Saturday, December 10, 2005

On Intimacy

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Whether how the toaster really works, or the portent of geopolitics for your life, we are, in the "Age of Communication," babes in a wood, our endemic ignorance of human society mirrored perfectly with our general disconnect with the natural world and the species currently suffering humanity’s ministration.

On Intimacy
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
December 10, 2005

Never have so many known so little about so much of what makes their world work. Pause a moment and look around you: Whether at home, surrounded by the wires and widgets making the modern world run, or satellite downlinked in some technological backwater, if you're to be honest you'll own your near absolute ignorance of how it all works, or even what's going on.

Never have so many known so little about the inherent knowledge of their ancestors. Who were they? How did they live without iPods?

Whether natural by-product, or by nefarious design, the European ascension destroyed local custom and rite across the world, the resulting cultural erasure bringing chaos and dislocation, the opposite of understanding, the annihilator of knowing.

For the greater part of the world’s population to be sleep-walking through their environments has no precedent: A cave-dweller wouldn't understand your toaster either, but she'd know how to make and keep a fire. She’d know the roots and berries and the habits of the beasts about her. She could survive because she has an intimate relationship with her environment.

And you can thank God she did.

The intimacy that connected us to the world, the knowledge of our environs and how its systems worked, has now bled from the common "library," no less tragic for the remote tribes, their lost language and culture and remaining "wild" places they called home than for those sophisticate city-dwellers and their loss. The current disaster we call progress is effectively eating the heart out of human existence. Within those cities, despite their gleaming towers and mechanical marvels, the people suffer too the psychic separation from the natural world, an unbearable schism that cannot be spanned by the material. In this world, instead of knowing, dreams and fantasy masquerade as reality, clouding perception and leaving us to stumble about in uncertainty.

But that we could pause a moment before all is lost ... but that we could remember, it is more than nature we've fallen away from, too the intimate knowledge of ourselves and what it means to exist. The devil’s deal we’ve struck is the surrender of the wild and open heart for the cold comfort of a walled security.

This is the victory of distance; remote souls, shorn of the threads that connect, beckoned instead to attend the siren’s song of La Media and its shallow sensibilities, so further forbidding true discourse and the path to that inmost knowledge of our selves and our world essential to our survival.

Chris Cook
is a contributing editor for He also hosts the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Fear of Flying: Passenger Victim of Trigger-Happy Security?

Associated Press
Update 14: Passengers:
Alpizar Didn't Say 'Bomb'
12.09.2005, 10:11 AM

The airline passenger shot to death by federal marshals who said he made a bomb threat was agitated even before boarding and later appeared to be desperate to get off the plane, some fellow travelers said.

One passenger said he "absolutely never heard the word 'bomb' at all" during the uproar as the Orlando-bound flight prepared to leave Miami on Wednesday.

Federal officials say Rigoberto Alpizar made the threat in the jetway, after running up the plane's aisle from his seat at the back of the jetliner. They opened fire because the 44-year-old Home Depot employee ignored their orders to stop, reached into his backpack and said he had a bomb, according to authorities.

Alpizar's brother, speaking from Costa Rica, said he would never believe the shooting was necessary.

"I can't conceive that the marshals wouldn't be able to overpower an unarmed, single man, especially knowing he had already cleared every security check," Carlos Alpizar told The Orlando Sentinel.

Some passengers said they noticed Alpizar while waiting to get on the plane. They said he was singing "Go Down Moses" as his wife tried to calm him. Others said they saw him having lunch and described him as restless and anxious, but not dangerous.

"The wife was telling him, 'Calm down. Let other people get on the plane. It will be all right,'" said Alan Tirpak, a passenger.

Some passengers, including John McAlhany, said they believe Alpizar was no threat to anyone.

McAlhany, a 44-year-old construction worker who was returning home from a fishing trip in Key West, said he was sitting in Seat 21C when he noticed a commotion a few rows back.

"I heard him saying to his wife, 'I've got to get off the plane,'" McAlhany said. "He bumped me, bumped a couple of stewardesses. He just wanted to get off the plane."

Alpizar ran up the aisle into the first-class cabin, where marshals chased him onto the jetway, McAlhany said.

McAlhany said he "absolutely never heard the word 'bomb' at all."

"The first time I heard the word 'bomb' was when I was interviewed by the FBI," McAlhany said. "They kept asking if I heard him say the B-word. And I said, 'What is the B-word?' And they were like, 'Bomb.' I said no. They said, 'Are you sure?' And I am."

Added another passenger, Mary Gardner: "I did not hear him say that he had a bomb."

Officials say there was no bomb and they found no connection to terrorism.

Witnesses said Alpizar's wife, Anne Buechner, had frantically tried to explain he was bipolar, a mental illness also known as manic-depression, and was off his medication.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness called on the Air Marshal Service and other law enforcement agencies to train officers if they don't already in responding to people with severe mental illness.

Others said Alpizar's mental health didn't matter while marshals were trying to talk to him and determine if the threat was real.

Shooting to maim or injure - rather than kill - is not an option for federal agents, said John Amat, national operations vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which includes air marshals in its membership.

"The person was screaming, saying he would blow up the plane, reaching into his bag - they had to react," Amat said.

"The bottom line is, we're trained to shoot to stop the threat," said Amat, who is also a deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Miami. "Hollywood has this perception that we are such marksmen we can shoot an arm or leg with accuracy. We can't. These guys were in a very tense situation. In their minds they had to believe this person was an imminent threat to themselves or the people on the plane."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the two air marshals appeared to have acted properly when they shot to kill.

Both air marshals were hired in 2002 from other federal law enforcement agencies and were placed on administrative leave, said Brian Doyle, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Miami-Dade Police were investigating and the medical examiner's office was performing an autopsy on Alpizar, who was from Costa Rica but became a U.S. citizen years ago. He lived in Maitland, an Orlando suburb.

