Archive for April, 2011

Ben Masel Dead At 56

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

It looks like Ben is not going to make it to the Senate in 2012. He has died, and people are posting tributes on his Facebook page. I didn’t know Ben very well, but he did change my life. He called me at work in Boulder, CO and asked me if I wanted to go to New York City and run the Rock Against Racism Chapter there. I still don’t know how he found me. But I took him up on the offer, got on a bus to New York and my life was changed. I finally met him at the Yippie office there 9 Bleecker Street. He was a long haired hippie with a propensity for getting busted on civil rights charges. He told me he was going for the world record, I don’t know if he made it. He also was a chess champion and made a living playing back then. That was in 1979. Since then I have contacted him from time to time, but we have never met again to my knowledge. It makes me feel my mortality, he was 56, same age as I am.

Good luck on the astral plane Ben, you should have had plenty of experience preparng for this trip.

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From Alternative Medical Choices

Madison NORML’s Ben Masel loses battle with lung cancer

By “Radical” Russ Belville on April 30, 2011

Madison NORML’s Ben Masel with me at the 2009 Great Midwest Harvest Fest in Madison.

It is with great sadness I report on the death of one of the most outstanding activists in the NORML family – Ben Masel has passed away at age 56 following his battle with lung cancer.

Friends are leaving tribute on Ben’s Facebook page.

I met Ben at the 2009 Great Midwest Harvest Fest. He and Gary Storck flew me out to speak to the crowd of thousands on the campus of University of Wisconsin and the statehouse steps. I quickly found him to be exceptionally brilliant (he was just shy of “grand master” in chess) and loaded with fabulous stories of his past activism with the Yippies.

Ben had hoped to make it out to the NORML Conference last week, but obviously his health had taken a turn for the worse. The NORML Board presented to him a special award for his lifetime of work. My own tribute to Ben appears in the August 2011 issue of HIGH TIMES Magazine where we named him “Freedom Fighter of the Month”… unfortunately too late for him to read it. It will be one of my bigger disappointments that Ben never received the recognition he deserved while he was alive to enjoy it.

Following is the article for HIGH TIMES with my sincere condolences to family and friends who had the privilege of knowing and loving him more than I.

If you watched the TV news coverage of the Wisconsin labor protests in Madison last February, you may have seen this month’s Freedom Fighter Ben Masel. A longtime activist with Madison NORML, Ben was instrumental in creating the vibrant cannabis community in the state, including organizing Weedstock and the Great Midwest Harvest Fest that celebrates its fortieth anniversary this October 1-3 (see madisonhempfest.com). He’s currently been fighting over the past few legislative sessions to get Wisconsin to pass the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act.

While Ben fights for the end of marijuana prohibition, his activism also extends into mainstream politics as well. He’s a passionate civil libertarian, advocating equally for free speech and gun rights, personal privacy and a return to stronger congressional control of war powers. Ben has run many times for elective office, from a challenge to Governor Tommy Thompson in 1990 to his current candidacy for the US Senate seat held by Herb Kohl. He first caught attention for his radicalism when at age 17 he became the youngest person placed on President Nixon’s infamous “enemies list” and “the man” has kept his eye on Ben ever since.

This March at the age of 56, Ben received the horrible news that he’d been stricken by lung cancer. Speaking to the Wisconsin State Journal, Ben said, “I’m feeling pretty upbeat about stuff. Not about having (cancer), but overall. I’m definitely not in the ‘Oh, no, poor me, I’ve got cancer’ mode.” In reviewing our records, we’re stunned and embarrassed that Ben had not been listed among the 206 activists who’ve won the award since 1990. Everyone at NORML and HIGH TIMES extends our highest hopes for Ben’s good health.

Ben in action at this year’s massive labor protests at the capitol in Madison:

Posted in 4:20 NEWS, Activism, Celebrity Tokers, NORML, Seniors | Tagged ben masel, lung cancer, Madison, Madison NORML, Wisconsin, yippies

“Radical” Russ Belville

I am the host of the NORML SHOW LIVE and The NORML Stash Blog. I’m married, live in Portland, Oregon, and I am a registered medical marijuana caregiver in this state. I’ve worked days as an IT geek and nights as a professional musician. Previously, I have been the host of my own political talk radio show on satellite radio. I’ve been the High Times “Freedom Fighter of the Month” for my work producing Oregon NORML’s TV show, “A Cannabis Community Forum”, and for helping to institute Portland’s wildly successful medical marijuana cardholders meetings, where we help sick and disabled Oregonians acquire cannabis plant starts, learn gardening, and understand the medical marijuana law. I’ve dedicated my life to bringing an end to adult marijuana prohibition and re-legalizing cannabis hemp, and I’m honored to be chosen by NORML to be our daily voice.

http://stash.norml.org/madison-normls-ben-masel-loses-battle-with-lung-cancer

Labor Victory Over Boeing, Thanks To NLRB

Friday, April 29th, 2011

It is a sad day when the labor movement has become so anemic that is has to depend on the
NLRB to gain a victory over a major corporation. The problem is, as soon as the administration changes, the Labor Department will most likely revert to the corporate tool it has been for decades and the labor movement will be back to slogging it out with the capitalists with the minimal support they had before from the government. There is no substitute for organizing the working class to defend itself. Relying on the government is simply not the way to go. Even a socialist government would not be one that could be counted upon, look at how the Soviet Union treated its workers. Better than in the west, but still, there is no substitute for the workers organizing and defending their interests.

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From Dissident Voice

The NLRB Shows Its Fangs

by David Macaray / April 29th, 2011

With all the bad news organized labor has received recently—and there’s been plenty of it, from attacks on the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, to smear campaigns against school teachers, to more jobs being lost to globalization and “Dixiefication”—it came as a welcome surprise to see the NLRB reach all the way back to the landmark 1935 National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) to defy the Boeing Corporation.

On April 20, in a positively stunning decision, the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, announced that Boeing’s plan to move part of its Dreamliner 787 passenger plane production from Seattle to South Carolina was illegal.

Given today’s pro-business environment, where private enterprise expects to run the table every time it picks up a pool cue, it’s rare to see a company receive so much as a stern warning from the feds, and rarer yet to receive a slap on the wrist. So to have a government agency administer a body blow like this one—telling a company it can’t change locations—took everyone by surprise.

Why was the move to South Carolina illegal? Because internal memos and company correspondence, along with media interviews of Boeing executives, clearly indicated that the move was being made in retaliation for Boeing’s workers going on strike. The majority of Boeing’s hourly workforce are members of the IAM (International Association of Machinists).

In short, Boeing brazenly announced to the world that it was moving its operation to non-unionized Dixie in response to union work stoppages. And, as Solomon noted, the Wagner Act specifically prohibits companies from retaliating against workers who exercise their legal right to strike. After all, what value would a statutory “right to strike” have if the workers knew in advance that the company had the legal right to retaliate by shutting down and moving?

Disappointing as the NLRB’s decision was to corporate America (and the response, predictably, has been one of horror and outrage, as if the airline manufacturing industry were being nationalized), it was, in principle at least, a fairly simple call to make—for anyone calling himself a legal constructionist. The law is the law. You either enforce it or you don’t.

Actually, for all the well-deserved criticism the Obama administration has gotten from the Left, the Department of Labor, led by Secretary Hilda Solis, has made some notable contributions. For one thing, Secretary Solis followed through on her promise to hire an additional 200 NLRB field agents to better help with the enforcement of federal labor laws. The Labor Board can’t be expected to address employer violations without an adequate number of field agents, and while an additional 200 investigators is nowhere near enough, it’s a step in the right direction.

For another, Obama appointed respected labor expert Craig Becker to the NLRB over vehement protests by anti-labor Republicans who attempted to portray the slightly left-of-center Becker as a Marxist-Leninist lunatic. It took a recess appointment to get him on the Board, but Obama did it. Also, the DOL succeeded in bringing criminal charges against a couple of notorious Southern California carwash owners for numerous violations, including falsification of pay records, failure to pay overtime, and racketeering.

Of course, as everyone knows, for this Boeing decision to stick, it will need a great deal of luck and some key, sympathetic supporters. Indeed, the appeals process is already underway. Going all the way back to the Reagan administration, the federal courts have been nothing if not overwhelmingly pro-business, so it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Still, at the very least, the fact that the NLRB has chosen to aggressively and publicly expose the ULP (unfair labor practice) of a high-profile company is an indication that the gauntlet has been thrown down. Who knows? Maybe organized labor’s optimistic hopes for the Obama administration may yet be realized.

More Left Out In America

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

This is an interesting comment on my post of April 26 and my response which turned into a bit of a screed.

— On Wed, 4/27/11, Dean Tuckerman wrote:

Gary; You need to read more Trotsky and Trotskyism. That may seem
strange coming from me, someone who hates the authoritarianism of
Trotsky and his supposed followers. But Gary, you need to read about the
popular front, and why it’s the wrong way to organize, because your
document and attitude reeks of the popular front. You believe that
Obama, the black and progressive caucuses are part of the left when in
reality they are part of the ruling class–especially oh-bomb-uh.
Anybody in the leadership of the Democratic party is part of the ruling
capitalist class and is the class enemy. Before you can figure how to
organize, you must figure out how –and who– not to organize with.

