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Fri

14

Oct

2011

Atlantic Free Press Closing Doors
Dear Readers,
 
It's been six years and over 13,000 articles published by some 250 of the world's finest politically progressive writers - some 20 per cent with Ph.D.s. 
 
It's been a labour of love for myself, doing my thing to help educate people to ideas that I believe needed to be shared - and some 2.5 million people read articles  on this site over the years.
 
In 2011 Atlantic Free Press won a Computerworld Honors Laureate for Innovation -  honoured for visionary application of IT to promote positive social, economic and educational change including category co-winners from NASA and Duke University.
 
It's a fitting last act for Atlantic Free Press. And I say finale because I can no longer afford the time to dedicate to AFP with a young family and a career in technology that's just become to big a part of my life to pull the time needed to run this site pro bono. Thanks to all those who helped donate over the years - but this project still cost me money in server bills. I was just not able to make it a commercial viability.
 
I will of course leave the site up for posterity. If anyone is interested, feel free to contact me.
 
Pacific Free Press will live on - edited by Chris Cook in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Please visit him and the writers there and feel free to contact Chris if you would like to write for Pacific Free Press. editor@pacificfreepress.com
 
 
 
Best
 
Richard Kastelein
EXPATHOS @ GMAIL dot COM
 
 

Wed

17

Aug

2011

“I Pledge to Discriminate and Support Bigotry, So Help Me God…”
by Mel Seesholtz Ph.D.

I’ve been studying and writing about gay and lesbian issues since 2003. What got me started was then Senator Rick Santorum’s comments in an AP interview in which he compared gay sex to bestiality (among other things). Those comments made him the poster-boy for malicious theopolitical rants, an image he reinforced when speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate during its debate of the Federal Marriage Amendment. With histrionic bravado Mr. Santorum proclaimed, “the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance. Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security – standing up and defending marriage?” 

Santorum’s dogmatic views on gays and several other issues – in addition to his abrasive personality and “I know everything” attitude, plus his cyber school scandal – prompted Pennsylvania voters to kick him out of office. Apparently Mr. Santorum didn’t learn anything from his ignominious defeat and is still uttering the same nonsense in his run for the GOP presidential nomination:

Santorum: Perry Must Support Polygamy If He’s ‘Fine’ With New York’s Marriage Equality Law

By Igor Volsky on Jul 25, 2011

 

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R) lashed out against Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for suggesting that he was “fine” with New York’s decision to legalize same-sex message, asking Perry – who is said to be considering his own run for the White House – if he would similarly endorse polygamy or laws against “heterosexual marriage”…

 

On the campaign trail, he has repeatedly argued that marriage equality would “destabilize” society, called for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and claimed that gay people don’t deserve the “privilege” of parenthood. Allowing gay people to marry is “going to have a devastating impact on our children, it’s going to have a devastating impact on families, and it’s going to have a profound impact on religious liberties,” he said during a campaign stop last month.

Religions have their place, as do politics. Problems arise when they’re mixed and used to play on people fears and promote social unrest and civil discrimination. 

All of today’s major religions evolved a very long time ago by building upon or borrowing from older belief systems. (That’s evolution for you.) The three major Western religions are testimony to that, as is thoroughly researched and documented in Karen Armstrong’s 1993 A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (A transcript of an interview with Bill Moyers is available here.)

To be sure, they all contain some “truths,” but they also contain a lot of irrational, ill-informed nonsense that simply cannot be accepted as “truth” today. Unfortunately, the truths and the nonsense got blended and then codified as “the word of God” and sanctified as “dogma.” One undeniable truth is that the three major Western warrior sky-god religions, their scriptures and dogma were all created by men a very long time ago in response to a social and cultural realities and a worldview that no longer exist. 

In an October 10, 2004 article “Interpreting the Bible on Gay Unions” in The Detroit Free Press, Susan Ager quoted from an essay by Walter Wink, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, that appeared on the web site of Bridges-Across. In discussing Leviticus 20:13, “Wink explains that thousands of years ago, people thought men held the seed for life, that women only incubated those seeds into babies. Thus, spilling your seed with another man or alone was ‘tantamount to abortion or murder.’ Leaders frowned on that, too, as they worked hard to build up their struggling tribe” [italics added]. 

No knowledge of how conception or genetics really worked and a very secular prime directive: make more people to “build up their struggling tribe,” thereby extending its religion’s social control and political power through numbers. 

A final comment by Dr. Wink must also be noted, especially by those devout Bible-believers who so object to gay people: “If Christians are to take this verse [Leviticus 20:13] literally, they would demand the execution of all homosexuals. Not only homosexual, but all men who have ever masturbated or otherwise spilled their seed” [italics added]. How many males of all ages – sons, brothers, cousins, friends, passing acquaintances and total strangers – would that condemn to death? What would be the effect on human population civilization? Interesting proposition, is it not? 

If there were only a few “pure” males, they would have to impregnate many, many, many women to keep the population up and at least somewhat genetically diverse. Monogamous one-man-one-woman “marriage” would be distinctly counterproductive. 

From their inception, the three major Western religions thrived on encouraging condemnation – and hatred – of others. Then as now, dogmatic religious zealots use fear-based religion and dogma to maintain control over people’s lives and thoughts and promote hatred of others. Those goals also underwrite the political agendas of some. Case in point, Bradlee Dean of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide ministry and GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann. Mr. Dean used religion to proclaim killing gays is a moral act:

You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit ministry that brings its hard rock gospel into public schools, has been deepening its long-running ties to the Republican Party of Minnesota. Long a cause célèbre for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has twice lent her name to the group’s fundraising efforts, You Can Run (YCR) had a booth at the GOP convention in April, and the group’s frontman, Bradlee Dean, reports that gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer recently accepted an invitation to visit with him at Dean’s home. But recent controversial statements by Deanthat Muslim countries calling for the execution of gays and lesbians are “more moral than even the American Christians”have drawn the ire of some both within and outside the party.

 

“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said on YCR’s May 15 radio show on AM 1280 the Patriot. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

 

“If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that,” Dean continued. “That is what you are seeing in America.”

 

“The bottom line is this… they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator,” Dean said, before going on to make a claim that has no basis in fact: “On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?”

And what did Mrs. Bachmann have to say about this “ministry” and its overt hate-mongering, seeming call for violence “in the name of God,” and blatant lying about the “average gay” (whatever that is) molesting 117 people before they’re found out? Huffington Post documented her position: 

WASHINGTON -- If you thought evangelical preaching needed longer hair, tattoos, nu-metal drumming, and a ton of hate speech directed at gays, then Bradlee Dean is your guy.

 

He's very much Rep. Michele Bachmann's guy. Bachmann, whose district covers Dean's suburban Minnesota headquarters, didn't just endorse Dean, but has prayed for him and his ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, in a clip highlighted recently by City Pages.

 

"Would you keep them from evil?" Bachmann prays. "Would you keep them from pain?" Finally she begs the Almighty to "pour a triple blessing on this ministry" and expand it ten-fold. 

Mrs. Bachmann was, of course, the first to sign The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family.” (Not surprisingly, Rick Santorum also signed and is “courting” Bob Vander Plaats, author of “The Marriage Vow.”) And Mrs. Bachmann’s husband, Marcus Bachmann, does run dog-and-pony show clinics where one can “pray the gay away.” Such “reparative,” “conversion,” – “ex-gay” therapies – have been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every legitimate, science-based, professional medical association in America. 

According to the American Psychological Association, no scientific evidence exists to support the effectiveness of therapies that attempt to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. According to the American Medical Association, “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation,” and the AMA “does not recommend aversion therapy for gay men and lesbians.” 

The American Psychological Association has stated that “Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help.” The American Psychiatric Association concurs: “gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so.” And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” 

All forms of “ex-gay” therapies were publicly decried in 1999 as unethical by both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. For more on the “ex-gay” ruse (and the Bachmann clinics) see Truth Wins Out and by all means check out this study:

Pat Robertson’s Regent University: Ex-Gays Can Act The Part, But Orientation Doesn’t Change

By Zack Ford on Jul 21, 2011

 

Revelations that Marcus Bachmann’s clinics administer ex-gay therapy have thrust the “controversial” treatment into the media spotlight. There is no controversy among scientists, however, who continue to agree that the therapy is not effective and should not be recommended because it can be harmful. A new study from a surprising source confirms this reality; researchers at Pat Robertson’s Regent University found that “ex-gays” in opposite-sex marriages continued to have a same-sex orientation.

