Wednesday, November 30, 2005


(Courtesy of Bryan Campbell)


It started out innocently enough.

I began to think at parties now and then -- to loosen up.

Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home.

One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of
life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here? " One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss.

"Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college
professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on
thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.

"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche.

I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors...They didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker.

I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's."

Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

Today, I registered to vote as a Republican.

Immanuel Wallerstein: Mr Bush's Nightmare

(A recap of last months events...)

Commentary No. 172, Nov. 1, 2005

"Mr. Bush's Nightmare"

Everything went wrong for George W. Bush in October, 2005. Some called it "the perfect storm." It seemed to take Bush by surprise and left him like someone buried in the mudslide, still alive but struggling hard to extricate himself. It looks unlikely that he will be able to do so. Let us review all the fronts on which Bush suffered political setback.

First, Iraq. The U.S. casualty rate passed 2000, and this was noticed even in middle America among those who initially supported the war. Many now feel it was a mistake. Bush's approval rate fell to under 40%, extremely low even for a president in his second term (when ratings often fall). The elections to ratify the Iraqi constitution didn't really help. True it passed, but over very heavy Sunni opposition. No one believes that this constitution can be the basis of a long-term stable, legitimate government, or that this government would really survive a U.S. pullout.

Then, there are the indictments. Note the plural. The Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, is facing charges of money-laundering for electoral gain, and has had to step down. His close political ally, the lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, has been indicted for fraud. And above all, the very powerful I. Lewis Libby, Chief of Staff to the Vice-President and Assistant to the President, has been indicted on five charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements. This indictment is of course closely related to the Iraq War, since the issue was Libby's attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson by "outing" his CIA secret agent wife. Wilson had been sent on an official mission to Niger and later publicly related the non-existence of proof that Saddam Hussein has been buying uranium there. To be sure, Karl
Rove has not yet been indicted for his involvement in the same project to discredit Wilson, but the Special Prosecutor made it quite clear that this remains a real possibility. Looming on the horizon is an enquiry into the financial misdeclarations of Senator Bill Frist, the Republican Majority Leader, concerning stock sales. And we should remember that indictments lead to trials some time later, in time to remind everyone of misdeeds after the initial publicity has died down.

Next came the Supreme Court appointment fiasco. Seeking to avoid a knockdown battle in the Senate over the Supreme Court nomination, Bush chose his lawyer, Harriet Miers. He was immediately pounced on by his most conservative supporters, who doubted her conservative credentials. Bush said trust me, and they said we don't trust you, because the only thing that concerns us is undoing the right to abortion, far more important to us than supporting George W. Bush, and we're not sure about Miers. They forced her withdrawal, a humiliation for Bush. He has now had to nominate a person they want, Samuel Alito, and he will thus get the Senate battle he wanted to avoid. Whether Alito is confirmed or not, the political bottom line was stated by former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, a quite conservative Democrat, who noted the consequence for Republicans in Congress: "It means the fear factor is gone."

And then, to top it off, the President of Iran chose this moment to thumb his nose at the United States by publicly calling for the destruction of Israel as a state. To be sure, this has been Iranian official policy for almost three decades, but restating it now so flagrantly was simply saying to Bush, "I dare you to do something about it." Meanwhile, in Israel, the very temporary truce between the Palestinians and the Israeli government seems to have collapsed.

Can Bush do something to recuperate? Well, obviously, he is trying in the Alito appointment. But even if Alito is confirmed, the credit will not go to Bush. Can Bush invade Iran? Most obviously not. And getting a U.N. Security Council resolution to sanction Syria, if he can, is small potatoes. If one goes through the list of what went wrong in October, every item will continue to plague Bush: mounting casualties in Iraq, political instability in the Iraqi government, judicial trials that in every case implicate his government, a fierce social battle over the Supreme Court, and Iranian (and North Korean) open defiance.

Even political friends are getting off the sinking ship. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of Bush's few fervent allies in Europe, but himself in trouble in his coming elections, chose this moment to announce very publicly that he had fruitlessly tried to persuade Bush not to invade Iraq. And Senator Trent Lott, former Republican Majority Leader, opined that Bush needs "fresh faces" among his immediate aides and the cabinet.

Within the Republican Party, the reaction of persons up for election has been to take their distance from Bush. Once upon a time, not too long ago, everyone wanted Bush to campaign for them. Now candidates are careful not to invite him to do this. Bush's ability to be the leader, nationally or internationally, is critically damaged, perhaps irreparably.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Bill Gifford: The Bicycle Diaries

(I would really like to ride a bicycle to work despite the difficulties, but I live in an automotive city in which it is really dangerous just to walk along the roadways between my home and the college. Maybe I am lazy, or just making excuses... I do enjoy walking there and back--about a 8-10 mile loop, depending on routes I take, but like most Americans I just find myself too busy most of the time--even though I'm not really that busy.)

The Bicycle Diaries: Is it possible to live in America without a car? Uh, sort of.
By Bill Gifford

"I can't believe how windy it is today," said the woman in line at the pet store.

"I know," said the cashier. Then, rolling her eyes and nodding meaningfully in my direction, she added, "and some people are riding their bikes."

"Mmmm," said her customer, gathering up her kitty litter and heading for her minivan, studiously avoiding even a glance in my direction, which was difficult because I was holding the door open for her.

After two weeks of riding my bicycle everywhere, I'd gotten used to people treating me as if I were somehow not right in the head. Store clerks ignored me, old men gave me the hard stare, soccer moms avoided eye contact. After all, almost nobody in America rides a bike if they can afford a car.

But after Katrina jacked gas prices toward $4 a gallon, my Volvo station wagon was starting to seem a lot less affordable. It wasn't just the $50 fill-ups, either, but the $400-plus repair bill that resulted from the Volvo's annual state inspection, on top of a $200 insurance payment, and the costly new drive shaft that she still needs, the insatiable beast. In mid-October, under the influence of warm fall weather and a recent visit to Amsterdam, I decided to opt out of humanity's little deal with the Devil, known as the automobile.

Long story short: At least I tried.

It seemed easy enough. I'm what the newspapers call an "avid" cyclist—rhymes with "rabid." I own four bikes, which I rarely use for actual transportation. Like most of the 90 million Americans who swung a leg over a bicycle last year, including our president, I rode for fitness and recreation only.

Then, last month, I went to Amsterdam for a friend's birthday party. I was amazed: Everyone rode bikes, everywhere. I saw 80-year-olds pedaling along beside young mothers with two and even three small children perched on various parts of their bikes, and dads trundling off to work in business suits and nice Italian shoes. The Dutch, I later learned, conduct 30 percent of all their trips—to work, for errands, socially—by bike. In America, that figure is less than 1 percent. We drive 84 percent of the time, even though most of our trips are less than 2 miles long. More than three-quarters of us commute alone by car, compared with just half a million (way less than 1 percent) who do so by bike, according to the 2000 Census. As a "committed" cyclist—another loaded adjective—I'd always tut-tutted these kinds of statistics.

In late October, I took a vow of automotive abstinence. I'd go everywhere by bike: daily errands, social events, even the "office" (a Wi-Fi cafe where I often work—4 miles away, over a decent-sized hill). I don't commute to an actual job, but I would go somewhere every day, rain or shine. I allowed a few exceptions, like emergency vet visits and picking up friends from the train station. Otherwise, I'd be helping to cut down on greenhouse-gas pollution and traffic congestion, while keeping myself in shape. I was well ahead of the curve: According to one survey, gas would have to hit $5 per gallon before a majority of Americans would consider walking or riding bikes as alternative transportation.

I'm not like most Americans: I have no kids to chauffeur to soccer practice, no elderly parents to care for, and I commute in slippers. I would still need to eat, however, and I would continue to go to restaurants and movies and parties and shopping. Although I live in a semirural area, suburbia is closing in on all sides, with more housing developments every year. As in much of suburbia, there are almost no services within easy walking distance: It's 2 miles to the convenience store where I buy the New York Times, 6 miles to the grocery and pet stores, 4 miles to my favorite bar. The former country roads around here are becoming busier all the time. Luckily, a defunct local railway line had recently been converted to a 17-mile recreation trail that passes fairly close to the stores I most often visit, as well as a couple of pretty good bars and restaurants. I'd be riding a lot of miles, but as it turned out, the mileage wouldn't be the problem.