Who to work with: I find anarchists doing all kinds of important work,
especially those who are doing direct actions –no matter how small they
point the way forward. I find there is a split amongst environmentalists
between those are figuring out how to solve the greatest problem of our
time, and those who, as you say, are figuring out how to fit in. The
answer hasn’t been found yet, but some people are experimenting and they
need to to be supported and added to. Some Greens are anemic (mainly
the ones who don’t see the Democratic party as the gravediggers of the
movement), but some are exciting and trying new ways to organize. There
are community organizers all around the world, some in the Social Forum
movement, who are doing important work. And there’s much more if you get
out of the blinders of pro-capitalist and pro-governmental hierarchical
institutions

You can read my post of April 26 “Left Out In America” on my blog if you want to know what Dean is refering to.

The problem I have with your analysis Dean is that you assume I simply am not enlightened and if I simply knew what you know, I would agree with you. Unless there has been a major shift in the universe, I do believe we are still on the same planet and have even been in the same cultural milieus. I simply was stating that I found the arguments in Socialist Voice to be intelligent, cogent and non-ideological, except for their attachment to the concept of the Vanguard whish seems to be assumed as a given. They are for the most part still wrapped around the concept of building a socialist party. I think that is a valid one, although I am not sure an uncorrupted socialist party exists. But that is part of politics.

The direct action experiments you speak of are pretty limited. Spain in the 1930’s is still our best example and there had been decades of ground work done by the activists of the CNT, and other anarchist and syndicalist formations before the civil war. Other events such as organizing for specific demonstrations may show that people have skills but these are limited to a single event that may last a few days at most. There is no ongoing presence, except for perhaps an Indymedia collective or an Infoshop or a Food Not Bombs groups. All of these are nice, but they are not exactly models of successful anarchist communities.

People like continuity, and stability. When they want disorder they go to an amusement park, or play with the stock market. Free market capitalists and anarchists seem to have fetishized uncontrolled, reality, believing in the invisible hand or natural order of things to sort stuff out. In reality it is human institutions, human decision making, in the natural environment that determines what is and what is not, outside of the weather, which we have increasing ability to control. Planning is necessary in conjunction with the spontaneous occurrences of life. Back in the 1960’s there was a reaction against the dreariness of the imagined 1950’s with its predictable, safe white bread reality. People did all sorts of things, invented therapies, took drugs, to make themselves more spontaneous. People emulated so called spontaneous artists and prostitutes and we created a cult of spontaneity that degenerated into a consumer culture of youth worship. It was really more of a love of novelty that people fell for. We now live in a world where novelty and distraction have become the norm. What once was extreme is now considered tame and the culture mavens seek further and further afield for sufficiently distracting tales to entertain the jaded minds of the industrialized world. This is especially so in the USA where a culture of novelty has become one of violent transgression. The media is full of images of slaughter. Games are created that increase the verisimilitude of the ability to commit mayhem. The violence, although vicarious is socially destructive, it has no relationship to attaining any socially meaningful goal other than to wipe out the enemy. The means no longer have to justify the ends, there are no longer ends, just endless means in the flickering images on the tube, the computer screen, the cell phone, I-book, whatever. I have wandered a bit from the subject, because I want to describe a state that many, many Americans, especially the youth, are immersed in. It was something that grew out of a combination of the culture and the technology.

It can be seen how anarchism would be attractive to someone who was raised in a world full of these unstable flickering images constantly changing and full of violent images of fulfillment. They are rapidly changing and demand flexibility, quick reflexes at least in the fingers, and a mind able to absorb images, able to discern movement and able to react to motion quickly without thinking about it. Anarchism as a political theory fits this better, than perhaps any other except free market capitalism. Unless you are a programmer, if you write code, then you are in a different position. I am not in that position but I would be interested in seeing what a programmers dream world would be like, open source code? Perhaps our friend Julian Assange is the poster child for the future of political action. Daring, rash even, almost unaware of conventional approaches and willing to break convention for the sake of the data and data by the terabit is what he gives us, raw, uncensored, well almost. It is anarchistic. It is certainly free on the marketplace of ideas. It has created chaos in certain fields of policy and it seems to have been contained and has disappeared from the media mindscape. I am trying to find room to agree with you, but I am wondering about the mind set of modern America, our most well known subject.

I am no apologist for Obama, I simply see the election cycle coming up and wonder, will the right wing succeed in taking away what little social security I have? As a recently disabled person I have to think about this stuff. You have been living with disability all your life. These dollar and sense issues of who gets what affect me, and you. If we are to have any ability to live in this society with any dignity, we need to insure that the government does not cut what little we have and give even more to the rich under the false premise of paying down debt. Who after all holds the debt, the wealthy for the most part. It is a numbers game and is a system used not simply for neutral accounting, but for maintaining wealth concentrated in a few hands.

Resources can be reallocated. Cuba for one has shown that even in a poor country it can be done, with a little help from friends. And what after all are friends for? We all need friends and in a world as interdependent as ours, we all need to be willing to share the wealth. How we do it, what system you use is up to us collectively to determine. But first we have to wrestle it out of the hands of the ruling classes and then we have to figure out how to keep a new ruling class from arising, Unless we decide we really want one, then we might as well have a king. But the prophets of old warned the people of Israel against Kings, and they got them anyway. People forget the kings were a curse of god, not a blessing.

How we go about getting to socialism is any bodies guess. At this point we have environmental and social pressures pushing the world in that direction. But first we have to get over this whole allegiance to a financial game that is simply getting us tied up in knots for no reason other than to please a few wealthy creditors. I don’t know if anarchists are up to this game, any more than most of the left. But if we don’t step up, the same old gang will.

Left Out In America

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Last night I was caught up in reading a site called “Socialist Voice” that seemed to have a Trotskyist slant to it. I hadn’t really taken the Trotskyist viewpoint seriously for a long time, but the debate on the pages of this web-publication was actually pretty interesting, not all convoluted Marxist rhetoric at all. I could actually follow the debate. It seems that after the fall of the Soviet Union the Trotskyist factions have had a crisis of meaning. They no longer were the left opposition to the Stalinists, because for the most part the party of Stalin had collapsed. They could participate in the anti-war opposition, like ANSWER, but without a draft, the anti-war movement seems to be floundering. The left, in North America, and in the USA in particular seems to need to be against something. It has a hard time rallying energy around being for a particular program.

The democratic left of the Democrats, used to rally around DSA, Democratic Socialists of America, which came from the old Socialist Party. Now we have a Progressive Caucus in Congress, one socialist Senator, and that is about it in Congress. There is an anemic Green Party, various Marxist sects that call themselves “Parties”, a variety of social movements such as gay rights, abortion rights, and that is the American left. We have a fairly strong anarchist movement that is mostly made up of students and former students who have not yet entered the work force or found their legs in academia yet. There is an environmental movement that seems to be wandering down its own path of incorporation into the capitalist system. We have a very motivated immigrant rights movement among Latinos, a Black Caucus in Congress, and a labor movement that seems to be on its last legs but every now and then shows a little vitality, like the opposition to the Wisconsin Governor removing some of the bargaining rights of public workers in the state. This is a reactionary movement, and ultimately will probably lose steam as Americans get used to having no labor representation other than what protection the state offers. That leaves us with President Obama and his presidential campaign. I watched the video to rally the troops put out by his reelection committee. It was lame, there was no content, only a weak pep rally, go team. Not one word on policy, just a rehashing of the ‘community worker’ line, as if Obama was just off the streets himself working in a homeless shelter. It made me wonder if anyone buys this crap and that is what we are offered as the alternative to the Republicans.

Is the left wing in America anachronistic? Are they stuck looking at labor in the past, the good old days of the sixties, or the thirties or even the teens? Yesterday’s labor movement, or left wing activism are not going to bring about transformation. So where do we look for the future? Latin America seems to be moving along in a progressive direction with Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil edging along in a progressive direction. Cuba seems to be taking a right turn with its willingness to privatize sectors of the economy. Socialism is beginning to look like something they cannot afford to maintain in a sea of state sponsored capitalism, or perhaps it is capitalist sponsored statism.

The problem I see with these insurgent states is that they are one coup away from a right wing dictatorship, unless they have thoroughly purged their militaries of the CIA and School of the America’s trained thugs. We can see how in Venezuela they attempted a coup and failed narrowly. The USA was ready to celebrate the victory of the ‘forces of democracy’, but fortunately it didn’t happen. Anarchists in Venezuela are not particularly happy with the Bolivarian movement. They don’t seem to have much of an alternative unless they can align with a local indigenous and peasant movement. Most anarchists tend to be urban creatures. The World Social Forum seems to be a place where a lot of steam is gathered. The question is, are they generating any heat with all that steam?