 

The study (PDF) looked at “mixed-orientation” marriages in which at least one member of the couple is not heterosexual. … 

Bradlee Dean, meanwhile, has filed a law suit: 

Bradlee Dean's Ample Antigay Comments

By Andrew Harmon

 

The Minnesota preacher who filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit Wednesday against MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Minnesota Independent reporter Andy Birkey has a long track record of broadcasting antigay comments, Think Progress LGBT's Zack Ford writes.
You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International's Bradlee Dean claims that Maddow and Birkey maliciously took some of his comments out of context while ignoring a ministry disclaimer condemning calls to execute gay people — this to achieve both journalists' end-goal, according to the complaint, of “significantly [harming] the ‘big political prize’ which they loathe, Christian conservative presidential candidate Michele Bachmann,” who has “twice lent her name to [the ministry's] fundraising efforts.”

 

But Ford posted an extensive history of Dean's support for prosecution and incarceration of gay people, as well as assertions that a “homosexual agenda” is infiltrating the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota [“Bradlee Dean Never Calls For The Persecution Of Gays, Except All The Time,” posted July 27, 2011]. … 

Bob Vander Plaats was in the forefront of the right-wing campaign to unseat three Iowa state Supreme Court justices up for reelection because they voted to uphold the state’s constitution’s guarantee of civil equality in relation to the civil institution called “marriage.” (The Iowa’s Supreme Court decision was unanimous.) He ran for governor of Iowa three times, and served as the Iowa state chair of Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.

These days Mr. Vander Plaats is the point man for The Family Leader which, according to its website, is “is associated with Focus on the Family, an international family-strengthening ministry headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO” and “is also in association with the Family Research Council, a pro-family, nonpartisan public policy organization based in Washington D.C. TFL works cooperatively with FRC President Tony Perkins and in coalition with numerous other state and national public-policy groups.”

These “associations” are not surprising. Focus on the Family has long espoused opposition to civil equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It was founded in 1977 by child psychologist James Dobson. Although he had no formal theological training, nor was he ever an ordained minister, Dr. Dobson became what Time magazine called him, “the nation's most influential evangelical leader.” In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle, he offered “Eleven Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage.” The first was “The legalization of homosexual marriage will quickly destroy the traditional family.” The last was “The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah’ (Matthew 24:37).” Dr. Dobson founded the Family Research Council in 1981. Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Family Research Council as an anti-gay “hate group.”

The full text of Mr. Vander Plaats’ “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” and its copious endnotes are available here. An article about the document on OutsidetheBeltway.com made a critical observation:

The Family Leader, a prominent Iowa group that promotes Christian conservative social values, said Thursday it is asking all presidential candidates to sign a pledge regarding their personal convictions on traditional marriage. …

 

The organization’s chief executive officer is Bob Vander Plaats, a conservative evangelical leader who was the state chair of Mike Huckabee’s Republican presidential campaign when he won the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. Vander Plaats said the Family Leader will not support any candidate who declines to sign the pledge. [italics added]

The italicized clauses underscore the danger of homogenizing personal religious beliefs and public policies. To be sure, the two will always be involved with each other. We vote for and elect candidates who most closely mirror our views, and for many those views derive from or are shaped by religious beliefs and/or religious dogma. Religious beliefs and dogma are just that: beliefs and concocted doctrine. They’re not based on facts or evidence. They’re base on “faith” which is, by definition, not based on reason, facts or empirical evidence.

From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition:

Dogma n, [L dogmat-, dogma, fr. Gk, from dokein to seem] 1a: something held as an established opinion; esp: a definite authoritative tenet. B: a code of such tenents <pedagogical ~>. C: a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds. 2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.

“From dokein to seem… established opinion… a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds... formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church” [italics added]. Dogma is the unsubstantiated opinion of someone or some group that must remain as is despite ever-changing social, cultural and political contexts. As one definition in theOxford English Dictionary put it, dogma is “an imperious or arrogant declaration of opinion” which uses itself as its source of authority.

Public policies, on the other hand, must be based on reason, facts and empirical evidence. They must assure the civil equality of all citizens. They need to serve the needs of a diverse population, and they must be in the best interest of the country, not certain religious beliefs or dogma.

The Preamble of Bob Vander Plaats’ theopolitical loyalty oath sets the dogmatic tone. The third and fourth of the fourteen “vows” are theofascist blends. The last one illustrates how good civil ideas can be perverted and used by theopoliticos to protect themselves while harming others.

 The Preamble – “Therefore, in any elected or appointed capacity by which I may have the honor of serving our fellow citizens in these United States, I the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman. I vow to…” – clearly demands politicians actively work to deny gay and lesbian Americans equal rights to the civil institution called “marriage.” Whatever else the Vander Plaats’ document demands, civil inequality based on religious dogma is first and foremost.

When a colleague and I were team-teaching “Religion in American Thought and Life,” one of our guest speakers was a biblical literalist and fundamentalist’s fundamentalist. His views on homosexuality were more than predictable, until someone in the class asked him about same-sex marriage. As long as marriage was deemed a civil institution, with licenses issued by the state, he had no problem with same-sex marriage. I – and more than a few students – almost fell out of our seats. In the follow-up class discussion, even the most religious members of the class had to agree with the speaker’s logic and reasoning. All citizens should have – must have – access to civil institutions.

Vows three and four read:

-- Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices.

 

-- Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage - faithful monogamy between one man and one woman - through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.

“Faithful constitutionalists.” An interesting designation. A basic dictionary definition of “constitutionalist” is adherence to or government according to constitutional principles; also : a constitutional system of government.” Sounds good, but given the author of the these vows – and his theopolitical motives and social agenda – the “faithful” adjective defines what Harvard Divinity School graduate and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges called “logocide” in his 2007 book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America:

The old definitions of words are replaced by new ones. … Words such as “truth,” “wisdom,” “death,” “liberty,” “life,” and “love” no longer mean what they mean in the secular world. “Life” and “death” mean life in Christ or death to Christ, and are used to signal belief or unbelief in the risen lord. “Wisdom” has little to do with human wisdom but refers to the level of commitment and obedience to the system of belief. “Liberty” is not about freedom, but the “liberty” found when one accepts Jesus Christ and is liberated from the world to obey Him.

The endnote (#11) for the third vow exposes the logocidal definition of “faithful constitutionalists”:

It is no secret that a handful of state and federal judges, some of whom have personally rejected heterosexuality and faithful monogamy, have also abandoned bona fide constitutional interpretation in accord with the discernible intent of the framers. In November, 2010, Iowa voters overwhelmingly rejected three such justices from the state Supreme Court in retention elections. Yet, certain federal jurists with lifetime appointments stand poised, even now, to “discover” a right of so-called same-sex marriage or polygamous marriage in the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Vander Plaats’ extensive endnotes would seem to suggest sophisticated “research,” but what they really do is offer examples of logocide while exposing his sophistry and linguistic chicanery, as will be clearly seen in Part III. But for now, the definition of “faithful constitutionalists”…

“Faithful,” full of faith in the Bible, as written, as literal truth, akin to the views of Jim Fletcher, Director of Prophecy Matters, a somewhat confusing and confused organization that celebrates Israel and gleefully awaits the “end times.” According to their website, Mr. Fletcher “writes for a variety of publications, including the Jerusalem Post, WorldNetDaily, and OneNewsNow.”

Jerusalem Post is an English-language Israeli paper that was left-leaning, then right-leaning, now currently trying to become centrist by offering pieces by all extremes, in addition to “the news.”

WorldNetDaily (aka WingNutDaily) is run by Joseph Farah:

Farah: United States Should "Break Up" Over Marriage Equality

Submitted by Brian Tashman on July 28, 2011

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah says that he would rather see the “break-up of the nation” than allow marriage equality for gays and lesbians anywhere in the United States. While criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry for saying that he believes New York has a right to decide its own marriage laws (although he supports the Federal Marriage Amendment), Farah contends that the country should dissolve itself to stop marriage equality…

OneNewsNow is a propaganda organ of the American Family Association, a rabidly anti-gay organization that features Bryan Fischer’s nonsensical rants. AFA is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay “hate group.”

One of Mr. Fletcher’s recent articles was titled “The World as It Really Is.” His latest book was titledIt's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), with the subtitle “How to stop worrying and learn to love these END TIMES.”

After listing some human miseries he saw while strolling around Austin, Texas, Mr. Fletcher stated:

But even in all this misery, I thought about how it confirms the Bible. If the Bible is true, we would expect to see a diseased and dying world. A physically dying world. Pollution. Corruption. Illness. …

The Bible’s early books contain the history of Earth’s beginnings. Genesis contains the historical account of man’s spiritual and physical fall. In those brief verses, we can know enough to figure out our world. …

If the Bible is literally true, then human misery is “God’s will.” That’s a strange sort of “loving God” who takes pleasure in torturing His creations. But it’s the opening of the second paragraph that speaks to the essence of fundamentalism’s glorification of irrationality and mind-numbing simplicity. Genesis contains “the history of Earth’s beginnings.” That would mean the earth is a flat disk supported by pillars and covered by a dome to keep out all those celestial waters. According to Mr. Fletcher, that’s all we need to know “to figure out our world.” And there in lies the definition of “faithful constitutionalist.”

