Saturday, January 31, 2009

The last stop for a young utopian anarchist

Kirsten Brydum
Brydum family
The last known photo of Kirsten Brydum was taken during her two-month-long journey, before she boarded a train to New Orleans. The road trip was partly a rite of passage — an adventure to mark her college graduation. But she also hoped to report on the small, scattered outposts where fellow radicals had established alternatives to mainstream culture.
She traveled across the country with little but her conviction that a better world was around the bend. Then she came to New Orleans.
By Richard Fausset January 31, 2009
Reporting from New Orleans -- Kirsten Brydum pedaled away from the Howlin' Wolf club into the darkness of another American city that she didn't know very well. It was 1:30 a.m. She rode a black cruiser bicycle with a basket on the back, borrowed from friends of friends. In nearly every city she had visited on her 2-month-road trip, it seemed someone was willing to lend her an old bike.
  • Kirsten Brydum
The Rebirth Brass Band was on the bill that night. Brydum, 25, had danced for a while outside the club in her flip-flops. She thought that the bouncer would eventually let her in for free, and that suited her in more ways than one. She believed, passionately, that people would one day reject a basic mechanism of free-market societies: the exchange of goods and services for money. She arrived in New Orleans in late September with a rail pass, a little red notebook and a head full of ideas about the oppressive forces of capitalism and government, and how they might be replaced with something better. The road trip was partly a rite of passage in the grand tradition of Jack Kerouac -- an adventure to mark her recent graduation from college in San Francisco. But she also hoped to report on the small, scattered outposts where fellow radicals had established alternatives to mainstream culture. It would all end in New Orleans, four miles from the Howlin' Wolf, in a forlorn and out-of-the-way block in the 9th Ward. More than three years after Hurricane Katrina, its homes remained battered and abandoned, its lots choked with debris and roof-high weeds. To many Americans, this kind of New Orleans neighborhood has come to symbolize a near-criminal lack of government presence. Brydum might have seen the block as the kind of place where an autonomous, post-capitalist movement might flourish. But it is unclear if she saw it at all. She had some cash saved from waiting tables; her mom helped with some of the travel expenses. Brydum and an old boyfriend drew up the list of places she would visit: alternative health centers, collectivist punk communes, anarchist bookstores and "guerrilla gardens" planted by activists on land they do not own. Her plan was to document on a website what she found, allowing radicals to share ideas and strengthen tiny institutions that she believed would "prefigure a world without capitalism." On July 30, she flew to New York City, where she met her boyfriend, John Viola. In an e-mail to friends and family, she rhapsodized about their four days of "romance and resistance." Viola, a Bay Area attorney, met Brydum when he agreed to take on her 2004 criminal case. She and a few dozen others had been arrested at a San Francisco biotechnology and anti-globalization protest. By the time he got involved, the activists had been jailed for a couple of days, and the stress was beginning to show. "And there was Kirsten, just super rock solid," recalled Viola, 38. "Like a lot of people, I just immediately fell for her." She was small and fine-boned, with long hair and brown eyes. After he won her release, they would see each other at the same parties, the same protests. In March, they met at an impromptu procession through the streets of the Mission District that had started at the Anarchist Cafe, on Potrero Avenue. "I was in the back with Kirsten, and people in cars kept coming up to us and saying, 'What's the procession for?' " Viola recalled. "It's for fun," Brydum would tell them, smiling. She grew up middle class in Van Nuys -- sweet-tempered, well-liked, a good student. But from an early age, she questioned accepted wisdom. At her Catholic elementary school, she challenged the religious dogma; her ideas, she later joked, got her branded "a third-grade heretic." At Birmingham High School, she gravitated toward the punk-rock kids, the black-clad, the ravers and the seekers. At the now-defunct New College of California, where she earned her bachelor's degree, she immersed herself in contrarian thinkers, particularly the anarchists: Emma Goldman, imprisoned by U.S. authorities for opposing the draft in 1917; David Graeber, the anthropologist who studied the egalitarian communities of northwest Madagascar; and Hakim Bey, a scholar who extolled history's "pirate utopias," which operated beyond the grasp of governments. Central to her thinking: "She didn't believe that we lived in a world of scarcity," Viola said. "That scarcity was a myth that was used to keep people divided. And so if resources and goods are taken care of and shared equitably, then there's enough for everybody." In San Francisco, she put the idea into practice. She helped found a series of fine-dining events. Patrons were not required to pay. In Dolores Park, she cofounded a "Really Really Free Market," where people gathered to give things away. "Because there is enough for everyone," the slogan read. "Because sharing is more fulfilling than owning." She was a utopian, Viola said, but not naive. He had seen her street smarts. Still, as she prepared to leave New York and set out on her own, he was concerned. "She was very aware of the risks," he recalled. "She said, 'If anything should happen to me on the trip, if I should ever be killed on the trip, I accept that.' " The e-mail messages home traced her path. From New York, she rode the train to Philadelphia. There, she wrote, she met up with "a small activist scene living in the cracks of a neglected and impoverished neighborhood. . . . We borrowed bikes and rode all over town, visited the urban farm, danced at a benefit for Critical Resistance" -- a group that advocates the eradication of prisons -- "cruised a free store/vegan potluck barbeque/folk show in the basement." In Providence, R.I., she stayed in a friend's apartment without electricity, noting, on her trips around town, the "gorgeous empty mills that seem to be opening up for more creative endeavors as the condo wave recedes." In Boston, she networked at a regional anarchists' meeting. In Buffalo, she met up with a friend who calls herself Hannah Potassium. The pair rode bikes everywhere. "She showed me the greener side of the Rustbelt city: rivers, lakes and gardens," Brydum wrote. "We found a well-organized housing co-op with beautiful interiors and were invited to come back for dinner. At midnight, I hopped on a Greyhound to Detroit not knowing where to go or what to do when I arrive. . . . " She was shocked by Detroit's vast landscape of blight. The broken city seemed to support her ideas about the folly of capitalism. But she was also troubled that people had to live there. "Sure, there's some romanticizing of a place like this: a post-industrial workless wonderland free for the taking, ripe with opportunities to create a pirate utopia," she wrote. "But in reality, the scene was sad. Some people do still live in Detroit, and the few that I met from the activist scene were bitter and burned out. It's hard to create the world you wish to see when there are no resources, few comrades to inspire, and no spare energy." By early September, she was in St. Paul, Minn., for the Republican National Convention, among the thousands of activists who protested President Bush, the Iraq war, and the neglect of the needy, chanting: "Stop the war on the poor!" More cities followed: St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Madison, Wis., and Chicago. She found a ride from the Midwest to North Carolina on Craigs- list. But the driver changed plans abruptly and left her in downtown Indianapolis. She eventually hooked up with another stranger who drove her. Then it was on to New Orleans, on Amtrak's Crescent line. "I don't really know what to expect," she wrote. " . . . The sun is setting on the bayou-licked lands and I am truly fortunate. I have rounded this beautiful Southeast corner on the Crescent line today and from now on I am westward bound." She rolled into town with a reservation of sorts at a punk-rock group house in the 9th Ward. They were friends of friends, white kids in a black neighborhood. Some dumpster-dived for food. Some were artists and musicians, and some hopped trains. Some had volunteered to help rebuild the city. Julia Milan, a 22-year-old resident of the house, remembers the impression Brydum made when she came in from the Amtrak station. She wore a pink sundress with a pink ribbon around her waist. "She was so cute," Milan said, but not meek. "She looked very driven." Brydum had talked to her friends about making sense of New Orleans, and looking for radicals working for solutions amid the post-Katrina ruins. Since the storm, the city -- long a magnet for escapists and hipsters -- had also been attracting a new kind of itinerant idealist. Some came to work for nonprofits or public schools. Others aligned themselves with activist groups like Common Ground Relief, a nonprofit that set up shop in the Lower 9th Ward, gutting houses, starting community gardens and helping organize residents left homeless. Many of the newcomers arrived with scant knowledge of the charming but insular city, which, by some measures, is plagued with the nation's highest crime rate. "We give them overly cautious warnings," said Caitlin Reilly, Common Ground's volunteer coordinator. "We say, 'You're probably going to be fine, but you should be aware there's very high crime, and a high murder rate.' " But Common Ground was apparently not on Brydum's list. After the brass band show at the Howlin' Wolf her second night in town, Viola said, Brydum disappeared. Her laptop, duffel bag and phone remained at the punk-rock house, and the phone kept ringing. "We were kind of worried, because she didn't seem like a party kid," Milan said. "The second day, we started to get scared." Her body had been found by a church group gutting houses in the 9th Ward; it was lying unidentified in the morgue. Brydum had been shot four times in the face. New Orleans police detectives began their search for a killer, but have thus far had no luck. When the news reached the Bay Area, some of her fellow activists wondered if there had been a conspiracy. Some suspected the CIA. "Kirsten's death looks more like a hit job rather than a random act of murder," someone called SF Activist commented on one blog, one of a number of similar comments. "New Orleans is still a militarized zone and it's quite possible she was targeted by hired guns." New Orleanians tended to respond to such comments with a weary disbelief. "Hired guns?!" a respondent named Sterno wrote after an essay on "Every murder here in New Orleans looks like a 'hit job', mainly because our criminals are professionals." Viola, the boyfriend, flew to New Orleans to meet with homicide detectives. He held meetings with anti-violence activists and a few young radicals. With his encouragement, they established a system that provides escorts to anyone who feels uncomfortable biking alone at night. Brydum's mother, Mamie Page, always respected Kirsten's ideas and ideals, even when she didn't share them. In an e-mail message, she said her younger daughter told her that Kirsten "would have been more about forgiveness than punishment for this crime, and focusing more on the issue of violence against women and rehabilitating the criminal." "I can't get my brain around that one," said Page, a paralegal living in Portland, Ore. "For obvious reasons." Other family members noted, with a disgusted irony, that the killer may have been covering up a robbery. Brydum's bag and bicycle were not found at the scene. "It's kind of pathetic," said Brydum's aunt, Catherine Page-Evans, of Woodland Hills. "Of course, she would have given it to them."

General Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine denouncing the Israeli arrest of Palestinians

From: Saturday, January 31 2009 @ 09:21 AM CST Middle East General Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine denouncing the Israeli occupation forces arrested 334 Palestinian workers in Israel. Shaher Saad expressed the Secretary-General of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine for the censure and condemnation of the Israeli occupation forces arrested more than 334 Palestinian workers working inside the Green Line, saying it is a flagrant violation of the rights of Palestinian workers who are trying to secure a living for themselves and their families under the strict closures and siege Israeli authorities imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And the Voice of Israel Radio reported this morning that the Israeli occupation forces arrested during the last week of at least 334 Palestinians working inside Israel the pretext of their stay there without permits, a phrase used by the Israeli police to justify prosecutions and aggression on Palestinian workers, arresting and sentencing them to high fines. Saad said that the arrest of Palestinian workers inside the Green Line is a violation of human rights and a violation of the laws and international conventions, which the occupation authorities bear the responsibility to ensure the right of workers to work in safe conditions to secure the requirements of his family, he said, adding that the occupation authorities closed the Palestinian territories and surrounded by the separation wall and the adoption of Racial bear full responsibility for the outcome of the conditions of our workers in the occupied Palestinian territories. Thus, these punitive measures depriving Palestinian workers of employment opportunities and lead to a lifting of poverty and unemployment rates already high in the Palestinian society, which have resulted in a lot of human tragedy and suffering as a result of these arbitrary measures. Saad noted that the General Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine will go to international organizations as the International Labor Organization and the International Federation of Free Trade Unions and friendly to expose these practices, the right of our workers, and to reaffirm their right to work and decent living and to stop these inhumane practices against them through the organization of an international campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian Workers who have suffered for long years of vicious Israeli prosecution and the denial of the right to work.