Neighbors said the couple had been returning to their home from a missionary trip to Ecuador. Buechner works for the Council on Quality and Leadership based in Towson, Md., a nonprofit organization focused on improving life for people with disabilities and mental illness, the organization said in a statement.

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said he thinks the shooting may prove more "reassuring than disturbing" to the traveling public his organization represents. "This is a reminder they are there and are protecting the passengers and that it is a seriously deadly business," he said.

Armed police boarded the aircraft after the shooting, with some passengers in hysterics. McAlhany said he remembers having a shotgun pressed into his head by one officer, and hearing cries and screams from many passengers aboard the aircraft after the shooting in the jetway.

"This was wrong," McAlhany said. "This man should be with his family for Christmas. Now he's dead."

Associated Press writers Andrew Bridges, Mark Sherman and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington; Mike Schneider and Travis Reed in Orlando; and Jessica Gresko and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this story.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Peas in a Pod

Harper, Bush Share Roots
in Controversial Philosophy

Linked by Leo Strauss Close advisors schooled in 'the noble lie' and 'regime change'.

Donald Gutstein
November 29, 2005

What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement.

Strauss, who died in 1973, believed in the inherent inequality of humanity. Most people, he famously taught, are too stupid to make informed decisions about their political affairs. Elite philosophers must decide on affairs of state for us.

In Washington, Straussians exert powerful influence from within the inner circle of the White House. In Canada, they roost, for now, in the so-called Calgary School, guiding Harper in framing his election strategies. What preoccupies Straussians in both places is the question of "regime change."

Strauss defined a regime as a set of governing ideas, institutions and traditions. The neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who secretly conspired to make the invasion of Iraq a certainty, had a precise plan for regime change. They weren't out to merely replace Saddam with an American puppet. They planned to make the system more like the U.S., with an electoral process that can be manipulated by the elites, corporate control over the levers of power and socially conservative values.

Usually regime change is imposed on a country from outside through violent means, such as invasion. On occasion, it occurs within a country through civil war. After the American Civil War, a new regime was imposed on the Deep South by the North, although the old regime was never entirely replaced.

Is regime change possible through the electoral process? It's happening in the U.S., where the neocons are succeeding in transforming the American state from a liberal democracy into a corporatist, theocratic regime. As Canada readies for a federal election, the question must be asked: Are we next?

The 'noble lie'

Strauss believed that allowing citizens to govern themselves will lead, inevitably, to terror and tyranny, as the Weimar Republic succumbed to the Nazis in the 1930s. A ruling elite of political philosophers must make those decisions because it is the only group smart enough. It must resort to deception -- Strauss's "noble lie" -- to protect citizens from themselves. The elite must hide the truth from the public by writing in code. "Using metaphors and cryptic language," philosophers communicated one message for the elite, and another message for "the unsophisticated general population," philosopher Jeet Heer recently wrote in the Globe and Mail. "For Strauss, the art of concealment and secrecy was among the greatest legacies of antiquity."

The recent outing of star New York Times reporter Judith Miller reveals how today's neocons use the media to conceal the truth from the public. For Straussians, telling Americans that Saddam didn't have WMD's and had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, but that we needed to take him out for geopolitical and ideological reasons you can't comprehend, was a non-starter. The people wouldn't get it. Time for a whopper.

Miller was responsible for pushing into the Times the key neocon lie that Saddam was busy stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. This deception helped build support among Americans for the invasion of Iraq. Miller was no independent journalist seeking the truth nor a victim of neocon duplicity, as she claimed. She worked closely with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff and responsible for coordinating Iraq intelligence and communication strategy. Libby is a Straussian who studied under Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the World Bank, and before that, deputy secretary of defense, where he led the 'Invade Iraq" lobby. Wolfowitz studied under Strauss and Allan Bloom, Strauss's most famous student.

Miller cultivated close links to the neocons in the administration and at the American Enterprise Institute, the leading Washington-based neocon think tank. AEI played the key role outside government in fabricating intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq. Straussian Richard Perle, who chaired the Defence Policy Board Advisory Committee until he was kicked off because of a conflict of interest, is a senior fellow at AEI and coordinated its efforts. Miller co-wrote a book on the Middle East with an AEI scholar. Rather than being a victim of government manipulation, Miller was a conduit between the neocons and the American public. As a result of her reporting, many Americans came to believe that Saddam had the weapons. War and regime change followed.

'Regime change' in Canada

As in the U.S., regime change became a Canadian media darling. Before 9-11, the phrase appeared in Canadian newspapers less than ten times a year. It usually referred to changes in leadership of a political party or as part of the phrase "regulatory regime change." Less than a week after 9-11, the phrase began to be used in its Straussian sense, as if a scenario was being choreographed.

From 19 mentions in Canadian newspapers in 2001, regime change soared to 790 mentions in 2002 and 1334 mentions in 2003. With the Iraq invasion accomplished that year, usage tailed off in 2004 (291 mentions) and in 2005 (208 mentions to November 10).

There's one big difference between American and Canadian Straussians. The Americans assumed positions of power and influence in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The Canadians have not had much opportunity to show (or is that hide?) their stuff. That may change with a Harper victory.

Paul Wolfowitz's teacher, Allan Bloom, and another Straussian, Walter Berns, taught at the University of Toronto during the 1970s. They left their teaching posts at Cornell University because they couldn't stomach the student radicalism of the '60s. At Toronto, they influenced an entire generation of political scientists, who fanned out to universities across the country.

Two of their students, Ted Morton and Rainer Knopff, went to the University of Calgary where they specialize in attacking the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They claim the charter is the result of a conspiracy foisted on the Canadian people by "special interests." These nasty people are feminists, gays and lesbians, the poor, prisoners and refugee-rights groups who are advancing their own interests through the courts at the expense of the general public, these Straussians allege.