Faith is foremost. Common sense and reason are not necessary or even welcome. The Bible is a “closed” text, written in stone one might say, after having been cobbled together from sundry Bronze Age “sacred texts,” “gospels” written at least seventy years after the “facts” they report, and the writings of one man, Paul, whose words constitute about a third of The Bible.

No interpretation or understanding of the texts in relation to the historical-cultural realities that produced them, and no exploration of how those BCE and early CE realities might not be compatible with realities in the 21st century is allowed. Doing so is damnable. The same perspective is held by “faithful constitutionalists,” such as originalistAntonio Scalia, whose basic view is that if “a right” is not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, it doesn’t exist. From that perspective, the Constitution and the Bible are not a living document, but deads one trapped in their own time period

Mr. Vander Plaats also used the phrase “discernible intent of the framers.” The “discernible intent of the framers” was that women should not be able to vote and that African slaves were property. Is that what Mr. Vander Plaats advocates:

Part III considers the “intent of the framer” of The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family.

The ferocity with which some oppose equal civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans can be perplexing. They certainly don’t have the best interests of their fellow citizens in mind, and it’s a real stretch to suppose that they truly believe they’re “doing God’s work” by working to hurt people they don’t even know. It seems are more like that they’re power-hungry megalomaniacs who will use any means to accomplish their personal goals. 

The endnote – number eleven – for the third of fourteen vows in Bob Vander Plaats’ “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” reads: 

It is no secret that a handful of state and federal judges, some of whom have personally rejected heterosexuality and faithful monogamy, have also abandoned bona fide constitutional interpretation in accord with the discernible intent of the framers. In November, 2010, Iowa voters overwhelmingly rejected three such justices from the state Supreme Court in retention elections. Yet, certain federal jurists with lifetime appointments stand poised, even now, to “discover” a right of so-called same-sex marriage or polygamous marriage in the U.S. Constitution.

State and federal judges, some of whom have personally rejected heterosexuality and faithful monogamy.” That assertion demonstrates how skilled Mr. Vander Plaats is in redefining and twisting words and concealing straw man arguments. Earlier in the document, he listed his “reasons” as to why “the Institution of Marriage in America is in great crisis.” The final bulleted item reads: 

Social protections, especially for women and children, have been evaporating as we have collectively “debased the currency” of marriage. This debasement continues as a function of adultery; “quickie divorce;” physical and verbal spousal abuse; non-committal co-habitation; exemplary infidelity and “unwed cheating” among celebrities, sports figures and politicians; anti-scientific bias which holds, in complete absence of empirical proof, that non-heterosexual inclinations are genetically determined, irresistible and akin to innate traits like race, gender and eye color; as well as anti-scientific bias which holds, against all empirical evidence, that homosexual behavior in particular, and sexual promiscuity in general, optimizes individual or public health. [italics added] 

The preamble in the endnote for this items reads: “No peer-reviewed empirical science or rational demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor even has shown an overwhelming probability, that homosexual preference or behavior is irresistible as a function of genetic determinism or other forms of fatalism. Furthermore, no peer-reviewed empirical science or rational, scholarly demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor even has shown an overwhelming probability.” It then goes on to list six numbered “points.” Quantity is definitely not quality. Logocide and chicanery are everywhere. 

Notice the words “definitively proven.” Those are very, very big words in science, words not often spoken. Science is based on expanding, evolving knowledge, not static dogma that uses itself as the only source of authority, of knowing. There have been, however, a large number of peer-reviewed, empirical scientific and medical studies that strongly suggest homosexuality is not a choice. For example, “The Psychobiology of Human Sexual Orientation,” a study authored by Drs. Qazi Rahman and Glenn D. Wilson of the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, was published in the highly respected peer-reviewed scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences (34:8, June 2003, 1337-1382). The abstract reads as follows:

Sexual orientation is fundamental to evolution and shifts from the species-typical pattern of heterosexuality may represent biological variations. The growth of scientific knowledge concerning the biology of sexual orientation during the past decade has been considerable. Sexual orientation is characterised by a bipolar distribution and is related to fraternal birth order in males. In females, its distribution is more variable; females being less prone towards exclusive homosexuality. In both sexes homosexuality is strongly associated with childhood gender nonconformity. Genetic evidence suggests a heritable component and putative gene loci on the X chromosome. Homosexuality may have evolved to promote same sex affiliation through a conserved neurodevelopmental mechanism. Recent findings suggest this mechanism involves atypical neurohormonal differentiation of the brain. Key areas for future research include the neurobiological basis of preferred sexual targets and correlates of female homosexuality.

And then there’s this May 31, 2011 article in the neurology, neuroscience section of Medical News Today, a publication of Medical Education Resources:

Homo Or Hetero? The Neurobiological Dimension Of Sexual Orientation

 

"Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, it is primarily neurobiological at birth", Dr. Jerome Goldstein, Director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Center (USA) stressed today at the 21st Meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Lisbon. "There are undeniable links. We want to make them visible to the eye". At the congress he showed how the brains of people of different sexual orientations - gay, straight, bisexual - work in different ways, applying volumetric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), functional fMRI scanning, and PET scanning.

 

There have been several reports of twin studies indicating the probable genetic link of sexual orientation. Dr. Goldstein has begun accumulating a database of identical twins, whose sexual orientation will be further evaluated by MRI, fMRI scanning, and PET scanning. …

 

"Some of the most striking results were delivered recently by Dr. Ivanka Savic-Berglund and Dr. Per Lindström of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden", Dr. Goldstein reported. The Swedish experts performed volumetric studies, fMRI and PET measurements of cerebral blood flow. Using volumetric studies, they found significant cerebral and amygdala size differences between homosexual and heterosexual subjects. Thus the brains of homosexual men resemble those of heterosexual women and those of homosexual women resemble to heterosexual men. …

 At the end of his extensive endnote, Mr. Vander Plaats cites Robert S. Hogg et al, “Modeling the Impact of HIV Disease on Mortality in Gay and Bisexual Men,” International Journal of Epidemiology, 1997, Vol. 26, no. 3. What he doesn’t cite, of course, is the authors’ subsequent Letter to the Editor of International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 30, Issue 6 (2001), p. 1499:

“Gay life expectancy revisited”

 

Robert S Hogg, Steffanie A Strathdee, Kevin JP Craib,Michael V O'shaughnessy, Julio Montaner and Martin T Schechter

 

Over the past few months we have learnt of a number of reports regarding a paper we published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on the gay and bisexual life expectancy in Vancouver in the late 1980s and early 1990s.1 From these reports it appears that our research is being used by select groups in US2 and Finland3 to suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others. These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being. … [italics added]

-----

References

 

1.            Hogg RS, Strathdee SA, Craib KJP, O'Shaughnessy MV, Montaner JSG, Schechter MT. Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay men. International Journal of Epidemiology 1997;26(3):657–61.Abstract/FREE Full Text

2.            Based on information obtained from the following three websites: http://www.frc.org/ie/important/important0400b.html, http://www.geocities.com/liberalwatch/showtime.htm, and http://www.tcyes.org/page2.html

3.            Based on correspondence with Olli Stålström regarding use of our paper by some Finnish citizens to oppose a proposed to legalize civil unions between members of the same gender (website: http://www.finnqueer.net/juttu.cgi?s=80_10_1).

Mr. Vander Plaats’ TFL is “associated” with the Family Research Council (FRC.org) which is notorious for twisting others’ research and using bogus “research,” such as that by discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, who has been advocating eliminating gays for decades:

Speaking at the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, [Paul] Cameron announced to the attendees, “Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.” According to an interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was recommending the extermination option as early as 1983.

-- Mark E. Pietzyk, The News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995 

More about Cameron’s “final solution” is available here and here. 

A skilled charlatan to be sure, but Mr. VanderPlaats’ misleading endnote does help clarify his earlier assertion that there is “a handful of state and federal judges, some of whom have personally rejected heterosexuality and faithful monogamy” [italics added]. He believes, as do other dogmatic, ill-informed religious fanatics, that sexual preference is purely a choice, so in his jaundiced view, gays “personally reject” heterosexuality. But what of his claim that these judges have also personally rejected “faithful monogamy”? 

Is Mr. Vander Plaats referring to now retired federal judge Vaughn R. Walker and his Prop 8 decision? Judge Walker has a 10-year relationship with his partner. Hardly a “rejection of faithful monogamy.” Or is he just stereotyping, bloviating, and fear-mongering? 

Mr. Vanders Plaats crowed that “In November, 2010, Iowa voters overwhelmingly rejected three such justices from the state Supreme Court in retention elections.” The decision of the Iowa Supreme Court was unanimous. This was not some conspiracy. It was an upholding of a goal of the state’s constitution by those charged with protecting and guaranteeing the equality of all citizens in civil matters. The fact that Iowa voters removed those Supreme Court justices up for reelection based on their vote for civil equality is not something to celebrate. It’s something to be ashamed of. 

