Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween , by Robert Burns

Upon that night, when fairies light On Cassilis Downans dance, Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze, On sprightly coursers prance; Or for Colean the route is ta'en, Beneath the moon's pale beams; There, up the cove, to stray and rove, Among the rocks and streams To sport that night. Among the bonny winding banks, Where Doon rins, wimplin' clear, Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks, And shook his Carrick spear, Some merry, friendly, country-folks, Together did convene, To burn their nits, and pou their stocks, And haud their Halloween Fu' blithe that night. The lasses feat, and cleanly neat, Mair braw than when they're fine; Their faces blithe, fu' sweetly kythe, Hearts leal, and warm, and kin'; The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs, Weel knotted on their garten, Some unco blate, and some wi' gabs, Gar lasses' hearts gang startin' Whiles fast at night. Then, first and foremost, through the kail, Their stocks maun a' be sought ance; They steek their een, and graip and wale, For muckle anes and straught anes. Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift, And wander'd through the bow-kail, And pou't, for want o' better shift, A runt was like a sow-tail, Sae bow't that night. Then, staught or crooked, yird or nane, They roar and cry a' throu'ther; The very wee things, todlin', rin, Wi' stocks out owre their shouther; And gif the custoc's sweet or sour. Wi' joctelegs they taste them; Syne cozily, aboon the door, Wi cannie care, they've placed them To lie that night. The lasses staw frae 'mang them a' To pou their stalks of corn: But Rab slips out, and jinks about, Behint the muckle thorn: He grippet Nelly hard and fast; Loud skirl'd a' the lasses; But her tap-pickle maist was lost, When kitlin' in the fause-house Wi' him that night. The auld guidwife's well-hoordit nits, Are round and round divided, And monie lads' and lasses' fates Are there that night decided: Some kindle coothie, side by side, And burn thegither trimly; Some start awa, wi' saucy pride, And jump out-owre the chimlie Fu' high that night. Jean slips in twa wi' tentie ee; Wha 'twas she wadna tell; But this is Jock, and this is me, She says in to hersel: He bleezed owre her, and she owre him, As they wad never mair part; Till, fuff! he started up the lum, And Jean had e'en a sair heart To see't that night. Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt, Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie; And Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt, To be compared to Willie; Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' fling, And her ain fit it brunt it; While Willie lap, and swore by jing, 'Twas just the way he wanted To be that night. Nell had the fause-house in her min', She pits hersel and Rob in; In loving bleeze they sweetly join, Till white in ase they're sobbin'; Nell's heart was dancin' at the view, She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't: Rob, stowlins, prie'd her bonny mou', Fu' cozie in the neuk for't, Unseen that night. But Merran sat behint their backs, Her thoughts on Andrew Bell; She lea'es them gashin' at their cracks, And slips out by hersel: She through the yard the nearest taks, And to the kiln goes then, And darklins graipit for the bauks, And in the blue-clue throws then, Right fear't that night. And aye she win't, and aye she swat, I wat she made nae jaukin', Till something held within the pat, Guid Lord! but she was quakin'! But whether 'was the deil himsel, Or whether 'twas a bauk-en', Or whether it was Andrew Bell, She didna wait on talkin' To spier that night. Wee Jennie to her grannie says, "Will ye go wi' me, grannie? I'll eat the apple at the glass I gat frae Uncle Johnnie:" She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt, In wrath she was sae vap'rin', She notice't na, an aizle brunt Her braw new worset apron Out through that night. "Ye little skelpie-limmer's face! I daur you try sic sportin', As seek the foul thief ony place, For him to spae your fortune. Nae doubt but ye may get a sight! Great cause ye hae to fear it; For mony a ane has gotten a fright, And lived and died deleeret On sic a night. "Ae hairst afore the Sherramoor, -- I mind't as weel's yestreen, I was a gilpey then, I'm sure I wasna past fifteen; The simmer had been cauld and wat, And stuff was unco green; And aye a rantin' kirn we gat, And just on Halloween It fell that night. "Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen, A clever sturdy fallow: His son gat Eppie Sim wi' wean, That lived in Achmacalla: He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel, And he made unco light o't; But mony a day was by himsel, He was sae sairly frighted That very night." Then up gat fechtin' Jamie Fleck, And he swore by his conscience, That he could saw hemp-seed a peck; For it was a' but nonsense. The auld guidman raught down the pock, And out a hanfu' gied him; Syne bade him slip frae 'mang the folk, Some time when nae ane see'd him, And try't that night. He marches through amang the stacks, Though he was something sturtin; The graip he for a harrow taks. And haurls it at his curpin; And every now and then he says, "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, And her that is to be my lass, Come after me, and draw thee As fast this night." He whistled up Lord Lennox' march To keep his courage cheery; Although his hair began to arch, He was say fley'd and eerie: Till presently he hears a squeak, And then a grane and gruntle; He by his shouther gae a keek, And tumbled wi' a wintle Out-owre that night. He roar'd a horrid murder-shout, In dreadfu' desperation! And young and auld came runnin' out To hear the sad narration; He swore 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw, Or crouchie Merran Humphie, Till, stop! she trotted through them And wha was it but grumphie Asteer that night! Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen, To win three wechts o' naething; But for to meet the deil her lane, She pat but little faith in: She gies the herd a pickle nits, And two red-cheekit apples, To watch, while for the barn she sets, In hopes to see Tam Kipples That very nicht. She turns the key wi cannie thraw, And owre the threshold ventures; But first on Sawnie gies a ca' Syne bauldly in she enters: A ratton rattled up the wa', And she cried, Lord, preserve her! And ran through midden-hole and a', And pray'd wi' zeal and fervour, Fu' fast that night; They hoy't out Will wi' sair advice; They hecht him some fine braw ane; It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice Was timmer-propt for thrawin'; He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak, For some black grousome carlin; And loot a winze, and drew a stroke, Till skin in blypes cam haurlin' Aff's nieves that night. A wanton widow Leezie was, As canty as a kittlin; But, och! that night amang the shaws, She got a fearfu' settlin'! She through the whins, and by the cairn, And owre the hill gaed scrievin, Whare three lairds' lands met at a burn To dip her left sark-sleeve in, Was bent that night. Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays, As through the glen it wimpl't; Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays; Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't; Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays, Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle; Whyles cookit underneath the braes, Below the spreading hazel, Unseen that night. Among the brackens, on the brae, Between her and the moon, The deil, or else an outler quey, Gat up and gae a croon: Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool! Near lav'rock-height she jumpit; but mist a fit, and in the pool Out-owre the lugs she plumpit, Wi' a plunge that night. In order, on the clean hearth-stane, The luggies three are ranged, And every time great care is ta'en', To see them duly changed: Auld Uncle John, wha wedlock joys Sin' Mar's year did desire, Because he gat the toom dish thrice, He heaved them on the fire In wrath that night. Wi' merry sangs, and friendly cracks, I wat they didna weary; And unco tales, and funny jokes, Their sports were cheap and cheery; Till butter'd so'ns, wi' fragrant lunt, Set a' their gabs a-steerin'; Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt, They parted aff careerin' Fu' blythe that night. Robert Burns

Students serious about mock election


"I think if the younger people were able to vote, we would make a change in the country," said Joseph Detz, 14.

Students across the Lower Hudson Valley have been paying close attention to the presidential race these days, spurred by teachers who are incorporating the election into lessons about American politics, government and history.