(Another) Interview with John Gibler about his new book - Mexico Unconquered

From: Kristin Bricker at John Gibler's first book, Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt, recently hit book stores. Gibler's book is drawn from two years of on-the-ground reporting in Mexico. Narco News' Kristin Bricker interviewed Gibler about his new book as he prepared to embark on a West Coast book tour in the US. Narco News: What was the inspiration for this book? John Gibler: The idea was born of the experience of covering the [Zapatistas'] Other Campaign[1] during the first four months of 2006. When the Zapatistas issued the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and announced the sixth-month listening tour that would be the first phase of the Other Campaign, they made a special call out to the alternative media to accompany this tour and use that as a way into all the untold stories of Mexico's struggling peoples, of Mexico's underdogs--los de abajo in Spanish. During the first four months of the Campaign, Delegate Zero--as Subcomandante Marcos was called--would often point to the motley crew of alternative journalists who hadn't shaved or showered or changed clothes for long stretches of time and he would say, "Don't get worried about those mugrosos [filthy people] out there on the fringes. They're actually the alternative press, and they're here to take your words out to other places." Day after day he would mention that as part of his call for people to participate in the Other Campaign. That was something I seriously felt as a commitment, as a responsibility, and during that time I tried to fulfill it by writing articles, getting stuff out online, launching with friends a small zine that we published on the caravan, and doing radio work with community radio stations in the United States. But I felt as if that was only a part of trying to fulfill that commitment. And then 2006 exploded: the police repression in San Salvador Atenco, the electoral fraud, and then the sixth-month-long unarmed uprising in Oaxaca. These are all things I covered for the alternative press. It kept fanning the flames of this desire to go deeper into the stories of los de abajo. That was where the idea for writing this book came from. Narco News: The original title for this book was Ungovernable. Why did you decide to change the name to Mexico Unconquered? John Gibler: "Ungovernable" was a quotation from the 2006 Oaxaca conflict. That quotation is very specific to a certain time and place: Oaxaca in late summer and early fall of 2006. One of the strategies of the Oaxaca's peoples movement was to force the Mexican Senate to declare Oaxaca "ungovernable." And by declaring the state "ungovernable" the Senate would have the ability to dissolve the powers of the state. That is the only legal constitutional way in Mexico for a federal authority to remove a state governor from office. This is part of the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly's strategy, to force the federal government into a checkmate, forcing this legal constitutional move to depose Ulises Ruiz and oust him from the Oaxaca governorship. I wanted to take that word "ungovernable" and quote it as a way of tapping into that spirit of resistance in Oaxaca. But I thought upon reflection that as a title that word would be taken so far from the context of Oaxaca in 2006 and make it seem as though Mexico as a land is ungovernable or the Mexican people are ungovernable. That gets away from the political point that I try to make in the book, and that people in Oaxaca were making in their demand, forcing the federal government to declare the state ungovernable. That political point is the spirit of rebellion, the spirit of protest in Mexico, which is an intensely anti-imperialist spirit and a spirit that compels people to risk everything, to put their lives on the line, to engage in action that defends their land, their autonomy, and their dignity. In thinking about how to best and try and touch at that spirit in one or two words, I decided upon "Mexico Unconquered," this idea that after centuries of invasion, foreign and later internal colonialism, and the constant threat of the boot of military and economic imperialism from the United States, that in spite of all of this repression and violence, so many sectors of Mexican society have never fully given in and have never allowed themselves to be fully conquered. Narco News: Explain what you mean when you say that "hunger is biological class warfare" in the book. John Gibler: Hunger is people simply not having enough food to eat, and it's the ache in their bodies from not having the nutrition they need. That hunger is unleashed upon the bodies of the people who have been consistently pushed out and pushed away from the development of wealth. It's biological because it's in your body and in your blood, and it's class warfare because it's a direct descendent of colonial invasions. Poverty is not an act of nature or an accident of history. Poverty is destitution and a form of violence. It is the result of history and concrete human actions in the Americas, as well as many other parts of the earth. In the Americas that history is explicitly a colonial history. The argument regarding hunger and poverty that I make in the book is drawn from a wealth of writers and thinkers from across previously colonial territories, such as Eduardo Galeano and Arturo Escobar. They are part of a school of thought that views the very concept of poverty critically. It says that poverty is not something that just happens to people or something that people are born into. That which we know as poverty--different levels of material and political destitution--is the result of concrete historical actions. In Mexico, it's not an accident that the country's 12 million indigenous people are some of the poorest people in the land or that government statistics show that the poorest municipalities in the country are all heavily indigenous municipalities. The legacy of colonial invasion and conquest in the creation of poverty is apparent. Indigenous people were literally pushed out of the valleys they were farming and cultivating. They were enslaved and brought to Spanish haciendas [estates] and mines to work. That legacy of colonial violence was transformed slowly through the independence and post-revolution eras but never ended. That legacy is actually the engine of the creation of poverty. Now folks come along and point to different isolated villages and say "Well, of course they're poor. Look at how far away the are from the towns and cities and the coast and all of those fertile areas." Well, why do you think they're there? They got pushed there. And why do you think they don't have access to the towns and cities? Because the government never built roads to those communities. If you analyze the transportation infrastructure in the country, you realize that the north is heavily industrialized because that's where all of the powerful landowners went and bought land using the wealth from the silver mines. They created industrial agriculture and heavily industrialized urban centers in the north. The heavily indigenous south never received any of those infrastructure projects. And when they do receive infrastructure projects it's usually part of a colonial plan, like building highways in order to get access to resources that the state or private landowners want to exploit. The idea here is that poverty is something that has been and continues to be crafted over the ages through class warfare. That class warfare has fractured over time. Now it's not simply Europeans versus indigenous, though the indigenous in Mexico continue to bear the heaviest blows of state violence and institutional forms of violence. Now it's drawn very much along class lines as well. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wreaked havoc in rural areas of Mexico that are not necessarily indigenous. That campesino [rural peasant] population has also been pushed out or in some cases chose to stay out of industrial development. With NAFTA you get the final machete blow, cutting people off from their land and forcing them into the economically dispossessed current of migration to the United States. Narco News: You spend a significant portion of your first chapter explaining how the Mexican center-left's beloved President Lazaro Cardenas cemented the PRI dictatorship. Cardenas is often regarded as Mexico's FDR because of his seemingly socialist policies such as the nationalization of Pemex and land redistribution. What was Cardenas' role in conquest? In my historical chapter I rely on Mexican historians and their analysis of the importance of Cardenas [president of Mexico from December 1, 1934 – November 30, 1940]. Here I draw on the work of Arnaldo Cordova in particular, and Adolfo Gilly who is an Argentinean but who has lived in Mexico since the 1960's. Gilly is one of the foremost historians on the Mexican Revolution as well as the Cardenas presidency. Cardenas was one of the geniuses in the creation of the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI). That was the transition point for colonial power in Mexico when it was finally solidified in the new metropolis of Mexico City. Part of the argument I make is that the independence movement didn't sever Mexico from its colonial powers; it shifted the center of colonial power from Madrid to Mexico City. In the hundred years between the War of Independence and the Mexican revolution, the fight was between warring factions within this new internal colonial elite. The idea of internal colonialism comes from Mexican sociologist Pablo Gonzalez Casanova and his 1965 work Democracy in Mexico where he discusses the way in which the PRI, the one-party state in Mexico, engages with its indigenous populations as an internal colonialism. It's still a war of colonial conquest, but taking place within one nation's borders. Cardenas' role was to make that transition from foreign colonialism to an internal colonialism possible. He enacted several land and labor reforms that granted a certain level of autonomy and peace to people across the country, though it was an intensely controlled and structured environment. Cardenas separated the campesinos (the rural population) from the obreros or the industrial workers by forming two separate unions, both of which are controlled by the PRI. This was part of the birth of the one-party state where the PRI becames the single arbiter for any conflict within the nation's borders. And that completed the transition from a foreign European colonialism to an internal colonialism. In the background during this period of transition is United States imperialism. At one point in the book I say that it's like battleships looming on the horizon, which of course, at several points in Mexico's history those battleships did loom on the horizon off the coast of Veracruz . United States imperialism has constantly threatened the integrity of Mexico from its earliest days of independence. So when I say "internal colonialism," that's not to ignore or deny the impact of US imperialism, but to say that the way in which the modern Mexican state evolved after the revolution was into a new power structure centered in Mexico City that was still carrying on policies of conquest. Again, these are ideas that I have drawn from Mexican theorists and historians, as well as people in the streets and in the fields, who use the language of colonialism and imperialism to talk about their own relationship to the state and their fight against repression and dispossession at the hands of the state. Narco News: Mexico Unconquered's thesis is that Mexico's history is one of perpetual attempts to conquest and resistance to this conquest. How does the drug war fit into your conquest narrative? Some of the same actors you mention in your book are currently engaged in the drug war: government institutions, mafia-like power brokers, military and police forces, media, and private enterprises. John Gibler: I take a look at the drug war as a way into contemplating the nature of the modern state in Mexico. I don't consider the drug war as something outside of the state, or even as something the state engages in in a 1:1 adversarial