Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Water, water everywhere

And not a drop to drink.

"The United Nations celebrated World Water Day by noting that 40 percent of the world's population lacked basic sanitation, and it was reported that the World Bank's plan to privatize water supplies in impoverished nations had largely failed. Of the $25 billion invested in clean water, only 1 percent had reached sub-Saharan Africa, and much of the money had gone to providing clean water to the wealthy. ..."

--from Harper's Weekly March 28, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Eco-terrorism Campaign

Karen Pickett | The Green Scare

On January 20th, eleven people were indicted in Oregon by a grand jury investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The actions, going back nearly a decade, include a number of arsons - with such targets as a ski resort expansion into endangered lynx habitat and a facility for rounding up wild horses for dog food. There were no injuries in any of the actions, but the FBI claims over $25 million in damage to property.

Some of those indicted had been arrested in December, including one person who died in custody in Arizona. Shock waves have been reverberating through the environmental activist community, and the situation is still unfolding. Two more people were arrested in Olympia, Washington, on February 23, and the day before, outspoken Native American and animal rights activist Rod Coronado was arrested in Tucson, Arizona, on charges sent down by a grand jury in San Diego. In addition, there is a grand jury investigating Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activities in San Francisco.

But those being rounded up are not only being charged with crimes associated with the acts the FBI and grand juries allege - they are also being labeled as terrorists. . . . .

The agenda is criminalization of dissent, long within the purview of the FBI, but the less recognized agenda is also protection of wealth and private property. It seems ALEC would put damage to property on par with threat or actual harm to life. Nowhere, in the FBI's pronouncements of how heinous these acts they call terrorism are, is a body count or even a litany of injuries. The "injury" is defined in millions of dollars to corporations who are in the business of building multi-million dollar developments on endangered species habitat.

If property destruction is put on par with threat to life, the question must be asked whether the next step will be increased prosecution for the revered tradition of non-violent civil disobedience or vilification of the successful market campaigns carried out by the likes of Rainforest Action Network, because after all, those activities, as well as boycotts and strikes, put a dent in the bottom line of profit margin. In fact, attacks disguised as IRS investigations and other back door strategies are already on the rise against organizations that carry out civil disobedience and market campaigns.

"Eco-terrorism," a term trumpeted in the media, was invented in the early 1990s by public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, in the employ of corporations in the extractive industries. It was then put into popular use by right-wing ideologues like Ron Arnold, long known as a vehement anti-environmentalist whose self-professed goal is to destroy the environmental movement.

Property destruction is sabotage, not terrorism. Call it what it is, and then debate appropriate prosecution and penalties.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Oglala Sioux Tribe Rescues White Women

"When Governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law it effectively banned all abortions in the state with the exception that it did allow saving the mother’s life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. His actions, and the comments of State Senators like Bill Napoli of Rapid City, SD, set of a maelstrom of protests within the state.
Napoli suggested that if it was a case of “simple rape,” there should be no thoughts of ending a pregnancy. Letters by the hundreds appeared in local newspapers, mostly written by women, challenging Napoli’s description of rape as “simple.” He has yet to explain satisfactorily what he meant by “simple rape.”

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”

Strong words from a very strong lady. I hope Ms. Fire Thunder challenges Gov. Rounds and the state legislators on this law that is an affront to all independent women."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Peasant Commons

Peasants Say No to ‘Selling' Traditional Knowledge
by Mario Osava

CURITIBA, Brazil, Mar 21 (IPS) - The international small farmers' and peasant movement Via Campesina is opposed to any payment for traditional knowledge, one of the formats proposed for sharing the benefits derived from biodiversity.

Sharing the profits arising from appropriating something that is "a product of collective accumulation, at the service of all people," so that "knowledge becomes merchandise that can be traded," is the beginning of exploitation and privatisation, the activist argued. This is in conflict with the "long-term vision" of the peasant movement, which is aimed at "preserving goods in common ownership," he added.