The Arab world is going through radical change. It is the place where the action is, and Africa as a continent perhaps is right behind them. Asia seems to have gone for capitalist transformation and is integrated into the world market at various levels. Africa remains the world raw material center and seems doomed to remain so unless there is serious social change. The Marxist wave seems to have passed and now they are about ready for their version of neo-liberal democracy. But first it must transform the Arab world. If neo-liberalism succeeds in creating a series of successful Mini-Europe’s in North Africa and the Middle East, then Africa south of the Sahara will be next and it will be interesting to see if semi-socialist Latin America manages to maintain an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism.

Certainly Obama has sold it to the Arab world with his kinder, gentler, face of capitalist exploitation. His is imperialism with silent drone attacks instead of F-16’s and Apache helicopter assault ships. Obama likes to use his proxy warriors in Europe, prodding the British and French into action in Libya, rather than showing off the big American stick. A more subtle approach, one that seems to be appreciated in the sophisticated circles of the upper ruling classes, is the Obama tactic, velvet encased and pearl handled sticks. Although I am sure there are more rough and ready ruling class types who can’t wait to sweep out the tea drinkers and bring back a more two fisted crew. The Tea Party represents that mentality, although in reality the Tea Party is all for show. It is simply another ploy to rally the socially conservative mass of white males and their mates if they will buy into that nonsense. It has replaced the old racist ‘good old boy’ redneck approach of past decades. Without a working class left wing set of values, to oppose the right wing takeover of the working classes, there seems to be little chance of a resurgent labor movement or a left outside of academia and the upper middle class professionals who seem to have taken the mantle of liberal social concern, a more pedestrian version of upper class charity wives.

The vision I am painting is rather bleak. It need not be so. At any time the mass of workers could simply get fed up. But if the last recession is any example, they simply complained and listened to Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and blamed the immigrants for stealing their jobs and benefits. The great communist conspiracy has become a Muslim one, and the rich, get richer while the politicians wring their hands and pretend to do something about it. Ignorance is bliss. How true.

Watch out or they will be taking your Medicare and Social Security away. Blaming the budget deficits, as if that ever meant anything to a politician, is a great smokescreen. Deficit spending has been normal for as long as rulers could figure out ways to extract wealth from the merchant classes. When the debt got too great they simply declared a jubilee, or threw the merchants in prison until they wrote off the debt. Any fool should understand that debt is a tool for allocating resources and if too much power is given to creditors they will abuse their privilege. Debtors thus must periodically expropriate the wealth and reestablish a more balanced economy. Otherwise the wealth will continue to accumulate in fewer and fewer hands and eventually the economy will stagnate. It is simply a poorly designed system but until socialism of some sort is implemented, this see-saw will continue to be the system in practice.

Trip To Yucaipa

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Yesterday I drove up to my dad’s place in Yucaipa. It’s a growing suburb in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of LA on the way to Palm Springs. It still relatively nice up there, at about 3000 feet, not totally developed yet. It gets cold at night in April and this year it is wet and rainy so the mountains look pretty green. It is noticeably less smoggy up there too although you don’t really get out of the smog zone until you are out of the LA basin over by Palm Springs. There was a time when you could taste it in the air, but now it is not as bad as it was a couple of decades ago. Years of AQMD controls and catalytic converters on cars make a difference, although the air here is still some of the worst in the nation.

These newer suburbs have what I call noticeable landscaping. The trees and grasses are all along the road sides and by the entrances to the housing developments. A few feet away is the natural scrub of the high desert that is native to this region. The landscaping hasn’t blended in yet, in either direction, to a more complete conquest of the desert or a failure to water and maintain lawns and trees that gradually die off. Yucaipa has that fresh green look of an up and coming suburb, although the Library is off limits due to the discovery of asbestos in the insulation, making a trip down the mountainside to Redlands a necessity if you need to use the library. For that matter if you want to go to a bookstore, or a Trader Joes you have to go to Redlands. Its only a ten minute trip down interstate ten.

Where my dad lives, near the eastern edge of town, up against the national forest, you would expect to find a lot of places to hike, but he has to walk alongside a busy road with intermittent sidewalks. To the left and right are small housing developments, trailer parks, empty lots with signs for housing developments on hold and flood runoff zones. They are all fenced off, walled in, and blockaded with no trespassing warning signs. The city has lots of land that is not being used, which my dad calls ‘gravel pits’, it looks more like undeveloped land that could have walking and bike paths, especially around the water channels. He tells me there is a park you can drive to and there they have walking paths. We both thought that was funny and a bit sad.

Yucaipa has lots of Churches. According to my dad it is a Christian town, that’s why no restaurants were open on Easter. He was complaining that weekends were when people had time to go out and they were closed. I noted that this town had a lot of retirees and they could eat anytime. I cooked him the Polish Kielbasa brought from a German Market in Torrance, with some cabbage, carrots, and sauerkraut. It was a real central European meal, except for the corn bread, that was my dad’s southern touch. I slathered mine with some killer hot horseradish that made your head sweat. I tried to heat some congealed olive oil in his wok. I forgot how fast those things heat up and the plastic bottle melted on the bottom into the pan while I was trying to recite a poem my dad liked. I really shouldn’t have tried to cook and read poetry at the same time. I spent the next half hour trying to get the plastic out of the wok and finally gave up and boiled the Kielbasa.

We went for a walk down his busy thoroughfare, I asked about various houses as we walked along, one he said had a band, there were half a dozen cars in the driveway. Another house had Christian signs out front with Bible quotes, I asked if it was a preacher’s house, he didn’t know. One had horses and a little garden, another had a big dog that barked and wagged its tail. My dad said he talked to that dog a lot and it probably wouldn’t bite. Big dogs tend to be like that. It’s the little ones you have to watch out for. We talked about how he ate almost no protein and I had to eat it all the time, how I was no longer vegetarian after so many years and he was almost one now eating mostly fruit and nuts.

When we got back we went to the clubhouse of the trailer park he lives in to play pool. The cues and balls were missing. He says people steal. I thought it looked pretty safe, and why steal pool balls and cue sticks? We decided to go to the local supermarket where my dad walked around pointing out all the things that you could get premade, frozen garlic bread, frozen breaded fish, etc. I wondered if he thought I was from a third world country where such things were unheard of. I simply pointed out that most of these frozen foods were processed and full of preservatives and it would be better to use fresh ingredients or at least fresh frozen unprocessed foods. My dad is into cheap, whatever is on sale, he buys. For instance he gets tasteless margarine because it is cheap, even though even he admits it is flavorless. I tell him I would rather get good butter, pay a little more and use it sparingly. We are different in that way. Although I caught him getting the more expensive coffee creamer, he said the cheaper kind tasted funny. So he is not totally driven by cost.

Later that night I went to hook up my portable dialysis gear. It was really a pain. Nothing was where I am used to having it, my dad’s place was full of dust that I had to wipe away. I had to use to microwave to heat up the solution and then I discovered I had forgotten the clamps that are used to hold the solution back after the stoppers have been broken. I won’t go into those details. We spent about ten minutes hunting around his place looking for suitable clamps, no luck, so I had to pack up and drive back to Long Beach, about an hour and fifteen minutes away at ten o’clock at night. I only got caught in one accident on the 91 freeway in Cerritos. Not bad. I hopped off the freeway took a surface street to the next exit and was back on the empty freeway looking at the flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror where the accident had traffic piled up.

I was relieved to be home, with my familiar set up. I realized that traveling anywhere while on dialysis takes careful planning. You can’t just grab your shit and run out the door. You have to think of all the stuff you need, pills, supplies, paraphernalia. You can’t just expect to find what you need when you get where you are going. I had even forgotten to bring a jacket thinking it would be hot where my dad lived. It was a good trial run for a real trip. But in the future, I will have to take travel planning seriously if I want to go anywhere. It is a real challenge. I am so used to being spontaneous, now I have to be deliberate about everything. This post-life living is a trip.

Revival Of Irish Republican Groups

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

I saw this article about the renewed threat from the Irish and having been reading British history recently, I thought it was a good time to throw in my two cents on the issue. The British ripped off and oppressed the Irish for centuries. They attempted to colonize their country and as a result a British residue, Northern Ireland, exists as a reminder to the Irish of how long they have been under the British thumb. Anyone who has read history will understand the situation there is the result of long standing gevances, much more long standing than the Palestinian gripe against Israel, although it is a similar intrusion, the result of British mucking around in people’s lives, just as the Pakistan-India division is the result of British interference and the same goes for much of Africa, the legacy of the Empire.

I admire the British for their gall. The were the model for the USA in its imperial endeavors. Always claiming to be acting for the betterment of humanity, when in reality it was for the betterment of the wealthy elites controling policy in Washington.