relationship with the drug gangs, that is, the idea that there are these criminal drug gangs and the state is fighting them. The drug cartels have penetrated every layer of the institution of the state in Mexico from the municipal through the state and into the federal levels. Thus, the drug war itself--the war between the various fighting cartels--is something that's replicated internally within the state. The warring cartels that are fighting out on the street are also fighting within the structure of the state. Hence you have the constant back-and-forth assassinations of police and military officers, civilians, and people involved in the various anti-drug agencies. One gang will find the "Deep Throat" of another gang inside a given institution and then have them killed. I use the drug war as a way of analyzing and taking apart the ideological concept of the rule of law in Mexico, the very concept that is used to justify state violence and repression against social movements, peoples' movements, and just everyday people across the country. The drug war is a window into the nature of the very being of the modern state and a way of taking apart its cosmetic presentation of itself as an institution wedded to the concept of the rule of law. Narco News: You interview Gloria Arenas Agis about her experience as a guerrilla in the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and later the Insurgent People's Revolutionary Army (ERPI). When she discusses the split between the EPR and the ERPI, she talks about experiences the Guerrero-based ERPI has in common with the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN). What is the relationship, if any, between the ERPI and the EZLN? And why has no one outside of Mexico heard of the ERPI? John Gibler: I know of absolutely no relationship between the EZLN and the ERPI. And I don't think that any relationship exists between those two organizations. Gloria Arenas, who is now a political prisoner, is one of the ERPI's founders. She's been in jail for almost ten years, and she is very openly an adherent to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign initiative. The ERPI is not well-known outside of Mexico or even within Mexico. One of the reasons is because two of their founding members [Arenas and her husband Jacobo Silva Nogales] were abducted by the state, tortured, and then thrown in jail very soon after the organization's founding in 1998. Thus, some of the most potentially eloquent spokespeople for the organization have been locked down. Jacobo is in maximum security prison; Gloria was in maximum security prison for several years. About four years ago she moved to a medium security prison in Mexico state where I was able to interview her. The organization is a grassroots campesino and indigenous organization mainly located in Guerrero state. The ERPI has not really sought media attention. They've only given a handful of interviews to local Mexican media, mainly Canal 6 de Julio, and there was one interview given to a US journalist published in Bill Weinberg's Homage to Chiapas. Otherwise, they haven't given many interviews. In this case, the interview I did is with a member of the organization who can now speak publicly because she's no longer living in clandestinity. She's a political prisoner. We speak about her experience, her involvement in the organization, the history of the creation of the organization, and how and why they split from the EPR. We don't in any way address the current state of the organization. The ERPI does continue to exist, and they put out communiques now and again. But it isn't an organization that has sought out much media attention. The media has also been, at least in the early years, very focused on Chiapas and in the later years pretty blase about armed or unarmed people's movements in Mexico. Narco News: In your book, you briefly mention the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly (APPO) and the Other Campaign together in the same paragraph. Subcomandante Marcos passed through Oaxaca just months before Oaxaca's 2006 uprising. What role, if any--did the Other Campaign play in the APPO uprising? John Gibler: The Other Campaign deeply inspired several sectors of the urban youth autonomy movement within the APPO. I think the thirteen years (at that time) of Zapatista struggle had a deep and lasting influence on political and social organizations across the country and the world. And thus the Zapatistas definitely had a profound impact on a lot of both the indigenous and non-indigenous organizations involved in the APPO. But the Other Campaign as a movement and an initiative was really so young at that point that it's difficult to measure its influence. I know there were several other collectives who explicitly used the language and ideas of the Other Campaign in their involvement with the APPO. However, the autochthonous experience of Section 22 of the state teachers union had a profound effect on the Oaxaca uprising, as did the distinct and unique indigenous struggles across the state. Oaxaca has 16 distinct indigenous ethnicities within its population, and all of those contributed to the way in which the APPO was formed in an assembly structure. It even contributed to the way the occupied media were used. People were talking to and amongst themselves on the air rather than reporting on something. It was like a continuously broadcasted conversation amongst the people themselves. Narco News: During the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca, over 20 people were killed. One of them was Brad Will. His murder made international headlines, his case is the only case the government has decided to "investigate," and the only one where the government has brought charges against "suspects"--APPO organizers, witnesses who were ready to testify against the government agents who killed him, and the people who tried to save his life. Both Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the falsely accused say that there will never be justice for Brad as long as his case his considered out of the context of the state and paramilitary violence that wracked Oaxaca during that period. Several witnesses and defendants in the case have told me that international activists seeking justice for Brad must start talking about the other murders--which you do in your book. You name many of them by name. So let's talk about who else was murdered during the uprising, how they were killed, and what's going on with those cases. John Gibler: During the Oaxaca uprising 23 people were assassinated. Several more have been assassinated since the November 25 federal police crackdown, which was the final act of state repression that broke the protesters' hold on areas of Oaxaca City. Those assassinations came in the context of the slowly unfolding counterinsurgency strategy conducted primarily by the state police, though there was federal involvement in the very beginning and then very heavily toward the end of the conflict, and several people were killed by federal police in late October and early November. Those murders were the state's desperate attempt to inflict terror upon the population and to scare people away from taking the streets. The amazing thing that happened in Oaxaca is that with every assassination more people took to the streets. Instead of being terrified and running away, the response was a surge in popular support for the teachers and the peoples' movement. The people who were assassinated were everyday folks who were participating in the movement. Some of the first people to be killed during the conflict were Triqui indigenous people who were killed on their way to Oaxaca City from a village assembly reporting back to an APPO assembly. They were ambushed and killed on the road on the way back to Oaxaca. [2] The first person to be shot down in the street in Oaxaca was Jose Jimenez Colmenares, the husband of a teacher who was actively participating in the teachers' strike and then in the uprising. He had come out to support his wife and was in a march in Oaxaca City in early August 2006 when gunmen opened fire from two rooftops along the narrow street where the teachers were marching. That day they were marching to denounce the disappearance of several Oaxacan activists two days earlier. Those activists--German Mendoza Nube being one of them--were seen being abducted off the street, thrown into the back of a pickup truck, and driven away. They appeared about five days alter in federal prison in Mexico City, meaning there is the solid assumption that federal police were involved in those first abductions in early August. Alejandro Garcia is another person who was assassinated. Alejandro and his wife and kids had made tamales, sandwiches coffee, and hot chocolate and were taking them around to people who were guarding the barricades in one of the central avenues in Oaxaca City. Alejandro was shot in the head while handing out coffee and hot chocolate. The shootings seem to have targeted the support base--people who were just coming out to help, rather than the people who were grabbing headlines by giving interviews to the press or people who had already had a rather well-known trajectory in local or state politics or activism. These were people from the very, very grassroots coming out to participate and help. The barricades themselves were a phenomenon of popular organizing to overcome the death squads. On August 20 and 21, the state sent out convoys of 40-something vehicles, some of which were unmarked with no license plates, while others were clearly marked state and local police vehicles. They opened fire on people across the city and killed one man, Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes, who was an architect who lived in the Reforma neighborhood near one of the radio stations the protesters had occupied. He wandered out of his house, showed up at the barricade closest to his front door, introduced himself, and offered to volunteer and to help stand watch. Minutes later the death squad caravan of police vehicles drove by and opened fire. Not a single one of these cases is being investigated. Not a single one. Out of the entire 23 murder cases during the 2006 conflict, the only case that is currently open is Brad Will's case. The only one that is being investigated is the one that involves a foreign citizen. That said, so many people in Oaxaca have told me that they view Brad's case as a fulcrum. They feel that if people are able to fight for some kind of institutional justice in Brad's case--which would mean identifying, apprehending, charging, and sentencing the local parapolice forces who shot and killed him from down the street in Santa Lucia--if justice is achievable in Brad's case, they feel as though there's some sparkle of hope for justice in the Oaxacans' cases. And on the contrary, if the state insists on blaming the protesters themselves and blaming the people who tried to lift Brad up off the street and carry him to safety, if the state insists on accusing the people who tried to save his life of having killed him, then there is no hope whatsoever for any kind of justice in the case of the other Oaxacans. Brad's case is intimately linked to the broader fight for justice in Oaxaca. But Brad's case cannot be thought of or addressed in any way if one tries to extract it from the overarching context of paramilitary and parapolice violence which had preceded Brad's murder for months. At the time Brad was killed on October 27, fifteen people had already been assassinated. Narco News: In Brad's case, the perpetrators are clearly identifiable. There's photos of them shooting at him and witnesses. Have perpetrators been identified in any of the other cases? John Gibler: In the case of Jose Jimenez Colmenares who was shot and killed on August 10, 2006, he was shot in the middle of a huge march. There were hundreds of people right there and thousands of people in the march. Immediately after the gunshots rang out and Jimenez fell to the ground, people in the march stormed both of the houses on either side of the road where the shots had come from, and they apprehended several people. Those people were turned over to federal authorities later that night. What's happened to