To Read the Entire Essay

Paul Bigioni: Fascism Then, Fascism Now

(Courtesy of Bill at Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse)

Fascism Then. Fascism Now? When people think of fascism, they imagine Rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don't see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare.
by Paul Bigioni
Toronto Star; Common Dreams

Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favors the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity.

These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. "Yes," he replied, "but we will call it anti-fascism."

By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect us from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the same, North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course.

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939:

"Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."
Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association:

"Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935, cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else."
I suspect that to most readers, Arnold's words are bewildering. People today are quite certain that they know what fascism is. When I ask people to define it, they typically tell me what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. Most people associate fascism with concentration camps and rows of storm troopers, yet they know nothing of the political and economic processes that led to these horrible end results.

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government.

This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamored for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920s, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command and control" economy that replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of Adam Smith's famous dictum: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I.G. Farben industrial trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests. Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business.

Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labor by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labor policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.

Compulsory (slave) labor was the crowning achievement of Nazi labor relations. Along with millions of people, organized labor died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's Untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labor to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza. In another bitter irony, the gates over many of the camps bore a sign that read Arbeit Macht Frei — "Work shall set you free." I do not know if this was black humour or propaganda, but it is emblematic of the deception that lies at the heart of fascism.

The same economic reality existed

Link to Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stephen Stills: Treetop Flyer

I heard this song on the way to work today--I liked it a lot (probably because it reminded me of the style of another poet-singer-songwriter I know, Wes Houp)

Artist: Stephen Stills
Song: Treetop flyer
Album: Stills Alone
[" Stills Alone " CD]

I could be a rambler from the seven dials
I don't pay taxes 'cause I never file
I don't do business that don't make me smile
I love my aeroplane 'cause she's got style
I'm a treetop flyer
Born survivor
I will fly any cargo you can pay to run
these bush league pilots just can't get the job done
Got to fly down into the canyons, never see the sun
There's no such thing as an easy run
For a treetop flier
Born survivor
I'm flyin' low, I'm in high demand
Fly fifteen feet off the Rio Grande
Blow the mesquite right up off the sand
Seldom seen, especially when I land
I'm a treetop flier
Born Survivor
People ask me, "Where'd you learn to fly that way?"
Over in Vietnam, chasin' NVA
The government taught me, and they taught me right,
Stay under the treeline, and you might come out alright
I'm a treetop flier
Born survivor
Comin' home, I'm runnin' low and fast
promised my woman this one's gonna be my last
Get the ship down, and I tie her fast
then some old boy walks up, says "Son, you wanna make some fast cash?"
I'm a treetop flyer
There's things I am and there's things I'm not
I am a smuggler and I could get shot
But I gonna die, I ain't goin' to get caught,
'Cause I'm a flyin' fool and my aeroplane is just too hot
I'm a treetop flier
Born survivor

Michael Benton: Thanksgiving

(I've asked Thivai to step aside for a second so that I can compose my Thanksgiving--because I don't think I will be allowed to say this at the Thanksgiving table when everyone says what they are thankful for...

In my mind, friendship is a radical engagement... how do we form meaningful relationships in this world and what are the significance of those bonds?

This is meaningless pastiche at its worst--you have been warned! A sure sign of encroaching mental illness in that I have a naive belief in language, friendship, erotics/politics, possibilities and change.)

I suffer from a Deleuzian stutter, or a Derrida-da-da, in which my language is stifled by the spectacle.

So many friends lost through time, through neglect and through conflict. “We have lost the friend . . . the friend of the perhaps . . . of respectfully experiencing that friendship." So many dead, some institutionalized, and some just disappeared back into the void. “I will continue to begin again … and I’ll have to wander all alone in this long conversation that we were supposed to have together.”

Spectral visitors stay my hand reminding me that the only answers are in questions that produce more questions. Unsure and uneasy, I stumble about asking questions of everything and everyone.

Popular culture haunts my questions and mocks my unrest by co-opting it for entertainment: “I know why you hardly sleep. Why you live alone and why night after night you sit at your computer. … I know because I was once looking for the same thing. … It’s the question that drives us."

My spectral guides condemn those that have escaped into this cultural amnesia of recycled consumer pleasures. Yet, I wonder if we can truly blame these defectors for choosing the tender steak over the complex gruel? When were they offered an opportunity to believe otherwise: “Your soul is like an appendix! I don’t even use it!” My TV encourages me to escape into its warm embrace and forget the outside world:

The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality, and reality is less than television.

Rejecting the siren's lure, I turn everything off and find a quiet place far away from the competing voices. I am listening for the emergence of a being, an/other who escapes my comprehension, this listening requires a transition to a new dimension of understanding.

I am listening to you: although I do not understand what you are saying, I am attentive to your silence amongst history’s mentions, I am attempting to understand and hear your intention. Which does not mean: I comprehend you, or that I know you … No, I am listening to you as someone that I do not truly know … with you but not as you … I reside in a realm of absolute silence in order to hear what you have to say or what is left unsaid or what reverberates from the unknown. I quest for new words, for new meanings, for new modes of understandings that will bridge this river of silence … for an alliance of possibilities that will not reduce the Other to an item of property or a subject to be mastered. This unspeakable silence is a rift that shatters the boundaries of my life in order to produce a conflagration of nothingness that sears the forest of my consciousness clearing the way for new growths. Perhaps, as the borders of my psyche that restrain my various selves breaks-up, there will be the productive explosion of new life spreading across my interior landscape. Chaos enters my realm and produces … possibilities.

“Perhaps the impossible is the only chance of something new, of some new philosophy of the new … Perhaps friendship, if there is such a thing, must honor ... what appears impossible here." Where are the friends that ask questions of the dominant and seek the impossible? I dream of relationships yet to come, writing as a politics of creative imagination that refuses to be silenced. I await a new politics, new friendships and new possibilities... in the meantime I'm not afraid to say I really don't know the answers, but I am seeking new questions.

For that I am thankful!

Patchwork Cast:

Jacques Derrida’s eulogy for Gilles Deleuze: “I’ll Have to Wander Alone.”
The character Trinity speaking to Neo in the movie The Matrix
Michael Kelso on That 70s Show
Brian O'Blivion in David Cronenberg's film Videodrome
Luce Irigaray The Way of Love and To Be Two
Jacques Derrida's Politics of Friendship

Sprinkled throughout:

Michael's fears, hopes and desires


Guy Debord
Gilles Deleuze
Michel Foucault
Martin Heidegger
Karl Marx
Friedrich Nietzsche

Intellectual Intoxicants still resonating years later (recipe called for the cook to stir and simmer for years until tightly bottled conception explodes all over the place):

Rebecca Saunder's and Ronald Strickland's courses at Illinois State University "Mourning of Modernity" and "Marxist Cultural Theory"

Like all meaningless writings one must periodically turn over the topsoil exposing the rotten concepts, words and beliefs to the sun, leaving the exposed underground to develop into a new potent hummus... when developed into a potent mix spread liberally across the society. Recipes must be changed frequently to resist contamination from the monological discourse that seeks to control pointless thoughts.

U.S. Government Holds U.S. Citizen For Three Years in Solitary Confinement Before Charging Him: What Precedent Does This Set For Our Legal System?

