole forests. But they won't stop. Greed and hunger lash them on, as usual."

--Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin

Monday, May 23, 2005

Beyond the Desert Religions

What We Must Do

"We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of a God is a conception derived from the ancient oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create."

-- Bertrand Russell, from "Why I Am Not a Christian"

Galloway: J' Accuse . . . !

"I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns, and to give him maps the better to target those guns."
--George Galloway. May 17, 2005

Excerpt below about Galloway's aggressive defense before the U.S. Senate, from Short Tales from Bizarro World
By William Rivers Pitt

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

You know things have gone more than a bit around the bend when it takes a British MP with a hard Scottish brogue to throw a little truth against the walls of the U.S. Senate chamber to see what will stick. George Galloway, accused of profiteering in the UN oil-for-food scandal, sat before Senators Coleman and Levin on Tuesday and raked America's Iraq invasion slowly and deliberately over the coals.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction," said Galloway. "I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."

Coleman and Levin, and anyone else listening in, must have felt like they were receiving a tongue-lashing from an angry Sean Connery. The fact that Galloway's outraged testimony went out live over the airwaves on most of the 24-hour news channels was likewise an odd twist. The American people actually saw a well-spoken contrary opinion broadcast into their homes on Tuesday, a rare event, and then watched as the talking heads scrambled to spin this square peg back into its round hole.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Slavery in Asia

Millions in Asia Endure Slave-Like Conditions

"In a report released on Tuesday, May 17, entitled A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour, the ILO said there are 12.3 million forced labourers worldwide, three-quarters of which the Asia-Pacific region alone. . . .

Not to mention, yet again:

Child illiteracy and child labour are the continent’s main social ills

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Save 2000 whales with your face

Greenpeace at the link above helps you to save quite a few whales from a proposed slaughterhouse in South Korea. Activists are camping on the spot, meeting with the town's mayor, and getting into trouble with the local police. And they are successfully hanging in there due to "international pressure" of thousands of email letters from people like us. We sent so many that the mayor's email account shut down.

This month will be decisive -- to build a whaling slaughterhouse or not. Greenpeace has come up with a new way to demonstrate concern from overseas. The link above brings you to their handy-dandy site where you can print out a message in Korean, snap a photo of yourself with it, and upload it to Greenpeace. We thereby become a virtual presence during the protest meetings in Korea.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Health of the Nations

The health of the nations is compared and contrasted in yesterday's Le Monde. Life expectancy in the U.S. is a few years lower than it is in Japan, Canada, and Europe; yet Americans spend more than twice as much on medical care. Health is tied to social cohesion and to cultural practices, for examples:

  • eating alone while watching TV tends to result in obesity and multiple health problems
  • different rates of violence in different nations, the U.S. being very high on violence
  • lack of a national health insurance coverage
  • the socio-economic distance between classes, where the U.S. is grotesque.

Excerpt of interest below from "Social Cohesion and Life Expectancy" by Jean de Kervasdoué:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

" American sociologist Philip Slater indicated in 1970 that the pursuit of solitude had already become the distinguishing feature of American society. This solitude is expressed in eating behaviors. More often than in Europe, Americans of every age eat alone, at any time, any sort of food, to the rapid rhythm of television ads that teach them what they must ingest. Food is not the only cause for the United States' bad indicators: a young black man living in New York has the same life expectancy as a Sri-Lankan. American society is a violent society where, proportionally, there are eight times as many people incarcerated as in France, where wounds and deaths by firearms or slashing are frequent, which leaves its mark on life expectancy statistics.

Finally, at any given moment, 43 million Americans - or about 20% of the population - do not have any health insurance or other social coverage. This figure hides an even greater level of insecurity since, over any two year period, close to 40% of the population at one time or another over the two years will not have any health insurance. The most powerful, the richest, the most medicalized nation on earth is not the one - far from it - where people live the longest.

The political and social system leave their mark: the Canadian neighbor, also a great country of immigration, enjoys a life expectancy at birth that puts it among the premier countries in the world (79.7 years in 2001, more than France the same year). It enjoys a universal healthcare system.

The countries that offer their populations the longest life expectancies at birth (Japan, Sweden) turn out to often be those where the difference in incomes between the social classes is the least. In study after study, it has been demonstrated that everything that benefits social cohesion contributes to growth in life expectancy. Social democracy is good for health."

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Have You Read The Bible?

"Can we really worship the God found in the Bible who sent the angel of death across the land of Egypt to murder the firstborn males in every Egyptian household?" Bishop Spong asks. Or what about 1 Samuel 15, in which God is quoted as issuing orders to wipe out all the Amalekites: "Kill both man and woman, child and infant." Hmmm. Tough love, or war crimes? As for the New Testament, Revelation 19:17 has an angel handing out invitations to a divine dinner of "the flesh of all people."

Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene.

Christianity may have become unfriendly to women's rights partly because, in its early years, it absorbed an antipathy for sexuality from the Neoplatonists. That led to an emphasis on the perpetual virginity of Mary, with some early Christian thinkers even trying to preserve the Virgin Mary's honor by raising the possibility that Jesus had been born through her ear.