The problem with their analysis is that the special interest which makes more use of the courts to advance its interests than all these other groups combined -- business -- receives not a mention. Deception by omission is a common Straussian technique. The weak are targeted while the real culprits disappear.

Harper's mentors

Harper studied under the neocons at the University of Calgary and worked with them to craft policies for the fledgling Reform Party in the late 1980s. Together with Preston Manning, they created an oxymoron, a populist party backed by business.

Ted Morton has turned his attention to provincial politics. He's an elected MLA and a candidate to succeed Premier Ralph Klein. But he did influence the direction of right-wing politics at the federal level as the Canadian Alliance director of research under Stockwell Day.

When Harper threw his hat in the ring for the leadership of the Alliance, Tom Flanagan, the Calgary School's informal leader, became his closest adviser. Harper and Flanagan, whose scholarship focuses on attacking aboriginal rights, entered a four-year writing partnership and together studied the works of government-hater Friedrich Hayek. Flanagan ran the 2004 Conservative election campaign and is pulling the strings as the country readies for the election.

Political philosopher Shadia Drury is an expert on Strauss, though not a follower. She was a member of Calgary's political science department for more than two decades, frequently locking horns with her conservative colleagues before leaving in 2003 for the University of Regina.

Strauss recommended harnessing the simplistic platitudes of populism to galvanize mass support for measures that would, in fact, restrict rights. Does the Calgary School resort to such deceitful tactics? Drury believes so. Such thinking represents "a huge contempt for democracy," she told the Globe and Mail's John Ibbotson. The 2004 federal election campaign run by Flanagan was "the greatest stealth campaign we have ever seen," she said, "run by radical populists hiding behind the cloak of rhetorical moderation."

Straus and 'Western alienation'

The Calgary School has successfully hidden its program beneath the complaint of western alienation. "If we've done anything, we've provided legitimacy for what was the Western view of the country," Calgary Schooler Barry Cooper told journalist Marci McDonald in her important Walrus article. "We've given intelligibility and coherence to a way of looking at it that's outside the St. Lawrence Valley mentality." This is sheer Straussian deception. On the surface, it's easy to understand Cooper's complaint and the Calgary School's mission. But the message says something very different to those in the know. For 'St. Lawrence Valley mentality,' they read 'the Ottawa-based modern liberal state,' with all the negative baggage it carries for Straussians. And for 'Western view,' they read 'the right-wing attack on democracy.' We've provided legitimacy for the radical-right attack on the Canadian democratic state, Cooper is really saying.

A network is already in place to assist Harper in foisting his radical agenda on the Canadian people.

In 2003, he delivered an important address to a group called Civitas. This secretive organization, which has no web site and leaves little paper or electronic trail, is a network of Canadian neoconservative and libertarian academics, politicians, journalists and think tank propagandists.

Harper's adviser Tom Flanagan is an active member. Conservative MP Jason Kenney is a member, as are Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and Michel Kelly-Gagnon of the Montreal Economic Institute, the second and third most important right-wing think tanks after the Fraser Institute.

Civitas is top-heavy with journalists to promote the cause. Lorne Gunter of the National Post is president. Members include Janet Jackson (Calgary Sun) and Danielle Smith (Calgary Herald). Journalists Colby Cosh, William Watson and Andrew Coyne (all National Post) have made presentations to Civitas.

The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee is not mentioned in relation to Civitas but might as well be a member, if his recent column titled "George Bush is not a liar," is any evidence. In it, Gee repeats the lies the Bush neocons are furiously disseminating to persuade the people that Bush is not a liar.

Neo-con to Theo-con

The speech Harper gave to Civitas was the source of the charge made by the Liberals during the 2004 election -- sure to be revived in the next election -- that Harper has a scary, secret agenda. Harper urged a return to social conservatism and social values, to change gears from neocon to theocon, in The Report's Ted Byfield's apt but worrisome phrase, echoing visions of a future not unlike that painted in Margaret Atwood's dystopian work, A Handmaid's Tale.

The state should take a more activist role in policing social norms and values, Harper told the assembled conservatives. To achieve this goal, social and economic conservatives must reunite as they have in the U.S., where evangelical Christians and business rule in an unholy alliance. Red Tories must be jettisoned from the party, he said, and alliances forged with ethnic and immigrant communities who currently vote Liberal but espouse traditional family values. This was the successful strategy counselled by the neocons under Ronald Reagan to pull conservative Democrats into the Republican tent.

Movement towards the goal must be "incremental," he said, so the public won't be spooked.

Regime change, one step at a time.

Donald Gutstein, a senior lecturer in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, writes a regular media column for The Tyee.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Craven Awakening

The old media dog sniffed the air, found power was moving away from the White House, and began to drool

12/03/05 "The Independent" -- -- Watching the pathetic, old, lie-on-its-back frightened labrador of the American media changing overnight into a vicious rottweiler is one of the enduring pleasures of society in the United States. I have been experiencing this phenomenon over the past two weeks, as both victim and beneficiary.

In New York and Los Angeles, my condemnation of the American presidency and Israel's continued settlement-building in the West Bank was originally treated with the disdain all great papers reserve for those who dare to question proud and democratic projects of state. In The New York Times, that ancient luminary Ethan Bonner managed to chide me for attacking American journalists who - he furiously quoted my own words - "report in so craven a fashion from the Middle East - so fearful of Israeli criticism that they turn Israeli murder into 'targeted attacks' and illegal settlements into 'Jewish neighbourhoods'."

It was remarkable that Bonner should be so out of touch with his readers that he did not know that "craven" is the very word so many Americans apply to their grovelling newspapers (and quite probably one reason why newspaper circulations are falling so disastrously).