The British have good reason to fear the Irish. The Irish have good reason to want revenge. Until the British are out of Ireland for good, this will be a festering sore in the side of Ireland and no feel good peace movement will end the aberation of Northern Ireland until it is reunited with the rest of Ireland. Protestants live in the south, they can live in a united Ireland. I am not normally a big fan of nationalism, living in the USA, it is hard to justify any nationalist principals at all. But in a place that has over the centuries maintained its identity, as shredded and deformed as it may be from the British imposition, they deserve to retain what they call their own and then on the basis of equality, accept or refuse what they wish from the rest of the world. Ah if it were only so simple…

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From Guardian.UK

New Irish terror groups are threat to UK, warn police

Intelligence officials say dissidents are capable of mounting mainland attack, as fears grow of ‘Easter offensive’ in Ulster

Mark Townsend and Henry McDonald
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 April 2011 18.52 BST

The UK mainland has not experience an Irish republican attack since car bombs exploded at the BBC Television Centre, and Ealing Broadway station in London in 2001.

Dissident republicans have developed the capability to mount an attack on the British mainland, according to the latest security assessment. Senior counter-terrorism sources confirmed the threat from dissidents attacking the mainland “now goes beyond an aspiration” and that they now possess the means to mount an attack across the Irish Sea.

Amid rising tension in the province and fears of an “Easter offensive” by dissident groups, police in Northern Ireland also warned that anti-ceasefire republicans were plotting to kill more police officers.

The increased threat from republican dissidents is certain to heighten security concerns during the build-up to the royal wedding on Friday, although there is no intelligence suggesting a specific plot related to the event.

On Friday another dissident grouping, styling itself “the IRA”, issued a public statement claiming responsibility for the murder of PC Ronan Kerr in Omagh this month. The group, comprising former members of the Provisional IRA, vowed to embark on a bombing campaign. It is understood that the new group includes veteran paramilitaries who were involved in transporting and later detonating the bomb that exploded at London’s Canary Wharf in 1996.

Intelligence officials monitoring dissident activity point to a growing sophistication in bomb-making techniques and a widening range of attack techniques as evidence of expanding capability. A senior intelligence source told the Observer: “We feel there is capability to attempt some form of an attack on Britain. Based on our assessment, it goes beyond an aspiration.” Dissident groups have recently deployed command-wire explosive devices, van-mounted weaponry, car bombs and vehicle booby traps, as well as more orthodox military equipment such as hand-grenades. Several individuals are believed to be under surveillance.

The mainland has not experienced an Irish republican attack since car bombs exploded at the BBC Television Centre and Ealing Broadway station in London in 2001. The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, said last September, however, that dissidents posed a “real and increasing security challenge in Northern Ireland” and could be planning attacks elsewhere. According to MI5’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the official threat level is “substantial”, meaning an attack is a “strong possibility”.

On Saturday a man appeared in court facing charges in connection with the murder of Kerr. Gavin Coyle, 33, from Omagh was charged with possession of explosives, firearms and articles likely to be of use to terrorists. He was remanded in custody. The court heard he was linked to a footprint found at a major dissident republican arms dump in Coalisland during investigations into Kerr’s murder. Police have also revealed details of a substantial haul of guns and ammunition found in a vehicle stopped by officers in Keady, near the Irish border, on Friday.

Attention has concentrated upon the Real IRA and the smaller but technically able Oglaigh na hEireann, which has improved its explosives technology over the past two years. Analysis suggests that the explosives material being used by dissidents may have originated from a onetime Provisional IRA stockpile whose whereabouts were known by former quartermaster general Michael McKevitt – who formed the Real IRA.

Police in Northern Ireland said yesterday that fresh violence was expected. “Dissident terrorist groups are continuing to identify officers and target them with the single objective of killing them,” a spokesman said.

In further evidence of growing confidence among extremist republican groups, a leading figure in one of the dissident groups’ political wings announced that the Queen should be considered a “legitimate target” during her visit to Ireland in May. The general secretary of the hardline Republican Sinn Féin party, Josephine Hayden, said she would have no problem with a sniper targeting the Queen. “You might say that she is just a little old grandmother,” said Hayden, “but it is what she represents, what she symbolises that counts. She is a legitimate target.”

The Observer has learned that a radical republican group known as Eirígí: for a Socialist Republic is planning to occupy Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance 48 hours before the Queen is scheduled to attend a reconciliation ceremony there.

Republicans in Dublin say the splinter group plans to establish a tented camp on the Sunday prior to the visit, creating the possibility that the Garda Siochána will have to forcibly remove protesters before the royal tour begins on 17 May.

On 5 May, Northern Ireland is braced for trouble to mark assembly elections and the 30th anniversary of the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Future trouble could depend on the reaction from the loyalist community, described by sources as “relatively restrained” until now. A 40-year-old Belfast man was, however, arrested on Saturday in connection with loyalist terrorist activity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/23/terrorism-threat-uk-northern-ireland

eirigi site
http://www.eirigi.org/

Republican Sinn Fein site
http://www.rsf.ie/index.html

Real IRA site
http://www.32csm.info/

Article About Cumann na mBan - Womans Irish Republican group
http://www.irishdemocrat.co.uk/features/cumann-na-mban/

Irish National Liberation Army site
http://www.angelfire.com/space/derryirsp/inla.htm

Continuity IRA site
http://irelandsown.net/RIRA.html
==========================================

From the Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents: interview with terror splinter group

By Brian Rowan
Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Belfast Telegraph today publishes an interview with the terrorist group behind the Palace Barracks bombing and the Peadar Heffron murder attempt in which its leadership boasts: “Nothing is beyond our reach”.

The newspaper’s security correspondent Brian Rowan met face-to-face with senior figures in the armed republican faction Oglaigh na hEireann in the wake of the groups increasing activities which in recent months have also included a car bomb attack in Strand Road, Londonderry and an attempt to kill an Army Major with a booby-trap bomb.

The interview comes just weeks after the director-general of MI5 Jonathan Evans highlighted the “real and rising security challenge” posed by dissident groups here and the decision to raise the threat level in Britain to substantial.

The newspaper insisted on a face-to-face interview rather than written communications in order to challenge statements the group might make.

Oglaigh na hEireann has quickly become the most active of the dissident groups operating separately from the Real IRA and Continuity IRA.

The interview, which took place in a house in Belfast, covered a range of issues:
•The organisation’s tactics and strategy;
•Recent attempts by the security services to recruit informers from within its ranks;
•Its position on talks with the British and Irish Governments;
•What it thinks of Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness;
•And its response to that recent speech by the head of MI5.

The organisation made clear that attacks in places such as Holywood, Bangor and east Belfast have been deliberately planned in what were seen as “safe zones for security forces”.

“It was to send a direct message that nowhere is safe,” said one of the group’s leaders.

According to republican sources the organisation has between 80-100 members in Belfast drawn from the Provisional IRA, Real IRA and INLA and new recruits.

Three representatives of the group’s so-called Army Council and General Headquarters Staff took part in the interview with this newspaper — an interview in which they accepted they were not yet ready to launch a sustained campaign of attacks.

“To go at it full steam would increase momentum short term, but, we believe, ultimately would fail within a very short period of time,” said the Army Council representative.

“There is no ready-made IRA pack that can be assembled in a short period of time.

“An Oglaigh na hEireann capable of having a sustained campaign will take time to develop.”

This interview took days to arrange and was requested by the Belfast Telegraph after the speech by the head of MI5 and the decision shortly afterwards to publicly raise the threat level in Britain to substantial.

Here the threat level remains severe and the Police Federation has called for 1,000 more police officers.

“It says that they — MI5/British Intelligence — are acknowledging a growing threat, which they admit they played down and ignored — played it down and underestimated it,” the leaders of Oglaigh na hEireann said.

Asked whether attacks in Britain were part of their focus and thinking, they responded:

“Oglaigh na hEireann will decide when and where it attacks.

“Sceptics will say, ‘they would say that’, because they don’t have the capabilities.

“Eighteen months ago, they told us we couldn’t even detonate a bomb.

“Nothing is beyond our reach.”

During the past 18 months, the organisation placed three under-car booby trap bombs on vehicles belonging to Constable Peadar Heffron, an Army Major in Bangor, and the female partner of a PSNI dog handler in east Belfast.

Speaking to this newspaper, its leaders talked about those operations and how the security forces have responded. “We have noticed a dramatic increase in both overt and covert surveillance,” one of its leaders said.

This means a bigger challenge for the dissident group to operate under the security radar.

“Every time we are not involved in the execution of an operation, we are recruiting, developing expertise, gathering intelligence and planning the next operation,” its leadership said.

Oglaigh na hEireann said it did not want to copy the IRA. “They failed,” said one of its leaders.

Oglaigh na hEireann on bomb-making, targeting police and ‘successful operations’

Interview with three representatives of Oglaigh na hEireann leadership — one member of the organisation’s Army Council, who did almost all of the talking, and two general headquarters staff.

Rowan: I’d like to ask about the roots of your organisation, how it emerged — the when and why of that, what you see as the organisation’s role.