The squeamishness about sexuality led the church into such absurdities as a debate about "prelapsarian sex": the question of whether Adam and Eve might have slept together in the Garden of Eden, at least if they had stayed longer. St. Augustine's dour answer was: Maybe, but they wouldn't have enjoyed it. In modern times, this same discomfort with sex has led some conservative Christians to a hatred of gays and a hostility toward condoms, even to fight AIDS.

Bishop Spong particularly denounces preachers who selectively quote Scripture against homosexuality. He also cites various textual reasons for concluding (not very persuasively) that St. Paul was "a frightened gay man condemning other gay people so that he can keep his own homosexuality inside the rigid discipline of his faith."

The bishop also tries to cast doubt on the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus. He notes that the earliest New Testament writings, of Paul and the source known as Q, don't mention a betrayal by Judas. Bishop Spong contends that after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem in A.D. 70, early Christians curried favor with Roman gentiles by blaming the Crucifixion on Jewish authorities - nurturing two millennia of anti-Semitism that bigots insisted was biblically sanctioned. . . .
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

{see whole article from The New York Times at link above, or here: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/ }051505F.shtml

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dada Day in NYC

May 16, 2005
Desert Island Fantasy With a Tent and a Cause

It sounds like the ultimate urban childhood fantasy, hatched while staring out a window at a brick wall: take over a deserted island for a day, camp out in a grassy field, make crazy tents and dress up in crazy costumes, and then invite people to get on a boat and come see the results.

On Saturday, with the help of the Public Art Fund, the artist Allison Smith and more than 100 other artists achieved this fantasy, within the shadows of Manhattan's skyscrapers, commandeering Governors Island to create a kind of conceptual art version of day camp. Or maybe a Dadaist's dream of a craft fair. Or else a mini-Woodstock in which music was replaced by artists taking the stage in mock-military style to declare that they were fighting for causes like "sequined religious figures," "the right to sing sentimental songs in full," "the right to be scared" or more straightforward causes like financial support for AIDS research and ending overfishing of the oceans.

The setting for the event - which Ms. Smith called "The Muster," using the theme of Civil War re-enactment as a loose aesthetic organizing principle - was almost as surreal as the encampment of artists itself. Nearly deserted since the Coast Guard closed its base there in 1996, Governors Island feels ghostly, even on a sunny weekend day - its hotel, beauty salon, bowling alley, movie theater, nine-hole golf course, Burger King restaurant and Georgian-style mansions all sitting empty, awaiting a decision by state and city officials about what the 172-acre island will become.

Tom Eccles, director of the Public Art Fund, said he and Ms. Smith, who had created a smaller version of "The Muster" last year on a farm in Pennsylvania, saw the island as the perfect place for the event, both practically and metaphorically. "This is almost like a free zone right now," Mr. Eccles said. "It doesn't really come under the kind of constraints you have in other parts of the city. It would be very difficult to do this kind of project in, say, Central Park or even Prospect Park."

At times on Saturday, the gathering had the feel of any normal, impromptu cookout in a park. Shaggy teenagers played Hacky Sack. Little girls had ribbons braided in their hair. Fried chicken and pasta salad were served on tables with red-checkered tablecloths. But in line to be served there was a woman with oversized female genitalia sewn onto her leotard. And out in the field, there were tents like the all-pink one by William Bryan Purcell, who said his cause was "the just representation of female intentions."

"I'm offering nail painting, hair brushing, intimate conversation, makeovers - basically anything you need to get yourself fixed up," said Mr. Purcell, an artist, who was also smoking a large cigar. ("I didn't want to come across as too pink," he explained.)

Ms. Smith said that by the end of the day, about 1,500 people had made the trip by ferry. One of them, Michele Siegel, who wandered by Mr. Purcell's tent with a friend, Margie Weinstein, said the whole event felt like "Burning Man for lazy people," referring to the annual counterculture event staged in Nevada, in one of the country's most remote places. (Governors Island is only 800 yards from the tip of Manhattan.)

Civil War re-enactment was the guiding idea in large part because Ms. Smith grew up in Manassas, Va., and has always been fascinated by the obsessive dedication to authenticity of Civil War re-enactors. But many of the 40 or so tents, shacks and teepees scattered across a field near an old fort where the event took place ignored the theme altogether. One looked like a ship, and out front sat a man in a striped prison uniform playing a guitar and singing the blues song "Caldonia." In another, a large trampoline served as the floor, and a third looked like a Day-Glo maypole.

Others did toy with the military idea, mostly in a nonpolitical way. Gary Graham, a fashion designer, made ghostly military uniforms and enlisted his friends Charles Beyer and Brianna Espitalier to dress in them with gory makeup. A woman sat inside the tent with votive candles, reading "On Being Ill" by Virginia Woolf. While some of the tents and costumes seemed like leftovers from a school play, Mr. Graham's were serious.

"Hair and makeup people came over on the first ferry this morning at 7:30 - we had a bugle call to get up," said Mr. Beyer, who, like many of the artists, slept in their tents on Friday night.

Across the way, students from the Rhode Island School of Design, under the direction of Liz Collins, a professor, put up a tent filled with knitting machines, where they cranked out a huge abstract red-white-and-blue cotton banner during the afternoon. Julia Bryan-Wilson, another professor, said that earlier in the day, the knitters were approached by a man who had come to the island thinking there was going to be a real Civil War re-enactment. "He was just really confused," she said. "When I said that we were fighting for a sovereign nation of knitters, he didn't like that at all."