But the moment that a respected Democratic congressman and Vietnam war veteran in Washington dared to suggest that the war in Iraq was lost, that US troops should be brought home now - and when the Republican response was so brutal it had to be disowned - the old media dog sniffed the air, realised that power was moving away from the White House, and began to drool.

On live television in San Francisco, I could continue my critique of America's folly in Iraq uninterrupted. Ex-Mayor Willie Brown - who allowed me to have my picture taken in his brand new pale blue Stetson - exuded warmth towards this pesky Brit (though he claimed on air that I was an American) who tore into his country's policies in the Middle East. It was enough to make you feel the teeniest bit sorry - though only for a millisecond, mark you - for the guy in the White House.

All this wasn't caused by that familiar transition from Newark to Los Angeles International, where the terror of al-Qa'ida attacks is replaced by fear of the ozone layer. On the east coast, too, the editorials thundered away at the Bush administration. Seymour Hersh, that blessing to American journalism who broke the Abu Ghraib torture story, produced another black rabbit out of his Iraqi hat with revelations that US commanders in Iraq believe the insurgency is now out of control.

When those same Iraqi gunmen this week again took control of the entire city of Ramadi (already "liberated" four times by US troops since 2003), the story shared equal billing on prime time television with Bush's latest and infinitely wearying insistence that Iraqi forces - who in reality are so infiltrated by insurgents that they are a knife in America's back - will soon be able to take over security duties from the occupation forces.

Even in Hollywood - and here production schedules prove that the rot must have set in more than a year ago - hitherto taboo subjects are being dredged to the surface of the political mire. Jarhead, produced by Universal Pictures, depicts a brutal, traumatised Marine unit during the 1991 Gulf War.

George Clooney's production of Good Night, and Good Luck, a devastating black-and-white account of Second World War correspondent Ed Murrow's heroic battle with Senator McCarthy in the 1950s - its theme is the management and crushing of all dissent - has already paid for its production costs twice over. Murrow is played by an actor but McCarthy appears only in real archive footage. Incredibly, a test audience in New York complained that the man "playing" McCarthy was "overacting". Will we say this about Messrs Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld in years to come? I suspect so.

And then there's Syriana, Clooney's epic of the oil trade which combines suicide bombers, maverick CIA agents (one of them played by Clooney himself), feuding Middle East Arab potentates - one of whom wants real democracy and wealth for his people and control of his own country's resources - along with a slew of disreputable businessmen and east coast lawyers. The CIA eventually assassinates the Arab prince who wants to take control of his own country's oil (so much for democracy) - this is accomplished with a pilotless aerial bomb guided by men in a room in Virginia - while a Pakistani fired from his job in the oil fields because an American conglomerate has downsized for its shareholders' profits destroys one of the company's tankers in a suicide attack.

"People seem less afraid now," Clooney told an interviewer in Entertainment magazine. "Lots of people are starting to ask questions. It's becoming hard to avoid the questions." Of course, these questions are being asked because of America's more than 2,000 fatalities in Iraq rather than out of compassion for Iraq's tens of thousands of fatalities. They are being pondered because the whole illegal invasion of Iraq is ending in calamity rather than success.

Yet still they avoid the "Israel" question. The Arab princes in Syriana - who in real life would be obsessed with the occupation of the West Bank - do not murmur a word about Israel. The Arab al-Qa'ida operative who persuades the young Pakistani to attack an oil tanker makes no reference to Israel - as every one of bin Laden's acolytes assuredly would. It was instructive that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 did not mention Israel once.

So one key issue of the Middle East remains to be confronted. Amy Goodman, whom I used to enrage by claiming that her leftist Democracy Now programme - broadcast from a former Brooklyn fire station - had only three listeners (one of whom was Amy Goodman), is bravely raising this unmentionable subject. Partly as a result, her "alternative" radio and television station - how I hate that prissy word "alternative" - is slowly moving into the mainstream.

Americans are ready to discuss the United States' relationship with Israel. And America's injustices towards the Arabs. As usual, ordinary Americans are way out in front of their largely tamed press and television reporters. Now we have to wait and see if the media boys and girls will catch up with their own people.

Copyright The Independent
This week on Gorilla Radio:

Haitian-Canadian journalist and activist, Jean St. Vil and the killing of democracy in Haiti.

Author, journalist, and media critic, Norman Solomon and war made easy.

And; Janine Bandcroft bringing us up to speed with all that's good to do in and around Victoria this week.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, 104.3 cable, and on the internet at: He also serves as a contributing editor at the progressive web news site:

You can check out the GR blog at:

Gorilla Radio for Monday,
December 5th, 2005

C. L. Cook

Glorious democracy! Expect to hear a lot about the virtues of our political system while candidates vie to form Canada’s next government. But don’t expect the defenders of the gift of the Greeks to make much mention of Haiti’s democracy, or the role Canada played undermining President-elect, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A quick glance at the Liberal Party of Canada’s website reveals scant mention of Haiti, beyond the 180 million dollars the government has pledged to assist the illegal, interim government imposed on the people nearly two years ago. Like-wise, perusing the site of perennial opposition New Democratic Party site expresses concern for reported government human rights abuses, but fails to make the connection between those systemic abuses and Canada’s culpability in empowering a murderous, thuggish regime. Jean St. Vil is a Haitian-Canadian journalist and activist with the Canada Haiti and founding member of the Canada Haiti Action Network. He appeared here at UVic a few weeks ago at the symposium, ‘Why Haiti? The Ottawa Initiative or Canada’s First Coup d’Etat’ and to present the film ‘Aristide and the Endless Revolution.’ Jean St. Vil and Canada’s imperial ambition in the first half.

And; what greases and enables the machinery of the horrid war-factory that has become America? Norman Solomon is a media and politics columnist, activist, author, and the Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Some titles among his many books include: ‘Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You,’ co-authored with foreign correspondent, Reese Erlich, ‘Wizards of Media Oz,’ ‘The Habits of a Highly Deceptive Media,’ and , ‘The Power of Babble.’ His latest is, ‘War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.’ Norman Solomon, exposing the War Elephant in America’s living-room in the second half.

And; Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that’s good to do in and around Victoria this week. But first, Jean St. Vil and the killing of democracy in Haiti.

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the mainstream media.

Some past guests include: M. Junaid Alam, Joel Bakan, Maude Barlow, David Barsamian, William Blum, Luciana Bohne, Vincent Bugliosi, Helen Caldicott, Noam Chomsky, Michel Chossudovsky, Diane Christian, Juan Cole, David Cromwell, Jon Elmer, Reese Erlich, Anthony Fenton, Jim Fetzer, Laura Flanders, Chris Floyd, Susan George, Stan Goff, Robert Greenwald, Denis Halliday, Chris Hedges, Sander Hicks, Julia Butterfly Hill, Robert Jensen, Dahr Jamail, Diana Johnstone, Kathy Kelly, Naomi Klein, Anthony Lappe, Frances Moore Lappe, Dave Lindorff, Jim Lobe, Jennifer Loewenstein, Wayne Madsen, Stephen Marshall, Linda McQuaig, George Monbiot, Loretta Napoleoni, John Nichols, Kurt Nimmo, Greg Palast, Michael Parenti, William Rivers Pitt, Sheldon Rampton, Paul Craig Roberts, Paul de Rooij, John Ross, Danny Schechter, Vandana Shiva, Norman Solomon, Starhawk, Grant Wakefield, Paul Watson, Bernard Weiner, Mickey Z., Dave Zirin, and many others.

Stay informed. Subscribe and get the best of PEJ News by email. Free.

Haiti Catasrophe

Loathe to admit they made a mistake ousting President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Canada's Prime Minister still insists everything is rosy in Haiti. He denies there are political prisoners being illegally detained, though the Aristide's Prime Minister Neptune languishes, almost two years after the bloodless coup engineered by Martin and his accomplices in France, the U.S., and Haiti. Martin has trumpeted Canada's financial aid to Haiti, touted at over 150 million dollars Cdn., ostensibly for elections, but spent who knows where? Election planning is itself an apparent mess, despite Ottawa's largesse, forcing the interim government to delay the long-promised hand-over of power. - ape

Haiti's Elections

Seeing the Forest and the Trees
Weekend Edition
December 3/4, 2005

Haiti's election dates have now been reset for the fourth time in the last five months. The Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) will now miss the February 7, 2005 deadline for transferring power that it had promised to meet for 21 months. These delays, and the logistical problems underlying them, are a cause for concern. But the logistical defects should not obscure the more fundamental problems that will prevent the elections, whenever held, from helping Haiti to break from its brutal history of political instability.

The delays show a disturbing lack of organizational competence on behalf of both the IGH and the Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP), which has the responsibility to run the voting. Every step of the process has been completed late, because of a failure to prepare for obvious obstacles. Voting registration stretched past the August deadline into October, because registration facilities were not installed in poor urban and rural areas. An international outcry pushed the CEP to expand the opportunities to register, and eventually about 3.5 million people reportedly registered, out of an estimated pool of 4.2 million eligible citizens.

The latest schedule calls for a first round of Presidential and legislative elections on January 8, a runoff election on February 15, and local elections on March 5. Several remaining hurdles make reaching this goal unlikely, including distributing electoral cards, printing the ballots, recruiting and training electoral officials and establishing enough voting centers. The electoral cards pose a particular challenge. Although the CEP held a ceremony to introduce a "pilot" distribution in September, the Counsel announced on November 30 that voters should listen carefully to announcements on how they should pick their cards up.

The distribution of the electoral cards is complicated, involving alphabetical order and date of registration, and the urban and rural poor who had so much difficulty registering often lack access to radio, television or other means of hearing the announcements. The schedule leaves five weeks before the first round to distribute the cards (and hire and train officials and find facilities for voting centers, which the CEP announced it was starting to do on November 30), when registration alone took over five months. Those particular five weeks may be the hardest of the year to get things done. They include Christmas, Haiti's Independence Day on January 1 and the beginning of Carnaval season on January 8, and much of that is school vacation.

The Interim government may eventually overcome these hurdles and hold technically acceptable elections. But logistical smoothness does not in itself ensure that the elections will make a sustainable improvement in Haiti's political stability.

Stability in Haiti requires a respect for the basic rules of democracy, as written in the Constitution and international human rights instruments. Voters must know that when they vote they have the right to elect the candidates of their choosing for a specified period of time. They must know they will have the opportunity to renew officials' mandates if they keep their promises, and vote them out of office if they do not. Those who seek political power must know that their only path to power is through the ballot box; those who attain power must know that they can stay as long as their term allows, and no longer.

The IGH's current course is establishing (or reviving) several dangerous precedents that undermine the basic democratic rules. First, it is demonstrating that a mandate can be extended by simply not holding elections for a replacement. The current best-case scenario has the country missing the Constitution's February 7 deadline for handing over power by a couple of weeks. Missing this deadline is serious, and will be more so as the two weeks stretches into many more (imagine the uproar in the International Community if President Aristide were in the National Palace and failed to hand over the Presidential sash on February 7). But the IGH missed an equally important deadline eighteen months ago. Article 149 of the Constitution gives provisional governments 90 days to organize elections, and that period expired on June 1, 2004, without any attempt to hold elections.

The IGH will claim that it is trying to hand over power as soon as it can, and that a lack of resources combined with logistical and security problems kept generating delays. But in October 1994, when Haiti's elected government was restored after a three-year dictatorship, it had less financial support but managed to organize full legislative and local elections in eight months, and the regularly scheduled Presidential elections six months after that. The IGH's claim of trying its best would have been more convincing had it not diverted so much time and money to projects that were unnecessary for an interim government: granting generous concessions for foreign companies to exploit shipwrecks that had sat off Haiti's coast for 300 years already, backpay for soldiers for not doing work after the army was disbanded in 1994, and most recently pursuing lawsuits against the elected governments in U.S. (and not Haitian) courts.