Why did the Bush Administration Hold Jose Padilla for 3 Years as an Enemy Combatant? No Mention of al Qaeda or Plot to Attack U.S. in Indictment
by Amy Goodman and Bill Goodman
Democracy Now

The Justice Department announced Tuesday criminal charges have been filed against Jose Padilla - the U.S. citizen who had been held for over three years in solitary confinement on a military brig in South Carolina. We speak with one of Padilla's attorneys and the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Listen/Read/Watch the Report

Toggle Switch Takes Up the Challenge

Toggle Switch at Nuts and Bolts responded to my earlier post to what makes me happy with her own version: Six Degrees of Happiness. To show my delight I have decided to answer a series of questions she has set up in her profile on the right of her blog (because I found her answers intriguing and creative):

Today, If I were asked inside James Lipton’s Inside The Actor’s Studio:

What is your favorite word? Ineffable

What is your least favorite word? Tie: Never/Always

What turns you on? Intelligence, blended with curiosity and passion (Being honest I cannot deny that strong legs, a beautiful back and striking eyes are a plus ;)

What turns you off? Intolerance and close-mindedness

What sound do you love? The sound of waves crashing on the shore and sliding back into the ocean (a close second/third/fourth rivers/rain/wind)

What sound do you hate? A living creature in pain

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Publisher (close second--filmmaker)

What profession would you not like to participate in? Professional Politician

What is your favorite swear word? Frel (close second--FUBAR) of course these are my favorites, not most frequently used...

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Despite your iconoclasm, heresy and non-belief we have decided to let you in because, in the end, you were just doing the best you could as an imperfect being"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Global Voices: Best of the Blogs Award; Anguilla; David Sasaki; Caribbean Blog List; Bridge Blogs

Congratulations to the essential Global Voices for their Best of the Blogs award for Best Journalistic Blog in English

Speaking of the reports at Global Voices, I just noticed, while reading posts about Anguilla, that David Sasaki is translating various countries weblogs. Check out his posts, David is the co-author of one of my favorite text/photo weblogs and a talented writer, but I will leave that site unmentioned since he publishes it under a pseudonym.

While sifting through David's Anguilla post I noticed two very interesting sites:

Taran Rampersad's Caribbean Blog List

Bridge Blog Index

Now I have never heard of Bridge Blogs before, so I am off to learn more...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Germany: CIA knew 'Curveball' was not trustworthy

Germany: CIA knew 'Curveball' was not trustworthy
German intelligence alleges Bush administration repeatedly 'exaggerated' informant's claims in run-up to war.
By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor

Five top German intelligence officers say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly ignored warnings about the veracity of the information that an Iraqi informant named 'Curveball' was giving about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. The Los Angeles Times, in a massive report published Sunday, reports that "the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq." They also say that 'Curveball,' whom the Germans described as "not a psychologically stable guy," never claimed that he had produced germ weapons, nor had he ever seen anyone do it.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm. "This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."

The Times report also says that the White House ignored evidence presented by the United Nations that showed that Curveball was wrong, and that the CIA "punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and [the CIA] refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion." Much of the information Curveball gave to the CIA later turned out to be stories he had gleaned from research on the Internet.

The Independent reports that proof of Curveball's lack of credibility came when the US sent its own team of inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They discovered the informants's personnel files in Baghdad.

It showed he had been a low-level trainee engineer, not a project chief or site manager, as the CIA had insisted. Moreover he had been dismissed in 1995 – just when he claimed to have begun work on bio-warfare trucks.

The Independent also provides what it calls its list of "intelligence red herrings." There was Curveball himself. There was Ahmed Chalabi, who brought to US attention defectors that "proved to be false, as was his claim that US invaders would be met with bouquets." There was the Niger-Iraq uranium story, which later turned out to have been fabricated by a former Italian spy. And there was Iraq's possession of aluminum tubes, which the administration said were for nuclear weapons, yet turned out to be for small conventional military rockets.

Link to Read the Entire Report

Patrick Martin: Senate Democrats Continue to Support Iraq War and Guantánamo Prison Camp

Senate Democrats back Iraq war, Guantánamo prison camp
By Patrick Martin
World Socialist web Site

Senate Democrats went on record Tuesday to support the war in Iraq and the continued operation of the US concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. A large majority of the 44 Senate Democrats lined up with the Republican majority and the Bush administration in key amendments to the defense appropriations bill. The Senate session culminated in a bipartisan 98-0 vote to approve the nearly $500 billion budget for the Pentagon.

In the two most critical votes, the Democrats gave their support by a 37 to 6 margin to a Republican amendment tacitly supporting the Bush administration’s policy on the Iraq war; and then voted 30-13 for a Republican amendment explicitly endorsing the use of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay.

The first vote came on an amendment by Republican John Warner of Virginia which hailed the US military forces in Iraq and called on the Bush administration to provide regular reports on the “current military mission and the diplomatic, political, economic, and military measures, if any, that are being or have been undertaken to successfully complete or support that mission.” The reports were to include figures on Iraqi troop strength and capabilities, and other conditions demonstrating “progress” in the war.

The amendment expressed the wish that the “calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq.”

The passage of this measure was portrayed by Democrats and sections of the media as a rebuff to the Bush administration’s conduct of the war. It actually represents the watering-down of an already weak amendment offered by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan containing the same language about a “successful completion” of the US “mission” in Iraq.

Levin’s version appealed to the administration to present a “campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq.” This version—which did not mandate either a definite date or an actual withdrawal—was defeated by a 58-40 vote, largely along party lines.

The Republican leadership then took the Democratic amendment, dropping only the section referring to estimated dates of withdrawal, and presented it as a directive to the Iraqi stooge regime established by the US military occupation. Senator Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, described the amendment as a “strong bipartisan message to the world” that it was time for Iraqis to take charge of their own country.

“The coalition forces, most particularly the United States and Great Britain, have done their job,” Warner said. “And now we expect in return that they take charge of their nation and run it and form a democracy and prevent any vestige of a civil war from taking place.” Other Republicans expressed the hope that adoption of the amendment would appease growing antiwar sentiment in the US—without altering the actual policy of the US government.

Link to Read the Entire Article

No Torture

Demand a House Vote

"Stop Torture"
by Crucifix

Savage and barbarous, they continue the practice of torture
the police engage in riots, the army gears for war
stop the
mutilation,stop the torture
stop the torture for profit and war
corporations use torture to rob and discard the poor

they deal in assassinations to keep the cry down to a murmer
to fight war in which mutilation is condoned and
the system will use any amount of force to uphold its strength and power
singling people out for their
beliefs, this happens now
the outright violation of human rights must be stopped somehow
on the basic questions of human
rights and human needs
they'll quietly close the door
you'll see that the freedom we have is not our own
take a look at
el salvador
us government backed butchers in the guise of friendly advisors
the friendly neighbor with a bloody trade

preparing to declare their next war
their use of the media to discredit disclaim and betray
to outrage and incite
violencee, make sure
things remain the same
somewhere a captive audience watch a demonstration
watch a man disfigured, his body wired
for electrocution
they sit with their hands clasped waiting in anticipation
they sit with their hands clasped
waiting in anticipation. stop torture.

Also memorably covered by X-TAL:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

George Herbert Walker Bush: On Why They Did Not Invade Iraq

(I posted this during the last presidential election, but I think this statement keeps getting more important the longer we are in Iraq...)

Trying to eliminate Saddam... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.

-- George Herbert Walker Bush, from his memoir, "A World Transformed" (1998)

What Makes Me Feel Good?

So I thought about it for a bit and here are the first ten things that came to my mind (no hierarchy):

Getting launched out of a wave on a boogie-board and quite literally flying for a few, brief, but fantastic seconds ...

Laying on my back and staring at the stars out in the desert and realizing that we are but a tiny speck in the universe...

Traveling to new places with people who have a sense of adventure and enjoy surprises...

Loving--spiritually and physically ...

Camping/vacationing with my family ...

Those heady philosophical conversations with good friends, when you relax, feel the good vibes and really start to feel the ideas flow and everything clicks ...

Getting lost in a good book/film where I lose track of time...

Losing myself in the music of a band to the point I am mindlessly dancing (perhaps a frightful sight for some--but literally transcendent for me)...

Walking/hiking in a stimulating environment...