One of the most popular activities is the mock election. Many schools do a simple paper-and-pencil ballot. But North Salem High School, Pearl River High and Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck are using real voting booths to add to the authenticity. Students at Suffern High spent one lunch period handing out election materials in a nod to old-fashioned pavement-pounding styles.

Others have branched out through technology. South Orangetown Middle School students are holding a videoconference debate with Suffern Middle School students, with each side playing either candidate or the media. Students at Pomona Middle School in East Ramapo and at Clarkstown North High School were doing their voting online through the National Mock Election yesterday.

"The kids are so into it. This is my sixth or seventh presidential election, and I've never seen kids so engaged, so aware," Pomona Principal Brenda Shannon said. "Each of our social studies classes represents a state, so the kids have to do the research on how many electoral votes they get. It drives home the point how a homeroom that only has seven kids in it gets fewer (electoral) votes. It's absolutely amazing."

Pollsters may want to start paying closer attention to these student polls.

At Lakeland school district's Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, students have selected the winning candidate in every election year since 1968. If that's any indication of how things will turn out Tuesday, then it looks like Obama will be the next president of the United States. Obama won the popular vote 324-280.

Obama also won the popular vote at Gerald Neary School in North Rockland 227-75.

But McCain took the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade Congers Elementary School 151-128 this past week, with McCain winning votes at each grade level, except kindergarten and fifth. Second-graders especially liked McCain, voting 31-18 for his ticket.

At Fox Lane High School in Bedford, McCain, Obama and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney have student representatives who are working to win over students for an online vote Monday.

Spring Valley High School's mock debate included not only the standard McCain and Obama speakers, but "guest visits" from students representing every candidate running for president on the New York ballot, including McKinney; Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation; Roger Calero of the Socialist Workers Party; Ralph Nader, who is running an independent campaign; and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate.

Educators at Mahopac Middle School, meanwhile, have kicked it up a notch by requiring students to register before they can vote via an electronic system. More than 90 percent of the student body had registered as of early last week. Students at Rockland's private Blue Rock School will be out on the streets of downtown Nyack on Monday with homemade signs encouraging people to vote.

"The students feel very passionate about the power of the individual vote and want to spend some of their time encouraging people to vote," Blue Rock teacher Meredith Kates said in an e-mail.

All the election work has created a buzz among youngsters who normally don't pay much attention to national balloting and may mean a more informed electorate when these students get old enough to vote for real, educators said.

"The students' conversations about it are real," Mahopac Middle School Principal Ira Gurkin said. "They know the issues, and they're talking about them."

In Rockland, some schools have added Student Council and class representative votes or local initiatives to the presidential ballots.


LaRiva to Host Final Rally

Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear, presidential and vice presidential candidates for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, will be the featured speakers at a campaign rally on Saturday, November 1 at 5pm. The PSL has carried out a national campaign to say what the Obama and McCain campaigns won’t say: that the system is broken and can’t be fixed within the bounds of the profit-driven capitalist system. “Socialism is the only answer to the crises that poor and working people in this country have been living,” La Riva said. “We know what capitalism has in store for us in the next four years, no matter who wins next Tuesday: layoffs, cutbacks, police brutality and war.” ... La Riva, and Puryear are active organizers in the movement calling for an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They call for the withdrawal of all U.S. military from the 800 bases it occupies around the world and to re-direct the billions wasted on war to programs that create jobs and pay for health and human services right here at home. Come out to the Harlem YMCA in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 1 to hear testimony, presentations and reports that put the whole system on trial. Both Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear have been on separate speaking tours throughout the country, but they are converging in Harlem to address this forum. This is an exciting opportunity just three days before the general election. The PSL Candidates are on the ballot in 12 states including, New York. ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Socialist Party fights to maintain identity

Posted October 29, 2008 6:10 PM

The Swamp

by Laura Olson

There is a Socialist candidate on the ballot in eight states, and it's not Barack Obama.

His name is Brian Moore, resident of Spring Hill, Fla., whose resume includes training at a Franciscan seminary, a stint in the Peace Corps and work in health-care consulting.

He's also a stay-at-home dad and a civil war re-enactor.

On his campaign site, Moore, 65, tells voters that "he comes from a working class background, of modest economic means, has worked in factories, is an all-around athlete and has protested wars and Wal-Mart salary levels in public demonstrations."

Top issues for the Socialist Party ticket, which also include vice presidential nominee Stewart Alexander, are developing renewable energy, creating a national health care plan, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring civil liberties ... and implementing worker control of industry and financial institutions.


The ticket has qualified for write-in status in 14 states in addition to the eight states that will specifically list Moore and Alexander.

In a Q-and-A with The New Republic reporter Kathleen Marsh and again on Tuesday's Colbert Report, Moore denies that Obama follows any Socialist principles. "His party is a capitalist party. They voted for the bailout," he said. "They're both capitalist parties."

Instead, the Socialist Party, according to his campaign site, "strives to establish a radical democracy that places people's lives under their own control -- a non-racist, classless, feminist, socialist society in which people cooperate at work, at home, and in the community."

It also mentions an environmentalist side: "Socialism produces a constantly renewed future by not plundering the resources of the earth."

There is one area, though, where the party's candidates don't seem that different from Obama or McCain. The ticket is made up of an older white man (Moore) and a black man (Alexander).

Sounds like a compromise ticket for those still undecided.

(Photo from Socialist Party Web site)

Zapatistas Call for Worldwide Festival of Dignified Rage


September of 2008

To the adherents of the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign:

To the adherents of the Zezta Internazional:

To the People of Mexico:

To the Peoples of the World:

Compañeras and Compañeros:

Brother and Sisters:

Once again we send you our words. This is what we see, what we are looking at.

This is what has come to our ears, to our brown heart.


Above they intend to repeat history.

They want to impose on us once again their calendar of death, their geography of destruction.

When they are not trying to strip us of our roots, they are destroying them.

They steal our work, our strength.

They leave our world, our land, our water, and our treasures without people, without life.

The cities pursue and expel us.

The countryside both kills us and dies on us.

Lies become governments and dispossession is the weapon of their armies and police.

We are the illegal, the undocumented, the undesired of the world.

We are pursued.

Women, young people, children, the elderly die in death and die in life.

And there above they preach to us resignation, defeat, surrender, and abandonment.

Here below we are being left with nothing.

Except rage.

And dignity.

There is no ear for our pain, that is not like what we are.

We are no one.

We are alone, alone with our dignity and our rage.

Rage and dignity are our bridges, our languages.

We must listen to each other then, learn to know each other.

So that our courage and rage grows and becomes hope.

So that our dignity takes root again and births another world.

We have seen and heard.

Our voice is small to be the echo of that word, our gaze small for so much dignified rage.

The process of seeing each other, looking at each other, speaking to each other, listening to each other, is still lacking.

We are others, the other.

If this world does not have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no tool other than our rage, no material other than our dignity.

We still must encounter each other more, know each other better.

What is missing is yet to come…


Now, three years after the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle, the EZLN has undertaken a collective reflection, nourished by the broad horizon that our compañeros of the Other Campaign in Mexico and in the Zezta Internazional across the world have given to us.

It is not little that we have seen and heard, sometimes directly, sometimes through the words and the gaze of others.

The rage that we felt and the dignity that we found was so great that we think now that we are smaller then we thought before.