A second dangerous precedent is the government deciding who the people can vote for, and who can organize electoral activities. One of the most popular potential Presidential candidates, and the IGH's most prominent critic, Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, is four months into his second stay in prison, despite no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Haiti's last Constitutional Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, has spent seventeen months in prison. Even the U.S. Ambassador called his detention a "violation of human rights, injustice and abuse of power." Dozens of grassroots activists, including well-known people like "So An," but also many more known only to friends and family in Haiti, are held illegally. On November 27, Louis Joinet, the UN Human Rights Commission's Independent Expert on Haiti, called a press conference to denounce the IGH's illegal jailing of political opponents.

A third dangerous precedent is the use of political terror as a campaign strategy. Over and over again over the last six months, Haitian police, and even troops from MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti, have gone into neighborhoods known as strongholds of government opponents, killing, maiming and arresting people and destroying houses. In October, MINUSTAH's top human rights official called the human rights situation in Haiti "catastrophic," citing summary executions, torture and illegal arrests. Keeping the poor neighborhoods under siege and imprisoning activists keeps government opponents from organizing and campaigning. It also keeps voters indoors, now and on election day.

On August 20, police accompanied by civilians called the "Little Machete Army" attacked a crowd at a soccer game in the neighborhood of Grande Ravine, killing at least ten people. The police initially denied involvement, but after an outcry the force conducted a partial investigation. Police leadership made the report public, and disciplined eighteen officers, both positive signs. But no members of the Little Machete Army have been arrested, even though victims of the massacre report that they continue to operate openly. One MINUSTAH patrol did arrest a member of the victims' association, illegally (without a warrant), while he was working with another MINUSTAH unit to bring victims to the hospital. After another outcry the police released the leader.

The IGH cannot claim logistical or financial obstacles to stopping the political repression. Releasing political prisoners will actually save the money spent to incarcerate them; not shooting political opponents saves money spent on bullets. Many political prisoners have never seen a judge, and can be released by an order of the police or prosecutor. Most of the rest are held by judges hand-picked by the government, who would dismiss the case or at least let the person out on bail if prosecutors asked.

The "official" watchdogs for this election are maintaining their focus, and will not let the organizational chaos or widespread persecution dim their enthusiasm.. Last July, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza provided a glowing report, claiming the elections were "moving ahead," and predicted that a one-month extension of registration would solve the problems. Registration was eventually extended over two months, during which time the police arrested Fr. Jean-Juste and the death squads massacred the Grande Ravine soccer fans. When the latest dates were announced, Mr. Insulza conceded in retrospect that "the electoral process was slow to get off the ground," but trumpeted that now "considerable progress has been made, which allows us to be cautiously optimistic about having organized, orderly and credible elections early in the new year."

MINUSTAH reacted to the fourth postponement of the elections with an equally glowing report- it even predicted the new President would be inaugurated a week earlier than the electoral decree did. MINUSTAH's press release did not even mention the "catastrophic" human rights situation that its own human rights department denounced in October, or the political prisoners that Mr. Joinet discussed just three days before. MINUSTAH Chief Juan Gabriel Valdes did warn of "dark interests in Haitian society" that could disrupt the elections, but could find no fault with the IGH's lack of preparation or persecution of opponents.

Haitian voters may decide that the best thing they can do in the face of a deeply flawed process rubber-stamped by the International Community is to participate anyway. They may find a candidate they can support enthusiastically, and be happy with the end result. But this will not mean Haiti is any closer to escaping its centuries'-old cycles of violence. The shortcomings of the process will inevitable detract from the victor's legitimacy, making a tough job even harder. The precedents of extending a Presidential mandate, keeping opponents off the ballot and deploying electoral terror will soon enough return back to once again deprive the Haitian people of the stability and democracy the deserve.

Brian Concannon Jr., Esq. directs the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti,, and is a former OAS Elections Observer and UN Human Rights Observer in Haiti.

Ritual Murder in America

Blood Feast:
The Celebration of Ritual Murder in America

by Mike Whitney
December 3, 2005

There is no more heinous or morally indefensible crime than capital punishment. Nor is there is any person, however monstrous, deserving of execution at the hands of the state. We may never know the motives behind the actions of many criminals, but we can fully grasp the culpability of the state. For it is the state, through its legal machinations, that calmly premeditates the murder of its own citizens.

How can this be considered punishment?

There is no corrective element, at all, just death and finality.

A society that is willing to intentionally kill one of its own people is a society that is willing to accept barbarism as it guiding principle. There’s no middle ground on capital punishment. When one offers their moral support to the practice, they are participating directly in the ritual murder of another human being.

Two days ago, Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner to be put to death in the US since the death penalty was reinstated 30 years ago. His final words were, “God bless everyone in here.” Thus, Boyd’s death becomes little more than a grim milestone of America’s commitment to savagery over justice.

A recent Gallop poll indicates that 64% of Americans support the death penalty, down from 80% in 1994. “But the figure of 64% falls to just 50% when the alternative of life without parole is presented.” (Andrew Buncombe, “US turns against death penalty as 1000th prisoner is executed,” The Independent, December 3, 2005)

For years, anti-death penalty groups have disputed the evenhandedness of capital punishment, which is overwhelming directed at the poor and people of color. Now, with the widespread use of DNA a growing number of murder convictions have been overturned by new evidence. “There have also been 122 cases of prisoners on death row being shown to be innocent.” (Andrew Buncombe)

This has caused a shift in public attitudes towards capital punishment and many people are becoming more sensitized to its inherent unfairness. I believe that more people would reject the death penalty if the wording of polling questions were simply changed to reflect the real meaning of their support. Staunch death penalty advocates tend to rationalize their support in terms of the evil of particularly shocking crime. They see it as an appropriate payback for bad behavior.