Interacting with animals...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hispanic Pundit: A Powerful Method To Reduce Student Loan Debt Is Being Blocked

A Powerful Method To Reduce Student Loan Debt Is Being Blocked

Thanks to Hispanic Pundit who you may remember from his debates with El Oso (and other left bloggers) on various subjects, such as, Theories of Homosexuality

Hawk Speaks Out Against The Iraq War: The Murtha Speech

(In case you would like to see this for yourself, The Zen Fly mentioned that it was linked at Crooks and Liars)

The Murtha Speech

What Do You Fear?

(One of my earliest memories are of terrifying nightmares of being in the front of a shopping cart in a grocery store with my mother and all of the sudden she, along with all of the other people in the store, disappears and the lights in the store dim and a strange glowing emanates from behind the meat counter. I don't know what is back there, but the sinister ambience of the situation terrifies me and I awake screaming at the terror of facing this unseen being in that empty, glowing place. I was probably about four years old at the time. The dream repeated for weeks...)

From the introduction to The Exploration of Modern Monsters

A culture's monsters emblematically embody its most acute anxieties. Cultures create and ascribe meaning to monsters, endowing them with characteristics derived from their most deep-seated fears and taboos. The body of the monster, then, becomes the site of these cultural proscriptions, representing the taboos of the societies that spawn them: "the monster's body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy . . . , giving them life and an uncanny independence" (Cohen 4). A monster cannot be contained. A monster disobeys its master, overspills its margins, consumes its benefactors. We make scapegoats of our monsters, attributing to them our own misdeeds and faults while using them as vehicles for intergenerational transfers of taboos and morals.

The monster becomes a way of explaining the seemingly inexplicable. The humanoid form most monsters assume is our own-familiar yet unfamiliar-and transgressions performed by the monster reinforce its status as 'other:' "In its function as dialectical Other or third-term supplement, the monster is an incorporation of the
Outside, the Beyond-of all those loci that are rhetorically placed as distant but originate Within" (Cohen 7). A monster dwells on the fringes of what is culturally acceptable (Grendel). Banished to the physical and social hinterlands, he is also border guard (Minotaur). Whoever crosses into her realm has also transgressed, broken the taboo, courted contamination. The transgressor must then encounter the monster on his own terms.


Monsters of Childhood and Adolescence

Why I Am Unhappy?

(A recent post got me thinking...)

Recently I read something from the Dahlai Lama about attempting to, just for seven days, resist thinking any negative thoughts about any other person. He stated that in a competitive, consumer society we are conditioned to focus on the negative and that this is destructive to our psyches and communal well-being.

At first I said well that is fucking ridiculous there are too many idiots and assholes for me to resist thinking negative thoughts... but then I reflected on what my statement said about myself.

So I decided I would try it. The first day was a disaster... no luck, OK, I would do it an hour at a time-very difficult (I work on a busy campus and I do run into a lot of people...). Manageable, but strangely I noticed how easily my mind could laspe into negative feelings/thoughts and that even as I worked to develop a positive outlook about current events/relationships, past events would begin to seep into my consicousness and would assail my defenses... what about when this happened, or when I failed to do this, or when this person let me down, or the countless people I have hurt in my lifetime...

Despite the periods of pain this exercise has caused me, I have been noticing more moments of pure happiness and delight in life--I am also more conscious of how my negative thoughts are a conditioned reflex (often unconscious) and that I can choose to be happier.

I'm an old school existentialist who is suspicious of bliss, but I am learning to enjoy myself more... hopefully I can spread some of that joy.

Thanks for the post Okir.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

World Reserve Monetary Exchange: Gift Ideas for Christmas

Taking the fetishization of money to new levels:

(Courtesy of The Happy Tutor at Wealth Bondage)

World Reserve Monetary Exchange

Steven Greenhouse: Labor Dept. Is Rebuked Over Pact with Wal-Mart

(From Fitz, a organizational theorist: "Let's see....the Labor Department made a deal with Wal-Mart to give them 15 days notice before they came in to inspect for child labor violations? 15 DAYS !!!! And Wal-Mart's lawyers wrote "substantial parts of the settlement" HUH??????????????")

Labor Dept. Is Rebuked Over Pact With Wal-Mart

The Labor Department's inspector general strongly criticized department officials yesterday for "serious breakdowns" in procedures involving an agreement promising Wal-Mart Stores 15 days' notice before labor investigators would inspect its stores for child labor violations.

The report by the inspector general faulted department officials for making "significant concessions" to Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, without obtaining anything in return. The report also criticized department officials for letting Wal-Mart lawyers write substantial parts of the settlement and for leaving the department's own legal division out of the settlement process.

The report said that in granting Wal-Mart the 15-day notice, the Wage and Hour Division violated its own handbook. It added that agreeing to let Wal-Mart jointly develop news releases about the settlement with the department violated Labor Department policies.

The inspector general, Gordon S. Heddell, said the agreement did not violate federal laws or regulations.

The Labor Department reached the settlement in January after finding 85 child labor violations at Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Arkansas, involving workers under 18 who operated dangerous machinery, including cardboard balers and chain saws.

Wal-Mart settled the investigation by agreeing to pay $135,540, but it continued to deny any wrongdoing.

In addition to allowing the 15-day notice, the agreement lets Wal-Mart avoid civil citations and fines if it brings a store into compliance within 10 days of when the department notifies it of a violation.

In exchange for these concessions, the inspector general wrote, there was "little commitment from the employer beyond what it was already doing or required to do by law."

"In our view," the inspector general's office wrote about the Wage and Hour Division, "the Wal-Mart agreement may adversely impact W.H.D.'s authority to conduct future investigations and issue citations or penalty assessments, and potentially restrict information to the public."

Responding to its inspector general, the Labor Department said it "strongly disagrees with the report's overall characterization of the effectiveness of the Wal-Mart child labor settlement agreement."

The department said the inspector general had wrongly given the impression that Wal-Mart had been permitted to avoid all penalties for violations of wage and hour laws by bringing its stores into compliance.

Even though department officials asserted that the agreement was much like that with other companies, Mr. Heddell found that the agreement between Wal-Mart and the Wage and Hour Division "was significantly different from other agreements entered into by W.H.D." and "had the most far-reaching restriction on W.H.D.'s authority to conduct
investigations and assess" fines.

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who asked the inspector general to investigate the settlement, said the report showed that the Bush administration was seeking to do favors for a powerful friend and a major Republican contributor in Wal-Mart.

"The Bush Labor Department chose to do an unprecedented favor for Wal-Mart, despite the fact it is well known for violating labor laws, including child labor laws," Mr. Miller said. "The sweetheart deal put Wal-Mart employees at risk, undermined government effectiveness, and further undermined public confidence that the government is acting on its behalf."

Mr. Heddell said he did not find that the agreement resulted from improper pressures. "Nothing came to our attention indicating evidence of influence or pressure from internal or external sources," he wrote.

Martin Heires, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said, "We think it's important to note that the inspector general's office found that the agreement is in compliance with federal law."

"We continue to believe the agreement was the appropriate course of action," he added. "Our goal remains to make sure that our stores are in full compliance in that our associates are fully informed of all policies, regulations and laws that apply to the employment of workers who are 16 and 17 years of age."

The inspector general recommended that the Wage and Hour Division develop procedures for developing and approving agreements and require that all future settlements be developed in coordination with the department's legal division.

The department said that it had developed a new policy on reaching settlements that, it was confident, would carry out the inspector general's recommendations.

The Labor Department said that the advance notification provisions applied only to child labor matters. But the inspector general voiced concern that "the plain language of the advance notification clause applies to any potential violations, not just child labor violations."

Department officials say that giving 15 days' notice helps to ensure that Wal-Mart will come into compliance.

The department denied the inspector general's suggestion that it had consulted with Wal-Mart before issuing a news release on the settlement. The department took the unusual action of announcing the agreement a month after it was signed, doing so only after some details were leaked to a newspaper.

The report said: "The inspector general has specific concerns with the Wal-Mart agreement because it contained significant provisions that were principally authored by Wal-Mart attorneys and never challenged by W.H.D., and because it did not receive adequate W.H.D. review and approval."