In Mexico and on the five continents we have found what we intuited when we began our sixth step: there is another world, there is another path.

If the catastrophe that is coming can be avoided and humanity is to have another opportunity, it will because these others, below and to the left, not only resist, but are already drawing the profile of something else.

Something different than what is occurring above.

In the impossible geometry of political power, the fundamentalists are distributed evenly: the right becomes ultra-right and the institutional left becomes the impossible cultured right. Those who make up the progressive media complain that the fanatics of the mainstream press censure them, twist their words and slander their cause, but they at the same time censure, twist the words, slander, and silence any movement that hasn’t bowed down to the dictates of their ringleaders. And without shame they condemn and acquit to the rhythm of a senseless media rating. Fanatics on all sides fight over lies dressed as truths and crimes are measured by the media time that they occupy. But this is nothing other than a pale reflection of what is happening in politics.

Weariness of the cynicism and incompetence of the traditional political classes has been converted into rage. Sometimes this rage is oriented toward hoping for change in the same paths and places as always, and it is there immobilized by disillusionment or trampled by an arbitrary force. The unsettled and brutal north goes back to its old ways. When it is not sponsoring electoral fraud (like in Mexico), it is promoting, encouraging, and financing state coups (as attempted now in Bolivia and Venezuela). War continues to be its primary and favored form of international diplomacy. Iraq and Afghanistan burn, but, to the despair of those above, are not consumed.

The impositions of hegemony and homogeneity on a global scale find in nations, in regions, and in small locales, their witches’ apprentices that try for that impossible historic return to a past where fanaticism was law and dogma science. Meanwhile, the governing political classes have found in the world of bright lights an adequate disguise to hide their full participation in organized crime.

Sickened by so much greed, the planet begins to pay the unpayable bill of its destruction. But “natural” disasters are also class issues and their devastation is felt most by those who have nothing and are no one. Faced with this, the stupidity of Power has no limits: millions and millions of dollars are dedicated to manufacturing new weapons and installing more military bases. The Power of capital does not worry about training teachers, doctors, engineers, but rather soldiers. It doesn’t prepare constructors, but rather destructors.

And those who opposed this are the pursued, incarcerated, murdered.

In Mexico, farmers who have defended their land are in prison (San Salvador Atenco); in Italy those who opposed the installation of military bases are pursued and treated as terrorists; in the France of “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” humans are only free, equal, and brothers if their papers say so; in Greece being young is a vice that must be eradicated; again in Mexico, but now in that city of the same name, young people are criminalized and murdered and nothing is done because it is not on the agenda that those above dictate. Meanwhile, a legitimate referendum is converted into a shameful way for an assassin-governor to wash his hands of a situation. In the Spain of the modern European Union, publications are closed and a language, Euskera, is criminalized—they think that by killing the word they can kill those who speak it; in that Asia that is so close, the peasant demands are answered with armored injustices; in that arrogant American Union, born in the blood of migrants, the “other colors” that work there are pursued and killed; in the long wound that is Latin America, the brown blood that sustains it is despised and humiliated; in the rebellious Caribbean, a people, the Cuban people, are forced to live under an imperial embargo that is nothing other than a punishment without crime.

And in all of the corners of the world’s geography, and in all of the days of its calendars, those that work, those that make things run, are plundered, despised, exploited, and repressed.

But sometimes, many times, as many times as a smile sets it off again, rage looks for its own paths, new paths, other paths. And the “no” that these multiple rages raise now not only resists, but begins to propose, to become.

Since our appearance in public, now almost 15 years ago, it has been our goal to be a bridge on which the many rebellions in the world can walk back and forth.

Sometimes we have achieved this, sometimes we haven’t.

Now we see and we feel not only the rebellious resistance that, as sister and comrade, stays at our side and encourages our steps.

Now there is something that before wasn’t there, or that we weren’t able to see before.

There is a creative rage.

A rage that paints all of the colors of the paths of below and to the left on the five continents….







THE OTHER MEXICO CITY, FEDERAL DISTRICT, December 26, 27, 28, and 29, 2008. IN LIENZO CHARRO OF THE ASSOCIATION LOS CHARROS REYES DE IZTAPALAPA, Frente Popular Francisco Villa Independiente-UNOPII, Avenue Guelatao # 50, Colonia Álvaro Obregón, Delegación Iztapalapa, close to the metro station Guelatao, where an exposition will be presented. AND IN THE HEADQUARTERS OF UNÍOS, Dr. Carmona y Valle street #32, colonia Doctores, close to the metro station Cuauhtemoc, where other activities will be held.

THE CITY OF SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS, IN CIDECI, located on the Camino Real de San Juan Chamula s/n, Colonia Nueva Maravilla.




1. In Mexico City, a national and international exposition will be installed where every struggle, every experience, every rage, will have a space where it can set up and show its struggle and its courage. This way we can all see, hear, and know each other.

2. In zapatista territory, dignity and rage will become art and culture, music and song, because rebellion also dances. And with words, pain will become hope.

3. In San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, the word will go back and forth in order to give birth to new words and give strength and reason to rage.

4. The national and international groups, collectives, and organizations that participate in the festival will be only those who are invited to do so. To this end, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN has initiated consultations with political and social organizations, as well as with groups and collectives of anarchists, libertarians, alternative communication workers, human rights defenders, sexworkers, intellectuals, social activists, ex political prisoners, all adherents of the Sixth Declaration; and with groups, collectives, and organizations of other countries, all part of the Zezta Internazional. The criteria for invitations and participations will be made after these consultations.

5. For the roundtables, the EZLN will invite social organizers, thinkers, and leaders of anticapitalist projects from Mexico and around the world. The list of invitees will be released later.

6. More details about what we are thinking the festival of dignified rage could be will be made known at earliest convenience (that is, when we have an approximate idea of the problem we have gotten ourselves into).

That’s all for now.


From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command, of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Mexico, September of 2008.

UN urges end to US Cuba embargo

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to urge the US to lift its 46-year-old economic embargo on Cuba in a resolution adopted for the 17th consecutive year.

The non-binding resolution was passed by assembly on Wednesday by 185 votes to three.

The US, Israel and Palau voted against the resolution while Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained.

The financial and trade embargo, which Cuba calls an "economic blockade," was imposed in 1962 in response to Cuba's alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The Bush administration has tightened sanctions against the Caribbean island over the last eight years, citing the treatment of political prisoners.

'Obstinacy and cruelty'

Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, has blamed the sanctions for damaging the island's economy by $93 billion over the decades.

He welcomed the assembly vote, but said he also looked ahead to future US-Cuban relations following next week's presidential election.

Perez Roque said the next US president "will have to decide whether to concede that the embargo is a failed policy which each time creates greater isolation and discredits his country or whether he continues, with obstinacy and cruelty, to try to wear out the Cuban people with hunger and diseases".

Barack Obama, the US Democratic presidential candidate, has said he might be willing to hold top-level negotiations with Raul Castro, the country's president, but Republican John McCain has said he would press the Cuban leadership to free political prisoners held there.

A national survey by the Zogby polling organisation, released on October 2, said 60 per cent of Americans believe the US should change its policy towards Cuba.

'Terrible conditions'

Ronald Godard, the US State Department's senior advisor for Latin American affairs, defended the embargo and blamed the government in Cuba's for its economic problems.