If he did not like that, then he probably hated the tent run by the artists Nicole Eisenman and A. L. Steiner. It included a bench where passersby were summoned to kneel, confess their sins through a megaphone and be whipped with a leather belt. "We're the negative energy vortex here," Ms. Eisenman said. "We give a home to everyone's yang. It has to go someplace, so it comes here."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Corporate Construction of Doubt

Today's bloggence is part 2 of yesterday's introduction to the ideological distortion and suppression of technical knowledge, the social construction of ignorance, or the study of agnotology. Yes people are undeniably ignorant, but they ain't stupid. They've been kept ignorant. Today much of this ignorance is designed by corporate strategies.

Below is an excerpt from Response to Philip Scranton’s Report On Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution by David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Industry lawyers realized the importance of historians in tobacco and lead cases
many years ago and began recruiting historians into tobacco and lead suits in the 1980s and early 1990s. A substantial number of historians’ briefs now exist making it apparent that a common historical argument serves to protect industries in lawsuits. In what historian Robert Proctor has called agnotology, lawyers for major industries have, with the help of historians, created a new “science” for the creation of doubt and ignorance about industry’s actions in the past. Proctor argues in a number of oral presentations and editorials about the tobacco industry that historical experts testifying for industries have adopted a few basic techniques to undermine plaintiffs’ claims that the tobacco industry bears responsibility for their suffering because the industry knew of danger long ago but failed to warn unsuspecting smokers.

Proctor [describes the strategic production of juridical-scientific doubt about corporate responsibility for things like toxic poisoning in the following] . . . generic propositions:

• Despite whether knowledge existed within industries of the dangers of a product, that knowledge cannot be considered definitive proof of real danger.

• Without absolute certainty about the danger of a product or substance, there was little or no obligation on the part of industries to act to remove their product from the market or to lower exposures to toxic materials within the factory.

• More research is needed before doubt can be eliminated.

• Causation is extremely difficult to prove and requires years, if not decades, of careful experimentation and observation before “controversy” about the sources of disease can be resolved.

• It is necessary to “contextualize” the knowledge of danger to understand that standards of openness have changed over time.

• Standards of morality were “different,” meaning not as “advanced,” in the past.

• Historians who draw conclusions that indicate industry malfeasance are sloppy, simplistic or biased.

• If the danger of this product is undeniable, and it is impossible to deny knowledge of its dangers, argue that the government knew about danger as well and government failed to regulate the industry, making government, not the industry, responsible

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

What interests me beyond the utility of knowing such courtroom strategies to defend corporate malfeasance, is the peculiar resemblance to normal scientific procedure and its epistemological caution. Yet here we expose a kind of parody of science, in which there is the inverse of a quest for truths and clarification. Such experts are paid in order hide the truth and to obscure the situation.

Moreover, this collection of arguments, when strategically deployed during many lawsuits, soon help to construct an ideological theme. The corporate construction of doubt becomes the dubious construction of corporate innocence.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Agnotology: Cultural Stupification

Knowledge Note from C.B.:

Here's a new term to add to our lexicon:

agnotology: culturally induced scientific ignorance.

“Ignorance is often not merely the absence of knowledge,” Schiebinger argues, “but an outcome of cultural and political struggle.”

Term, definition and quote from:

"HISTORY OF SCIENCE: Lost in Translation?" A review by Stuart McCook* (Science, Volume 307, Number 5707, Issue of 14 Jan 2005, pp. 210-211. (Journal from The American Association for the Advancement of Science.) Now provided online by blogger PolPop here:

Book Reviewed:
Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World by Londa Schiebinger (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

The context was placed in a discussion of birth control botanicals known to West Indians and slaves, and to European scientists who studied the region, but kept from the general population in Europe.

*The reviewer is in the Department of History, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1 CANADA

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
This is interesting too because many students today wonder out loud how pre-modern peoples practiced birth control -- as if this was suddenly invented in our own day. I suggest to them that birth control is as old as the hills but that such traditional knowledge was suppressed in our own time. Quite the reverse of their assumptions that we know everything and that our ancestors knew nothing.

For more about agnotology see:

"Agnotology and Exotic Abortifacients: The Cultural Production of Ignorance in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World" by Londa Schiebinge, available online at

Sunday, May 15, 2005

4 Wars, 4 Lies

Four Bloody Lies of War, from Havana 1898 to Baghdad 2003
By Harvey Wasserman
The Columbus Free Press
Sunday 08 May 2005

The Bush Administration's lies about its rationales for attacking Iraq fit a pattern of deceit that has dragged America into at least three other unjust and catastrophic wars.

The "smoking gun" documents that emerged in the recent British election confirm the administration had decided to go to war and then sought "intelligence" to sell it.

But conscious, manipulative lies were also at the root of American attacks on Cuba in 1898, US intervention into World War I in 1917 and in Vietnam. These lies are as proven and irrefutable as the unconscionable deception that dragged the US into Iraq in 2003.