Mr. Vander Plaats claimed “certain federal jurists with lifetime appointments stand poised, even now, to ‘discover’ a right of so-called same-sex marriage or polygamous marriage in the U.S. Constitution.” Wrong again. What courts are repeatedly “finding” is the guarantee of civil equality, of equal access to all civil institutions by every citizens. But civil equality is exactly what dogmatists such as Vander Plaats dread. 

The fourth vow: “the Institution of Marriage - faithful monogamy between one man and one woman.” One has to wonder about what “Institution of Marriage” Bob Vander Plaats writes. “One man and one woman” was not exactly the norm in those good ole biblical days when “marriage” was “bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous” and, above all, arranged. No “love” required. Watch this video of the first couple married in New York. They are what “marriage” is really all about, not some theopolitically concocted dogma, but a loving, lifelong commitment. Predictably, the endnote for the fourth vow cites “Justice Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas…” Justice Scalia anti-gay rhetoric and behavior are a matter of record. 

The final vow reads: “Fierce defense of the First Amendments rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.” 

To be sure, all the protections of the First Amendment are paramount. But same-sex marriage in no way threatens “religious liberty.” People are still free to believe and practice whatever religion they want. After all, what religion one professes is purely a matter of choice, and that choice is protected by the First Amendment. In relation to marriage, churches, mosques, and synagogues can still refuse to marry any couple transgressing the religion’s beliefs and dogma. 

As for freedom of speech, it’s essential. The concept cannot be abridged, but it is limited, everyday... and for good reasons. The classic example is yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. “Inciting to riot” is another “limitation,” as are speech (or writing) deemed libelous or defamatory. Beyond the laws, it’s the responsible thing to do for conscientious citizens in all walks of life to “limit” their freedom of speech so as not to cause or precipitate harm to others. Dan Savage and Jim McGreevey Discuss the Damage Done by Anti-Gay Political Rhetoric with Joy Behar,” “Michele Bachmann, GOP presidential candidate, plagued by 'teen suicide epidemic' report,” “Media Roundup: The Tragedy of LGBT Teenage Suicide,” “Harms of Anti-Gay Rhetoric Lost as Media Fixates on Bishop Eddie Long Scandal,” Oklahoma Teen Commits Suicide After anti-gay rhetoric City Council Meeting.” 

Finally, the “family values” ruse has pretty much been exposed and widely recognized as a theo-cloak for bigotry and discrimination it was and, thanks to “men of God” such ordained Pentecostalminister and New York State Senator Rubén Díaz, Sr., it still is:

Anti-Gay NY State Senator: It’s ’War’ on Gay Families

by Kilian Melloy, Saturday Jul 30, 2011

 

New York State Sen. Rubén Díaz, Sr., has declared a "war" against gay and lesbian families in the wake of the state’s first legal same-sex weddings, reported The New Civil Rights Movement on July 25.

The article said that Díaz "threatened judges who performed same-sex marriages on Sunday in New York, [and] also literally declared war on same-sex married couples in his state, and threatened to have their marriages annulled. Hundreds of same-sex marriages were performed in New York State Sunday, the first day the new marriage equality law went into effect."

"We’re going to show them next week that everything they did today was illegal," Díaz declared on July 24, the day marriage equality took effect in New York. "Today we start the battle! Today we start the war!"

A war against families spearheaded by a “Christian” minister-politician. What’s wrong with this picture?

 
 

Tue

16

Aug

2011

Economic End Times - Lendman

by Stephen Lendman

Despite a deepening global depression, establishment economists are in denial. On June 9, the Wall Street Journal said those surveyed expected slow, steady growth through 2011, despite high US unemployment, a housing depression, European sovereign debt in crisis, and the unreported insolvency of major French and other banks.

On June 8, testifying before the House Budget Committee, Fed chairman Bernanke fantasized about 3.5% US growth through 2011, stopping just short of ruling out the possibility of recession he called "unlikely."

And in 2007, when equity and housing bubbles peaked, neither he or Greenspan expressed alarm, destroying their credibility in the process.

Based on an early August survey, establishment (in bed with Wall Street) economists now put the chance of "another" downturn at 30%, compared to 15% in May, expecting 2.5% growth over the next year. 

Some, in fact were sanguine, calling America's economy strong, attributing negative views to a crisis of confidence, not hard reality, signaled by the August 4 shot across the bow market rout.

Despite a predictable rebound, it signified much worse to come because conditions are dire getting worse. Even manipulated data show enough to sound alarms, highlighted by economists like David Rosenberg.

On August 15, he expressed surprise about so "little reaction to the shocking US consumer sentiment data that were released on Friday - the worst since the tail end of the Jimmy Carter recession era in 1980."

Moreover, consumer spending is weak even with suspect upward revisions. In addition, "(n)ew mortgage and refinancing loan volumes fell 19% in Q2 to" a three-year low. Further, auto buying plans declined to a decade low, likely headed much lower as economic conditions deteriorate. Other big ticket buying plans also dropped to 2008-09 depths when the economy falling off a cliff seemed possible.

In fact, growth indicators overall are rapidly heading south at a time they're already woefully weak. There's no end to decline in sight. Remarkably, negative household assessments of government policy hit record lows, surpassing the depths of the early 1980s recession and Watergate.
 

Sat

16

Jul

2011

Interview Interview with Abolghasem Bayyenat on Iran-West relations, the politics of Israel's nuclear program and Iran's foreign policy
by Kourosh Ziabari
 
Abolghasem Bayyenat is an independent political analyst writing mainly on Iran’s foreign policy developments. Over the past decade, his political commentaries and articles have appeared in numerous popular media and online journals, including Foreign Policy Journal, Foreign Policy In Focus, Monthly Review, Eurasia Review, AntiWar.com, Tehran Times, Middle East Online, San Francisco Chronicle, Online Opinion, American Chronicle, and a number of other national newspapers and online journals across the world. He has also published a number of book chapters and articles in academic journals. Besides academic studies in political science and international relations, he has also practical experience in international diplomacy. In the past, he has worked for several years as international trade expert and researcher in Iran, as part of which he was involved in various bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations between Iran and its trade partners around the world. He is currently completing his Ph. D studies in political science at Maxwell School of Syracuse University. His latest articles can also be read on his own blog at www.irandiplomacywatch.com.

What follows is the complete text of my in-depth interview with Mr. Bayyenat in which we discussed the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, the prospect of Iran-West relations and the politics of Israel's nuclear activities.

Kourosh Ziabari: The past decade has been witness to unending and unremitting clash between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program. The West has constantly accused Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs while Tehran has persistently denied the allegation. What do you think about the nature of Iran's nuclear program? Why has it become so controversial and contentious? We already know that there are four nations in the world, who are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but nobody in the international community pressures them to halt their nuclear program and nobody investigates their nuclear arsenals. Why Iran is being singled out?

Abolghasem Bayyenat: Iran's nuclear program is driven by two major factors. The most important factor is genuine domestic need for electric power generation. Iran's fossil fuel reserves have been fast depleting over the past few decades in light of the growing domestic consumption caused by population growth, ongoing industrialization and economic development in Iran. The prospect of full depletion of fossil fuel reserves motivated Iranian leaders to seek alternative sources of energy. Nuclear power presented itself as the most reliable alternative source of energy for Iran, given its sustainability and tested performance in developed countries.

The second important factor is that developing nuclear power and harnessing nuclear energy represents an advanced scientific realm and progress in that front serves as a source of national pride for Iran. A limited number of nations in the world have been able to master the full nuclear fuel cycle. Development of an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capacity along with progress in other advanced scientific realms such as space program and stem cell research can thus positively influence Iran's national self-image and elevate its international prestige.

The reasons why Iran's nuclear program has become controversial are twofold. First, Iran's decision to materialize its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop peaceful applications of nuclear technology and nuclear fuel cycle in particular; what can make this controversial in the eyes of Western powers is the dual use of nuclear technology. Possessing full nuclear fuel cycle technology enables states to produce the material needed for ultimate use in nuclear weapons. Building nuclear bombs of course requires much more than just possessing sufficient stock of highly-enriched uranium or plutonium, but mastering this technology enables such states to make the essential ingredients for a bomb and thus become closer to building nuclear warheads.
 

Sat

16

Jul

2011

Aftermath of Israeli Anti-Free Speech Law Passage

by Stephen Lendman

Buoyed by passage of their anti-boycott bill, Knesset Yisrael Beitenu and Likud party extremists taste blood and want more. Most worrisome is a proposed measure to investigate leftist group activities, heading for a final vote next week.

YNet News writer Moran Azulay quoted Meretz party chairwoman, Sahava Gal-On, calling it "a political inquisition," adding:

"The Boycott Law has whetted the appetite of the settler Coalition. This is an attempt at perpetuating the persecution of left-wing and civil organizations. What will be the next step? Sham trials? Throwing people into gulags?"