ONH: The organisation began with nothing more than a number of conversations between senior republicans across Ireland [in 2005]. They had watched how the anti-agreement republican military world had the perception of [being] badly organised, ineffective and perceived [as] highly infiltrated, and, in some cases, I suppose they were. They decided that after a very lengthy debate to try and salvage a group of republicans and form them into an organisation. It would have taken a year just to agree to the formation of a group. We had agreed the title Oglaigh na hEireann, but hadn’t made it public. We looked at all of the IRAs, including the Provisional IRA. We looked at all their strengths and weaknesses. We picked out what we believed were flaws in structure and operational, and we designed a structure for Oglaigh na hEireann, that while based on the same format as the Provisionals, had sections that were fundamentally different, which we believed offered better security and limited the security services in the event of them being able to successfully recruit agents and informers.

Rowan: [Is it] a new beginning, or picking up where others had left off?

ONH: It was a mixture of both. At that particular stage a number of people had come to our attention as having become disillusioned with the Provisional IRA strategy and approaches were made both ways [from ONH to individuals, and from individuals to ONH]. We believed that some of the people who were starting to form a core structure were people who could offer a formidable military alternative to what was then on offer militarily. It’s a number of people who were former members of other organisations, and that’s across the spectrum – Provisional IRA, INLA, Real IRA. The vast, vast majority of people who were recruited were deliberately selected for their skills, experience and know-how. This is island-wide. There wasn’t an open recruitment procedure.

Rowan: When does this become a first operation?

ONH: There was a number of training operations, and testing the structure, which have never been claimed. [The] first operation claimed was a kneecapping on south link pitches Andersonstown. The victim was shot six times —|elbows, knees, ankles.

Rowan: Talk to me about this description of a two-headed beast, used to describe the Oglaigh na hEireann relationship with the Real IRA — two bits of one organisation?

ONH: It simply isn’t the case. Oglaigh na hEireann is a separate entity. The confusion initially in some media and security circles, we assume, came about [because] there was a handful of former senior members of the Real IRA who were playing pivotal roles in the emerging Oglaigh na hEireann. Unfortunately because Oglaigh na hEireann wasn’t doing interviews or statements at that time the water remained cloudy.

Rowan: That suited you?

ONH: No end.

Rowan: What about joint operations — sharing materials, expertise?

ONH: At the present stage there is a friendly and cordial relationship between Oglaigh na hEireann and other armed republican organisations. That doesn’t cross over into joint operations. I don’t believe there is any sharing of expertise.

Rowan: Let’s deal with the tactics and strategy of your own organisation. Describe your immediate aims, and then we’ll talk about what you think is achievable longer term.

ONH: Our fundamentals are about securing the organisation, about credible recruitment and carrying out credible, high-grade operations. We also want to offer working class communities, who have been abandoned, protection from criminals and drug dealers. Every time we are not involved in an operation we are recruiting, developing expertise, gathering intelligence and planning the next operation. All of that is made easier on the back of some of our operations. The Provisional IRA took approximately 15 years to wind down. There is no ready-made IRA pack that can be assembled in a short period of time. An Oglaigh na hEireann capable of having a sustained campaign will take time to develop. It will take time to develop the structures, personnel, finance and weaponry.

Rowan: If Oglaigh na hEireann went full out [now]?

ONH: I think we would be playing right into the hands of the British, who, while the Provisional IRA were winding down continued with their

war machine in Ireland unabated. To go at it full steam would increase momentum short term, but we believe ultimately would fail within a very short period of time.

Rowan: As your expertise builds, as you become more successful in your terms, what happens inside and outside the organisation?

ONH: Inside the organisation successful operations increase morale. It also gives republicans increased confidence to carry out more daring attacks. Republicans who acknowledge that Oglaigh na hEireann are doing the right things offer their services. That in turn increases our capabilities even further.

Rowan: Do you have what previously would have been Provisional IRA bomb-making expertise?

ONH: Yes.

Rowan: Do you want to elaborate?

ONH: No. We have found that former IRA volunteers have applied to join Oglaigh na hEireann on the back of those successful operations.

Rowan: Security activity?

ONH: We have noticed a dramatic increase in both overt and covert surveillance. A number of people have also been approached with offers from the security services to work for them — from right across the security spectrum. Four people in the last week have been approached with at least one offered a substantial amount of money. In the aftermath of Section 44 stop and search, with the increased [security] activity and presence, we watched as they tried to increase their presence on the ground, and, likewise, we adapted to counter that threat.

Rowan note: The interview then deals with a number of specific Oglaigh na hEireann attacks including the car bomb at Palace Barracks military base which houses the MI5 Headquarters in Northern Ireland, and the under-car booby trap bomb |attack in which police officer Peadar Heffron was critically injured. It also touches on a |dissident intelligence-gathering operation in a wooded area close to Palace Barracks. Over an unspecified period of time, digital cameras were used to record images of activity at the base.

Rowan: Did you target Peadar Heffron, or did you target a police officer?

ONH: We never target an individual in uniform. We target the uniform and what it stands for.

Rowan: Did you target him because of his involvement with the GAA — that he speaks the Irish language? Were you making a point?

ONH: No comment on that.

Rowan: Is he not as Irish — more Irish — than those who make up your organisation?

ONH: Absolutely not. Irish history is littered with mercenaries who have worked for and implemented British laws.

Rowan: What is it about new policing that you object to?

ONH: Policing in the north of Ireland is still controlled by National Security — MI5. All its powers, laws and finance come from England, and it is no different today in 2010 than it was in 1994 [the year the IRA announced a complete cessation of military operations]

Rowan: Do you really believe that?

ONH: Yeah I do ? everything that the RUC did — the abuse, harassment and frame-ups — still continues today.

Rowan: How big an operation was the Palace Barracks attack — its timing [coinciding with the devolution of justice powers] and the fact that MI5 Headquarters is on site?

ONH: The timing of it was deliberate. The significance was deliberate, and a major effort was put into that operation.

Rowan: Did you have the base under camera surveillance prior to that attack?

ONH: We’ll not go into details on duration of our surveillance except to say that we garnered significant intelligence.

Rowan: Is it from this that you target the Army Major [in a planned under-car booby trap bomb attack] in Bangor?

ONH: We won’t go into detail on how we garner intelligence except to say that we have shown that we can pinpoint police officers and soldiers very accurately.

Rowan: Security assessments suggest the fingerprint/type of bomb used in Bangor was |different to the make-up of the device used when you targeted a police dog-handler in east Belfast — clearly suggesting more than one bomb-maker. ONH: Oglaigh na hEireann has developed explosives expertise.

Rowan: It was the dog-handler you were targeting — not his partner?

ONH: Had we been targeting his partner it [the bomb] would have been under her seat. Our intelligence and surveillance showed us that she regularly drove him to work. We deliberately picked areas [for attacks] that were seen as safe zones for security forces. It was to send a direct message that nowhere is safe.

Rowan: I want to talk about some recent developments — the speech by the Director General of MI5, the threat level raised in Britain, Police Federation calls for a thousand more police officers, a stepping up of overt policing. What does all of this say to your organisation?

ONH: It says that they — MI5/British Intelligence — are acknowledging a growing threat, which they admit they played down and ignored, played it down and underestimated it.

Rowan: Is Britain – attacks there – part of your focus and thinking?

ONH: Oglaigh na hEireann will decide when and where it attacks. Sceptics will say, ‘they would say that because they don’t have the capabilities’. Eighteen months ago, they told us we couldn’t even detonate a bomb. Nothing is beyond our reach.

Rowan note: The interview then deals with a claim by Martin |McGuinness that the British and Irish governments have been talking to dissident groups. The Belfast Telegraph has been told of a process of contacts — not face-to-face, but mediators talking to representatives of the dissident groups and separately to British and Irish officials, but with all sides knowing who is involved.

Rowan: Has your organisation met face-to-face with representatives of the British or Irish governments?

ONH: No.

Rowan: Let me talk about contacts, quiet dialogue, involving mediators talking both to your organisation and British and Irish officials. Do you recognise that description?

ONH: I recognise the description, yes.

Rowan: I’m told it’s at two levels — alternatives to punishment attacks, and exploring a way forward without armed struggle/activity. Is that a reasonable description?

ONH: We are a people’s army. It’s inevitable that we will be interacting with the community. Some punishment attacks are resolvable, others aren’t. It’s a giant leap to get from that to a perception of engagement with the British or Irish governments.

People from all walks of life talk to us about non-violent ways. Again, we don’t see that as direct contact with either government.

Rowan: How do you respond to the description of dissident republicans as traitors — “conflict junkies”?

ONH: We think it’s farcical. Some of the hypocritical comments coming from former armed republicans who are engaged in demonisation of former comrades for upholding the proclamation and the IRA’s Green Book.

Rowan: We hear a lot about senior Sinn Fein figures being warned of threats. Are they legitimate targets in your eyes?

ONH: No. Ireland has seen enough of feuds while the British sit back and happily watch it.