An example of the harm that this can bring about happened in Canada in the past, when industry bargained with indigenous peoples, offering them benefits in return for land and knowledge, and "they lost everything," Pederson said. . . .

{continues at link above, includes Greenpeace report about ocean decline in biodiversity (AKA: "life") . . .}

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Rose Colored Iraq

This is your computer on LSD

By ANDREW LEONARD The New York Times

Book Review of WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry By John Markoff

Engineers can be so cute. In the early 1960's, Myron
Stolaroff, an employee of the tape recorder
manufacturer Ampex, decided to prove the value of
consuming LSD. So he set up the International
Foundation for Advanced Study and went about his
project in classic methodical fashion.

Test subjects - almost all engineers - were given a
series of doses under constant observation and
expected to take careful notes on their own
experience. A survey of the first 153 volunteers
revealed that "83 percent of those who had taken LSD
found that they had lasting benefits from the
experience." (Other results: increase in ability to
love, 78 percent; increased self-esteem, 71 percent.)
Such precision might seem antithetical to the fuzzy
let-it-all-hang-outness of the psychedelic experience.
But John Markoff, a senior writer for The New York
who covers technology, makes a convincing case
that for the swarming ubergeeks assembling in the San
Francisco Bay Area in the 1960's, approaching drugs as
they might any other potentially helpful tool or
device - from a soldering iron to a computer chip -
was only natural. The goals were broad in the 60's:
the world would be remade, the natural order of things
reconfigured, human potential amplified to infinity.
Anything that could help was to be cherished, studied
and improved.

It is no accident, then, that the same patch of land
on the peninsula south of San Francisco that gave
birth to the Grateful Dead was also the site of
groundbreaking research leading the way to the
personal computer. That the two cultural impulses were
linked - positively - is a provocative thesis.

Revisionist histories of the 60's often make an
attempt to separate the "excess" of the era from the
politics. In this view, all those acid-gobbling,
pot-smoking, tie-dyed renegades were a distraction
from the real work of stopping the Vietnam War and
achieving social justice. But Mr. Markoff makes a
surprisingly sympathetic case that it was all of a
piece: the drugs, the antiauthoritarianism, the
messianic belief that computing power should be spread
throughout the land.

"It is not a coincidence," he writes, "that, during
the 60's and early 70's, at the height of the protest
against the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement
and widespread experimentation with psychedelic drugs,
personal computing emerged from a handful of
government- and corporate-funded laboratories, as well
as from the work of a small group of hobbyists who
were desperate to get their hands on computers they
could personally control and decide to what uses they
should be put."

Judging by the record presented in "What the Dormouse
Said," it is indisputable that many of the engineers
and programmers who contributed to the birth of
personal computing were fans of LSD, draft resisters,
commune sympathizers and, to put it bluntly,
long-haired hippie freaks.

This makes entertaining reading. Many accounts of the
birth of personal computing have been written, but
this is the first close look at the drug habits of the
earliest pioneers. "What the Dormouse Said" may not
reach the level of the classics of computing history,
Tracy Kidder's "Soul of a New Machine" and Steven
Levy's "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution."
But there is still plenty of fun between its covers.

A central character - and one of the early volunteers
at Stolaroff's foundation - is Douglas Engelbart, a
man worthy of his own book. His team at the Augmented
Human Intellect Research Center at the Stanford
Research Institute was the first to demonstrate the
potential of the computing future. The research
demonstration that he conducted for a packed
auditorium in San Francisco in 1968 is still talked
about in Silicon Valley with the reverence of those
who might have witnessed Jehovah handing Moses the Ten
Commandments. The mouse, man! Engelbart gave us the
mouse! But Mr. Engelbart's story is not a happy one.
He saw further ahead than most, but had a difficult
time articulating his vision. He became heavily
involved with Werner Erhard's human potential
movement, EST, and his laboratory ultimately ended up
losing both its way and its government financing. Many
of his researchers went on to the Xerox Palo Alto
Research Center, where the first personal computer,
the famous Alto, was invented, while he lapsed into
semi-obscurity. As a metaphor for the 60's, which
exploded with promise and ended in disarray, he's just
about perfect.