But, that, in fact, is not the question. The real question is whether or not the state has the right to kill one of its own citizens. That is the only question that should concern us.

Our model of state power is not simply based on what may or may not be fair regarding the punishment for particular crimes. Rather, it is grounded on a larger principle that protects the society at large from the abuses of state power. If, for example, the question were raised in a survey “Does the state have the right to kill one of its citizens,” I believe we would find the exact opposite result from the earlier poll. This reflects the innate suspicion that people have of handing over too much power to government.

Again, the nature of the crime makes no difference; it is never within the purview of the state to kill a citizen. Never. That definitive act turns the whole system of representative government on its head. Our government is the offspring of theories that emerged during the Enlightenment; that governments are established as a compromise of one’s right to absolute freedom to meet the security needs of the individual. In exchange, the state becomes the guarantor of human and civil rights. This is what we call the social contract.

This model exposes the true origins of the state and suggests the parameters under which it may legitimately operate. And, although the state may be an expression of the public will, it is never more than a crude invention to assure one’s safety in a potentially threatening environment. Such a device has no authority beyond its limited powers to protect and provide for its people.

To allow the state the absolute power over life and death is to elevate its significance above those it is created to serve. Capital punishment is a form state worship; elevating the authority of government above the principles that legitimize its existence. It is the “cart before the horse”.

Whenever men are murdered by the state in the name of capital punishment, it is the state that is glorified; it is the state that is deified; it is the state that is victorious. And, it is the freedom of every individual that is sacrificed.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

Other Recent Articles by Mike Whitney

* Bush's Fascist Valhalla
* Savaging the Law in the Padilla Case
* Hugo Chavez and the Crawford Madman
* Democrats Get Mugged on the Floor of the House
* Money for Napalm but Not for Food Stamps
* The Senate Agrees to Imprisonment Without Charges
* The Corporate Media’s Threat to Freedom
* You’re Doin’ a Heck of a Job, Dick Cheney
* Panicked Bush Slinks Away From Chavez
* The United States of Torture
* Drifting Towards a Police State
* Leg Irons for Dickie, Karl and Scooter
* Outing Valerie Plame Put Us All in Greater Danger
* Après Rove le Déluge
* Voting in Afghanistan: Warlords, Jihadis, and Iranian Agents
* Saddam's Mock Trial
* Escorting Judy to the Gallows
* Miller’s Confession: The Last Gasp Before the Indictments
* The Iraqi Constitution: A Cynical Cover for Partition
* Can Attacks on Oil Facilities Lead to Peace?
* George Bush and the Four Horsemen
* Bunker Days with Reichsführer George
* Martial Law and the Advent of the Supreme Executive
* The Evil of Torture and the Power of Non-Violence
* Why Not Torture Judith Miller?
* The Occupation of New Orleans
* Brownie's Comic Opera
* Apartheid Justice in America: Krugal vs. Padilla
* The Impending Cakewalk in Iran
* Farewell to the Democratic PartyBunker Days with Reichsführer George
* Basra: Another Milestone in the War on Terror
* The Inevitable War with Iran
* Let Them Die Or Let Them Go
* Who’s Blowing Up Iraq?
* The Second American Revolution
* Hurricane Hugo at the UN
* Tal Afar: Crackdown in the Sunni Heartland
* John Roberts’ Role in the Guantanamo Hunger Strike
* Jose Padilla and the Death of Personal Liberty
* Rodney King in New Orleans
* Rehnquist Paved the Way for the Imperial Presidency
* The New Orleans Looters Are the Bush Progeny
* The Devastating Impact of Hurricane George
* “Transformation”: How Rumsfeld Smashed the National Guard
* The Lords of War
* Robertson’s Fatwah: “A Whole Lotta Smitin’ Goin’ On”
* Turning Cindy Sheehan’s Victory Into Defeat
* “My Son Died for Nothing”
* "Shoot to Kill": Tony Blair’s First Trophy
* Greenspan’s Role in the Housing Bubble
* Failing in Iraq
* Revving Up World War III
* Pretty Hot in Crawford, Pretty Hot in Hell
* Straight-Shootin’ George Galloway
* “Operation Community Shield”: Comrade Chertoff’s Preemptive Crackdown
* Kristallnacht: What Happens When the Public Says Nothing?
* Burying Blair: Post-Mortem for the British PM
* “Withdrawal” from Iraq?: Forget About It
* The Globalization of State Terror
* Tom Friedman: Fabricating the Roots of Terror
* Doomsday: The Final Months of the “Housing Bubble”

Today on DV


Challenging the Lies and Distortions of Press & State
in the Struggle for Peace and Social Justice

December 3, 2005

Links to the Latest Articles on Dissident Voice

Mission Accomplished:
Big Oil’s Occupation of Iraq
by Heather Wokusch

The Bush administration’s covert plan to help energy companies steal Iraq’s oil could be just weeks away from fruition, and the implications are staggering: continued price-gouging by Big Oil, increased subjugation of the Iraqi people, more US troops in Iraq, and a greater likelihood for a US invasion of Iran. That’s just for starters. The administration’s challenge has been how to transfer Iraq’s oil assets to private companies under the cloak of legitimacy, yet simultaneously keep prices inflated. But Bush & Co. and their Big Oil cronies might have found a simple yet devious solution: production sharing agreements (PSAs)....( full article)

“To All Who Wear the Uniform”
Messianic Militarism Versus Democracy in Imperial America
by Paul Street