Rowan: The IRA was better armed, supported, resourced, and they acknowledged a military stalemate. So, what makes you think you can achieve more?

ONH: The overview of the structure we pointed to |earlier in the interview, we |believe has more durability to penetration. We have no |desire to replicate or be a morph of the Provisional IRA. They failed — so, why would we want to copy them? There is a fragile Assembly. There is a forging together of political opposites that is much easier to undermine and defeat than the war that the Provisionals had.

Rowan: Do you think a war can be won?

ONH: We think a war can |create the conditions where republicans can create |dialogue that will fulfil |republican objectives.

Rowan: Brits out?

ONH: A 32 county democratic socialist republic. Brits out is simply not good enough.

Rowan: So it’s a pipedream then?

ONH: Some people say that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sitting in a room sharing power in a partitionist Assembly endorsing British policing was also a pipedream.

Rowan: Has killing become the cause, just to say, ‘we haven’t sold out’ — killing for killing’s sake?

ONH: As far as we are concerned we are not engaged in killing for killing’s sake. We are engaged in a war against the illegal occupation of our country and usurpation of Irish sovereignty.

Rowan: So you think that killing will work?

ONH: We think that a war will |create the conditions for |credible dialogue aimed at British withdrawal. Internal settlements are not what Irish republicans fought, died and went to jail for.

Background
•September 2005: Major acts of decommissioning — “The IRA leadership can now confirm that the process of putting our arms beyond use has been completed.”
•2005-2006: Conversations among disaffected republicans leading to the formation of the dissident faction Oglaigh na hEireann. Members are drawn from Provisional IRA, Real IRA, INLA and new recruits.
•First claimed action: A so-called punishment attack in which the victim was shot in the elbows, ankles and knees.
•October 2009: Female partner of PSNI dog handler injured in under-car booby trap bomb attack in east Belfast.
•January 2010: PSNI constable Peadar Heffron critically injured in under-car booby trap bomb attack.
•April 2010: Car bomb explodes at Palace Barracks Army base Holywood, which houses the Northern Ireland MI5 headquarters.
•August 2010: Car bomb explodes at Strand Road Derry.
•August 2010: Army Major escapes |injury when a booby trap bomb falls from his vehicle.

More: Brian Rowan: It was like a journey into the past… but this was very much the present

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/dissidents-interview-with-terror-splinter-group-14993952.html

Earth Day And Libya

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Happy Earth Day. I spent a good portion of the day driving to my Doctors office and then going to the German grocery store, they have great food from Central Europe, feeling guilty about it. We don’t have mass transit that could do the job in a reasonable amount of time. I would still be sitting on the bus if I depended on mass transit. It is a major drawback living in LA. You have to think about the traffic all the time if you have to drive. I have lived here long enough to know almost instinctively when things will be jammed up and when they won’t. I used to take the bus home from work. It took two to three times as long as driving. On a good day I could make the drive in about thirty-five minutes on a bad day closer to fifty minutes. The bus-tram-bus combo I took always took an hour and a half one way plus another ten minutes walking to the bus. Now I walk to all the places I can get to in about 15 to 20 minutes, like the local supermarket.

It seems to me that the issue of Libya has divided the American Polity. People on both the right and the left are split on supporting President Obama or opposing him in his decision to support the British and French in their intervention in the Libyan civil war on the side of the rebels under the guise of a humanitarian effort. Their humanitarianism seems to be all for the rebels and none for the people on Qaddafi’s side of the fence.

The media coverage seems particularly biased in favor of intervention and is notoriously thin on detailed information as to who exactly the opposition is and what percentage of the population they represent. It has made me suspicious all along of calls for intervention especially after I read in Stratfor about representatives of the Libyan opposition making deals in London and Paris.

I would hope that Cynthia McKinney’s fact finding mission reveals more than what the media have although I am not so sure about how much she will be able to accomplish. Personally I see the intervention as simply one more move to re-capture the Oil resources of the Middle East and to destabilize the region to make deals that take advantage of the situation on the ground, an extension of Naomi Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’.

Calls for foreign troops on the part of the opposition indicates how poorly organized and possibly how little real support they have. It is hard to know what exactly they want. Traditionally what is called Libya today was once the ancient lands of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. They were not a united country and did not extend too far inland in their control. It was loosely unified under Turkish control and later under the Italians but for most of their history they were separate regions, including when they were part of the Roman Empire. Cyrenaica being a part of the Greek Egyptian Empire of the Ptolemy’s and Tripolitania being controlled by Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthage before the Romans dominated the area. When the Marines landed on the shores of Tripoli, they were not landing on Libya, they were landing on Tripoli a semi-independent city state nominally under the Ottoman sovereignty. So if Libya splits, it will not be that unusual historically, although it would probably mean the end of the ‘green revolution’ of Qaddafi as most of the oil is in the east.

Interesting, McKinney is a Green or at least she ran for President on the Green Party Ticket, and today is Earth Day. Nice coincidence.

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Freedom Rides to Libya
Posted by TheBlackList on April 22, 2011 at 9:45am

Hi Everyone, Hope that all is well with you. I am peeking up from a dreadful chest cold which hlas literally forced me to bed for over a week. Up I come ready to get to work raising funds for a trip to Libya. Our scheduled trip was halted because of the Obama Sanctions which for bid acceptance of any finances or other assistance from Libya. We have to engineer our own fund raising drive to make the trip previously scheduled for last Thursday. We are the new age Freedom Riders (Boats to Gaza) enroute to Africa to join hands with other freedom loving people who oppose the invasion of North Afria, Lybia by greedy USA and Europe.

This is a fact finding mission consisting of a team of folk lead by Cynthia McKinney. Most of us are from the USA but there are folk from Canada and other sectors of the West. It would be great to have you join us. We will fly into Tunisia and from there figure away into Libya. We had hoped to be there in the time period of the African Union but no go from Obama madness. This was hte week of April 15.

I don’t have to explain to anyone that our presence in Libya is beneficial to promoting the actual situation as eye witness to the present European invasion of North and West Africa in the name of democratic rights and ideals or to keep African folk from killing themselves. There is of course the misconception that these invaders are legitimate under international law. Talk of a UN mandate, Arab League approval. As we know the Arab League did not respond in full only 11 of 22 nations listened to the aims and objectives of this invasion and of these eleven, two refused to sign on. In fact Algeria and Syria vehemently opposed this reckless proposal. Are we talking of an Arab League or just the same Saudi lead do what we are told group of Arab states?

Is the UN Security Council representative of African and other third world nations who form the largest group of nations represented not America and European states? Africa has 54 nation States and none of these supported this violent invasion into North Africa. What role does the General Assembly play in reality? This invasion is a slap in the face with a threat of the same to you for members of the African Union. The UN has a number of truly questionable ventures in which it is presently engaged. Most infamously is one of our closet neighbors, the Republic of Haiti. I think that we must challenge the UN to become what its founders proposed not to continue acting as an agent for western capital.

Tripoli is the most populated city in Libya. I cannot imagine it being pounded by bombs without a heavy toll on the citizens who reside there. We will do whatever is necessary to bring comfort to the People of Libya. Somewhere there is an old scriptures which I am paraphrasing here: ‘No greater love has any man (people) than this to lay down their lives for their fellow men and women’. We are not suicidal. Rather we are committed to letting the world know that we are not guilty of these horrendous illegal genocidal pathologies carried out in the name of the American people. We stand with hands on the wheels of justice. Our hands are clean.

One of my objectives is to speak to some of the local Imams about financing this venture. Its rather costly with air and hotel/food costs all to be provided by each Freedom Rider. It is my aim with your assistance to raise $3000 to cover my share of costs for this trip. If anyone has contact information for local Imam who might consider taking the Freedom Rides to Libya up with there Mosque, please forward that information to me.

If you can assist with my trip, please send check via pay pay to coliaclarkdn@aol.com This is not tax exempt. Checks can also be sent to Colia Clark, P.O.Box 1651 FDR Station, New York, New York 10022. I will pick-up donations in New York City, if you call 646-657-7207. We need this immediately. Thank you for your continued support.

In Lasting Solidarity,

Colia L Clark

http://theblacklistpub.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2055350%3ABlogPost%3A63105&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post

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From Pravda.RU

Cynthia McKinney press conference on Libya

01.04.2011

I am pleased to stand with my colleagues today who are outraged at Nobel Peace Laureate President Obama’s decision to wage war on Africa in Libya. At the outset, let me state that Libya is home to tens of thousands or more of foreign students and guest workers. The students come from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. The messages I have received from concerned Africans state that these young innocent people, inaccurately labeled by the U.S. press as “black mercenaries,” have been trapped in hostile territory and are hated by the U.S.-allied Al Qaeda insurgents. The press forgot that Libya is in Africa and that Libyans are Black!