Looking back at the 60's from the jaundiced
perspective of the early 21st century, it's easy to
wonder what was really accomplished, outside of the
enduring split of the nation into two irreconcilable
ideological camps. Sure, there was the civil rights
campaign, women's liberation, environmentalism and a
movement that eventually brought a war to heel, but
the era is as likely to be ridiculed in modern memory
as to be revered. But what happens if we add the birth
of personal computing to the counterculture's list of
achievements? Does that change the equation?

The answer depends on how one rates the personal
computer as consciousness-enhancing device. Remember,
after all, what the dormouse did say, in the
stentorian full-throttle voice of Jefferson Airplane's
Grace Slick: "Feed your head!"

By choosing that as his title, Mr. Markoff makes clear
his belief that computers, like psychedelic drugs, are
tools for mind expansion, for revelation and personal
discovery. And to anyone who has experienced a
drug-induced epiphany, there may indeed be a cosmic
hyperlink there: fire up your laptop, connect
wirelessly to the Internet, search for your dreams
with Google: the power and the glory of the computing
universe that exists now was a sci-fi fantasy not very
long ago, and yes, it does pulsate with a
destabilizing, revelatory psychic power. Cool!

But wasn't the goal of those 60's experimenters to
make the world a better place? One has to wonder - and
this is a question Mr. Markoff doesn't really address
- whether the personal computer achieved that goal. Or
has it only allowed all of us, heroes and villains
alike, to be more productive as the world stays
exactly the same?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sterling: Decide without fear.

Bruce Sterling on the edge between the present and the future:

"When you actually ignore reality for years on end, the payback is a bitch brother! ... We're seeing just frantic collisions of fundamentalist delusion with objective reality... We're on a kind of slider bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable now, bteween the grim meathook future and the bright green future. There are ways out of this situation; there are actual ways to move the slider bar from one side to the other, except that we haven't invented the words for them yet."

Here's a summary of Sterling's speech from WorldChanging
The challenge, Bruce says, is that the worst people in the world -- genocidal ethnic mafiosos, fundamentalist fanatics, Washington lobbyists -- are running the show, American government has become the new Soviet Union (ossified, corrupt and widely perceived as illigitimate by the rest of the planet) and things are not good in much of the world. That said, if you look honestly at the world, you see a new story emerging, with millions of smart, dedicated people locked in a struggle to steer us towards a better future using every tool in their power, and that "that's a big story!" Finally, he reminds those of us who are part of that story of the motto of the old Soviet-era Eastern European dissidents: "Make no decision out of fear."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Top 14 Corporations of Evil

Global Exchange : "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005 . . . and who is working to stop them also.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Surveillance, Infiltration, and Harassment of Environmentalists

'Surveillance, Infiltration, and Harassment of Environmental Organizations': "Hope Marston, of the Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, spoke on the panel on 'Surveillance, Infiltration, and Harassment of Environmental Organizations' at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (pielc.org) held March 2-5, 2006, in Eugene, Oregon.

We have just heard a litany of horrible things that we are all dealing with all the time now and we've been dealing with for the last four years, and I don't know how many of you feel overwhelmed with it, but I do every day. I feel overwhelmed with all that's happening. The executive branch is now so far out of control that I'm really not sure how long it is going to take before we can restore our liberties, our Bill of Rights and our fundamental freedoms. The house cleaning that must take place, the dismantling of the repressive system that has now permeated our society, will be enormous."