Keith Jones: British Columbia Teachers Defy Anti-Strike Law, Court Rulings

(From October...)

British Columbia teachers defy anti-strike law, court rulings
By Keith Jones
World Socialist Web Site

Forty-two thousand British Columbia elementary and secondary school teachers are mounting an “illegal” strike in defiance of a provincial labour relations board “cease-and-desist” order, a BC Supreme Court contempt of court ruling, and a series of repressive laws enacted by BC’s Liberal government.

The latest of these laws, Bill 12, was rammed through the provincial legislature last Friday. It imposes a new contact on teachers that freezes their wage for two years (from June 30, 2004 to June 30, 2006) and re-imposes the increases in teacher workload and class sizes that the Liberals first imposed in January 2002 under Bill 28.

The Liberals and the corporate media have denounced the public school teachers for breaking the law and holding 600,000 school children “hostage.” Opinion polls, however, show that most working people recognize that it is the government and its big business masters who threaten public education. According to one poll, 55 percent of British Columbians supported teachers taking strike action, while just 19 percent said they were more supportive of the government than the teachers.

First elected in 2001, the Campbell Liberal government has modeled itself after the 1995-2001 Ontario Conservative regime of Mike Harris. It has slashed public and social services, promoted the contracting out of hospital and other public sector jobs, passed a battery of anti-worker legislation, and victimized welfare recipients, while rewarding the rich and big business with repeated rounds of tax cuts.

Provincial cuts to education have resulted in the layoff of close to 2,000 teachers since 2002, the closure of more than one hundred neighbourhood schools, cuts in the number of librarians, specialist teachers and counselors, and a growing shortage of classroom materials.

The teachers’ militancy and the broad public support for their struggle notwithstanding, it would be a serious mistake to believe that the BC teachers can prevail without the adoption of a radically new political strategy. Teachers and their supporters across Canada must fight to make the BC strike the catalyst for the independent industrial and political mobilization of the working class against the Campbell Liberal government and for the building of a genuine political party of the working class that opposes the subordination of social needs to the imperatives of the capitalist market. The fight for such a program will require a rebellion against those who posture as the leadership of the working class—the BC Federation of Labour (BCFL) and Canadian Labour Congress bureaucracies and the social-democratic politicians of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

In BC, as elsewhere in Canada and around the world, the past quarter century has been punctuated by bitter class struggles. But these struggles invariably have been suppressed and betrayed by the trade unions and social-democratic parties because these nationally-rooted organizations accept the inviolability of the existing capitalist social order. Under conditions where, as a result of the development of globalized production, capital systematically shifts production to wherever profits are highest, the unions and social democrats have evolved from placing pressure on the employers within the national labor market to pressuring workers to accept speed-up, wage cuts and corporate tax cuts so as to secure investment.

Link to Read the Entire Article

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 15th: Sifting the Net

Books are an obsession of mine and I'm always on the look out for good sites, Matt Christie at pas au-delà led me to this one:

ReadySteadyBook: A Literary Site

Also, Michael Benton is trying to set up an archival site on Speculative Fiction to help with research and planned courses.

Leah Caldwell: Censorship in the Big House

(Courtesy of Michael Hawkins at Sponateous Arising)

Censorship in the Big House: Death of the Jailhouse Press

It was a melee, a riot, a simmering dispute. Despite the nomenclature, coverage of the August 9 prisoner "incident" at San Quentin prison was hardly diversified. 39 prisoners were injured in one of the largest riots since 1982 at California's oldest prison, with newspapers citing tensions between Latino and white prisoners as the root cause.
There were a few differences, though, between this riot and the last ­ demonstrating the changing nature of America's prison system. In 1982, guards fired shotguns in the air to quell the disturbance; in 2005, tear gas was the agent of choice. In the 80s, the prisoner newspaper, the San Quentin News would've covered the riots; in 2005, this newspaper no longer exists.

One of the most dramatic changes within American prisons is the near extinction of the penal press. Award-winning prison newspapers that once reached thousands- even outside of prison walls-no longer exist, and their underground counterparts are few and far between. The situation has become so dire that, according to the author of Jailhouse Journalism James McGrath Morris, "If you talked to a prisoner today, they wouldn't even know these things existed."

The death of the prison press can't be attributed to one law or one warden; instead, it can be traced through shifting attitudes on prisons and their function in society. "There was a period in American history when we really thought we could send somebody to [prison] and make a new person out of them," Morris said. "That's gone." In a country that imprisons over 2 million people-despite a decade-long drop in crime-rehabilitation is an outmoded concept.

The prison newspaper was once seen as a practical tool for rehabilitation. It was viewed as a way for prisoners to occupy themselves on the inside, but more importantly, to gain marketable skills for use on the outside. This led to prison newspaper booms in the 30s and 50s, when over 250 prisoner-run publications flourished.

The prison press also thrived in the 70s when, according to Jim Danky, Librarian of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which is home to the nation's largest collection of prison newspapers, highly politicized prisoners brought "the ethos of the 60s inside with them" and cranked out enough radical rags to fill a library. Among these were The Iced Pig edited by Weatherman and Attica prisoner Sam Melville and the San Quentin News, known for its censored report on bird excrement in the prison cafeteria. The most notable paper of this decade, and perhaps the entire history of the prison press, was The Angolite. Under Wilbert Rideau's editorship, the paper won a Polk award for its intensive coverage of prison rape. Unlike other papers, The Angolite skirted official censorship by obtaining the support of the warden, who hoped that the presence of an independent prison newspaper would bring prestige and stability to the Louisiana prison.

But this hands-off approach was unique to Angola. As The Angolite was publishing groundbreaking pieces, prisoner-journalists throughout the country were encountering the "Son of Sam" laws which were designed to keep them from publishing their work in outside publications. A central provision states that, "The inmate may not act as reporter or publish under a byline." Though the law did not directly affect prison newspapers, it sent a message to officials that contrarian prisoner opinions needed to be heavily censored.

H. Bruce Franklin, Rutgers professor and author of Prison Writings in 20th-Century America, believes this sudden crackdown on prison journalism was a reaction to the success of newspapers in unifying prisoners and engaging outsiders. Ultimately, the goal was (and still is) information control, according to Franklin: "The worse the conditions in prison, the more necessary it is to keep people from knowing how bad the conditions are." Franklin believes that prison officials take measures to prevent prison newspapers from covering routine abuses and, in some cases, torture. "They will do everything in their power to make sure people are unaware of this," he says.

Link to Read the Entire Essay

Plans to Dispose of 523-ton Stockpile of Nerve and Blister Agents in Bluegrass Region

I had a friend who worked for the Kentucky laborers union and was told how they were going to get rid of nuclear stockpiles in Kentucky, they were going to dilute the nuclear waste with water until it was safe and reintroduce the mixture into Kentucky streams. Ridiculous... I wonder if this is the same method they are planning on using to dispose of the "523-ton stockpile of nerve and blister agents."

(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue.)

Study positive on weapons disposal plan: PROGRAM FOR DEPOT SAFE AND EFFECTIVE, STUDY SUGGESTS
By Peter Mathews

RICHMOND - A new study by a panel of prominent scientists says the Army and contractor Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass appear to have developed a safe and effective plan to destroy chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot.

The report from the National Research Council notes that many technical issues remain unresolved. But some of those issues have been addressed since the information was gathered.

"I see it as a very positive report," said Craig Williams, co-chairman of the local citizens' advisory board. "There were no real surprises and no show-stoppers. It's basically what I would have expected."

Plans call for a $2 billion plant to be built at the depot to chemically neutralize its 523-ton stockpile of nerve and blister agents.

The study noted that the processes involved never have been used together, so a prolonged period of testing is needed.

And the operating schedule is "probably unrealistic" for a first-of-its-kind plant, it said.

The United States faces an April 2012 deadline for disposing of its chemical weapons. Local officials have said delays in funding have put them about a year behind schedule.

The report also called for a change in the way rockets containing chemical agent would be cut open. However, fires at other chemical weapons disposal sites prompted officials to begin studying a change months ago.