In each case, these lies of war have caused horrific human slaughter, the destruction of human rights and liberties, and financial disaster.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Read the sad details of this history here:


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Chinese Child Labor Tragedy

Grieving: Wang Shuangzheng holds a photo of daughter Jia Shiwei, one of five workers who died after burning coal in their room for warmth. The girls, some underage, worked every day for 12 hours.
(Photo: Xu Qiang / The LA Times)

See related report at:

And while most of us believe that child labor was finally ended in the late 19th century by liberal progressive activists, the fact is that it is still practiced in some parts of the world where adults feel that they have no real options. One of those many places is Iraq:
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
"Baghdad - Eleven-year-old Mahmoud al-Obaidi walks seven km every morning to get to work at a carpentry factory in Baghdad so he can save his bus fares.

Al-Obaidi is the only male in his family of four, as his father disappeared five years ago and he works to support his family. On average he spends nearly 10 hours a day in the factory earning a living.

"I didn't have a choice. Work was the only option. I cannot deny that I would like to be at a school, learning like other children. But I know the responsibility that I have to carry," al-Obaidi told IRIN, as he walked to work.

He boy is only one of thousands of Iraqi children forced by poverty to work at an early age.

More than a million youngsters work often enduring hazardous conditions, as well as being vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence, according to a report released at the end of 2004 . . . .
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
See complete article here: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/427d7283036b65f3ca9fb51e39a48b6b.htm

Day Before Tomorrow in Ireland

Ireland's The Sunday Times reported that evidence has been found for the "Day After Tomorrow" effect of altered ocean currents that leads to freezing weather. The process was predicted by simulated computer models, but now the evidence is coming in to confirm that it is already beginning, not the day after tomorrow but yesterday. Here's the beginning of their story:

May 08, 2005

Ireland faces big chill as ocean current slows
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

CLIMATE change researchers have detected the first signs of a slowdown in the Gulf Stream — the mighty ocean current that keeps Ireland and Europe from freezing.

They have found that one of the “engines” driving the Gulf Stream — the sinking of supercooled water in the Greenland Sea — has weakened to less than a quarter of its former strength. The weakening, apparently caused by global warming, could herald big changes in the current over the next few years or decades. Paradoxically, it could lead to Ireland, Britain and northwestern Europe undergoing a sharp drop in temperatures.

Such a change has long been predicted by scientists but the new research is among the first to show clear experimental evidence of the phenomenon. . . .
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Remainder of story online at:


Friday, May 13, 2005

On Revolt & Singularity

"There is no right to say: 'Revolt for me, there is a final liberation coming for every man.' But I am not in agreement with someone who would say: 'It is useless to revolt; it will always be the same thing.' One does not make the law for the person who risks his life before power. Is there or is there not a reason to revolt? Let's leave that question open. There are revolts and that is a fact. It is through revolt that subjectivity (not that of great men but that of whomever)introduces itself into history and gives it a breath of life....

"If someone asked me how I conceive what I am doing, I would respond with a contrast. The strategist is the man who says: 'What is the matter? Such death, such a cry, such a revolt in the context of the great necessity of the whole? Or, on the other hand, what difference does such a general principle make for the particular situation in which we find ourselves?' I am totally indifferent to whether the strategist is a politician, an historian, a revoutionary, a partisan of the Shah or of the Ayatullah. My ethic is the inverse of the one suggested by these questions. It is 'anti-strategic': to be respectful when something singular arises, to be intransigent when power offends against the universal. A simple choice, but a difficult work. It is always necessary to watch out for something, a little beneath history, that breaks with it, that agitates it; it is necessary to look, a little behind politics, for that which ought to limit it, unconditionally. After all, it is my work. I am neither the first not the only one to be doing it. But I have chosen to do it."

--Michel Foucault
"Is it Useless to Revolt?" (translated in Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol 8/1, 1981).

Mainstream News as Imperialist Conspiracy

Interesting revelations from behind the scenes of "The Connie Chung Show" on MSNBC here. Not to mention the naivete of young Mr. Pitt, who should have agreed to go along with the conspiracy, to appear as a proper guest on her show, and then surprise them by instead telling the truth. Read on to see what I mean...

One of These Days
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 11 May 2005

Whenever I get asked to speak about the media and its role in our world, I always remember something that happened to me in the fall of 2002. My book on Iraq had been out for a few weeks, I was writing for truthout, and I was also carrying a full teaching slate of high school classes. Needless to say, I was busy.

I was driving home from a long day of teaching back in the fall of 2002, and my cell phone rings. Now, and this is kind of a funny aside, I had always resisted getting a cell phone. Didn't like them, didn't want them. But all of a sudden I had all these radio interviews to do because of the Iraq book, and I did not want to do those interviews on the school phone for obvious reasons. So I went down to the phone store and got the cheapest one there. That meant, of course, that the phone was huge.

So the phone rings and I answered it while trying to navigate Memorial Drive in Cambridge - yes, at that moment I was the jerk on his cell phone who almost kills you with his car - and on the line is a producer from MSNBC who wanted me on the Connie Chung show. Hot damn, I thought. This is getting serious. The producer wanted me on the show to talk about Hans Blix and the weapons inspections taking place in Iraq. Great, I said. Yeah, she went on, we want you to talk about how the inspectors are doing a really bad job.

So picture this moment. There I was, trying to drive down one of the worst roads in Cambridge with a cell phone the size of a gallon of milk stuck to my ear, and I have this MSNBC producer telling me that if I go on the show, I have to dump all over the inspectors who at that time had been in-country about a week. Coincidentally, that was exactly the same line of rhetoric being pushed by the White House at exactly that time. I'm sure the look on my face was priceless, and I'm lucky me, the car and the giant cell phone didn't wind up in the Charles River.