I would also like to acknowledge the outrage of the Women International Democratic Federation of Brazil that repudiates the invasion of Libya. They point specifically to the depressed state of women in pre-Qaddafi Libya and how women now have positions that had once been denied to them. They note in their communiqué that the National Front of the Salvation of Libya has been financed by the C.I.A. since 1981 and that its headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

In fact, I have received messages and phone calls from people literally all over the world who are outraged at this action. And because the media cannot be relied upon to tell the truth, I repeat the call that I received directly from Libya yesterday for international observers to go to Libya to tell the world the truth. I would go.

Sadly, President Obama’s justification for war provides answers that don’t answer, explanations that don’t explain, and conclusions that don’t conclude. Reports continue to emerge of the US ties to the so-called rebel leaders: the latest being that Khalifa Hifter, latest leader of the rebel army, spent much of the past 20 years in Langley, Virginia. He didn’t even move to Baltimore to disguise the relationship! Moreover, General Wesley Clarke told us that Libya was on the U.W. hitlist ten years ago!

This is nothing new. This operation smells very much like so many other Africa operations fueled by U.S.-supported individuals who become a rebel force able to threaten an inconvenient leader who stands up to the U.S. This particular play has been repeated in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and Angola and Mozambique before them. We are not blind; we recognize this play. And the use of depleted uranium will cause health effects for generations to come.

Pentagon Secretary Gates said “Libya is not part of our vital interest.” Then why are we there? Herein lies the conundrum. President Obama has authorized secret support for its rebels in Libya, just like Miami’s Cuban community has received for decades.

Sadly, our President has chosen to spend $600 million per week in addition to other war costs at a time when the Black community is melting. As of the most recent Economic Policy Institute study, average Black family wealth was $2,000 while that of Whites was $94,600. President Obama has done nothing to address the disparities that have existed in this country since slavery. Clearly, our President should focus on home and improving the lot of the people of this country before launching another war.

Finally, I must say something about the ugly hate language that is emanating more and more from Black political voices. Any politician seeking votes by exacerbating divisions in our country does not deserve our votes. I’m speaking specifically about the unfortunate remarks of Herman Cain who should know better.I stand with those who support the right of self-determination of the Libyan people, including their right to resolve differences without interference from outsiders.

Submitted to:

Lisa Karpova

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/01-04-2011/117421-Cynthia_McKinney_press_conference_on_Libya-0/

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Why You Won’t Read This Earth Day Article (And Why That Doesn’t Matter)

From LiveScience.com

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer,
LiveScience.com
– Thu Apr 21, 11:54 pm ET

Earth Day turns 41 this year, but in some ways, environmentalism seems to be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 48 percent of Americans now believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997. Meanwhile, environmental concerns rank eighth on Americans’ worry list, behind terrorism, illegal immigration and the size and power of the federal government.

Getting people to care about environmental threats — especially distant ones such as climate change — can be tough, environmental advocates say. But whether or not people care about the environment may not matter much at all.

“Many people do things that would be considered environmentally sound, even if they aren’t doing it for environmental reasons,” said Edward Maibach, a professor of communication at George Mason University in Virginia who has studied Americans’ opinions about climate change. “Several groups are concerned, one is not. But all of them place a high value on conserving energy.” [Read: The Carbon Footprint of Sex & Other Daily Activities]

“It’s tapping into a broadly held value,” Maibach told LiveScience. “People just think it’s a good idea to save energy and to save money as a result of saving energy.”

Who cares about climate?

Maibach and his colleagues conducted a nationally representative survey of American adults in 2008 to understand how the public thinks about climate change.

They found that 18 percent of people are alarmed, convinced of the seriousness of global warming and taking steps to alter their behavior. Another 33 percent are concerned, but not taking action. Another 19 percent of people are cautious, meaning they believe climate change is a problem but don’t feel a sense of urgency about it. The disengaged (12 percent) and doubtful (11 percent), on the other hand, either don’t know much about climate change or don’t think it’s a big problem. And 7 percent of people are dismissive, actively campaigning against a national response to climate change.

But surprisingly, all of the groups conserved energy at the same rates, said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, who was involved in the study with Maibach.

“The dismissive are conserving energy and saving energy as much as anyone else,” Leiserowitz told LiveScience.

Part of the reason is that alarmed people are only beginning to translate their concern into action, Leiserowitz said. Another reason is that for too many people, conservation is a means to another end beside environmentalism. Some want to save money. Others see kicking foreign oil as a national security issue. Some Christian evangelicals believe protecting the Earth is a biblical mandate, Leiserowitz said.

“It’s about thrift, conservation,” Leiserowitz said. “These are core American values.”

Can green be easy?

For that reason, convincing more people that climate change is happening may not be as productive as making it easier for people to be environmentalists — even if they don’t call themselves that.

“The real opportunity for us isn’t to further bolster public opinion,” Maibach said. “The real opportunity is for us as a society to figure out how to make it easier to perform these behaviors.”

Maibach, Leiserowitz and their colleagues asked Americans about what sort of actions they thought were important for conservation and what actions they were actually taking. They found that almost everyone thinks that carpooling, biking instead of driving, reducing trash and other behaviors are important. But there were many gaps between what people believed and what they actually did. About 72 percent of people said carpooling or taking public transportation were important activities, but only 12 percent said they did either (another 2 percent said it wasn’t important, but they did it anyway).

In contrast, people tended to engage in easier activities. Ninety-five percent of people said turning off unneeded lights is important, and 90 percent reported doing so.

It all comes down to barriers that prevent people from taking environmental action, Leiserowitz said.

“I would love to be able to take a bullet train from Connecticut to California, but I can’t because my society hasn’t provided me with one, whereas Japan and China and Europe have,” he said.

Making Earth Day count

So does Earth Day matter? It can be helpful, Maibach said, at least if it causes people to think about year-round environmental strategies.

“Earth Day is important in the sense that different cancer awareness days are important,” said Mia Yamaguchi, the CoolClimate Network outreach coordinator at UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. “Maybe the average American isn’t involved in or organizing an event, but they may be more likely to read an article or donate.”

Yamaguchi said she doesn’t want to see more people worried about the environment — she wants to see action.

“There are many, many things that any one person can do to manage their own environmental impacts, which I think makes it really different from worries like the national debt or U.S. foreign policy,” Yamaguchi said. In those cases, “I can probably write a letter to a politician, maybe donate to a cause,” she said. “But if I actually start looking at what it would take to improve my vehicle’s fuel efficiency by 5 miles per gallon, that makes a big difference.”

The CoolClimate Network has a variety of online widgets for people interested in calculating their own energy footprint. In the meantime, April 22 is a good day to step back and remember the planet we live on, Leisowitz said.

“It’s Earth Day,” he said. “Go out and celebrate.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110422/sc_livescience/whyyouwontreadthisearthdayarticleandwhythatdoesntmatter

Mission Creep In Libya, Drones & Advisors, What Next?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Armed Drones, British, French and Italian advisors, and I understand there is a plan for a ‘humanitarian corridor” to Misurata, i.e. armed intervention. This is a sure sign of mission creep. They don’t seem to be able to admit that they are committed to regime change, but this humanitarian cover simply is wearing thin, tearing around the edges and showing more and more the real purpose. Even on the BBC the experts interviewed admit this is mission creep.

Al Jazeera reports Secretary Gates claiming the USA is not sending troops. When asked by a reporter about the CIA in Libya, they were told it was classified. But they are there. 25% of air missions over Libya are American and almost all the support services are American. It seems that the Europeans are simply providing cover for an operation that is basically American. Certainly without American support it would not be happening.

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From the Guardian.UK

Drones can be used by Nato forces in Libya, says Obama

Senior Nato military commanders have been pressing for the unmanned US planes to strike Gaddafi forces in besieged Misrata

Nick Hopkins
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 21 April 2011 22.52 BST

Precision targeting provided by unmanned drones has become a favoured strike weapon in Afghanistan, and could help Nato pinpoint Gaddafi forces in Libya. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

The White House has approved the use of missile-armed Predator drones to help Nato target Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya.

Coalition commanders have been privately urging the Americans to provide the specialist unmanned aircraft, which have become a favoured – if controversial – weapon in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Their ability to hone in on targets using powerful night-vision cameras is considered to be one way of helping rebels in the besieged city of Misrata, where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the last week.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said Barack Obama had approved the use of the Predators which are armed with Hellfire missiles, marking a marked growth in the US contribution to the Nato effort.

Gates told a Pentagon news conference that the Predator was an example of the unique US military capabilities that the president is willing to contribute while other countries enforce a no-fly zone.

General James Cartwright said that the first Predator mission in Libya had been scheduled for Thursday night but was abandoned because of poor weather. The US military plans to maintain two patrols of armed Predators above Libya at any given time, permitting better surveillance – and targeting – of Gaddafi’s forces as they dig into positions next to civilian areas, Cartwright told the same briefing.

The drones are based in the region but typically flown via remote control by pilots in the US. The drones for Libya had not been withdrawn from Afghanistan, Gates and Cartwright said.

Khaled Kayim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, said the deployment of the drones would result in the deaths of more civilians. He described the move as “undemocratic and illegitimate and I hope they will reverse their decision”.