Katherine DeWeese, a spokeswoman for the federal agency overseeing the destruction of munitions at the Richmond depot and in Pueblo, Colo., said project leaders would meet soon with council members to discuss the recommendations.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Edwin Black: Final Solutions

Final Solutions: How IBM Helped Automate the Nazi Death Machine in Poland
by Edwin Black
Village Voice, March 27 - April 2, 2002

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, most of the world saw a menace to humanity. But IBM saw Nazi Germany as a lucrative trading partner. Its president, Thomas J. Watson, engineered a strategic business alliance between IBM and the Reich, beginning in the first days of the Hitler regime and continuing right through World War II. This alliance catapulted Nazi Germany to become IBM's most important customer outside the U.S. IBM and the Nazis jointly designed, and IBM exclusively
produced, technological solutions that enabled Hitler to accelerate and in many ways automate key aspects of his persecution of Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others the Nazis considered enemies. Custom-designed, IBM-produced punch cards, sorted by IBM machines leased to the Nazis, helped organize and manage the initial
identification and social expulsion of Jews and others, the confiscation of their property, their ghettoization, their deportation, and, ultimately, even their extermination.

Recently discovered Nazi documents and Polish eyewitness testimony make clear that IBM's alliance with the Third Reich went far beyond its German subsidiary. A key factor in the Holocaust in Poland was IBM technology provided directly through a special wartime Polish subsidiary reporting to IBM New York, mainly to its headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue.

And that's how the trains to Auschwitz ran on time.

Thousands of IBM documents reviewed for the first edition of my book 'IBM and the Holocaust,' published early last year and focused mainly on IBM's German subsidiary, revealed vigorous efforts to preserve IBM's monopoly in the Nazi market and increase contracts to meet wartime sales quotas.

Since then, continued research and interviews have uncovered details, described here for the first time, of IBM's work for the Nazis in Poland through the separate subsidiary and of the Polish subsidiary's direct contact with IBM officials on Madison Avenue.

Documents were obtained from IBM files shipped to NYU for processing and from scores of other archival sources here and abroad. Not a single sentence written by IBM personnel has been discovered in any of the documents questioning the morality of automating the Third Reich, even when headlines proclaimed the mass murder of Jews.

IBM's German subsidiary was Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, known by the acronym Dehomag. (Herman Hollerith was the German American who first automated U.S. census information in the late 19th century and founded the company which became IBM. Hollerith's name became synonymous with the machines and the Nazi "departments" that operated them.)

Link To Read the Entire Essay


The IBM Link to Auschwitz

How the U.S. 'Master Race' Helped Breed Selective Science: War Against the Weak by Edwin Black

For a Student Researching the Holocaust

Friday, November 11, 2005

November 13th: Rev. Ignacio Castuera--Sexuality and Spirituality (Lexington)

(Courtesy of Virginia Blum)

On Sunday afternoon, November 13, Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a United Methodist minister and the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be in Lexington to address issues of faith and sexuality in an address entitled "Sexuality and Spirituality." Rev. Castuera will speak at 2 pm at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, and a question-and-answer period will follow.

Rev. Castuera has worked for the past 25 years, addressing sexuality issues from his position as a church pastor. He came to the position of PPFA chaplain while serving as Senior Pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in the Watts community of Los Angeles. He holds degrees from Compton College; California State University, Long Beach; and a Doctor of Religion degree from the Claremont School of Theology.

Rev.Castuera has served churches in Mexico, Hawaii, and California. In 1980, he became the first Latino District Superintendent of the Los Angeles District of the California Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Castuera has participated in ecumenical and interfaith organizations throughout his ministry and has been a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, participating in clinic defense and serving on the Board of Directors.

Rev. Castuera has authored many articles in professional journals and newspapers. In 1992, he edited Dreams on Fire, Embers of Hope, a collection of sermons preached in Los Angeles after that year's riots. The book was one of the top ten religious books of that year.

Thierry Bardini: France is Burning

(There used to be an old saying "When Paris sneezes, the world catches a cold")

France Is Burning
by Thierry Bardini

How does it feel to see the country of your birth burning on television? Today it makes me feel like a migrant worker, watching the kids of other migrant workers rioting in the streets of cities you've probably have never heard of -- but that they have been cleaning for two generations. Today I am reminded of the same scenes I once witnessed first-hand in the streets of Caracas and Los Angeles. Today I am reminded by all these comparisons I read in the papers, Paris-Baghdad, Ile-de-France-Tchetchnia, that bring back images and feelings to my mind. Flashes of light, Carnival, riot. My neighbor, this insignificant dog-walking-little-man, breaking a window, shoplifting. Black uniforms on motorcycles with very long sticks and machine guns. Fires. Dionysian parties, tomorrow tears. Hepa chamo why did you burn our car, and your school? Flashes of Curfew (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 1988, Caracas, Venezuela, 1989). Toque de queda, my poor Thomas. What to do but keep on partying when I can't get back home in time? Avoid the crowd, stay in well lit areas, talk to the cops only if you have to, only if they ask you a question or if you fear something worse. Be ready to run. Don't stay too close to the windows. Watch the same General over and over again on TV, lying through his teeth, back to order. That was then, in the Third World, homeland of the migrant workers before migration. There riot rhymes with coup, as in "coup d'État" or "coup sur la gueule." There the troops take three days to deploy in streets on fire, and the troops are eighteen years old, wearing helmets too big and carrying ten ammos apiece. Needless to say, they are scared shitless. And so are you and so it seems is everybody -- past this third day. A week later, the streets are cleaned, a thousand people are dead. Order is restored, until the next coup. There, in Caracas, the poor and the desperate came down to the heart of the city and burned it. Their targets of choice were the abastos, the dammed little capitalists on each street corner who were shelving coffee, rice and pampers, waiting for the prices to come up, or the caritos, the damned little capitalists who doubled the price of the ride, just a few days before they burned. Just a step above them on the starvation ladder, barely out of the barrios. In Los Angeles (1992) I was working for the University of Spoiled Children, thanks to a Japanese endowment at the famous Annenberg School. The building was rumored to have been a Republican think tank, unless it was an intelligence think tank I don't remember; a massive eagle was covering the entrance hall. The first strange thing that I noticed that day was a guy armed at the gates of the University. He was not yet eighteen years old and wore no helmet. I bet that he had plenty of rounds on his belt. I jumped into my car and saw the rest on TV -- from my rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica. Downtown and Watts seemed very far away, until I noticed the smoky skies from the window. It felt like I was watching images of Caracas on CNN -- It can't be here. Sounds concrete suddenly, pockets of the Third World in the First World. They too started in a party-like atmosphere, burning their own neighborhood. Starting with the liquor stores. I bet I could have seen my neighbor from Caracas, Residence Sans Soucis, Avenida Libertador, Chacaito, stepping out of the broken window of this licoreria, carrying a full case of Red Bull. The troops, the National Guard that is, took two days to deploy, and prevented any damage from reaching North Hollywood. In the meantime, the small-business owners from little Seoul made use of their own NRA licensed machine guns. There, in a so-called civilized country, they only burned their own neighborhood. A week later, one house out of two was left to ashes on Normandy Street, but order was back in the city (or so they said on CNN). Who knows how many died, in a democratic country and land of hope we do not keep stats like this. Some of them did not officially exist anyway; they were just some migrant Chicano workers.

To Read the Entire Essay

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November 10th: Sifting the Net

Frontline Documentaries Online They now have an archive of 52 shows with accompanying websites loaded with extras.

Stay Free! Carrie McClaren's Brooklyn print/online magazine "that explores the politics and perversions of mass media and American (consumer) culture."

Public Library of Science Came across this site while looking for good archival sites for my writing students who are going into medicine--they publish many online, free-access journals that collect some of the most important work in the physical sciences. Good to see such an open-source philosophy at work in the world of science.