"The real reason the Cuban economy is in terrible condition, and that so many Cubans remain mired in poverty, is that Cuba's regime continues to deny its people their basic human and economic rights," he told the assembly.

The margin of support for ending the embargo has grown steadily since 1992 when 59 countries voted in favour of the resolution.

The figure was 179 in 2004, 182 in 2005 and 184 in 2007.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Tiger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forest of the night What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And What shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? William Blake * Free tarot reading....

Interview: Ralph Nader

Nate Logsdon Mukund Premkumar

October 29th, 2008

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and political activist, is running for president as an independent with running mate Matt Gonzalez. He has secured a place on the November ballot in Iowa with the Peace and Freedom Party. Nader delivered a campaign speech at Iowa State University on October 10, 2008. After his speech, Nader sat down with the Ames Progressive.

Nate Logsdon: In your speech, you criticized Obama and McCain for both supporting increased troop levels in Afghanistan. Is that to say that you oppose the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan altogether?

Ralph Nader: Well, surely after 9/11 if they had evidence that the backers of the attackers were over there [they could have sent] a multinational force of commandos using the international law doctrine of hot pursuit to go over there with language capabilities and bribes, and all as a focused laser beam. Instead, we overthrew the Taliban regime, which Bush had just given $40 million to earlier in that year because they had eradicated poppy growing – you know, in the war on drugs. Anyway, we overthrew them and now it’s chaos. There’s one principle in Afghanistan: if you bring in foreign soldiers to control that area, it will just breed its own resistance and the more brutal the soldiers, the more the resistance is going to grow. And that’s all those people have to do, is to liberate themselves from the occupiers. We have other things to do in our country. It’s not going to work. It hasn’t worked historically.

Mukund Premkumar: With the genocide in Darfur ongoing, what’s your view on humanitarian invasions? Are there conflicts that warrant the use of a military?

RN: This is what one country shouldn’t do; this is a UN function. There should be a highly professional, full-time UN peacekeeper force, that the full force of international law emanating from the UN charter can go in when there’s a major slaughter underway, like Rwanda and the Balkans and… southern Sudan is a slaughter, but it’s more complicated. It started out as a North-South civil war, then it broke out into more micro-struggles. But that doesn’t at all avoid an international presence of the African Union. They don’t have enough soldiers there – that’s the problem. Others have not provided them with the budget to pacify the area. And it could be pacified because the Janjaweed, they don’t have tanks and jet planes, it’s basically rifles and horses, with some machine guns and grenades. So, it wouldn’t be hard for a sufficient number of troops from the African Union to settle that and then move the whole area into mediation, because there are a lot of conflicts of rights there; it’s not just Khartoum, there are divisions in the south and oil is complicating it, which the Chinese have invested in.

NL: So, you would advocate the use of an international military force, not just a U.S. force?

RN: No, it can’t be unilateral, no, no, because then they’ll say the U.S. is an imperialist that wants the oil. You’ve got to have a multinational credibility. There’s got to be a standing, professional, permanent peacekeeping force, under UN control. NL: You’ve said that in a Nader administration the U.S. would be out of Iraq within six months. After the pullout of the troops would you then advocate bringing in UN forces?

RN: Depends. If it can be stabilized with a modest amount of autonomy between Shiite, Sunni and Kurds within a unified Iraq, then they can take care of it. The insurgency melts away and you have a few criminal gangs. There’s a lot of authority in Iraq: the tribal leaders have great authority and the religious leaders have great authority. So, if you give them a stake by giving Iraq back to the Iraqis and the oil back and they can see the economic development and then they see the alternative of total disintegration and chaos, which one are they going to take? But as long as we’re there, we’re going to be pitting one against another because we’ll be preferring one group at a certain time in one province against the other and then you get the revenge killing and there’s a lot of hundred dollar bills passed out. That’s what happens when you have a foreign intrusion into a country that has a difference in… if some [military power] did this to us and they preferred Protestants to Catholics, let’s say, and the Catholics had been on top under Saddam – you know, the Sunnis – there’d be incredible back-and-forth struggle, bloodshed, fighting.

But we need to continue humanitarian aid, which would be a lot cheaper than spending $14 million an hour, which is what we’re spending to further destroy Iraq. And UN sponsored elections. These elections two, three years ago were garrisoned elections, they were clan elections, people voted for clans. A lot of people who wanted to run were disqualified because they had protested or weren’t considered safe enough ideologically.

MP: You’ve had a long history of being opposed to corporate welfare, you’ve been opposed to the bailout, but how would a Nader administration address this issue in the short term – immediately – and in the long term? RN: By quarantining the real speculative people and Wall Street, let them take their medicine, and then build a firewall to protect from the fallout of the Wall Street swindles and speculation…. And then throw the money into public works to create jobs and retard the recession. That’s the best use of the money because that’s real, you know, it’s not just paper speculation; repairing schools and drinking water systems.

MP: Specifically, what jobs would you create?

RN: All jobs to repair [infrastructure, such as] construction crews. And what it does, it invigorates the local economy because you have activities. You have everything from accountants to people who are quality control inspectors and engineers and construction workers and people who work on repairs and people who supply the people who work on repairs. It’s got a high multiplier effect.

And of course, criminal prosecution and regulation and making the speculators pay for their own bailout through a … transaction tax of one tenth of one percent.

MP: There’s obviously a huge health care crisis, as you chronicled in your speech. How would you move from the privatized insurance system that we have today to a single payer, not-for-profit health care system in a potential Nader administration?

RN: Okay, similarly to what Medicare was in 1964, ’65, it replaced health insurance companies. It basically said, the government is going to supply insurance to elderly people and is going to give them free choice of doctor and hospital, private delivery of health care, and you’re not going to be able to sell insurance to elderly people. And what happened is incomplete so there’s a Medicare gap and the insurance companies filled the gap that Medicare didn’t cover.

But basically, it’s simply full government insurance, free choice of doctor and hospital. Now, all of the countries in the world that have had universal health insurance implemented do not allow private health insurance companies. Why? Because it’s a perverse incentive. They make money by denying claims, by exclusions, deductions, copayments.

Now, there’s going to be an unemployment problem, and HR676 – which is the single payer bill in Congress that has 93 House representative supporters – is addressing that. [In doing this] you’re going to unemploy a few million people that work for Aetna, Signa and so forth. On the other hand, you’re going to save a lot of lives.

NL: In your speech and on your website you’ve praised the work of peace organizations within both Israel and Palestine, so in a Nader administration would you actually engage diplomatically with peace organizations within Israel and Palestine?

RN: Of course. They represent former mayors, mayors, members of the Knesset, former generals, former security chiefs – very, very broad. Look, Obama and McCain don’t want to recognize Hamas, they say it’s a terrorist organization; it’s a resistance organization. … So, 64 percent of the Israeli people, on March 1, Ha’aretz poll, want direct negotiations with Hamas, that’s the way the question was phrased. So, Obama and McCain don’t even want to go with 64 percent; and 28 percent of the Israeli people do not want it.* So, that’s how bad it is.