I asked her if she knew who she was talking to. She didn't understand. My book, I told her, says there are no weapons of mass destruction and therefore no reason to go to war there. I'm the last person on the planet, therefore, who is going to haul water for the idea that there are weapons in Iraq. Furthermore, I said, I don't know where you get off trying to gin up resentment against the inspectors. They just got there, and if they can finish their work without getting derailed by nonsense like this, it'll hopefully keep a lot of people from getting killed. The MSNBC producer laughed quietly - that's the part I will never forget, how she laughed - and hung up.

For me, that's it in a nutshell. That's what ails us as a nation. The corporate media does not report the news anymore. They create consensus, they manufacture the common fictions under which we are expected to live. With the TV media, this behavior is all the more insidious because TV reaches everyone.

Television is the most extraordinarily effective tool of mass control that has ever been invented by anyone anywhere.

If this MSNBC producer is an appropriate example - and I think she is, because she was asking me to basically be yet another Bush administration mouthpiece - the fictions they create do not merely soothe and placate the populace. They kill. They kill in large numbers, and a few people (who coincidentally own large chunks of the corporate news media) get paid handsomely for that killing.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Pitt continues in this essay to give egregious examples of when the media conspired with imperialist violence to manufacture American consent to it. Available online at:


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Pat Tillman Martydom Was Yet Another Lie

Ted Rall writes today about the death of football / war martyr Pat Tillman and how his death was lied about by the military and misreported in the media. We found out much later, after his "example" was used to prod young macho guys into uniform, that he didn't die in an act of battlefield heroism and sacrifice, but rather that he was riddled with U.S. bullets in an act of battlefield confusion by our own "friendly fire". With friends like that, who needs enemies?

But more to the point, the media made sure that every man-woman-and-child heard about the heroic version of Pat Tillman, however the media only ran a small print correction and short quiet apologies a year later, which few Americans heard. The way this lie was perpetrated is defined as propaganda, a lesson we haven't yet covered adequately, because we keep making the same "error" repeatedly: Weapons of Mass Destruction; Jessica Lynch; Bush's Thanksgiving turkey to the troops (fake plastic); the toppling of the Saddam statue; etc... all deliberate propaganda loudly trumpeted by the media.

excerpt below from Ted Rall--

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
"We didn't want the world finding out what actually happened," one soldier told Jones. A perfect summary of the war on terrorism.

The weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a figment of Donald Rumsfeld's imagination. The Thanksgiving turkey Bush presented to the troops turned out to be plastic, as much of a staged photo op as the gloriously iconic and phony toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad by jubilant Iraqi civilians--well, actually a few dozen marines and
CIA-financed operatives. So many of the Administration's "triumphs" have been exposed as frauds that one has to wonder whether that was really Saddam in the spider hole.

We shouldn't blame the White House for producing lies; that's what politicians do. But we expect better from the media who disseminate them.

Case study: the Washington Post's dutiful transcription of the Jessica Lynch hoax. Played up on page one and running on for thousands of words, the fanciful Pentagon version had the pilot from West Virginia emptying her clip before finally succumbing to a gunshot wound (and possible rape) by evil Iraqi ambushers, then freed from her tormentors at a heavily-guarded POW hospital.

Like the Pat Tillman story, it was pure fiction. Private Lynch, neither shot nor sexually violated, said she was injured when her vehicle crashed. She never got off a shot because her gun jammed. As she told reporters who were willing to listen, her Iraqi doctors and nurses had given her excellent care. She credited them for saving her life. In a weird sort of prequel to the shooting of an Italian journalist, they had even attempted to turn her over at a U.S. checkpoint but were forced to flee when American troops fired at them.

In all of these examples, editors and producers played corrective follow-up stories with far less fanfare than the original, incorrect ones. To paraphrase "X-Files" character Fox Mulder, the truth is in there--in the paper, on TV. It's just really, really hard to find.

Readers of the American press and viewers of American radio and television are likelier to see and believe loudly repeated lies over occasionally whispered truths told once or twice. As a result of the reverse imbalance between fact and fiction, the propaganda versions of the Tillman and Lynch stories, the staged Saddam statue footage, and the claim that Iraq had WMDs are all believed by a misled citizenry that votes accordingly. . . ."
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Get whole essay by Ted Rall online at:


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Extra-legal Prisons East & West

Today's bloggence notes the spread of extra-legal, supralegal, illegal, and sublegal prisons with a comparative juxtaposition.

Labor camps in China hold some 300,000 prisoners today (yes I double-checked and the year is 2005 not 1955). These labor camps detain anyone for any reason up to about 4 years without formal charges, without a lawyer, and without even a trial or a judicial order. Prisoners are held in a parallel underworld by the police, with merely police authority. Here's a photo of one such house of the dead, Shandong No. 2:

Labor Camp in China

Issue in China: Labor Camps That Operate Outside the Courts - New York Times

Meanwhile, back in the world of occidental petroleum, we are reminded again that despite all the sadistic porn pictures in the news, the public outcry and official anguish and liberal handwringing and court martialled scapegoats, that nothing has been improved in the U.S. treatment (elsewhere called "torture") of its P.O.W.s in Gitmo and Afghanistan and Iraq and in illicit "ghost flights" of arrestees out to countries that routinely practice torture. Reportedly things have even gotten worse in some prisons.