{continues at link above...}

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Separation of Oil & State

Price of Oil: Oil & State

How much $$ did your U.S. Congressional Representative get from big oil corporations? Go to the link above and enter your zip code for an instant accounting.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Arrested

Cindy Sheehan & Medea Benjamin ArrestedA Code Pink peaceful gathering at the UN to present my petition was smashed by the order "from higher up the chain" to arrest the organizers. See link above for photos, etc.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Comparative Impeachments

Twice as many Americans now favor the impeachment of Bush than the number who favored the impeachment of Clinton. Irony: Congress actually tried to impeach Clinton, but they won't consider the more serious case against Bush.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Power of Negative Thinking

The Power of Negative Thinking
by Robert Chasse

{excerpt for a Situationist classic}

...The polarization of means and ends — thought and action — into logical categories reveals a true antagonism between them in the bourgeois world. Thought is always separated from action, always hobbles after occurrence. Or else is discombobulated and deals with other. In his dirge to the bourgeois world, Spengler noted that there are two fundamental — irreconcilable — kinds of men: those who think and those who do. Malraux, another bourgeois haunted by the primacy of death, said: “Man conceives of himself but it is in no way necessary that he do so (and many don’t). The essential drama, or problem, is in the opposition between two systems of thought, one which tends to question man and life, the other to suppress all questioning by activity.”

The means elicit the emergence of the ends that realize them. The action you engage in engages you. Not to act is another form of action. Action always generates the thought, as thought generates the action. These opposites always fuse. The rest is liberalized fiction.

The radical who penetrates a group to radicalize it, who parcelizes himself, to bring some of its members up to his degree of radicalization, also enters on the level of the group. He is of them immediately. Any subsequent radicalization therefore is something other than thought, mediated by his creation of the conditions that negate that thought.

{entire text at link above}

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ocean Scare

The Fate of the Ocean

. . . The 25 years I've spent at sea filming nature documentaries have provided a brief yet definitive window into these changes. Oceanic problems once encountered on a local scale have gone pandemic, and these pandemics now merge to birth new monsters. Tinkering with the atmosphere, we change the ocean's chemistry radically enough to threaten life on earth as we know it. Making tens of thousands of chemical compounds each year, we poison marine creatures who sponge up plastics and PCBs, becoming toxic waste dumps in the process. Carrying everything from nuclear waste to running shoes across the world ocean, shipping fleets spew as much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the entire profligate United States. Protecting strawberry farmers and their pesticide methyl bromide, we guarantee that the ozone hole will persist at least until 2065, threatening the larval life of the sea. Fishing harder, faster, and more ruthlessly than ever before, we drive large predatory fish toward global extinction, even though fish is the primary source of protein for one in six people on earth. Filling, dredging, and polluting the coastal nurseries of the sea, we decimate coral reefs and kelp forests, while fostering dead zones.

I'm alarmed by what I'm seeing. Although we carry the ocean within ourselves, in our blood and in our eyes, so that we essentially see through seawater, we appear blind to its fate. Many scientists speak only to each other and studiously avoid educating the press. The media seems unwilling to report environmental news, and caters to a public stalled by sloth, fear, or greed and generally confused by science. Overall, we seem unable to recognize that the proofs so many politicians demand already exist in the form of hindsight. Written into the long history of our planet, in one form or another, is the record of what is coming our way.

"The root cause of this crisis is a failure of both perspective and governance," concludes the seminal Pew Oceans Commission's 2003 report to the nation. "We have failed to conceive of the oceans as our largest public domain, to be managed holistically for the greater public good in perpetuity." Instead, we have roiled the waters, compromising the equilibrium that allowed our species to flourish in the first place, and providing ourselves with a host of challenges that will test our clever brains and our opposable thumbs as never before. Afloat on arks of dry land, we sail toward a stormy future.
. . . .
{detailed article continues, with multiple links out to scientific sources at link above}

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

India Protests Bush Visit

By Arundhati Roy
The Nation

On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and curiouser.

For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare. So now we're into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.

Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?

Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.

So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

We really would prefer that he didn't.

It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.