Of course you negotiate with the peace groups and you’ll see a much bigger coming out of peace groups and peace supporters if the U.S. was behind them. It’s like in this country or any country, the militarists intimidate the peace groups if they’ve got hold of the power. But if the U.S., which has great leverage over Israel, and huge foreign aid to Israel, comes out, you’d see more people in the Knesset, for example, you’d see more retired military coming out to say it: this is the way to go, two-state solution, let’s get over it, back to the ’67 borders. The Arab League in 2002 put on Israel’s table full diplomatic and economic relations, if Israel would allow the Palestinians to go back to their ’67 borders under a viable, independent Palestinian state. You can’t have a better deal than that and the Israeli military government didn’t respond, did not even say let’s talk about it. So, the onus is on who? The onus is on the occupier and the occupier that resists peace talks.

* The poll asked participants “Should direct negotiations be carried on with Hamas for a cease fire deal and the release of soldier Gilad Shalit?” Gilad Shalit was captured in a cross border raid into Israel in June 2006 and has been held hostage by Hamas since that time.


Fuller wanted a tool that would be accessible to everyone, whose findings would be widely disseminated to the masses through a free press, and which would, through this ground-swell of public vetting and acceptance of solutions to society's problems, ultimately force the political process to move in the direction that the values, imagination and problem solving skills of those playing the democratically open world game dictated. It was a view of the political process that some might think naiie, if they only saw the world for what it was when Fuller was proposing his idea (the 1960s)--minus personal computers and the Internet. The playing field was not to be so much as leveled, or expanded, but the good 'ol boy political process was to subverted out of existence by a process that brings Thomas Jefferson into the twentieth century. In order to have this kind of power, the game needed to have the kind of information and tools for manipulating that information that empowers. It needed a comprehensive database that would provide the players of the world game with better data than their politically elected or appointed counterparts. They needed an inventory of the world's vital statistics--where everything was and in what quantities and qualities, from minerals to manufactured goods and services, to humans and their unmet needs as well as capabilities. They also needed an information source that monitored the current state of the world, bringing vital news into the “game room” live. None of this existed when Fuller began talking about a world game. And then something funny happened on the way to the twenty-first century:


This is a perfect moment. It's a perfect moment for many reasons, but especially because you and I are waking up from our sleepwalking, thumb-sucking, dumb-clucking collusion with the masters of illusion and destruction. Thanks to them, from whom the painful blessings flow, we are waking up. Their wars and tortures, their crimes against nature, extinctions of species and brand new diseases. Their spying and lying in the name of the father, sterilizing seeds and trademarking water. Molestations of God, celebrations of shame, stealing our dreams and changing our names. Their cunning commercials and blood-sucking hustles, their endless rehearsals for the end of the world. Thanks to them, from whom the awful teachings flow, we are waking up. * Their painful blessings are cracking open more and more gashes in the shrunken and crippled mass hallucination that is mistakenly called "reality." And through the fractures, ripe eternity is flooding in; news of the soul's true home is pouring in; our allies from the other side of the veil are swarming in, inspiring us to become smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier. We are waking up. As heaven and earth come together, as the dreamtime and daytime merge, we register the shockingly exhilarating fact that we are in charge of creating a brand new world. Not in some distant time or faraway place, but right here and right now. * As we stand on this brink, as we dance on this verge, we can't let the ruling fools of the dying world sustain their curses. We have to rise up and fight their insane logic; defy, resist, and prevent their tragic magic; erupt with our sacred rage and supercharge it. But overthrowing the living dead is not enough. Protesting the well-dressed monsters is not enough. We can't afford to be consumed with our anger; we can't be obsessed and possessed by their danger. Our mysterious bodies crave delight and fertility. Our boisterous imaginations demand fresh tastes of infinity. In the new world we're gestating, we need to be suffused with lusty compassion and ecstatic duty, ingenious love and insurrectionary beauty. We've got to be teeming with radical curiosity and reverent pranks, voracious listening and ferocious thanks. * So I'm curious, my fellow creators. Since you and I are in charge of making a new world -- not just breaking down the old world -- where do we begin? What stories do we want at the heart of our experiments? What questions will be our oracles? Here's what I say: In the New World we're creating, We will ridicule the cult of doom and gloom. We will embrace the cause of zoom and boom. We will laugh at the stupidity of evil and hate; we'll summon the brilliance to praise and create. No matter how upside-down it all may appear, we will have no fear because we know this big secret: Pronoia is real. All of creation is conspiring to shower us with blessings. Life is crazily in love with us -- brazenly and innocently in love with us. The universe always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. * The winds and the tides are on our side, forever and ever, amen. The fire and the rain are scheming to steal our impossible pain. The sun and the moon and the stars remember our real names, and our ancestors pray for us while we're dreaming. We have guardian angels and thousands of teachers, provocateurs with designs to unleash us, helpers and saviors we can't even imagine, brothers and sisters who want us to blossom. Thanks to them, from whom the blissful blessings flow, we are waking up. The roads they pave us, the places they save us, the tomatoes they grow us, the rivers they flow us. Their mysterious stories, and morning glories, their loaves and fishes, granting our wishes. The songs they sing us, the gifts they bring us, the secrets they show us, above and below us. Thanks to them, from whom the blissful blessings flow, we are waking up. * Postscript: I'm allergic to dogma. I thrive on the riddles. Any idea I believe, I reserve the right to disbelieve as well. But more than any other vision I've ever tested, pronoia describes the way the world actually is. It's wetter than water, stronger than death, and truer than the news. It smells like cedar smoke in the autumn rain, and if you close your eyes right now, you can feel it shimmering like the aurora borealis in your organs and muscles. Its song is your blood's song. Some people argue that life is strife and suffering is normal. Others swear we're born sinful and only heaven can provide us with the peace that passes understanding. But pronoia says that being alive on the rough green and brown earth is the highest honor and privilege. It's an invitation to work wonders and perform miracles that aren't possible in any nirvana, promised land, or afterlife. I'm not exaggerating or indulging in poetic metaphor when I tell you that we are already living in paradise. Visualize it if you dare. The sweet stuff that quenches all of our longing is not far away in some other time and place. It's right here and right now. Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew the truth: "Earth's crammed with heaven."

Meditation for Life: The Spirit of Grieving, by Adam Elenbaas

In a recent scientific study conducted at the University of California Los Angeles, researchers examined the neurological processes surrounding short and long term grieving. The results, although partially speculative, provide an excellent backdrop for a conversation regarding meditation and its age old role in coping with sadness, depression and personal loss.

The study at UCLA examined 23 women who had lost a loved one within five years, eleven of whom still suffered from what psychologists call "CG" or "complicated grief": prolonged grieving resulting in depression, stress, fatigue, and lowered immune efficiency. While monitoring brain activity, researchers showed each woman pictures of her deceased loved one or words and phrases strongly associated with her deceased loved one. The results, as expected, showed that each woman in the study had social pain and grieving effects related to the images and words. But the interesting result was the commonality that all of the "complicated grievers" showed during the brain monitoring.

Each of the complicated grievers demonstrated high reward, pleasure, and addiction activity responses in the brain, in addition to the social grieving response. This finding suggests that brain interference could be responsible for "complicated grieving," and its fallout symptoms: fatigue, depression, stress, lowered immune efficiency and an inability to let go of the past. Some puzzling results, right?

Well, science is a funny thing. After all, it was the human mind that created the scientific method and rationalism, not the scientific method that created the rational mind. In other words, it's important to remember that human experience, in its full palette, inspired this kind of study in the first place. Therefore, interpreting the results of scientific data in a healthy conversation is the fertile ground where we might determine which seeds of cultural evolution are worth planting next. So what might this study imply about depression and how might it relate to meditation?