Weighing in, Labor party MK Eitan Cabel said:

"The prime minister has lost control over his partners, who are running wild in the Knesset and taking advantage of the (tyranny) of the majority in order to trample the minority. We are in the midst of legislative anarchy."

United Arab List-Ta'al party MK Ahmad Tibi wondered which ruling coalition partner was most racist, Yisrael Beiteinu or Likud, saying:

"In the beginning they were against Arabs. Now they're against leftists, and maybe tomorrow they will go up against the feinschmeckers of the Likud" or anyone challenging them.

According to Kadima party MK Ruhama Avraham:

"This government does not pursue peace or social justice, but rather its own citizens."

Another measure proposes giving Knesset members veto power over High Court nominations. Likud's Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar called it "dangerous, problematic, and creates a clear hazard of politicizing" justice nominations.
 

Fri

15

Jul

2011

Media Warfare and Everyday Life
by Bruce Campbell Ph.D.

In the U.S., Rupert Murdoch's global News Corporation owns The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the New York Post, MySpace.com, Barron's, TVGuide, HarperCollins Publishers, and 20th Century Fox, to name just a few of its extensive holdings.  Amid revelations that News Corporation media entities hacked into the phone and medical accounts of British elected officials and private citizens, a former New York City cop alleges that he was approached by News Corporation employees who sought illegal access to the phone accounts of Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks.

This is an ugly glimpse of the truth behind the liberal vs. conservative "culture wars" happily promoted by Murdoch's media enterprises and other corporate media concerns.  The true culture war is not about religion or family values; it is about communication itself.

Like it or not, you and I are combatants in a society-wide conflict over the means and ends of communication. Murdoch's News Corporation is the paradigm case.  We must recognize this conflict and deliberately and collaboratively defend ourselves. I will call this conflict media warfare. Let me explain.

Media are not corporations but those conduits of communication and cultural diffusion that are the modern internal wiring of the cultural landscape through which we move in our everyday lives.   This cultural circuitry is not the problem, at least not by itself.  Media by themselves - each medium a distinct channel of our collective messaging - could (and should) serve to ease and extend and give specific form to our efforts to interact meaningfully with each other.

The conflict arises when speech and creativity are overrun by interests alien to our non-commercial and non-ideological interpersonal needs, to our concrete family and community interests.  The problem, in other words, occurs when corporate interests use the media to sideline, or to subordinate and control, the emotional and social and democratic needs and purposes that require that we communicate with each other and create meaning together in the first place.

Without these basic human needs, we would have nothing to say to each other.  If not for profit- and power-seeking interests commandeering the channels of communication, we wouldn't so frequently feel powerless and under siege.

Media warfare, in short, results from the occupation of our communication circuits by powers indifferent or even hostile to the traditions and relationships that sustain human life in healthy community.  The media of communication are both the battlefield and the spoils of war.  This is media warfare.  And we are losing.

On one side, forces that would marginalize or bend our communication to the service of their strategies for concentrating profit and power; on the other side, people who engage the means of communication in order to understand, to reciprocate, to support, to learn, to discuss, and to participate in an open-ended conversation about common interests.

Which side are you on?

You were likely already aware of the incoming cultural ordnance: The News hits us daily. That capital "N" marks information as worthy of your attention, but is also a sign common to all news that is packaged and distributed as a corporate product, whether as CBS News, FOX News, or CNN News.

With the occasional exception of carefully selected "human interest stories," the News is an angst-ridden shock-and-awe affair.  Crime, natural disasters, and people suffering and behaving badly are placed at the center of our attention.  Scandals, tragedies and controversies explode all around, preferably involving sex and/or celebrity.  These stories frequently generate their own sequels and prequels, cluster bombs of ancillary emotional distress strewn about the media market.  One can only imagine how News Corporation agents might have sought to amplify and extend the tragedy and horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by publishing the private communication of victims.

The political News centers frequently on those most divisive issues that allow for easy distinction between the two major political parties.  Witness the "culture wars" central to News Corporation's business and political interests. Into this simplistic polarity all of our hopes and dreams for collective life are herded. We are barraged by the opinions of professional ideologues who publicly digest the News-with-a-capital-N on your and my behalf.

The point is not that the News is untrue (although, as it turns out, sometimes it is untrue).  The point is that the News is based on a business model that recognizes fear and anger and titillation (and simplistic either/or politics in a two-party political system) as building blocks for market share, and hence for profit and ideological dominance.  Most of us, meanwhile, just want to inform ourselves, to learn about and understand what is happening in our society and beyond.

Amid the clamor of the News, one can easily fail to notice the rarity of news of such things as the policy arguments of social movements and third parties, the existence of citizens forums, emerging neighborhood development issues, city council meetings, union meetings, neighborhood association meetings, civic initiatives and perspectives of young people, scientific studies and their policy implications (of soil and water quality, of early childhood development, etc.), historical perspectives on issues of the day, or a broad range of civic activity organized in and by the communities of the viewing public.

In short, what tends to be excluded from the corporate News is what could be called actionable news, reporting that facilitates participation by everyday people in existing democratic processes, involvement in local or regional social action, and/or informed engagement in meaningful public conversation about the common good and how this is reflected (or not) in public policy. Instead, the News promotes consumer action, with reporting about the opening of a new shopping mall, the debut of a blockbuster movie, or the like.

We are nearly exclusively on the receiving end in these episodes of communication, which are vertical and unilateral, and are now relayed far beyond the once primitive reach of television and newspapers, through the inter-locking networks of websites, blogs, cable news programming, and social media.  Despite our horizontal and multi-lateral ability to "post" and "tweet" to our own social networks, the flow of communication is heavily unidirectional, and we are shaped by the impact.  Vertical and unilateral decisions lurk behind the apparently friendly and interpersonal surfaces of Facebook communications.  Hey you - hails the machine - a dozen of your friends "like" white teeth.  Are your teeth white enough?

"But in what sense is this warfare?," a reasonable person might ask.

In the sense that our way of life is under attack.  I do not mean the "American way of life," as reported on the News.  I mean the way of life of people who engage the means of communication in order to understand, to reciprocate, to support, to learn, to discuss, and to participate in an open-ended conversation about common interests and diverse perspectives.

We are preoccupied, outraged, fearful, titillated, and suspicious in measures grotesquely disproportionate to what we are able (or allowed) to do about what concerns us.  We like to think of ourselves as reasonable people, but are stirred up and instigated, our limbic systems activated and fed on fear, despondency, libidinous excitement and anger.  Any concept of human nature we might hold that is not driven by the implicit theology of the News - i.e., death, destruction, selfishness and mayhem at the dark core of humanity - is ritually slain by nightfall each day.

So what to do?  For starters, we need to recognize that the empowerment afforded by social media sites is limited, and maybe even compensatory, a taste of something that is otherwise not allowed.  Instead of trying to "like" our way to defense of our communication needs, we must engage directly and actively with a growing conversation about policy mechanisms for limiting vertical, corporate control of our cultural environment, and for expanding and diversifying local community participation and ownership. Most importantly, we must think.  One of the purposes of communication is to think together, to deliberate, to participate in dialogue, to imagine possibilities for our collective life.  This is what the News asks us to forget.

Bruce Campbell teaches Cultural Criticism, among other things, at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.  His most recent book is ¡Viva la historieta!: Mexican Comics, NAFTA, and the Politics of Globalization.  
 

Sun

05

Jun

2011

Empire or Republic: from Joplin, Missouri to Kabul, Afghanistan
by James Petras Ph.D.

Introduction

On May 29, 2011, President Obama visited Joplin, Missouri, the site of a devastating tornado that killed 140 and pronounced it a terrible “tragedy”. But were the deaths the inevitable result of ‘natural events’ beyond the human intervention?

Coincidentally the same week Afghan President Karzai condemned the killing of a family of 14 by a NATO fighter bomber, running the total to several hundred civilians killed so far this year and thousands over the decade.

The relation between the civilian deaths in Joplin and Afghanistan raises fundamental questions about the priorities, character and direction of the US Empire and the future of the American republic.

Geography of Tornados

Every year at least 20 major violent tornadoes – with winds exceeding 200 mph – hit “tornado alley” and beyond, including central Texas, northern Iowa, central Kansas, Nebraska, western Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Each and every year at least sixty are killed and several hundred are maimed and injured. This year, through May 2011, over 519 have been killed, 25% of whom were in mobile homes, almost three times as many as those in standard houses.

In other words, these tornado-related deaths are predictable, annual, and region-specific and have a higher incidence among low income households. Government agencies and academics have compiled data banks and time series information mapping the route, frequency and impact of tornadoes.