those people? I think all of them have been released for "lack of evidence." Narco News: But it would've been incredibly easy to run a gunpowder residue test on the suspects' hands to verify if they'd recently fired a gun. John Gibler: In the Colmenares case, I don't know, because once they were turned over to federal officials at that point in the conflict there was really no dialogue. My several attempts to get information from members of the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI) were all met with absolute silence. I do know, however, that they were administering those types of tests. In late July, one of the first people to open fire during a protest was apprehended by members of the APPO and turned over to the AFI. In that case, the AFI came down into central Oaxaca. I was present at the university building where they were holding the suspect, the person whom they said had fired a weapon. The suspect told me in an interview that he had not fired a weapon that he didn't know how to fire a handgun. It turned out he was an ex-army soldier and at the time of his detention was a state police officer. He said he'd never been trained to fired a handgun. Sure enough ,when the federal agents arrived they came with two lab technicians who conducted a gunpowder residue test, which showed that he did indeed have traces of gunpowder residue on his hand and had fired a handgun within the previous two hours. [Narco News note: The Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) released the suspect, Isaias Perez Hernandez, shortly thereafter without charge.] Narco News: You discuss human rights organizations and how, despite their "truly exhaustive" research and evidence and their own statements of widespread abuse, they don't acknowledge the abuse as endemic and part-and-parcel of governing. You say, "They blindly consider the systematic human rights violations as aberrations rather than defining characteristics of the Mexican state." How does this affect their advocacy and policy recommendations regarding Mexico? John Gibler: I know this will be a controversial thesis, but I do think that the human rights organizations--especially a lot of the large international human rights organizations that have been following human rights issues in Mexico over the past several decades--have consistently either failed to acknowledge or have failed to act upon the truly political nature of human rights violations. Failing to acknowledge the incredible consistency and pervasiveness of the same types of violations, such as, for example, the practice of torture, is failing to acknowledge the true nature of the state and what's really happening. Take the case of torture. When a human rights organization publishes year after year after year in their annual human rights report that the majority of police in Mexico still use torture as their principal form of interrogation, and yet they conclude their human rights report with some nod to a recommendation that "police should be trained not to torture" or there should be some sort of reform in the structure of the police forces so that they're held accountable for their actions. It seems to me that that loses any kind of real integrity because of the persistence of the use of torture over so many years. If you find that year after year after year someone keeps doing the same thing, it's probably because they want to be doing that, because doing that is extremely beneficial to them. And in the case of these human rights violations, the human rights organizations just keep saying year after year, "Don't do that," with no real analysis as to the "why." Why do police in Mexico use torture as their principal interrogation technique year after year? A couple of these reports even mention in their list of concerns, "Well, it seems as though there might be a lack of political will." That two-word phrase "political will" seems to me to contain the first indication of the true nature of the problem. Not having the political will means you don't want to do something. In the case of torture, the entire international community, with the exception of the United States and Israel, has come together to declaim this practice as something that is horrid and should be erased from use and implementation across the planet. Yet you have these human rights organizations documenting year after year that everybody still does it, and they never ask why. Narco News: So what should human rights organizations do in order to be effective in Mexico, since what they're currently doing apparently isn't working? John Gibler: I don't know if human rights organizations can be effective anymore. There was a heyday of human rights activism in Mexico in the last years of the PRI in the late 1990s. Back then, throwing incredible amount of energy and resources just at the documentation of the scale and nature of human rights abuses was itself a very powerful thing. Here, the majority of that heavy lifting was conducted by Mexican human rights organizations, national and local. When President Vicente Fox was elected president in 2000, and soon thereafter one of Mexico's most gutsy and hard-working human rights attorneys, Digna Ochoa[3], was assassinated, those two moments in Mexican history served to blast apart the human rights community in a way that I don't think it's ever recovered from. In the case of Fox, all the international organizations starting patting each other on the back and saying "Great, now Mexico is a democracy," just by the simple fact that in one year during one election, the ruling party was voted out of office. That is definitely something historic and it inspired many people with the hope of real lasting change in Mexico--hope that was rather quickly squashed[4]. In Digna Ochoa's case, the state actually engaged in the same kind of tried-and-true blame-the-victim smear campaign to make the assassination look like a suicide. Surprisingly--and appallingly--they seemed to sway a significant portion of the human rights community with all of their mud-slinging. The internal divisions that occurred around the Digna Ochoa case tore apart the human rights community in a way that it hasn't recovered from and in a way that would become more devastating years later with the candidacy of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and several the divisions that occurred around that candidacy and around the PRD electoral efforts during the 2006 presidential elections. The work of documenting human rights abuses can be extremely powerful, especially in the cases of Atenco and Oaxaca in 2006. Local Mexican human rights organizations on the ground risked their own safety to quickly document the nature and the scale of the abuses against people there. Most of the big name international human rights NGOs were nowhere to be seen. Several of them tried to jump into advocacy around these cases once most of the damage had been done and once the conflicts had been beaten down through police repression. Local human rights organizations went jail to jail in Oaxaca to find out if someone who had just been disappeared was in fact disappeared of if they'd appeared in jail, and if they had appeared, in what condition. They evaluated to see if they had been tortured, applying the Istanbul Protocol[5]. It's really important for social movements to have that sort of documentation. The human rights political project, on the other hand, utilizes a framework of shaming states into complying with the UN human rights declarations. I think that project has been completely exhausted. The fact that the United States of America could, in the name of human rights, invade and destroy a country, that Mexico, in the name of human rights, could send thousands of riot cops to beat and rape people, shows the true final co-optation or failing of that human rights political project. What that project might've hoped to accomplish now falls back fully into the hands of the grassroots movements themselves. Narco News: A year ago you and I and other Narco News journalists were in Salon Corona in Mexico City. I remember you mentioned that you watched a documentary with some Mexicans about the 1999 protests that shut down the WTO meeting in Seattle, and when you reached the part where police are brutally beating kneeling protesters who were doing nothing to resist the blows, you and the Mexicans you were watching with exclaimed, "Why don't they fight back?!?" What is it about unconquered Mexicans and their collective history that makes them more likely to defend themselves from attacks perpetrated by authorities? Last year, for example, UNAM high school students occupied their principal's office and the major highway in front of their school for days because a school security guard had broken up an unpermitted chess tournament. That sort of resistance is not likely to happen in the US, but it's commonplace in Mexico. John Gibler: I think it's because there's this deeply anti-imperialist root to protest in Mexico. Here you're not fighting to slightly reform or recast something; you're fighting to protect your home and your dignity from invasion. From the smallest of fights like university occupations or fights to protect a small community radio station, to very large fights like the Zapatista uprising and fifteen years of the construction of autonomy in Chiapas, and the teachers' rebellion that became a popular rebellion in Oaxaca in 2006, all of these fights share in common this spirit of defense of dignity, land, and autonomy. There's something fundamentally illegitimate about the power weighing down upon you, power that threatens to crush you and dispossess you. The questioning of the legitimacy of the state and authority and actions of repression lends to the intensity and the risky nature of Mexican protest. And when I say risky nature I mean really risking one's life. Narco News: It seems as though indigenous autonomy movements--the "most radical sites of revolt" as you call them--are in some ways the ideological or spiritual leaders of anti-imperialist struggles in many parts of Mexico. What possibilities do you see for an anti-imperialist movement within the United States that would at the very least include, if not put at the forefront, indigenous autonomy? John Gibler: There are many very deep pockets of resistance--especially indigenous resistance and autonomy--within the borders of the territory now called the United States that are simply not acknowledged, not noticed, and not considered, much less understood. Those movements have an incredible wealth of dignity and strength to offer an anti-imperialist struggle. I also think and hope that many of those movements as well as non-indigenous movements stand a lot to learn, benefit, and take inspiration from the stories of indigenous autonomy struggles and resistance in Mexico. Some element of that cross-fertilization is one of the hopes of the book and its political project, which is following through with that commitment to take the stories and the words of the underdgos of Mexican resistance (los de abajo) and help spread them to other communities of resistance and rebellion. Narco News: You say Mexico Unconquered is part call-to-action for readers. What are you calling upon us to do? John Gibler: My biggest hope is that it inspires very genuine and deep reflection upon strategies of resistance here in the territory known as the United States and Canada. I personally think many protest tactics we've been using in the north, including marches, non-governmental and non-profit organizational structures, and human rights frameworks, have been proven ineffective and that others need to be explored. I don't think it's my place or really anyone's, to say from an abstract level to a concrete and practical level what should be done. That needs to spring forth from the community of people directly involved in a particular struggle. My hope is to inspire expanding the realm of political imagination, thinking about what could be done, thinking beyond the regions of possibility that we've been presented with and confronted with by the media and the state. I hope the book inspires taking those down and truly stepping out into much broader territories of political imagination. Notes:

Vote for Sam Seder to host MSNBC's New 10pm ET Show

MSNBC Looking To Add New 10pm ET Show maddow_1-22.jpgNow that Countdown with Keith Olbermann is in place at 8pmET and The Rachel Maddow Show is set at 9pmET, the New York Times' Brian Stelter reports MSNBC is looking to add a new show at 10.

"It's almost like we're one personality away," MSNBC president Phil Griffin told Stelter. Olbermann supports the move as well. "Losing the 10 p.m. replay [of Countdown] is a very small price to pay for a last piece to the puzzle." Olbermann says. MSNBC insiders tell us there is nothing currently in development, but the network's goal is to add a 10pm show when it finds the right host.

Not mentioned in the article — potential hosts. So we put the question to you (After all, you predicted the "Hannity" choice correctly).:

Who Should Host MSNBC's New 10pm Show?
Posted by SteveK

Chavez urges Obama to hand over Cuban exile

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged U.S. President Barack Obama to extradite an anti-Castro Cuban exile wanted in Venezuela who the administration of George W. Bush had refused to hand over.

Extradition of former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jet that killed 73 people, could improve bilateral ties that have for years been frayed by a war of words between the Bush administration and Venezuela.

"Send us the terrorist Posada Carriles," Chavez said in a televised speech late on Friday. "We've been waiting four years for the extradition of the biggest terrorist in human history."

The Bush administration had refused to hand over Posada after he was arrested in the United States for entering the country illegally, sparking harsh criticism of a double standard in Washington's war on terror.

Posada, who was involved in the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was jailed for two years in Texas on immigration charges but released in 2007. He now lives in Miami.

Posada also is accused in Cuba of plotting 1997 hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist.

Chavez, whose country provides some 12 percent of U.S. oil imports, was a harsh critic of former President George W. Bush. He has accused Obama of repeating the same policies, although he recently applauded Obama's decision to shut the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He also has urged Obama to lift the U.S. embargo of Cuba and return Guantanamo Bay, which the United States has rented since the early 20th century.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Bill Trott)

Moyers: Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?

In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.

Sprey said:

“What happens on the ground is for every one of those impacts you get five or ten times as many recruits for the Taliban as you've eliminated. The people that we’re trying to convince to become adherents to our cause have become rigidly hostile to our cause in part because of bombing and in part because of other killing of civilians from ground forces. We’re dealing with a society that’s based on honor... They have to resist being invaded, occupied, bombed and killed. It’s a matter of honor, and they’re willing to die in unbelievable numbers to do that.”

Young said:

“The problem is [that] the focus remains a military solution to what all the other information I have says is a political problem. I don’t care how you slice the military tactic. So long as your notion is that you can actually deal with this in a military way, you’re just going to march deeper and deeper into what Pete Seeger called ‘The Big Muddy”... The point is, if you can’t figure out a political way to deal in Afghanistan then you can only compound the compound mess.”

The Speech President Obama Should Deliver... But Won't by David Korten

Book Cover: Agenda for A New Economy

David Korten's new book Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth outlines an agenda to bring into being a new economy--locally based, community oriented, and devoted to creating a better life for all, not simply increasing profits.

In this special pre-publication excerpt, Korten summarizes his version of the economic address to the nation he wishes Barack Obama were able to deliver.

Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. presidency on a promise of change. Before his inauguration, indeed before his election, I drafted the following as my dream for the economic address he might deliver to the nation during his administration in fulfillment of the economic aspect of that promise. It is the New Economy agenda presented in the style of candidate Obama's political rhetoric.