I recommend the sensible approach to stuffing these same jail cells with corpulent cons like Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and the rest of the usual suspects. Then we'll see how much worse conditions there become.

The Guardian investigated Afghanistan for instance, and titled their story about that country as: One Huge U.S. Jail. Here's the beef:

"Washington likes to hold up Afghanistan as an exemplar of how a rogue regime can be replaced by democracy. Meanwhile, human-rights activists and Afghan politicians have accused the US military of placing Afghanistan at the hub of a global system of detention centres where prisoners are held incommunicado and allegedly subjected to torture. The secrecy surrounding them prevents any real independent investigation of the allegations. "The detention system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside international norms, but it is only part of a far larger and more sinister jail network that we are only now beginning to understand," Michael Posner, director of the US legal watchdog Human Rights First, told us."

Read the rest of their report here:


China's totalitarian extra-legal prison complex is part of its national security state apparatus. The U.S.'s extra-legal prison complex is part of its international imperial apparatus. The parallax view here strongly suggests that the "integrated spectacle" of East & West that Debord predicted back in 1967 has already run into this global crisis which has led to a redeployment of the old discipline and punish routine.

Anti-terrorism is the new panoptic surveillance, while capitalist expansion is the new disciplinary normalization.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pie in the Sky (And You Don't Have to Die) ?!?

This link is to part 4 of a 5-part series:

America's Religious Right - Saints or Subversives?
By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Investigation

Part IV: Pie in the Sky


Monday, May 09, 2005

How to Stop the War

Get & give this book. Sign the CodePink pledge too at:

Read a chapter from the book above online: "A New Counterterrorism Strategy: Feminism" by Barbara Ehrenreich.
In sum:
"A sustained and serious effort to gain human rights for women worldwide could be the start of a brand new approach to fighting terrorism."

How to End the War by Naomi Klein

"Sadly, the Bush administration has done a better job of using the language of responsibility than we in the anti-war movement. The message that’s getting across is that we are saying “just leave,” while they are saying, “we can’t just leave, we have to stay and fix the problem we started.”

We can have a very detailed, responsible agenda and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. We should be saying, “Let’s pull the troops out but let’s leave some hope behind.” We can’t be afraid to talk about reparations, to demand freedom from debt for Iraq, a total abandonment of Bremer’s illegal economic laws, full Iraqi control over the reconstruction budget —- there are many more examples of concrete policy demands that we can and must put forth. When we articulate a more genuine definition of democracy than we are hearing from the Bush administration, we will bring some hope to Iraq. And we will bring closer to us many of the 58 percent who are opposed to the war but aren’t marching with us yet because they are afraid of cutting and running."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day was Anti-War

The original Mother's Day was a radical celebration of women's resistance to national wars. Below is the original Mother's Day Proclamation, penned in Boston by feminist Julia Ward Howe in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

Thanks to C.B. for sending the link below. Make this Mother's Day a special day by working for a just end of the war.


MIke Davis on vigilantes & Schwarzenegger

Mike Davis on the Return of the Vigilante

"The vigilantes are back. In the 1850s, they lynched Irishmen; in the 1870s, they terrorized the Chinese; in the first decade of the twentieth century, they murdered striking Wobblies; in the 1920s, they organized "Bash a Jap" campaigns; and in the 1930s, they welcomed the Joads and other Dust Bowl refugees with tear gas and buckshot.

Vigilantes have always been to the American West what the Ku Klux Klan was to the South: vicious and cowardly bigotry organized into a self-righteous mob. Almost every decade, some sinister group of self-proclaimed patriots mobilizes to repel a new invasion from some subversive threat or other.

Their wrath has almost always been directed against the poorest, most powerless, and hardest-working segment of the population: recent migrants from Donegal, Guangdong, Oklahoma, or, now, Oaxaca. And their rant, as broadcast daily on dozens of AM hate-radio programs in California and the Southwest, is still the one described by John Steinbeck back in the years of the Great Depression. . . . "

[read more about this farce of the new "Minuteman" and Governator Schwarzenegger at the link above ]

Friday, May 06, 2005

Faith-based News Channels

Yesterday we blogged about rightwing propaganda posing as "Fair & Balanced" on Fox News, and today's bloggence points to the latest issue of The Columbia Journalism Review wherein is found an article on fundamentalist Christian ideology as news. Pity the poor people who actually watch both!

See "Stations Of The Cross" or, "How evangelical Christians are creating an alternative universe of faith-based news" for the unbelievable news about such faith-as-news. Programs discussed include CBN's NewsWatch, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Sky Angel radio, the 700 Club, and Precepts For Life, and Prophecy in the News and the old organization of National Religious Broadcasters.

The upshot is that while the audience for these "news" programs is still a minority, they are growing even as you read this sentence. And because they are active, outspoken, missionary, and organized, they are a powerful minority.

I believe that while Fox News is a larger threat to society because its propaganda is somewhat more subtle and because its audience is larger, nevertheless such faith-based news programs contribute to the same rightwing disaster because the neo-cons and the evangelicals are now cooperating to maintain their political power. Both brands of propaganda dovetail into a basically Bushite Empire.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Fox News Tricks Audience

Fox News continually deploys specific techniques of propaganda. You can see these collected and demonstrated in the documentary film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (reviewed in the link above).