Information about the nature of killer tornadoes is plentiful. Nevertheless deaths mount from year to year. Fear and insecurity stalks the region’s most susceptible to the violent whirlwinds, even as the Congress and White House have increased personnel and funding for ‘Homeland Security’ twenty fold over the decade .The current budget is over $180 billion. If we add the deaths caused by other ‘natural’ disasters like the flooding of New Orleans, the numbers of deaths are staggering. What explains this perverse relation between huge public funding for ‘homeland security’ and the increased insecurity of vulnerable Americans in clearly identified danger zones?

The reason is clear: ‘Homeland Security’ (HS) is an Orwellian misnomer. The agency is not concerned with domestic, civilian, American security. HS is part of a military-police response to imagined overseas threats, which have not materialized or at least have not produced deaths comparable to tornadoes and floods in the last 11 years.

HS spends billions and employs thousands to investigate, spy and harass citizens engaged in legal-constitutional activities. HS and the Pentagon spend tens of billions on overseas infrastructures – buildings, bases, camps -and over 900 billion in arms. HS and the Defense Department forcefully intervene militarily throughout the world via overt and clandestine operations.

To be precise HS intervenes offensively overseas, attacking civilian targets, while it fails to engage domestically to protect American civilians who are left defenseless in the face of predictable natural disasters.

HS and the Pentagon’s sustained violent overseas operations are rejected and regarded as a hostile imperial intervention by the civilians in those countries adversely affected. In contrast, defenseless citizens in the US would welcome large-scale intervention in the form of community shelters, which would provide survival, security, life-saving protection and financial aid for rebuilding their lives. Moreover, Pentagon and HS spending on overseas infrastructure, bases and bombs results in deficits, whereas investments in tornado and flood shelters would stimulate jobs, growth and investment in the US.

The current activity of HS destroys lives abroad and neglects survival at home: It has nothing to do with our “homeland” and even less with our “security”. Five percent of HS budget would have prevented many of Joplin’s ‘tragedy’ (and saved us from Obama’s gaseous oratory!) and the other 400 deaths from this year’s crop of tornadoes.
 

Fri

03

Jun

2011

Public Education: How To Improve It and Cut The Cost
by Peter Stern
 
The Fight Against a Mediocre Public Education is NOT working. We all know it.

For the majority of children and parents, who rely on it, public education continues to fail the needs and the learning outcomes of the children attempting to get a quality education. Believe me, I know first-hand. I graduated public education, barely. My high school had 6,000 kids enrolled.

I forced myself to continue my education and received my first Masters Degree from New York University, one of the top colleges in the nation. I have 2 more post graduate degrees. I became a public school teacher and then a Principal. I was a Program Director for the Board of Education in a major U.S. city.  I also became a University Professor.  One sad day I finally left teaching because of politics and burnout trying to create positive change in a system that fights you every step of the way in providing a quality education for our children. Instead, I became a Director of Information Services and made a lot of money.

Public education needs help. There have been many leaders who have tried to "fix" it, but all have failed for one reason or another. I have a simpler solution for success. It will save a ton of tax dollars and will achieve better learning outcomes. It will provide the public education the majority of our children need in order to succeed in life. It will work for all of them.

• Teach children the basic needs in learning and life: reading, writing, math along with some basic science and core history. Do it so learning is fun.

• Reduce class sizes in half.

• Then give them one elective period where they can pursue whatever topic they, their parents and/or educators want.

• Teach them better communication and life training skills that actually are important in daily life, e.g., like maintaining a checking account, writing a business letter, interview skills and job resume writing.

• There is no need to teach religious thought, political philosophy or any of that other tripe that has little to do with REAL learning in public education.

• Teach kids to learn for learning's sake, how to research any topic and to enjoy the learning process.

• Increase teacher salaries and benefits.
 

Fri

03

Jun

2011

Warning: This Message Contains Democracy
by Susan Lindauer
 

No great civilization is ever destroyed from without, or conquered by external forces, until it first destroys itself from within. America's leaders should have thought long and hard about that before voting to extend the Patriot Act last week.

Unhappily it's official. We the People are the enemy. We have dared to prod and examine government policy too closely. We have questioned government leadership when we should rightly have obeyed without challenge. Some of us have exposed wrongful government practices and deceptions, expecting to hold Congress and White House leaders accountable to voters. Foolish us!

Last week Congress set the record straight. Breaking campaign promises to defeat the Patriot Act, Congress blocked hearings and debate on amendments that would fix problems in surveillance rules, and rammed a four year extension on the American People. Only 31 Republicans and 122 Democrats voted against the Patriot Act in the House.


IMPORTING GESTAPO LAW

It's no exaggeration, unfortunately, that the Patriot Act is more dangerous to our way of life than any foreign enemy.

Most ominously, entire sections of the Patriot Act are verbatim and identical to two of the most frightening laws in World History:

• The 1929 Bolshevik Communist Criminal Act established Communist control in the age of Joseph Stalin. It created a security apparatchik unparalleled in its intrusion into the lives of ordinary, non-political families. For enforcement, it created the Gulags, which quickly filled with intellectuals and dissidents, poets and hard luck Russian people who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was enough for a neighbor to point a finger secretly for that individual to disappear to the Siberian work camps for life. Secret charges, secret evidence, secret accusations figured prominently--- identical to the Patriot Act.

• It's a toss up if that's worse than its commonality with Germany's Enabling Act in 1933. Such comforting words, "the Enabling Act" established the legal framework for Nazi Fascism. The Enabling Law lay the parameters for the Third Reich of Adolph Hitler.

According to history buff, Alan Batterman, the German word for “Gestapo” is an acronym of GEheim STAdt POlezi.
 

Fri

03

Jun

2011

God Bless America. And its Bombs.
by William Blum

When they bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador and Nicaragua I said nothing because I wasn't a communist.

When they bombed China, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, and the Congo I said nothing because I didn't know about it.

When they bombed Lebanon and Grenada I said nothing because I didn't understand it.

When they bombed Panama I said nothing because I wasn't a drug dealer.

When they bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen I said nothing because I wasn't a terrorist.

When they bombed Yugoslavia and Libya for "humanitarian" reasons I said nothing because it sounded so honorable.

Then they bombed my house and there was no one left to speak out for me. But it didn't really matter. I was dead. 1

The Targets

It's become a commonplace to accuse the United States of choosing as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But it must be remembered that one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns of modern times — 78 consecutive days — was carried out against the people of the former Yugoslavia: white, European, Christians. The United States is an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become a target are: (A) It poses an obstacle — could be anything — to the desires of the American Empire; (B) It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.

The survivors

"We never see the smoke and the fire, we never smell the blood, we never see the terror in the eyes of the children, whose nightmares will now feature screaming missiles from unseen terrorists, known only as Americans." 2

NASA has announced an audacious new mission, launching a spaceship that will travel for four years to land on an asteroid, where it will collect dust from the surface and deliver the precious cargo to Earth, where scientists will then examine the material for clues to how life began. Truly the stuff of science fiction. However, I personally would regard it as a much greater accomplishment of humankind if we could put an end to America's bombings and all its wars, and teach some humility to The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, the European Union and NATO — who recognizes no higher power and believe they literally can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like "humanitarian."

The fall of the American Empire would offer a new beginning for the long-suffering American people and the long-suffering world.
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

Monsoon - The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power- Book Review by Jim Miles

by Jim Miles

 When I first read Robert Kaplan, it was shortly after 9/11 when a whole library of books became available about U.S. foreign policy and how it should deal with the terrorist threat presented to the U.S. and democracy. At that time, in his work “Warrior Politics” he reasonably recognizes that his perspective is but one of many and none can be truly objective. He recognized the reality of the “American imperium” in terms that imperialism is the “most ordinary and dependable form of protection for ethnic minorities and others under violent assault,” and “an imperial reality already dominates our foreign policy.” Towards the end of the work he quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization,” and follows with his own summation that “the restraining power of our own democracy makes it hard for us to demand and orchestrate authentic transitions everywhere. Only through stealth and anxious foresight can America create a secure international system.”

We have had in the intervening years since that publication a significant decrease in democracy within the U.S. (constitutional issues, international law, and human rights issues such as torture). Indeed if democracy is inimical to mobilization, then democracy needs to be avoided, and its “restraining” power has been greatly diminished (when were the people, the demos, last asked if they wanted the U.S. to go to war?) As for demanding and orchestrating authentic transitions, that has been exposed through global media as being very real, although always with unexpected outcomes - and notice that the “transitions” are not necessarily labelled as democratic, simply transitions. The record over the last decade would also show that stealth has not created a secure international system (secure for whom - the global elites, the corporate bosses?) While stealth has been tried, so has massed military attack - all with expected ‘unexpecteds’ (sort of like Rumsfield’s “known unknowns”).