Thinking About Globalization Michael Benton has put this together for his writing students researching global issues--the list is getting long, but he would welcome more perspectives and suggestions.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

November 10: NAACP Dignitary To Speak At University of Kentucky

(Courtesy of Eileen Able)

NAACP Dignitary To Speak At UK

You are cordially invited to attend a lecture by Dr. John H. Jackson, Chief Policy Officer of the NAACP, on November 10 at 7:00 P.M. in the Student Center Small Ballroom at the University of Kentucky. His lecture, titled "Diversifying American Universities in the 21st Century: Economic, Political and Social Dimensions" is free and open to the public.

Dr. Jackson's talk is very relevant in light of the recent scrutiny that UK and other institutions of higher learning have faced regarding recruitment and retention of minority students.

Ruth Shagoury Hubbard: The Truth About Helen Keller

The Truth about Helen Keller: Helen Keller used her fame to promote justice.
By Ruth Shagoury Hubbard
Rethinking Schools

The "Helen Keller story" that is stamped in our collective consciousness freezes her in childhood; we remember her most vividly at age seven when her teacher, Annie Sullivan, connected her to language through a magical moment at the water pump. We learned little of her life beyond her teen years, except that she worked on behalf of the handicapped.

But there is much more to Helen Keller's history than a brilliant deaf and blind woman who surmounted incredible obstacles. Helen Keller was a socialist who believed she was able to overcome many of the difficulties in her life because of her class privilege - a privilege not shared by most of her blind or deaf contemporaries. "I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment," she said. " I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone." More than an icon of American "can-do," Helen Keller was a tireless advocate of the poor and disenfranchised.

Helen Keller was someone who worked throughout her long life to achieve social change; she was an integral part of many important social movements in the 20th century. Her life story could serve as a fascinating example for children, but most picture books about Helen Keller are woefully silent about her life's work. It's time to start telling the truth about Helen Keller.


"The world is moved not only by the mighty stories of heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."

Helen Keller

In the last decade, there has been a surge in literature for children that depicts people who have worked for social change. On a recent search for non-fiction picture books that tell the stories of those involved in social activism, I found scores of books - beautifully illustrated multicultural texts. Initially, I was delighted to be able to share these books with kids in my neighborhood and school. But as my collection grew, so did my frustration.

One problem with many of the books is that they stress the individual rather than the larger social movements in which they worked. In his critique of popular portrayals of the Rosa Parks story, educator and author Herb Kohl argues convincingly that her role in the Montgomery bus strike is framed again and again as that of a poor, tired seamstress acting out of personal frustration rather than as a community leader in an organized struggle against racism. [See "The Politics of Children's Literature," p. 37 in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Vol. I]

Picture books frame the stories of many other key community leaders and social activists in similar ways. Activist and educator Patrick Shannon's careful analysis of the underlying social message of books for young readers highlights this important finding: "Regardless of the genre type, the authors of these books promoted concern for self-development, personal emotions, self-reliance, privacy, and competition rather than concern for social development, service to community, cooperation toward shared goals, community, and mutual prosperity" (1988, p. 69).

I first became interested in the activist work of Helen Keller a few years ago when I read James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (1995). Loewen concludes that the way that Helen Keller's life story is turned into a "bland maxim" is lying by omission. When I turned to the many picture books written about her, I was discouraged to discover that books for young children retain that bland flavor, negating the power of her life work and the lessons she herself would hope people would take from it. Here is a woman who worked throughout her long life as a radical advocate for the poor, but she is depicted as a kind of saintly role model for people with handicaps.

To Read the Entire Essay

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Help Save Monongahela National Forest

(Courtesy of Jessica)

The U.S. Forest Service is planning to roll back protection for the Monongahela Nat'l Forest. Not only is this place absolutely beautiful (been there? Dolly Sods?), it also serves the basic but all-too-elusive purpose of cleaning West Virgina's waterways. People can go here for more information and to write a note in support of alternative 3.

The Seven Deadly Myths of Industrial Agriculture: Myth Five

The Seven Deadly Myths of Industrial Agriculture: Myth Five
By The Editors, Fatal Harvest.


The loss of diversity

A seldom-mentioned impact of industrial agriculture is that it deprives consumers of real choice by favoring only a few varieties of crops that allow efficient harvesting, processing, and packaging. Consider the apple. It is true that without industrial processes we might not be able to eat a "fresh" Red Delicious apple 365 days a year. However, we would be able to enjoy many of the thousands of varieties grown in this country during the last century that have now all but disappeared. Because of the industrial agriculture system, the majority of those varieties are extinct today; two varieties alone account for more than 50 percent of the current apple market. Similarly, in 2000, 73 percent of all the lettuce grown in the United States was iceberg. This relatively bland variety is often the only choice consumers have. Meanwhile, we have lost hundreds of varieties of lettuce with flavors ranging from bitter to sweet and colors from dark purple to light green. The monoculture of industrial agriculture has similarly reduced the natural diversity of nearly every major food crop in terms of varieties grown, color, size, and flavor.

By growing all of our crops in monocultures, industrial agriculture not only limits what we can eat today, but also reduces the choices of future generations. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates more than three-quarters of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in this past century. As agribusiness utilizes only high-yield, high-profit varieties, we fail to save the seed stock of thousands of other varieties. The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) conducted a study of seed stock readily available in 1903 versus the inventory of the U.S. National Seed Storage Laboratory (NSSL) in 1983. RAFI found an astounding decline in diversity: we have lost nearly 93 percent of lettuce, over 96 percent of sweet corn, about 91 percent of field corn, more than 95 percent of tomato, and almost 98 percent of asparagus varieties. This represents not only an environmental disaster but also a staggering reduction in food choices available to us and future generations.

Unlabeled and untested

Even as we are robbed of our right to choose many desirable, diverse foods, we are also deprived of the right to reject those we do not wish to eat. Food labels often do not provide enough information to allow consumers to know what is in our food and how and where it is produced. The government, bending under pressure from agribusiness, has never required labels that inform consumers about the pesticides and other chemicals used on crops or the residues still left on those foods at time of purchase. Similarly there is no mandatory labeling of the geographic origin of foods, despite the wishes of a growing number of consumers who prefer to choose local produce.

The use of potentially hazardous nuclear and genetic technologies on foods is also hidden from consumers. While a major consumer lobbying effort forced the government to mandate labeling of irradiated whole foods, similarly "nuked" processed foods are not labeled. Food processors and distributors are now fighting to repeal the label requirement for irradiated whole foods. In a similar vein, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under pressure from the biotechnology industry, has decided not to require genetically engineered foods to be independently safety tested or labeled. This decision represents a particularly egregious affront to food choice, as up to 60 percent of processed foods already have some genetically engineered ingredients that many consumers would like to avoid. The FDA's no labeling and no testing policy was made even though the agency was aware that the genetic engineering of foods can make safe foods toxic, create new allergens, lower food nutrition, and create antibiotic resistance.

Agribusiness not only uses its political muscle to prevent food labeling, it also has pushed through laws to stop critics from getting important information about foods to consumers. The industry has pressured 13 states to pass "food disparagement" legislation -- laws that can be used against those trying to expose any of the harmful effects of the industrial food system. While many believe these laws are clearly unconstitutional, until they are struck down, they serve to intimidate people and groups who want to provide truthful information on food safety. These laws also may stop potential whistle-blowers from coming forward with crucial information that the public needs to make informed food choices.

Link to Read the Entire Article

Linda Lewin: A Tale of Two Texts

University of Kentucky Event

Professor Linda Lewin
History Department
University of California, Berkeley


November 14, 2005
Monday, 11:30 to 12:45
New Student Center 231
Brown Bag lunch talk

For information contact: Francie Chassen-López, Dept. of History

Tom Baker: The Medical Malpractice Myth

University of Chicago Press

In The Medical Malpractice Myth legal scholar Tom Baker does exactly what the title promises: demolishes the claim that health care is in a litigation crisis--that "lawyers are filing baseless suits against hospitals and doctors," as President George W. Bush described it earlier this year. On the contrary, there are lawsuits because there is malpractice and the rise in damage awards has only mirrored the rise in medical costs.