Rupert Murdoch is of course the richest Australian billionaire, a rabid partisan of the U.S. Republican and extreme rightwing conservative ideology. He owns media corporations that control cable, satellite, magazines, TV channels, etc., to the extent that one study concludes that 3 out of 4 people on Earth receive their media information through a Murdoch corporation. More Americans watch Fox News than watch CNN. Studies show that viewers of Fox News are by far unable to identify facts about the world when compared with viewers of other news programs. Most of this is due to Fox's method of confusing opinion with fact and fact with opinion according to their ideological constraints. The consequences of Fox propaganda have been massive -- for instance the re-election of G.W. Bush.

See also http://www.disinfo.com/site/

The solution to this massive disinformation problem is quite easy:

1st, send in your complaints to the TV station whenever they muddy up the waters with their smear campaigns, their echo chamber of repeated phrases that are intended as micro-brainwashing, their habit of attributing their own opinion to "some people say . . .", their so-called "expert" paid consultants on air, their faux-liberal commentators, their character assassination campaigns, their shouting down every guest who attempts to say something true, their utter lack of coverage of crucial social issues in favor of their creating bogus wedge issues to divide the public. Let the TV station know that you aren't buying it -- nor their ads. Ask for real news instead.

2nd, get more accurate information from other sources.

3rd, send critiques of Fox News such as the video above to your friends.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

University as Working-class Institution

Yoshie over at "Critical Montages" blog has put together some interesting factoids about the historic rise of a working class student body in universities. Could this institution now become the "point of production" site of organizing labor?

Critical Montages

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
by Naomi Klein

~~~ excerpt ~~~

"We used to have vulgar colonialism," says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South. "Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it 'reconstruction.'"

It certainly seems that ever-larger portions of the globe are under active reconstruction: being rebuilt by a parallel government made up of a familiar cast of for-profit consulting firms, engineering companies, mega-NGOs, government and UN aid agencies and international financial institutions. And from the people living in these reconstruction sites--Iraq to Aceh, Afghanistan to Haiti--a similar chorus of complaints can be heard. The work is far too slow, if it is happening at all. Foreign consultants live high on cost-plus expense accounts and thousand- dollar-a-day salaries, while locals are shut out of much-needed jobs, training and decision-making. Expert "democracy builders" lecture governments on the importance of transparency and "good governance," yet most contractors and NGOs refuse to open their books to those same governments, let alone give them control over how their aid money is spent.

Three months after the tsunami hit Aceh, the New York Times ran a distressing story reporting that "almost nothing seems to have been done to begin repairs and rebuilding." The dispatch could easily have come from Iraq, where, as the Los Angeles Times just reported, all of Bechtel's allegedly rebuilt water plants have started to break down, one more in an endless litany of reconstruction screw-ups. It could also have come from Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai recently blasted "corrupt, wasteful and unaccountable" foreign contractors for "squandering the precious resources that Afghanistan received in aid." Or from Sri Lanka, where 600,000 people who lost their homes in the tsunami are still languishing in temporary camps. One hundred days after the giant waves hit, Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo, Sri Lanka, sent out a desperate e-mail to colleagues around the world. "The funds received for the benefit of the victims are directed to the benefit of the privileged few, not to the real victims," he wrote. "Our voices are not heard and not allowed to be voiced."

But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, "It's not reconstruction at all--it's about reshaping everything." If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them. Kumara, in another e-mail, warns that Sri Lanka is now facing "a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization," potentially even more devastating than the first. "We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines."

~~~ get whole article from The Nation at link above ~~~

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Team Bush Goes Unpunished for Torture

t r u t h o u t - Marjorie Cohn
Team Bush Goes Unpunished for Torture

"... In his State of the Union address, Bush said, "Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture." Yet former CIA Director George Tenet, who approved the illegal renditions of prisoners to Egypt and Syria where they were formally tortured, has not been charged with any crime.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the man who, according to Seymour Hersh, personally approved physical coercion and sexual humiliation of prisoners, has not been prosecuted. And Alberto Gonzales, responsible for some of the most egregious torture memos, remains the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. When asked by Senator Richard Durbin at the confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Can US personnel legally engage in torture under any circumstances?", Gonzales refused to give a categorical "no" answer. He waffled, "I don't believe so, but I'd want to get back to you on that." The would-be attorney general surely knew that the Convention against Torture prohibits torture at any time, including wartime. . . ."

For background information

War Crimes

Bush the Would-Be Torturer

The Torturer-in-Chief

Bush's "Humane" Torture Policy Hits a Speed Bump

Command Responsibility: Playing Politics with Torture

Bush & Co.: War Crimes and Cover-Up

The Quaint Mr. Gonzales

Chickens Come Home to Roost

Redefining Torture

Dear Mr. Gonzales

The Gonzales Indictment

Monday, May 02, 2005

Police Beat Students at UCSC

Over 80 student protesters are reported wounded by Riot Police and 19 students were arrested, according to phone interviews with two "Tent University" organizers at UC Santa Cruz.

"Students had numerous bruises and contusions. And figures I heard were 20 arrested and 80 wounded. My girlfriend caught a baton to the chest unprovoked. And numerous people witnessed a cop go into a frenzy and basically dive forward into the crowd with a baton and that's how my girlfriend caught a baton," Indigo Moonstar, 23, a recent graduate of UCSC, said. Moonstar is not his real name, but this is the name he also gave to the Associated Press.