Let's make a few assumptions. Let's assume that being healthy and strong and "selfcentered" means that you are independently happy. In other words, you have established a healthy balance between the outside world (food, shelter, nature, clothing, jobs, people) and your inside world (emotions, thoughts, words, and actions). Now let's assume that people are thrown out of balance when they place too much emphasis on their internal world or the external world to create that sense of harmony and well being. In the case of the UCLA study, how would these assumptions about health filter out?

Let's say that your internal world feels terrible. You don't like who you are. You don't like your emotions, or they are too much to handle. Your mind moves too fast. You don't enjoy life. And you're always questioning what you say or why you said it. The immediate answer is often to look for another human or something outside to fix what is going on inside. It's not a terrible impulse. Sometimes it works. Sometimes when I'm feeling sad inside I will call a friend for a reminder that I am strong and special. Then something inside of me clicks over and I say, "Oh yeah, that's right. I am doing just fine." And in most of my friendships there is an equal balance of giving and taking from one another. We call each other for help about the same amount, or else we would start resenting each other.

But sometimes we get into relationships that are based around a constant and habitual need for something that we simply do not know how to do inside yet. It's as if we each have a muscle inside of us that must learn, as we grow up, to lift ourselves up when we need help and happiness. When this muscle has atrophied (because our parents didn't do a good job or because we got into a bad habit, or you believe in Karma, or sin, etc,) we often look for all of our strength in someone else, a relationship of some kind. It's human to need love, right?

On the surface this kind of relationship might seem perfectly normal. It might seem like love. When I'm weak my partner makes me strong and when my partner is weak I make them strong. However this isn't how it works. Instead it usually works like this: When I am weak my partner is strong, and when I am strong my partner is weak.

This unhealthy relationship looks like a seesaw. One person is always out of balance because of the other. This is not intimacy. Instead it is a constant and competitive swing between high and low that is most commonly associated with extreme behavioral disorders and addiction. Whereas the image of intimacy is more like a yoke of oxen. Life can be difficult and challenging. So it's important that if we're carrying a load, the ox on the left and the ox on the right have an equal amount of weight distributed between them. This means that each person has the same amount of internal muscle strength.

We often wonder why the divorce rate in our country is so high. Maybe it's because many relationships are unhealthy "seesaw" addictions instead of compatible teammates walking with equal weight distribution? And maybe when we see folks grieving for excessively long periods of time after losing a loved one it is because their relationship to that person was more like the see-saw addiction than a balanced relationship? In the wake of losing such a relationship a person might have to go through a prolonged period of sadness, just like a drug withdrawal.

How miserable would it be to withdraw from a person instead of appropriately mourning their passing? How confusing and painful. But it happens all of the time. So here's where meditation comes in. Because the obvious question to ask is, "How can we avoid these imbalanced relationships or how can we heal ourselves if we're coming out of an imbalanced relationship?"

I'm a meditation teacher, and I practice daily so perhaps I'm partial. But meditation is a way to develop the internal muscle that is needed to lift yourself off the mat when you feel like life is beating you up. Meditation has been proven to be of great help to people fighting or coping with behavioral disorders: people in AA or drug rehab, schizophrenics, terminally ill medical patients, and many others. By mediating and getting quiet inside we learn how to find happiness within ourselves, and we learn how to develop that internal muscle of self-love. As a healing technology, meditation is great for rehabilitating our wounds and could be a natural way for a person coping with prolonged grief to start reprogramming their mind and body to something new.

On the flip side, meditation is like preventative health care because strengthening that muscle makes it difficult to get into a co-dependent relationship in the first place (although the club might not be a fun place to meet people any longer, and you might become pickier about who you're thinking of spending your time with).

In closing it is interesting to think that since the dawn of time the indigenous peoples of our planet had ways of mending unhealthy relationships after death. In both the Hindu and Christian traditions, for example, early tribes and families had ritual times of mourning and releasing sadness. Beyond this it was thought of as inappropriate to mourn because it would tamper with the deceased soul's ability to travel forward beyond the earth. In fact, some cultures believed that excessive grieving trapped spirits on the earth and made them angry, causing a tribe to be haunted or cursed. In these situations special medicine men or religious authorities would sing songs and create additional healing rituals in order to detach a soul from the griever. Sometimes people would be sent into wilderness vision quest ceremonies to meditate for weeks and weeks in order to heal their minds and say a proper goodbye before they were allowed back into the community.

Is it so different today?