Rethinking Schools

Introduction to the latest issue:

Rethinking Schools, the only national education journal produced by classroom teachers, has published the first issue of its 20th year. It's a good one.

The issue includes a special excerpt from Jonathan Kozol's new book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. Kozol is one of the nation's leading advocates for educational justice and a winner of a National Book Award for his 1991 volume, Savage Inequalities. In the new Rethinking Schools, he offers a fierce indictment of segregation, funding inequalities, and the "drill-and-kill" curricula that are heavily promoted in schools that serve low-income students and students of color.

The new issue also has a special section on military recruitment and counter-recruitment efforts in schools across the country. Students and teachers suggest ways to respond to some of the most pressing issues raised by teaching in a time of war, including how we can protect the lives and minds of our students from pro-military propaganda.

RS columnist Barbara Miner has an important report on the lack of accountability and quality control in Milwaukee's voucher schools, which are often cited as a national model of where reform policy may be headed.

Teaching for equity and justice is always a primary topic in Rethinking Schools and the first issue of volume 20 is no exception. It includes the following:

Reconstructing Race, by Nathaniel W. Smith. A high school teacher introduces his students to the slippery concept of race.

Teaching About Global Warming in Truck Country, by Jana Dean. A middle school teacher in the Pacific Northwest helps the heirs of truck culture examine climate change.

Rethinking Agatha Christie, by Sudie Hofmann. A look at the strange and offensive history of Ten Little Indians.

Playing with Gender, by Ann Pelo. The staff at an early childhood center asks hard questions about gender identity.

Students Galvanize for Immigrant Rights, by Ryan Knudson and Al Levie. A high school club in Racine, Wis., changes life for students, parents, and the larger community.

Anup Shah: Global Issues That Effect Everyone

Anup Shah's archive site Global Issues That Effect Everyone. Site introduction:

This web site looks into global issues that affect everyone and aims to show how most issues are inter-related.

Over 6,500 links to external articles, web sites reports and analysis are used to provide credence to the arguments made on this web site. The issue categories range from trade, poverty and globalization, to human rights, geopolitics and the environment.

Some of these issues may be misrepresented by the mainstream for various reasons such as politics, profit motives, to oppress dissent, and so on. Some of these issues may not be receiving enough — or any — mainstream media attention and therefore there is a lack of enough open and public debate, while other concerns seem to be getting a biased attention only. However, I hope you will see that all these issues are closely related, affecting and being affected by one another.

Constructive criticism and debate should be a necessary part in the development and continual improvement process in all of us so that we can always evaluate ourselves, as individuals, collective peoples and societies. This helps avoid stagnation, complacency and blind conformity, while enhancing democracy and diversity.

As more and more people become aware of the various issues, more and more ideas on ways to tackle these can come to the fore. Yet, oftentimes, the mainstream media, which is perhaps the most influential source to help shape people's opinions and knowledge about the world, is subject to the political interests of powerful people or groups and therefore affects the ability to see issues debated in public to the fullest. As a result, the range of discourse in the mainstream, the presuppositions and assumptions are never questioned or realized as limiting factors.

I feel these issues and their backgrounds are important because it opens our eyes as to how we got to where we are today, and hints as to where we are headed and how, and what that implies for the societies and peoples of today and of tomorrow.

Society by its very nature is conformist. To be a non-conformist one has to take criticism because it disturbs people's confidence in what they always took to be true.

Apostate Windbag: 'L'Intifada Française' - Between Ramallah '00 and Paris '68

Victor S. (Apostate Windbag) from Belgium provides a good summary and background (with plenty of links to other sources) for the recent riots in France:

'L'Intifada Française' - Between Ramallah '00 and Paris '68

Monday, November 07, 2005

Protests in Zimbabwe


Sokwanele - Zvakwana is a peoples' movement, embracing supporters of all pro-democratic political parties, civic organizations and institutions.

November 8th: Rally For Local Ownership of Water (Lexington)

Rally for Local Ownership of Water

"Election Day"
Tuesday, November 8th

Gather at 5pm, Speakers at 5:30pm

Phoenix Park (Corner of Main St. and N. Limestone)

RWE took away our democratic right to vite by ballot.
Come vote with your voice.

Great speakers! Free food! Music!

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Detritus


detritus \dih-TRYE-tus\ noun

1 : loose material (as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris *b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends

Example sentence:
"The blog originated ... as a catch basin for mental detritus, for the kind of stuff not good enough for print, but too good to waste on casual conversation." (Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, August 21, 2005)

Did you know?
In the late 18th century, Scottish geologist James Hutton borrowed the Latin word "detritus" (meaning "rubbing away") for the process of wearing away or wearing down rock. His use of the word, however, was short-lived: one of the last appearances of this usage is in an 1802 book on his geologic theory. In that book, "detritus" was also used to describe the loose material that results from disintegration. It is that use, unlike Hutton's original, which has withstood the test of time and is firmly established in geology. Not surprisingly, "detritus," with its erudite sound and figurative possibility, was also taken up by non-geologists, from other scientists to nonscientists.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Michael Benton: Response to Jarhead

Response to Jarhead

To The Various People Spamming Me With Offers To Make This Blog Profitable

(In order to save you some time...)

I'm resisting commercializing my blog in any way, despite my need of money, please leave me one place that is free of commerce and just dedicated to a free exchange of knowledge/experiences.

Frustrated by Defeat?: Join the Party!

(Courtesy of Mason who said: "The catchy music brightened my day!")

Join the Party

Looking for a Reviewer of "Hershmanlandia: Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson"

This exhibit is in Seattle at the Henry Art Gallery from November 5 - January 29. I am looking for a reviewer for the journal Reconstruction. If you are interested get my email out of the profile and send me a message, or, leave a comment below with your email:

Hershmanlandia: Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson

From the introduction:

For thirty-five years, San Francisco artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson has explored vision, spectacle, spectatorship, and their roles in the construction of sexed subjectivity. With Hershmanlandia: The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, the Henry Art Gallery will present the first major survey of this important American artist.

Prolifically expressed in drawings, paintings, photographs, performances, robotic works, digital art, videos, films, interactive multimedia installations, and artificial intelligence works, Hershman Leeson's project of self-analysis and self-mythification multiplies and refracts fictional identities through her artwork to the point of exploding any stable notion of identity. The trajectory of her work provides a vivid artistic mirror of issues related to fragmented human subjectivity in our time.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

WACC Calls for Action on WTO Meeting in Hong Kong

World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and Global Media Monitoring Program

Taking the side of justice and human dignity in media, and promoting diverse media ownership, WACC works for the right to communicate especially in situations of censorship and oppression.

Statement of the Board of Directors of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC)

WACC Calls for Action on WTO Meeting in Hong Kong

We, Christian communicators from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and the Pacific, coming together for the meeting of the Board of Directors of the World Association for Christian Communication from October 2-7, 2005 express our grave concern regarding the forthcoming Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization to be held in Hong Kong in December 2005.

Recent experience teaches us that the WTO is an instrument for consolidating a world political and economic order in which human knowledge and creativity have been reduced to commodities exchanged for profit. In this process, fewer and fewer corporations, including major communication conglomerates, are fencing off public access to humankind’s common intellectual heritage.

To be a Christian communicator means taking sides for justice, peace and freedom and against falsehood, exclusion and oppression. The ideals of Christian communication foster a spirit of solidarity, and a shared commitment to build a just world and a common prosperity.

We call on all WACC members to actively oppose the new round of WTO accords. As we have seen in Seattle and Cancun, WTO agreements can be derailed; the train of history is not moving inexorably towards this particular world political and economic order. We can build better agreements more rooted in and more respectful of our common humanity.

At this moment in history our task is to share the untold stories of the human costs imposed by a political and economic system that puts profit above the value of life itself. Therefore we call on all our colleagues in the media to tell the stories of the farmers, peasants, workers, migrants, indigenous peoples, women and other marginalized groups whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the policies that may be approved in Hong Kong.

- 6 October 2005