It's getting hard not to notice that most of president Bush's major speeches are being delivered in military forums -- at bases, war colleges, naval academies, and the like. It makes sense. A rising percentage of the U.S. citizenry -- 62 percent in a November AP-Ipsos poll -- disapproves of Bush's Iraq policy. Thanks largely to that policy, the president's approval ratings are at an all-time low. He's being openly mocked on dominant entertainment media and challenged in the halls of Congress. Earlier this week, General Electric Television (NBC) gave the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh a couple minutes on the happy morning Today Show to pitch an article that starkly depicts the militaristic madness of boy-king George. Hersh quotes a number of current and former military, intelligence, and administration officials to reveal an increasingly detached and messianic president who is "impervious to political pressure even from fellow Republicans." According to insiders, Bush believes "God put me here" to occupy Iraq. A "Pentagon adviser" told Hersh that Bush is "not going to back off" the occupation" because the president sees his illegal and immoral Iraq policy as "bigger than domestic politics." By Hersh's informants' account, "bigger" means "divinely inspired.".... (full article)

Just Think of Me as Your New Guidance Counselor . . . Or Just Think
by Susan Van Haitsma

The message printed beneath the image of the stern drill sergeant on the US Marine Corps recruitment poster reads, "Just Think of Me as Your New Guidance Counselor." The poster is displayed in the administrative area of my neighborhood high school on the office door of the two police officers assigned to the school. The police officer who put it there says that it is not a recruitment poster and that, because he is a Marine, he uses it as motivational for himself. Just down the hall are the school's actual guidance counselors, and one of them expresses another view about the poster. Studying the image, she says quietly, "He doesn't look like a guidance counselor. His eyes are steely. He doesn't look like someone who would listen." Drill instructors are looking toward ever-younger audiences. Among those marching in Austin's recent Veterans Day parade, I noticed a group of Junior ROTC students who appeared to be child soldiers. I spoke later with one of them, a 6th grader who is enrolled in the program at his public middle school. I asked him what he learns in his JROTC class. "We learn how to march, and, well, we learn everything," he said. "Everything?" I asked. "We learn how to be in the army," he replied. Like the strange, contrary slogan, "An Army of One," the guidance being given to this youngster pretends to offer a world of possibility, but it boils down to one direction....( full article)

Selective De-Occupation: The Next Political Task?
by Manuel Garcia, Jr.

A political observer from Planet Tralfamadore would probably conclude that for much of Planet Earth the purpose of government is to insulate capital from popular democracy. This extra-terrestrial would likely see the US political elite as today's equivalent to Pharaonic scribes and priests, those maintained for the purpose of devising the necessary illusions for the management of the public mind. Since John Murtha's call on 17 November from the floor of the House of Representatives for a de-occupation of Iraq by US troops, it has been obvious to all that the illusions needed to proceed with the Iraq War have completely evaporated. Now, the political elite is very nervous because it has the delicate task of devising a new illusion that moves the public mind through an unavoidable policy transition in a controlled way. In doing this our elite politicians risk inadvertently jolting the public mind into an inconveniently clear awareness of other little-noticed mechanisms of political and economic control, and they also risk undoing their own political careers....( full article)

Blood Feast: The Celebration of Ritual Murder in America
by Mike Whitney

Two days ago, Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner to be put to death in the US since the death penalty was reinstated 30 years ago. His final words were, “God bless everyone in here.” Thus, Boyd’s death becomes little more than a grim milestone of America’s commitment to savagery over justice....( full article)

Crony in the Bird Flu Seat:
Will the Public's Health be "Brownied" by Stewart Simonson?
by Bill Berkowitz

...Skeptics might argue that the President's warning sounds suspiciously like those post 9/11 anthrax scares, and are aimed at taking the public's attention away from the many failures bedeviling his administration. Others may argue that whether the threat is real or not, it is guaranteed to be a boon for the already profit-stuffed pharmaceutical industry. Some may take the president's forewarning of potential disaster at face value. Whatever your take, a pandemic of the kind currently discussed by public health officials could overwhelm an unprepared health care system, cost billions of dollars and cause an untold number of deaths. Having performed so wretchedly during the run-up to, and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one might expect that Team Bush would seek out someone fully versed in public health matters to head up the team charged with responding to as huge a potential public health threat as Avian Bird Flu. Who is in charge of handling significant health care and threats of bioterrorism? (full article)

The Mark Twain Doctrine Trumps Evolution and Intelligent Design
by Tony Zurlo

Teachers today they find themselves in a conundrum, unable to resolve the latest Catch 22 in American education. Teachers who teach evolution in the science classroom are attacked by the Intelligent Designers as atheists and anti-American. Teachers who attempt to introduce intelligent design into the science classroom are ridiculed for weakening our young people’s ability to think and analyze objectively. No matter which side educators choose, opponents accuse them of triggering the decline and fall of Western Civilization. If teachers introduce a unit that requires students to consider both explanations for the origins of life, administrators threaten to exterminate their contracts for veering from the sanctioned curricula. Teachers are being steered into the land of Western Oz where the one remaining Wicked Witch reigns....( full article)

Canada’s Prince of Darkness, Michael Ignatieff . . .
Or Thomas Friedman in Stripped Trousers, Silk Stockings and Garters
by John Chuckman

If Michael Ignatieff is anything, it's connected, and I do not mean just to the relatively small establishment of Canada, I mean connected to the shadowy godfathers of world empire. Ignatieff has a rich career in America where truly loyal service, whether by natural or adopted sons, is always handsomely rewarded. Another Canadian, David Frum, made it all the way to the White House with his custom-tailored scribbling. So too such a genuinely dangerous American as Pat Buchanan. How does a man like Thomas Friedman pick up prizes writing advertising copy for the Pentagon? As I said, loyalty is handsomely rewarded. David Frum and Pat Buchanan both fell from grace, but there is little danger of Ignatieff's doing so. He almost perceptibly pants and gasps when he applies words to the imperial splendor of which he stands in awe....
(full article)

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