A Visit with former Chiapas Bishop Samuel Ruiz

By Charles Hardy September 25, 2003 QUERE’TARO, ME’XICO; SEPTEMBER 2003: I heard my friend say over the telephone, “Tatik, Charlie just arrived on the bus. When would be the best time for us to visit you?” A few hours later at 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, we rang the doorbell of his home and were greeted personally by Tatik. Tatik (meaning “father” or “elder”) is an affectionate Tzotzil title for Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the retired bishop of Chiapas, Mexico who now lives in the city of Quere’taro. Ruiz was appointed bishop of Chiapas in 1959 at the age of 35. Soon after arriving there, he became aware of the problem of the indigenous people and started defending them. In 1993, Rome asked that he resign from his position, but dropped the request when a few thousand indigenous marched in support of him. Having reached the mandatory age for retirement (75) and after serving in Chiapas for more than forty years, he resigned in March 2000. The purpose of my visit was an interview. I was a bit hesitant because I had read a 1998 article by Sergio Munoz in the Los Angeles Times. Munoz wrote about the bishop: “He cannot be called easy-going: He favors impassioned monologues and hates to be interrupted.” Maybe the five years since that interview have mellowed him or possibly it had something to do with the interviewer, but during the two hours we spent drinking coffee and sharing cookies at his dining room table I was visiting with a man far different from the one described by Munoz. At 79, Ruiz was not only friendly, but also intellectually sharp and willing to listen as well as to talk. Since I live in Venezuela, the events of the past several years there have been the focus of my attention. They have also overshadowed for me what has happened outside of Venezuela, including that of the Zapatista movement in Mexico. What little I knew of them, I had gained from international press reports. Following are two examples of that reporting cited in a recent Narco News report by Annalena Oeffner. On August 8, an Associated Press story claimed that “most Indian people even in the Zapatistas’ jungle heartland have declined to join the movement...” Another report in the Financial Times August 10 said that the absence of Subcomandante Marcos at the August 8-10 meeting in Oventic was seen as “a sign of his declining power within the Zapatista hierarchy.” Based on this type of reporting, I was looking for the bishop’s response to two principal questions: 1) Was the support of the Zapatistas declining? and, 2) Was the leadership of Subcommandante Marcos being replaced? By the end of the interview I would discover that both of my questions were very poorly worded. First, the bishop was quick to point out that the Zapatistas did not represent only people in Chiapas but were an expression of what was being felt throughout all of Mexico. He then painted the political scene that gave rise to the Zapatista movement. Ruiz said that there had been a nationwide rejection of the political maneuvering leading up to the elections that took place in July 1994, keeping the PRI party in power at that time. When the Zapatistas appeared on the scene, the dialog that followed showed clearly that their problems were felt throughout the country. According to Ruiz, the government tried to disparage the project in four steps. First they questioned why an indigenous group should feel that they represented the whole country. Nobody had elected the Zapatistas to represent them. Secondly, they said that they didn’t even represent the indigenous poor of the country. Thirdly, that they didn’t even represent the indigenous of Chiapas, not even the people in the municipalities where they came from. And finally, the government reached the extreme of denying them even the legitimacy that they had had with the previous government saying that the movement was just the result of some “guy” (Marcos) who infiltrated Chiapas and who wears a mask and smokes a pipe, thereby denying the indigenous any ownership of the movement. Because of the government’s version, the bishop said, “It must be said clearly that it is a movement centered in Chiapas but that has national origins.” And yet, he added, the mass media continue to spread the idea that the problem of the Zapatistas is only the problem of Chiapas. He also said that when President Fox assumed the “throne” of Mexico, he indicated that the problem of the Zapatistas was the problem of the previous government. But the Zapatistas replied, according to Bishop Ruiz, “No, no, no, Se~or. You have a problem with us and we have a problem with you because you are sitting in the same seat as previous governments. You can’t say that the foreign debt belongs to the previous government. Equally we have a problem with you and you have a problem with us. The difference is that we want to resolve the problem through dialog and not through force.” He emphasized that the problem of the indigenous was not just a Mexican problem but was present throughout the continent. The indigenous person is still being colonized. With few exceptions, “from Alaska in the United States to the Patagonia [in Argentina], the indigenous is on the floor under the rest of society. This would indicate that it is not by their own will that this is so but that the system itself places them on the margin of society.” But, because of the attempt to celebrate the 500 years of the conquest of America, the indigenous have risen up and now say that they want to be the subjects of their own destiny. Besides, he added, 500 years is nothing in comparison with their history. He also noted that what was happening in Cancu’n (the World Trade Organization was meeting the day I visited him) showed that even the rest of the world is recognizing that there are problems with the system. He said that “not only is a new world possible, but it is urgent and necessary.” My first question, in some ways therefore, had little meaning for him since he refused to focus the question on the Zapatistas. What was happening with them was only a small part of the consciousness that was rising throughout the Americas and throughout the world. Proceeding to my second question I said that I had read in Venezuela that Subcomandante Marcos was turning over his power to others. Once again, my question was off base. The bishop was quick to reply, “That’s a bad interpretation of the situation. He never was in power. The press has tried to say that he is the movement.” He then pointed out that Marcos is not indigenous himself and is only a “subcomandante.” He has a definite role in the security of the people, but a technical dimension. He never participated in the dialogs although he was present at the first because he was invited the night before so that he could communicate with the press what happened. He spoke better Spanish than the rest who were present. Referring to the absence of Marcos at the Oventic meeting in August, the bishop said that what is happening is something of a self-criticism to clarify to the world that Marcos is not the movement. When I asked him to explain what the Zapatistas meant by the terminology “govern by obeying” (mandar obedeciendo), he replied: “There’s nothing to explain. Any authority should obey his people. He is not to order but to ask, ‘What is it that the community wants?’ He shouldn’t look out for his own interests but ask what are the interests that will serve the community.” I then shared with him a story. I was told that in Venezuela there is a group of indigenous people where the leader (li’der is the word I used) is “he who listens.” The bishop took exception to the word lider saying that it was a word from North America. Recognizing that similar words exist in Spanish, he nevertheless preferred to talk in terms of “processes” in reference to Latin America. When there are leaders the problem is, he said, “take the leader away and the process comes to an end.” I also asked him his opinion about “participative democracy” in distinction to “representative democracy.” The term is used often in the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela. This he also placed in a worldwide context, saying that the war in Iraq had clearly shown that there was a “divorce” between the people and their elected representatives in the United States, England, Spain and even in Mexico. They had been chosen by their political parties, received their power through elections but afterwards were seeking their own interests. There were no demonstrations anywhere in the world in favor of these leaders, he noted. He said that it was now clear that it would not be the political parties that would guide the future of the world, but rather organizations not directly connected to the government. Concluding the conversation about the Zapatistas, I had some questions for the bishop about the situation of the Catholic Church in the world today. One was whether or not the Theology of Liberation still existed. He replied: “Is there a theology of slavery?” For Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the only theology worth its name is that which liberates. Following the interview I wanted to get another perspective on the Zapatista movement. I am no expert on the subject and, although I have visited Mexico several times, I have never been in Chiapas. A friend shared a book with me entitled, Marcos, La Genial Impostura (“Marcos, the Inspired Fraud”). The book was published in 1998 and written by two authors. One was a male French correspondent for Le Monde who arrived in Mexico in 1993, Bertrand de la Grange, and the other was a female correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Pais since 1994, Maite Rico. The book presented a picture almost totally contrary to that which Bishop Ruiz had painted. In its 472 pages I was told the following: 1) There was nothing particularly unusual about the elections in 1994; 2) There was little support for the Zapatistas in Chiapas or elsewhere in Mexico; 3) Marcos was the leader of their every action - the indigenous had a small role to play; 4) Bishop Ruiz was at times so aligned with the Zapatistas that the Mexican secret services thought, for a while, that he was Comandante Aleman; and, 5) The Zapatistas had accomplished little for the people they supposedly represented. The book is full of interesting interviews and information. It is also a one-sided presentation that seems to represent the government position that Ruiz had described. A few sentences on page 282, however, especially impressed me. The authors knew what Ruiz was feeling and thinking on October 26, 1993 when he received the request from the Apostolic Delegate, Girolamo Prigione, asking him to resign. “He took the blow, but he felt dizzy. He was convinced, and he was right, that it was a settling of political accounts. He knew that the contents of the letter which he had sent to the Pope three months before, during his visit to Mexico, had irritated the government.” (The letter spoke about the political situation in Mexico and the oppression of the indigenous). I am always amazed at foreign reporters who are not only able to do interviews and gather information, but who are able to reach so far into the depths of any situation that they even know what people are thinking and feeling. Reading the book, I felt I was reading about Venezuela and not about Mexico. We, too, have been plagued with foreign correspondents and local reporters who sometimes make a foray into the barrios and emerge with a better knowledge of what is happening in them than those who have lived there for decades. Whose story about the Zapatistas is correct? That of Tatik? Or, that of the government and these reporters? I am in no position to say and in a few days I will return to Venezuela where I have lived for most of the past eighteen years. But I do worry about something: is it possible that Bertrand de la Grange and Maite Rico are now in Venezuela meeting with opposition leaders and preparing another book? I can see the title already, possibly chosen before going there: Cha’vez, Otra Genial Impostura (“Cha’vez, Another Inspired Fraud”). Charles Hardy, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, has resided in Venezuela for most of the past eighteen years. As a Catholic missionary priest, he lived in a pressed-cardboard and tin dwelling in a barrio of Caracas from 1985 to 1993. He is a professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism (first and second sessions of 2003). His editorial columns appear frequently in and can be found in English and Spanish at Comments may be addressed to him at

Nader & Gonzalez in Debates in Battleground States

Ralph Nader will appear tomorrow (Thursday October 30, 2008, 4:30 to 5:30 EST) in a Third Party debate at the City Club of Cleveland. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin will participate in the debate. The three other electorally viable Presidential candidates have been invited. Then on Sunday November 2, 2008, Matt Gonzalez will appear in three-way a vice-presidential debate in Las Vegas with the Constitution and Libertarian VP candidates.That debate is being sponsored by Free & Equal. (By the way, in case you haven't seen it yet, check out Matt's most recent expose of the Obama-led corporate and militarist Democrats. We predict Obama will not address any of these issues head on tonight in his 30 minute, five network infomercial.) C-Span will tape the City Club of Cleveland debate and show it sometime this weekend. And the City Club will live stream the event on their website. So, tell your friends and family to watch tomorrow afternoon. Onward to November. The Nader Team

Pickens’ natural gas plan makes no sense and will never happen

[Climate Progress has covered the Pickens Plan many times since Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb. Here Earl Killian makes a strong analytical case that the “half-dumb” part of the plan is in fact a wasteful, wildly impractical — if not outright absurd — distraction.]