I suffer no illusion that he will deliver it. He has surrounded himself with advisers aligned with Wall Street interests in an effort to establish public confidence in his ability to restore order in the economy. Because there has been no discussion of any other option, to most people "restoring order" means restoring the status quo with the addition of a job-stimulus package, and that is most likely what he will try to do.

This speech presents the missing option--the program that a U.S. president must one day be able to announce and implement if there is to be any hope for our economic, social, and environmental future.

Here is the address:

Fellow Citizens:

My administration came to office with a mandate for bold action at a time when our most powerful economic institutions had clearly failed us. They crippled our economy; burdened governments with debilitating debts; corrupted our political institutions; and threatened the destruction of the natural environment on which our very lives depend.

The failure can be traced directly to an elitist economic ideology that says if government favors the financial interests of the rich to the disregard of all else, everyone will benefit and the nation will prosper. A thirty-year experiment with trickle-down economics that favored the interests of Wall Street speculators over the hardworking people and businesses of Main Street has proved it doesn't work.

We have no more time or resources to devote to fixing a system based on false values and a discredited ideology. We must now come together to create the institutions of a new economy based on a values-based pragmatism that recognizes a simple truth: If the world is to work for any of us, it must work for all of us.

Corrective action begins with recognition that our economic crisis is, at its core, a moral crisis. Our economic institutions and rules, even the indicators by which we measure economic performance, consistently place financial values ahead of life values.

We have been measuring economic performance against GDP, or gross domestic product, which essentially measures the rate at which money and resources are flowing through the economy. Let us henceforth measure economic performance by the indicators of what we really want: the health and well-being of our children, families, communities, and the natural environment.

Like a healthy ecosystem, a healthy twenty-first-century economy must have strong local roots and maximize the beneficial capture, storage, sharing, and use of local energy, water, and mineral resources. That is what we must seek to achieve, community by community, all across this nation, by unleashing the creative energies of our people and our local governments, businesses, and civic organizations.

Previous administrations favored Wall Street, but the policies of this administration henceforth will favor the people and businesses of Main Street--people who are working to rebuild our local communities, restore the middle class, and bring our natural environment back to health.

We will act to render Wall Street's casino-like operations unprofitable. We will impose a transactions tax, require responsible capital ratios, and impose a surcharge on short-term capital gains. We will make it illegal for people and corporations to sell or insure assets that they do not own or in which they do not have a direct material interest.

To meet the financial needs of the new twenty-first-century Main Street economy, we will reverse the process of mergers and acquisitions that created the current concentration of banking power. We will restore the previous system of federally regulated community banks that are locally owned and managed and that fulfill the classic textbook banking function of serving as financial intermediaries between local people looking to secure a modest interest return on their savings and local people who need a loan to buy a home or finance a business.

And last, but not least, we will implement an orderly process of monetary reform. Most people believe that our government creates money. That is a fiction. Private banks create virtually all the money in circulation when they issue a loan at interest. The money is created by making a simple accounting entry with a few computer keystrokes. That is all money really is, an accounting entry.

My administration will act immediately to begin an orderly transition from our present system of bank-issued debt money to a system by which money is issued by the federal government. We will use the government-issued money to fund economic-stimulus projects that build the physical and social infrastructure of a twenty-first-century economy, being careful to remain consistent with our commitment to contain inflation.

To this end I have instructed the treasury secretary to take immediate action to assume control of the Federal Reserve and begin a process of monetizing the federal debt. He will have a mandate to stabilize the money supply, contain housing and stock market bubbles, discourage speculation, and assure the availability of credit on fair and affordable terms to eligible Main Street borrowers.

By recommitting ourselves to the founding ideals of this great nation, focusing on our possibilities, and liberating ourselves from failed ideas and institutions, together we can create a stronger, better nation. We can secure a fulfilling life for every person and honor the premise of the Declaration of Independence that every individual is endowed with an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

No government on its own can resolve the problems facing our nation, but together we can and will resolve them. I call on every American to join with me in rebuilding our nation by acting to strengthen our families, our communities, and our natural environment; to secure the future of our children; and to restore our leadership position and reputation in the community of nations.

This is an abridged excerpt from David Korten's new book, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, to be published by Berrett-Koehler, Feb 2009. This extract forms part of the YES! series, Path to a New Economy. An earlier version of this chapter first appeared as part of David's article in Tikkun, Nov/Dec 2008. David Korten is the author of the international bestseller When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. He is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, and a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

BOOK: "Renegade For Peace And Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks For Me"

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the only member of the House or Senate to vote against the authorization of force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That led to threats against her life. * Season for Peace and Nonviolence Originally published January 31, 2009 By Ron Cassie News-Post Staff "Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not a sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation."

-- from Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1964

The Rev. Toni Fish, the spiritual leader at Frederick's Unity Church, has joked that she developed the concept of an interfaith Gandhi-King Season for Peace and Nonviolence here because she was tired of driving to similar events in Arlington, Fairfax and Washington.

Now, four years later, local clergy, peace activists and artists seek out Fish, hoping to include events in what has evolved into a popular two- month series.

The Ghandi-King Season for Peace and Nonviolence project, founded a dozen years ago by the Association for Global New Thought, continues to grow nationally and internationally. This year more than 200 U.S. cities and 14 countries are taking part in the celebration.

Jan. 30 and April 4, the dates marking the beginning and end of the season, originally marked the 50th and 30th anniversaries of the assassinations of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Megan Staneck, of the Association for Global New Thought, said some 300 groups requested new materials this year and a CD put out by AGNT had to go into reprinting twice.

A highlight of the series in Frederick includes Oakland, Calif. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee discussing her recently published book, "Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me," at the Frederick Cultural Arts Center on Feb. 9. Lee was the only member of the House or Senate to vote against the authorization of force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That led to threats against her life.

Other notables include former ambassador Philip Wilcox Jr. who will address the Israeli and Palestinian conflict on Feb. 22 at Unity Church, and journalist/teacher Colman McCarthy, founder of the Center for Teaching Peace, who will speak at Evangelical Lutheran Church on March 15.

Former pastor Michael Dowd, author of the "Thank God for Evolution," a book acclaimed by five Nobel laureates, will speak at Unity Church on March 20. Fish said she is still working to bring another special guest to the closing ceremonies at Hood College on March 29.

A dozen religious and civic groups will participate in and sponsor the 15 events.

"We started planning in late November, and a number of groups already said they had programs in mind," Fish said. "By our second meeting, we had a list of commitments. It's caught on."

Israeli military refuses water filtration system for Gaza

The Israeli government has blocked the entry of a much-needed water filtration system into the ravaged Gaza Strip.
This water tank in Gaza is empty, and the wells have run dry

This water tank in Gaza is empty, and the wells have run dry

The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that Israel has refused to allow the French government from bringing the filtration system to Gaza, where people have been without clean water for weeks.

In some parts of Gaza, sewage is flooding streets and homes after the three-week long Israeli assault that ended last week when Israeli officials declared a ceasefire.