Monsoon - The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. Robert D. Kaplan. Random House, New York, 2010

In short, yes there is an empire, a U.S. empire, it is not democratic, it wants transitions to its own favour, and will try to make it happen either covertly or overtly. Neither is working well, unless one considers that the global elite are becoming richer at the expense of the many. He noted that his personal first hand experience witnessing events in the world was his education and drew him to the classics of philosophy and politics “in the hope of finding explanations for the terrors before my eyes.”

With that as my background to Kaplan’s writing, I thought that reading “Monsoon” would be a rather antagonistic affair, even while trying to keep in mind that this is obviously written from the U.S. perspective however ingrained or not that might be. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised, not that I was in full agreement with his perspective, but his writing was both informative and entertaining within the recognition of his North American view of the world (with apologies to Mexico). Using a combination of historical background, anecdotal experiences, current interviews, supported by a wide range of travels, “Monsoon” becomes a worthwhile reading experience. It is a similarly engaging style as with Thomas Friedman and Robert Fisk, without the depth of perspective that Fisk delivers, and fortunately without the sometimes rather bizarre conclusions and statements that Friedman manages to come up with.

The theme of the book - no, not global warming - is about U.S. foreign policy and how it has and will relate to the littoral states of the Indian ocean, necessitating the inclusion of China within that discussion as a non-littoral but very involved state. Travelling generally from west to east in the narrative, Kaplan presents historical background, current situations, and personal perspectives with lively and vivid descriptions along with information from interviewing a variety of people along the way. Returning to his statement from above, that he hopes to find “explanations for the terrors before my eyes,” he comes close, very close, but is just moments short of grasping what he is really seeing or saying.

There are areas of context and interpretation that do limit the text. Two of his main sub-themes are Islamic terrorism and democracy, and for both he makes statements that are almost ‘aha’ moments, but then are left hanging without actually making it into deeper connections. Further from apparent awareness, although perhaps lingering constantly in the background, is the very empire which he identified earlier as not being given its due background for the region. Other empires - Portugal, Dutch, British, French, Japanese - are all included for the influence they have had on the region, but little is discussed of U.S. actions, covert and overt, in the region, past or present. In the manner in which his information is presented, it makes little difference to the agreeable nature of the narrative, but it needs to be kept in mind while reading that there is much of the overall general context of the U.S. imperium that is not discussed. Diego Garcia is one of the singular misses, the island nation given to the U.S. military by Britain while the indigenous Chagossians were evicted from the island and not compensated. Ethnic cleansing? Racism? Empire? Certainly far from “the restraining power of our own democracy.”
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

Interstates And States of Grief
by Phil Rockstroh

I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, at present, among the scent of pine trees and the reek of southern denial. The moribund economy has thwarted the city’s manic drive to silence its resentful ghosts by means of constant motion … Below the lilting southern accents here, one detects rage … Not simply the ubiquitous hate-speak on right-wing talk radio. But an animus bred by truth-deferred … that southern pride is a lie of the mind — a blown banner … foisted skyward to distract the minds of my fellow southerners from the ground level truths of a system rigged to enrich the privileged few and keep the many working for their benefit. (How do you think they filled the ranks of the Confederate Army to kill and die for the rights of rich men to own slaves.)

I arrived in Georgia by route of the US interstate system.

Traveling US interstate highways one suffers a confluence of so much contemporary madness and tragedy extant in the land … so much suppressed fear and aggression. Yet, through it all, the heart still yearns to see what lies over the next horizon.
Although, lamentably, what is revealed, all to often, proves to be as sterile, inhospitable, ugly, and inhuman as what was beheld at the last.

"Who has twisted us around like this, so that no matter what we do, we are in the posture of someone going away?"
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Any situation, as is the case with interstate highway travel, in which to momentarily stop or even to slow down, one risks death should be regarded as an affront (if not anathema) to common sense and the longings of the heart. When the landscape we pass through has been reduced to a meaningless blur, our lives grow indistinct as well


The apologists of the present system tell us ad nauseam, and have convinced most, that a similar disastrous fate will befall the nation if the engines of global capitalism were to slow down even a bit. Interstate travel is emblematic of the manner a system based on ceaseless production and manic consumption degrades the senses and inflicts a dehumanizing assault upon the psyche.

When stopped at an anonymous interstate service island or some off-the-exit-ramp retail strip — those inhospitable nether regions evincing a paradoxical mix of sterility and toxicity — the permeating odor of exhaust fumes and processed food makes us woozy. These places, only distinct for their ugliness, reek of how soul-numbing and joyless travel has become . . . now a task nearly devoid of any sense of the mystery, the option of exploration, or the possibility of serendipity travel once offered.

Travel has been reduced to a tedious ordeal, whereby our inchoate longings to escape the quotidian prison of our economically circumscribed existence are mangled and suppressed, only to rise as the hollow appetite of reflexive consumerism and the ineffable sense of unease, so evident in the troubled American psyche.

Enclosed in our vehicles, we hurdle from one sterile, impersonal location to the next sterile, impersonal location, and then on to the next. As forbiddingly huge trucks, loaded with the cargo of extinction, bear down on us, we grip the steering wheel -- we know to stop is to risk death therefore we continue onward, believing we must drive and consume and drive and consume in order to survive. Yet the knowledge nettles, just below the surface of our harried minds, that to continue down this road will, in turn, cause the world to die.

Even the landscape itself of the US is stretched to the breaking point: Cluttered upon it are gigantic islands of garish light that torment the night …scouring away the stars. As, all the while, SUVs and oversized pickup trucks -- the overgrown clown cars of the demented circus of decaying empire trundle past -- the extravagant size of the vehicles vainly compensating for how diminished and powerless those within feel in relationship to the course of their fates.
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

Naseer Aruri Ph.D.: No politician with an "anti-Zionist mindset" could ever dream of living in the White House

by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

Naseer Aruri is Chancellor Professor (emeritus) of Political Science, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He is president of Trans-Arab Research Institute in Boston. Prof. Aruri is the a contributor to the book "Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War" by the South End Press and the author of the book "Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return" published by the University of British Columbia Press in 2001. Prof. Aruri is on the Advisory Board of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation.

Aruri has also written the book "The Obstruction of Peace: The U.S., Israel and the Palestinians." Amazon.com has described this book "a Palestinian perspective on the peace process in his Middle Eastern region which provides a different view for the reasons behind Palestinian-Israeli impasses."

According to Wikipedia, Aruri contributed to the foundation of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) in 1983. From 1984-1990, Aruri was elected to three consecutive terms on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, USA, and served on the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch/Middle East from 1990 to 1992.

What follows is the complete text of my exclusive interview with Prof. Naseer Aruri in which we discussed a variety of topics including the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of the United States in the solving the crisis in Palestine and the performance of PLO as the defacto representative of the Palestinian nation in the international level.

Kourosh Ziabari: Dear Prof. Aruri; there are various interpretations regarding the truth behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides of the conflict cite claims over the land which is known as the Land of Israel. So, from an impartial and objective point of view, which side is the righteous? Which of them tells the truth?

Naseer Aruri: This is not a conflict between two equal claims. The Palestinian population is the indigenous party living on the land since the days of the Cananites. Their presence as the dominant party was interrupted by the Crusades but it was restored by the Islamic conquest of the 7th century A.D. When the Zionists received the Balfour Declaration from Britain in 1917 the Jewish population constituted less than 7% of the population. It was an unauthorized promise made by an imperial power to a colonial settler movement at the expense of the Majority (the indigenous Palestinians). By World War II the Jewish population had increased to one-third mainly as a result of colonial settlement. This minority was in possession of less than 6% of the land. Today it controls all of historic Palestine through the force of arms, an illegal phenomenon under international law.

KZ: You're said to be an outspoken critic of the Oslo Accords and described it a cover for territorial conquest. Would you please explain for us the reasons you oppose Oslo Peace Process? Given that the Declaration called for the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces from parts of Gaza Strip and West Bank and facilitated the creation of a Palestinian National Authority, what are your reasons for contesting the Oslo Accords?

NA: The Oslo Accords constituted an act of surrender by Yaser Arafat, whose movement was facing economic, diplomatic and leadership crises, and having recognized Israel in 1988, it took the easy way out by concluding an unauthorized deal with Israel in 1993 in which Israel did not cede any bit of sovereignty whatsoever not only in historic Palestine but even in the West Bank, which constitutes 22% of historic Palestine. The phrase "external security" was the corner stone of the document and it served as a euphemism for sovereignty, which remained in the hands of Israel. Oslo has also negated the culture of the Intifada, which was based on voluntary maxims and associational values In brief, Oslo created a facade of equality when Israel was an occupant within the meaning of International law, while the Palestinians were occupied rather than co-equal. Under such a cover, Israel was given license to expand its territorial conquest even farther and this added territory was acquired under presumed "peaceful conditions." Colonial settlements in the occupied territories have more than doubled since 1993 and they continue to constitute the single most intractable obstacle to a diplomatic settlement until this day. Technically, Oslo was an agreement to reach agreement, but better yet, an agreement to obfuscate an equal settlement and an honorable and principled compromise.