The seemingly pointless arrests and acts of state violence occurred because of the University's concern the students were violating the "No Camping Ordinance."

The students had set up a Tent University to protest student fee increases as well as the exploitation of AFSCME service workers. The Tent University, which was conducted all this week, April 18-22, included workshops on such topics as environmental sustainability, nonviolent activism, social justice, politics, and even yoga.

The arrests on Monday, April 18, prevented the students from holding Tent University at the base of campus during evening hours for the rest of the week like they had originally planned, but the daytime events proceeded without incident.

"For one, that's the most traumatizing thing I've ever been through in my life," Austin Harless, 21, a student organizer at UCSC, said. "Myself and others have been changed. The effects have been extremely pervasive."

"It's causing a lot of us to question our lives," Harless said.

~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
see rest of article at link above or at http://www.yubanet.com/artman/publish/article_20215.shtml

How to Stay Jung

While it is true that Jung’s psychology is not popular among academics today, there is nevertheless a persistent interest and innovation in Jungian and neo-jungian analysis among more independent scholars and clinicians.* In America a leading psychologist along these lines is James Hillman, whose “archetypal psychology” draws from Jung yet emphasizes a polycentric psyche over the more traditional emphasis on a unified self.**

Another important innovation stems from Jung’s early work on personality types; while his terms such as introvert and extrovert have become part of everyday speech, Jung is seldom credited for this part of his Analytical Psychology. Few of us know that the Jungian theory of personality types led directly to the most valid of tests in the entire battery of psychological assessments today: the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which shows a very high degree of validity or reliability. This test was developed through some thirty years of modifications, but few academics recall that it is based upon a close reading of Jung’s Psychologische Typen from 1921. This personality theory puts primary emphasis on appreciating and understanding differences between individuals, and on the far-reaching consequences of one's cognitive styles in a marriage or career or so forth. You can take a quick but decent version of the MBTI personality test online here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

Beyond such neo-jungian trends, the analytical psychology of Jung contains suggestive and rich potentials for further development in concert with postmodernist emphasis on a decentered psyche, on the necessarily multiple interpretations of expressions, and on the key theme of difference. Deconstruction, for instance, seeks to show how binary oppositions are in practice hierarchical, and to resurrect the repressed underside of such oppositions by showing their mutual interactions: male/female, presence/absence, speech/writing, logical/imaginative, etc. Jung’s psychology likewise deconstructs such hierarchies in the self, not in order to set up a new oppositions but rather to promote integration and respect for both sides. The archetypes become psychologically destructive when they are unintegrated, over-identified or repressed.

*Jungian analyst, Andrew Samuels, published a very useful study of various neo-jungian schools of psychology, Jung and the Post-Jungians (New York: Routledge, 1985). He also discussed the striking parallels between Jung’s analytic psychology and other more modern trends in cognitive and structuralist psychologies, including Lacan. The upshot of Samuels’ book is that Jungian psychology remains vital, developing, and relevant to other schools of thought. Also a variety of contributors offer feminist, Lacanian, and postmodernist engagements with and through Jung’s psychology in C. G. Jung & the Humanities: Toward a Hermeneutics of Culture edited by Karin Barnaby and Pellegrino D’Acierno (London: Routledge, 1990).

** See especially The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire edited by Thomas Moore ( London: Routledge, 1989) and Inter Views (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World's Getting Worse and his major work, Re-Visioning Pyschology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Taiwan's Next Move in the Game

The chairman of the capitalist authoritarian KMT in Taiwan yesterday shook hands with the chairman of capitalist authoritarian China. They formally ended the 60-year civil war between the KMT and the communists. China offered a seductive package of agreements, including favorable trade and military cooperation. As always and everywhere, the elites in control know that they must cooperate in order to maintain dominance.

The agreements would go into effect as soon as the KMT regains power over Taiwan. They are likely to do so in the 2008 election year.

This new move in the strategic game leaves Taiwan's democratic independence in a pickle. The KMT chair cannot be arrested as a traitor upon returning to Taiwan because his party is supported by 50% of the population, including the most powerful classes in the country. Also the KMT controls a majority in the legislature.

Boxed in with no other options, Taiwan's democratic Green Party must begin to think outside of the box. Viable alternatives still remain for a more promising and humane future. These alternatives do not involve the capitalist profit seekers nor the authoritarian elites. Power will depend upon cooperation. And a virus of participatory democracy must be injected on both sides, instead of simply exporting and importing hardware. As the governments have played themselves out into unpromising positions, it is up to such participatory democracy from below to connect across the Strait, to cooperate with each other. The alternative transnational movement involves:

  • NGO's to set up branches on both sides of the Strait.
  • Labor unions to embrace and push for the common interests of workers on both sides.
  • Dramatically increased exchanges among academics, journalists, and intellectuals.
  • Religious organizations to cooperate on both sides.
  • Human rights organizations to involve both sides
  • International NGO's, labor, human rights, academic organizations to foster such exchanges and cooperation.

These might be dismissed as an unlikely longshot in today's political climate, but that is to miss the level of such thinking. Here we are specifying the only path to a more humane and promising future, not toward so-called "realism".