The Israeli military has violated the ceasefire seven times since then, including an attack yesterday that wounded a number of primary school students in Khan Younis. Palestinian fighters killed one soldier who was invading southern Gaza in violation of the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Israeli imposed closure of the Gaza Strip remains in place, and Palestinians have been unable to even clean the racist graffiti and feces smeared on their walls by the Israeli military, due to the lack of water.

The French government has summoned the Israeli ambassador to come to Paris and explain why the Israelis have refused the entry of their water filtration system, despite the French government going through the correct channels to get the water system approved.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Resolution of the Reality Hologram

[Link from a stranger] 102907mithologram You might think your fifty inch 1080p screen has a pretty high resolution, but reality is a quadrillion times better - a hundred trillion dots per inch. A collaboration between Fermilab scientists and a hundreds of meters of laser may have found the very pixels of reality, grains of spacetime one tenth of a femtometer across.

The GEO600 system is armed with six hundred meters of laser tube, which sounds like enough to equip an entire Star War, but these lasers are for detection, not destruction. GEO600's length means it can measure changes of one part in six hundred million, accurate enough to detect even the tiniest ripples in space time - assuming it isn't thrown off by somebody sneezing within a hundred meters or the wrong types of cloud overhead (seriously). The problem with such an incredibly sensitive device is just that - it's incredibly sensitive.

The interferometer staff constantly battle against unwanted aberration, and were struggling against a particularly persistent signal when Fermilab Professor Craig Hogan suggested the problem wasn't with their equipment but with reality itself. The quantum limit of reality, the Planck length, occurs at a far smaller length scale than their signal - but according to Hogan, this literal ultimate limit of tininess might be scaled up because we're all holograms.


The idea is that all of our spatial dimensions can be represented by a 'surface' with one less dimension, just like a 3D hologram can be built out of information in 2D foils. The foils in our case are the edges of the observable universe, where quantum fluctuations at the Planck scale are 'scaled up' into the ripples observed by the GEO600 team. We'd like to remind you that although we're talking about "The GEO600 Laser Team probing the edge of reality", this is not a movie.

What does this mean for you? In everyday action, nothing much - we're afraid that a fundamentally holographic nature doesn't allow you to travel around playing guitar and fighting crime (no matter what 80s cartoons may have taught you.) Whether reality is as you see it, or you're the representation of interactions on a surface at the edge of the universe, getting run over by a truck (or a representation thereof) will still kill you.

In intellectual terms, though, this should raise so many fascinating questions you'll never need TV again. While in the extreme earliest stages, with far more work to go before anyone can draw any conclusions, this is some of the most mind-bending metaphysical science you'll ever see. Are we real, or are we quantum interactions on the edges of the universe - and is that just as real anyway?

Once more we see that sufficiently advanced physics is indistinguishable from getting really stoned.

Posted by Luke McKinney

Wither Wall Street

Soon after the passage in 1999 of the Clinton-Rubin-Summers-P. Graham deregulation of the financial industry, I boarded a US Air flight to Boston and discovered none other than then-Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers a few seats away. He was speaking loudly and constantly on his cell phone. When the plane took off he invited me to sit by him and talk. After reviewing the contents of this Citibank-friendly new law called the Financial Modernization Act—I asked him: “Do you think the big banks have too much power?” He paused for a few seconds and replied: “Not Yet.” Intrigued by his two word answer, I noted the rejection of modest pro-consumer provisions, adding that now that the banks had had their round, wasn’t it time for the consumers to have their own round soon? He allowed that such an expectation was not unreasonable and that he was willing to meet with some seasoned consumer advocates and go over such an agenda. We sent him an agenda, and met with Mr. Summers and his staff. Unfortunately, neither his boss, Bill Clinton, nor the Congress were in any mood to revisit this heavily lobbied federal deregulation law and reconsider the blocked consumer rights. The rest is unfolding, tragic history. The law abolished the Glass-Steagall Act which separated commercial banking from investment banking. This opened the floodgates for unwise mergers, acquisitions and other unregulated risky financial instruments. Laced with limitless greed, casino capitalism ran wild, tanking economies here and abroad. One champion of this market fundamentalism was Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve. Last October before a House Committee, Greenspan admitted he was mistaken and expressed astonishment at how corporations could not even safeguard their own self-interest from going over steep speculative cliffs. Greenspan and Summers were deemed “brilliant” by the press and most of Congress. Summers’ predecessor at Treasury—Robert Rubin—was also a charter member of the Oracles—those larger-than-life men who just knew that the unfettered market and giant financial conglomerates would be the one-stop shopping mart consumers were assumed to be craving. Now the world knows that these men belong to the “oops oligarchy” that bails itself out while it lets the companies collapse into the handcuffed arms of Uncle Sam and bridled taxpayers who have to pay for unconditional megabailouts. Instead of the Wall Street crooks being convicted and imprisoned, they have fled the jurisdiction with their self-determined compensation. Corporate crime pays, while pensions and mutual fund savings evaporate. Now comes the next stage of the Washington rescue effort in a variety of stimulus packages which every vendor group imaginable wants a piece of these days. When trillions are offered, many come running. As the public focus is on how much, when and where all this money should be spent, there are very serious consequences to be foreseen and forestalled. First, consider how much more concentrated corporate power is occurring. Forced or willing mergers, acquisitions and panic takeovers of big banks by bigger banks along with bankruptcies of companies further reduce what is left of quality competition for consumer benefit. Remember the anti-trust laws. Obama needs to be their champion. The fallout from the Wall Street binge is likely to lead to a country run by an even smaller handful of monopolistic global goliaths. In the stampede for stimulus legislation, there is a foreboding feeling on Capitol Hill that there is no proposal on the table to pay for it other than by the children and grandchildren. Just the opposite is raining down on them. Everybody including the private equity gamblers, Las Vegas casinos and Hollywood studios along with the banks and auto companies are looking for tax breaks. So with the economy deteriorating and taxes being cut, where is the enormous money coming from? From borrowing and from printing money. So look out for big time inflation and decline in the dollar’s value vis-à-vis other currencies. In all the hundreds of pages of stimulus bills, there is nothing that would facilitate the banding together of consumers and investors into strong advocacy groups. We have long proposed Financial Consumer Associations, privately and voluntarily funded through inserts in the monthly statements of financial firms. If this bailout—stimulus—Wall Street funny money waste, fraud and abuse sounds confusing, that is because it is. A brand new paperback “Why Wall Street Can’t Be Fixed and How to Replace It: Agenda For a New Economy” by long-time corporate critic, David C. Korten will explain some of the wheeling and dealing. You don’t have to agree with all or many of Korten’s nostrums. Just read Part II—The Case For Eliminating Wall Street. He considers three central questions: First, do Wall Street Institutions do anything so vital for the national interest that they justify trillions of dollars to save them from the consequences of their own excess? Second, is it possible that the whole Wall Street edifice is built on an illusion of phantom wealth that carries deadly economic, social, and environmental consequences for the larger society? Third, are there other ways to provide needed financial services with greater results and at lesser cost?

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