KZ: Although the Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel's right to exist, accepted UNSC resolutions 242 and 338 and made several concessions during its interactions with the State of Israel, the United States still considers it a terrorist organization. What's your viewpoint regarding the performance of PLO? Has it succeeded in representing the Palestinian people and defending their demands? Recently leaked documents show that the PLO under Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to Israel's sovereignty over nearly all Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. What's your take on that?

NA: I think that the answer to your question is embedded in the question itself. Moreover, the PLO should have never accepted the stipulation that it is a terrorist organization which must "renounce" and not "denounce" as Arafat had attempted unsuccessfully and reminded about the crucial difference between the two concepts. The assumption that the US was a judge and jury while at the same time a chief armed supplier, bank roller, and diplomatic backer was unfortunately accepted by the PLO leadership since the 1980s  and should not have been a surprise when the so-called Palestine papers were released and leaked out quite recently. Under both Arafat and Abbas, the PLO concessions were bottomless and these concessions had only encouraged Israel to throw more obstacles to peace and to encourage Washington to act as a "Dishonest Broker."
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

‘Matter of Policy’: Gaza War and Goldstone’s Moral Collapse
by Ramzy Baroud

Shocking is not a sufficient term to describe Justice Richard Goldstone’s decision to recant parts of the 2009 report on alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The document, known as the Goldstone Report, was compiled after a thorough investigation led by the South African judge and three other well-regarded investigators. They documented 36 incidents that occurred during the Israeli Operation Cast Lead, an unprecedentedly violent attack against small, impoverished and besieged Gaza. It resulted in the death of over 1,400 Palestinians, and the wounding of over 5,500.

Goldstone is both Jewish and Zionist. His love for Israel has been widely and affectionately conveyed. In this particular case, he seemed completely torn between his ideological and tribal position and his commitment to justice and truth, as enshrined in the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council.

After 18 months of what seemed a wholly personal introspection, accompanied by an endless campaign of pressure and intimidation by Zionist and pro-Israel Jewish groups from all over the world, the man finally surrendered.

 “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” he wrote in the Washington Post on April 1. But what did Goldstone learn anew since he issued his 575-page report in September 2009?

The supposed basis of Goldstone’s rethink is a follow-up report issued by a UN committee chaired by retired New York Judge Mary McGowan Davis. Her report was not a reinvestigation of Israel’s —  and Hamas’ — alleged war crimes in Gaza, but a follow up on the Goldstone Commission’s findings, which urged the referral of the matter to the International Criminal Court. McGowan Davis made this distinction clear in a recent interview with the Israeli Jerusalem Post. According to the post, she said, “Our work was completely separate from (Goldstone’s) work.” She further stated, “Our mandate was to take his report as given and start from there.”

So how did a probe that used Goldstone’s findings as a starting point go on to inspire such a major refutation from one of the authors of the original report?

McGowan Davis’ report merely acknowledged that Israel has carried out an investigation into a possible “operational misconduct” in what is largely known outside Israel as the Gaza massacre. The UN follow-up report recognized the alleged 400 investigations, but didn’t bear out their validity. These secret inquiries actually led to little in terms of disciplinary action.

More, the UN team of experts claimed there was “no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.”
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

Now Israel Is Free to Declare Its Innocence before the International Court of Justice
by William A. Cook Ph.D.

Thank God Judge Goldstone recanted his judgment on Israel and its IDF forces in the slaughter inflicted on Gaza during its Christmas invasion in 2008-2009; both are now innocent of wrongful intent to kill Palestinian civilians since the Israeli military courts investigated Goldstone’s allegations and determined he was wrong. Now the good Judge has found, with the military court, that the Israeli government, that refused to cooperate with the United Nations investigation, did not intentionally send its forces to kill and destroy but only to kill and destroy Gaza; that the civilians were killed is simply a sad consequence of war. How astute, how learned, how compassionate; how absurd, how facetious, how despicable.
 
 

Yet, good may come of this decision. Now Israel is free to declare its innocence before the International Court of Justice since it is Israel’s investigation that can be presented as its case, with the good Judge as co-defendant. After all, isn’t this exactly what the Israeli government has wanted from the start, a way to demonstrate to the world that its Army is the most moral on the planet, its government the most democratic, acting only to defend its people, its weaponry the most sophisticated state of the art precision ordinance available, and its actions always proportionate to the crimes it seeks to address? Knowing now what they did not know before Judge Goldstone recanted his report, the government of Israel has nothing to fear from the ICJ but the justice it so rightfully deserves. Certainly it makes no sense for Israel or the UN to do nothing now that the report has been brought into question. The world has castigated Israel because of the report, now it’s Israel’s turn to seek revenge and put before the world how righteous and how legal its actions have been. How fortunate this turn of events.

And how opportune a moment since our United States Congress has once again jumped to the fore as defender of the beleaguered state of Israel by writing a letter to the UNHRC that it should expunge the report from history since it is biased against the Jewish state and this would help make amends. (“Congressional initiatives targeting Goldstone report” April 11, 2011 JTA)But why expunge it? Israel, after all, knows it did no wrong; it has done its own investigation and declared its innocence. What an opportunity to show the world that it has been maligned, that it has obeyed all international laws relative to individual rights, that as an occupying force under Geneva Conventions and the Charter of the UN it has observed all requisite responsibilities toward the people of Gaza, and finally that it had rights to invade that the international community must recognize since it was only defending itself.

Let us present this case as objectively as we can by using the words in the Israeli Gaza Operation Investigations: the means used to investigate, the difficulties that impeded the investigation, their presentation of the investigation concerning white phosphorus, and the conclusions drawn by the Military Advocate General, oh, and the convictions leveled on those found guilty. We’ll follow that presentation with some eye witness accounts of the Gaza operation, the affect of white phosphorus and its legality, and the impact of DIME explosives on humans and the environment. A few photos of Israeli use of white phosphorus will accompany this article if possible.  

Consider the facts as articulated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as it labeled Cast Lead as Hamas war against Israel[My apologies; I’m interjecting a subjective comment on Israel’s calling Operation Cast Lead “Hamas’ war against Israel.” In the 8 years preceding Cast Lead, Hamas or other resistance groups in Gaza, fired 6000 home made rockets at Israel, roughly 750 a year, or 62.5 per month or 2 per day. Twenty three people were killed. In that same period Israel killed more than 1000 Palestinian children and in Cast Lead killed an additional 352. A total of 1084 Israelis were killed between 2000 and 2008, but 6430 Palestinians were killed. Yet it was Hamas’ war against Israel. One final observation: Israel’s launch of one of its American supplied missiles that cost $300,000, a fraction of the 8.2 million per day we supply to Israel’s military, a precision state of the art weapon that hit a home where the IDF ordered people to go, in less than one minute killed 21 members of the Samouni family, nine of them children.] (figures from ifamericansknew.org and see this author’s article “Consider the Realities of Gaza,” Counterpunch, Jan. 5, 2009). Back to our sources and let the reader be judge.
 

Sun

17

Apr

2011

USAID Sides With Chevron Against Niger Delta Rebels - works to create new enemies among Ijo and Ogoni tribes
by Matthew Nasuti
 

In February 2011, in a little known development, the Obama Administration decided to seek new enemies abroad by choosing sides in a low level civil war being waged in southern Nigeria. Astonishingly, the U.S. State Department has publicly allied itself with oil giant Chevron, which is the target of a guerrilla war being waged by the fifteen (15) million Ijo tribesmen in the Niger River Delta.

Chevron is accused of environmental devastation, theft of resources and corruption.

While the formal U.S./Chevron alliance in Nigeria is new, the ties between senior Obama Administration officials and Chevon are long standing. On August 9, 2009, Hillary Clinton, while traveling in Angola, proclaimed that she and Chevron share “a common vision.”

Chevron pipelines and personnel in the Delta have been under attack for twenty years by local tribesman. What occurred in Nigeria in February 2011, is that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) entered into a partnership with Chevron Corporation. USAID contributed $25 million for a joint public relations effort called “the “Niger Delta Partnership Initiative.” Chevron press releases have since trumpeted the U.S./Chevron alliance. Chevron, which has an unsavory reputation within some segments of Nigerian society, is seeking to bolster its image by allying itself with the United States.

The Niger Delta dispute first came to the world’s attention in the early 1990's. At that time the one million plus Ogoni people had begun a mass peaceful protest against Shell Oil due to alleged environmental crimes. Led by poet/writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni pacifist movement came under increasing violent attack by government militias. In 1993, Mr. Saro-Wiwa was arrested, 2,000 Ogoni were massacred and 80,000 were evicted from their homes. In 1995, Mr. Saro-Wiwa was summarily tried by a military court and hanged with eight others on November 12, 1995. His relatives sued Shell in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under the “Torture Victims Protection Act” and received a $15.5 million settlement.
 
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