Thomas Boone Pickens is a billionaire who made his money in oil and corporate takeovers. He began investing in natural gas in 1997, and in wind power in 2007. In 2008, he went public with the Pickens Plan via a website and a well funded advertising campaign. Here we analyze the Pickens Plan, as presented here, which begins by correctly observing:

America is addicted to foreign oil. It’s an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security.

The Pickens Plan as presented consists of two parts:

  1. Take the natural gas that we currently use to generate electricity in the U.S., and use it to fuel transportation instead, and
  2. Build wind power to produce the electricity lost in step 1.

The Plan As Presented — CNG vs. Electricity

The plan is not spelled out in detail, and already appears that it is being interpreted or misinterpreted to be whatever listeners want it to be. Let us for the moment accept this plan as presented, and look at what it means.

The Department of Energy (DOE)’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) publication Electric Power Annual 2006 has most of the information needed. Table ES1 has the power generated from Natural Gas (NG) as 813 Tera Watt hours (TWh, or million Megawatt hours). It gives the NG consumed as fuel for that as 6,869,624 million cubic feet (ft3). From these two numbers and the energy content of NG (its Lower Heating Value, or LHV) of 301 Wh/ft3, we can calculate the efficiency of generation as 39%. New Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants are up to 60% efficient in comparison, e.g. the GE H-System turbines and the Siemens Gas Turbine SGT5-8000H, but there are many older non-Combined-Cycle plants out there.

So Mr. Pickens proposes to divert 6,869,624 million ft3 of NG (about 20% of NG usage in the US) from generating electricity, and use it for transportation. In place of those NG power plants, Mr. Pickens proposes that we build wind turbines sufficient to generate at least 813 TWh/year. I say at least that much wind, because it is difficult for wind to substitute for NG electricity. NG power plants are often used to fill in gaps between supply and demand on the grid. Such “peakers” must quickly turn on and generate power whenever there is a mismatch. Wind on the other hand generates based upon weather, not the directives of grid engineers. Mr. Pickens does not spell out on his webpage how this mismatch is to be rectified. Nonetheless, let us proceed with a simple 813 TWh/year of wind.

We now compare how much of US passenger vehicle travel can be powered by 813 TWh of electricity and by 6,869,624 million ft3 of NG. To estimate the latter, go to and click on first 2008, then Honda, then Civic CNG. You see 28 MPG, and the footnote

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is normally dispensed in “equivalent gallons” where one “equivalent gallon” is equals to 121.5 cubic feet of CNG. The fuel economy for natural gas vehicles is shown in miles per gallon-equivalent.

So dividing 28 by 121.5 you get 0.23 miles per ft3. So if you take the Table ES1 NG quantity, and multiply by 0.23 you get 1,588 trillion miles. That is 57% of the 2.76 trillion passenger vehicle miles traveled in the US in 2005. This is only for vehicles as small and aerodynamic as a Honda Civic; a smaller percentage of the US fleet could be powered by CNG. The rest would be presumably powered by gasoline under the Pickens Plan.

Now let’s estimate miles that could be powered by electricity. A Lithium-Ion EV the size of the Honda Civic CNG should require at most 250 Watt hours per mile (Wh/mi) at the garage plug, probably less. At the power plant that is 270 Wh/mi. So take the 813 TWh, divide by 270 Wh/mi, and you get 3.01 trillion miles, which is 109% of the 2.76 trillion miles driven in the US in 2005.

Which would you choose, 57% or 109%? It seems pretty straightforward that electric vehicles beat CNG vehicles almost 2:1, even using existing NG power plants. If the US upgraded its NG power plants to be 60% efficient, instead of 39% efficient, we would have 54% more TWh, or even better, use less 35% less NG.

Most importantly, while 813 TWh/year of wind energy would have a hard time substituting for 813 TWh/year of NG energy, because of intermittency. There are ways to address this, primarily by linking wind to hydro and solar, and building excess wind. However, intermittency would not be a problem for charging EVs. In a build-out of this scale, smart grid technology would be used to make sure that EVs wait to charge when wind power is producing beyond what the grid requires, and that they throttle back on charging when there is a lull in wind. This makes EVs an excellent consumer of wind energy. A vehicle driven 12,500 miles per year averages 34 miles per day of recharge, or 8,562 Wh at the plug. For a 208V, 32A circuit, this charge can be accomplished in just 1.2 hours. Since the vehicle is plugged in for approximately 9 hours a night, this represents flexibility to respond to wind conditions. If the wind fails to provide enough energy all night long, then either vehicles can remain undercharged (for PHEVs this just means using a little more gasoline), or for vehicles that require a full recharge for the next days usage, the NG “peakers” could be used at night to meet the demand (normally “peakers” are completely unused at night).

It seems particularly foolish to propose a massive infrastructure change to a fuel as inefficient as CNG. If we are to change technology, it is time to abandon Internal Combustion Engines, not change from one fossil fuel to another.

The Real Pickens Plan

Perhaps you noticed the really strange thing about the Pickens Plan. It calls for us to shut down all the NG power plants in the US. The investors in those plants would surely object. Politically, it would be necessary for the US to compensate them. In essence the US would have to buy the plants to shut them down. How likely is this? Moreover, how likely is the US to transition such a large fraction of its fleet to NG? If this part of the plan is unlikely, why is Mr. Pickens proposing it? What is the likely outcome of making this proposal?

What Mr. Pickens likely expects to happen from his proposal is: (1) get Congress to renew the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), and (2) convince a few additional Americans to use NG as a transportation fuel.

Renewal of the PTC is an urgent priority for the US, and Mr. Pickens plan could well succeed in unblocking Republican opposition to the PTC in Congress (the Senate has just done so on a 93-2 vote). The wind and solar industries in this country need a stable environment to receive private investment, but unfortunately Congress just barely manages to extend the PTC for a single year at a time, creating uncertainty for renewable energy investors, and slowing private investment here. As a wind investor, Mr. Pickens stands to benefit from a PTC extension. Thus half of the Pickens Plan is good for the Earth, for the US, and for Mr. Pickens.

The second half of the plan is to increase demand for NG by convincing more Americans to use it as a transportation fuel. As discussed above, the US is unlikely to close any NG power plants, so this has the effect of increasing total demand for NG in North America, and thus increasing the price. As an investor in NG, Mr. Pickens stands to profit from any increase in NG demand and price. This half of the plan is good for Mr. Pickens, but bad for the Earth and the US.

Climate progress readers already know that electric transportation is the answer to the multitude of problems facing the US and the world, including Peak Oil, Global Warming, national security, and economic security. The Pickens Plan is a diversion from electric transportation that wastes time.

–Earl K.

* More -Is T. Boone Pickens Selling Off Some Wind Turbines?

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