Liam Fox, the British defence secretary, and Sir David Richards, the chief of the defence staff, are due in Washington next week to discuss the situation in Libya.

The use of Predators is one of the topics to be discussed at the Pentagon talks next Tuesday, as well as other specialist equipment that might be provided by the US.

David Cameron has again insisted that Nato had no intention of deploying ground troops, but that did not mollify Russia. It condemned the sending of military advisers to Libya by the UK and France, saying it exceeded the mandate of UN security council resolution 1973. “We are not happy about the latest events in Libya, which are pulling the international community into a conflict on the ground,” said the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.”This may have unpredictable consequences,” he added.

But senior Whitehall officials believe the use of drones, also known as UAVs, would not be beyond the remit, or the spirit, of the UN resolution which gave the coalition a mandate to protect civilians. “A UAV with sufficiently high-resolution sensors, were it armed, could fire that weapon in line of sight and still meet the tight rules of engagement,” a Whitehall source said.

“We have been asking if we can get the US to provide that capability for us. It exists – the question is can we get it to be deployed? UAVs would give you speed of response where you see the regime transgressing the UN resolution,” the source said. The US is understood to have the UAVs in the region already.

Gates said Obama continues to be opposed to sending US ground forces into Libya and there were no plans to send US trainers to augment Nato forces already working with rebel forces. “There’s no wiggle room in that,” Gates said.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, urged Gaddafi to “stop killing people”, and estimated that 500,000 Libyans had fled the country. The MoD also sought to counter criticism Nato is not doing enough for Misrata, saying the RAF had hit 58 targets around the city in the past three weeks, including 37 main battle tanks. But officials concede the difficulties of targeting within the city are considerable.

Earlier this week Nato’s commander, Lt Gen Charles Bouchard, described the situation within Misrata as being akin to “a knife fight in a phone booth”. He said Gaddafi forces were hiding on the rooftops of mosques, hospitals and schools, and that they were shielding themselves behind women and children.

The military difficulties were underlined when further details emerged of the death of British photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed on Wednesday in a mortar attack along with a colleague, Chris Hondras. An Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Hetherington, 41, wrote in his last Twitter post on Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gaddafi forces. No sign of Nato.” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said Hetherington was “about as perfect a model of a war photographer as you’re going to find these days”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/21/nato-wants-drones-target-misrata

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From Huffington Post

NATO Mission Creep Not Leading To Libya Ground War: David Cameron

DAVID STRINGER 04/21/11 04:03 PM ET

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Thursday that NATO isn’t edging toward the deployment of ground troops in Libya despite the decision by several European nations to send military staff to assist rebel forces.

Italy, France and Britain are sending experienced combat advisers to help train and organize Libya’s opposition forces as they struggle to loosen Moammar Gadhafi’s grip on power.

Ministers have insisted the officers won’t play any role in offensives against Gadhafi’s troops – and have repeatedly said NATO and allies won’t overstep boundaries set out in the United Nations resolution authorizing action in Libya.

“We’re not allowed, rightly, to have an invading army, or an occupying army,” Cameron told BBC Scotland radio. “That’s not what we want, that’s not what the Libyans want, that’s not what the world wants.”

Liam Fox, Britain’s defense secretary, appeared to raise the prospect of a greater role for international troops by comparing the conflict with international action in Afghanistan.

Fox said after talks in Italy on Wednesday that the situation was “not that different from what’s happening in Afghanistan, where we’ve decided that training up security forces so that the Afghans themselves can look after their security is the best way forward.”

Cameron discussed the role of the military advisers that in telephone talks late Wednesday with President Barack Obama, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Obama approved the use of armed Predator drone aircraft in Libya. The Predator is an example of the unique U.S. military capabilities that Obama is willing to contribute to the campaign, Gates told a Pentagon news conference Thursday.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, speaking alongside Gates, said the first Predator mission was scheduled for Thursday but it was scratched because of poor weather. Cartwright said the Predators allow low-level precision attacks on Libyan government forces.

Some British lawmakers have demanded Parliament be recalled from an Easter vacation to discuss the evolving mission.

“It’s a sensible thing to do, but it’s also a slightly risky political thing to do, because it is the British and French taking a much more direct part it what is now a civil war in Libya,” said Michael Clarke, director of London’s Royal United Services Institute military think tank.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country was worried about NATO’s mission evolving into a ground campaign.

“We find the current events in Libya very alarming,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency. “They spell obvious involvement in the conflict on the ground. This is fraught with unpredictable consequences.”

In Tripoli, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters that foreign troops would be violently opposed if they appeared in major cities.

“We will make it 10 times as bad as Iraq,” Ibrahim said.

British military spokesman Maj. Gen. John Lorimer said NATO jets had fired on targets in both the western city of Misrata, which is under siege by Gadhafi’s forces, and the capitol, Tripoli, during sorties flown on Wednesday.

“Given the grievous situation in Misrata, NATO has focused much of its air effort in this area, attacking numerous regime targets that were threatening the civilian population,” Lorimer said.

Cameron also raised the prospect Thursday of a new round of international sanctions, including measures to specifically target Gadhafi’s ability to generate revenue from oil sales.

Diplomats at the U.N. and European Union are tentatively discussing how to restrict the flow of money from oil sales to the Tripoli regime.

Separately, in Prague, the Czech Republic’s defense minister Alexandr Vondra said his country could not contribute more to NATO’s military mission over Libya – despite the appeal from allies for extra help.

So far, only six of the NATO’s 28 members nations are involved directly in the airstrikes.

___

Karin Laub in Tripoli, Jenny Barchfield in Paris and Don Melvin and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/21/nato-mission-creep-libya-ground-war_n_851921.html

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From Washington Post

Misurata says it has asked for foreign ground troops

By Leila Fadel, Tuesday, April 19, 8:57 PM

MISURATA, Libya — The top governing committee in this besieged western city said Tuesday that it had made an official request for foreign troops on the ground here to stop the killing of civilians by Moammar Gaddafi’s forces.

The request, which a member of Misurata’s Judicial Committee said was sent last week, marks the first time ground troops have been formally sought in Libya as a humanitarian crisis looms in the strategic port city after a nearly two-month siege.
As a boat carrying the displaced and injured from Misurata arrived in Benghazi Monday night, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official said the Libyan government has promised that she can visit the beleaguered town. (April 19)

Food, water and gas are running out in Misurata as Gaddafi’s troops pummel power stations, water tanks, food storage units and other key infrastructure with rockets, mortars and artillery fire. An untrained and outgunned rebel force has been unable to halt shelling and sniper fire in residential neighborhoods. The city’s only opening to the outside world, the port, is under constant attack, routinely preventing access to it from land or sea.

“We need a force from NATO or the United Nations on the ground now,” committee member Nouri Abdullah Abdulati told reporters Tuesday.

Abdulati said that the Judicial Committee’s signed request had been sent to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition-controlled east, but that no reply had been received. The council, the only link between Misurata and NATO commanders, has said that it does not want foreign troops in Libya.

“We did not accept any foreign soldiers on our land. But that was before we faced the crimes of Gaddafi,” Abdulati said Tuesday. “We are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing. The whole Arab world is calling for the intervention of the West for the first time in history.”

More than 300 people have been killed in the city of 500,000, said Khaled Abu Falgha, the head of the medical committee based at Hikma Hospital. But he said the number is probably closer to 1,000, because many people bury their own dead.

Abdulati said the committee would want British or French troops to fight alongside rebel fighters in the city, both to protect civilians and to fight off Gaddafi forces. “It’s a situation of life or death,” he said. “If they don’t come, we will die.”

He said that Misurata residents are ready to die for their freedom and that they understand many would.

“Even if 400,000 people die and only 100,000 live, this is a victory,” he said.

As he spoke, explosions from rocket and mortar attacks could be heard, now a normal backdrop here. He said that the United Nations was obligated to send in troops to protect civilians.

“This is an urgent situation,” he said.

The evidence for that was all around him. Apartment buildings pocked with artillery fire stood abandoned in the coastal Jazeera neighborhood, now a ghost town. The lobby of one was spattered with the dried blood of a family of four. Cars were smashed and riddled with bullets.

In Zarooq, deemed one of the safest places in the city, men stood for hours in a bread line. Many said they had been displaced by constant rocket attacks on their homes in other parts of the city.

“Misurata is finished,” screamed Fathi Ali al-Arbud, 45, as he waited. “No one sleeps. Children die. Let America come here to save us. I don’t care if it’s Obama or Sarkozy. Someone needs to save us.”

Arbud recently fled from his neighborhood of Qasr Ahmed after dozens of rockets rained down on the area. Munin al-Atrash, 20, standing in front of him in line, said a tank shell had killed his closest friend and cousin the day before as he sat in front of his home

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/misurata_body_says_it_has_asked_for_foreign_troops/2011/04/19/AFH6sJ6D_story.html?wprss=rss_world

Land Rights In Global South Threatened

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Land rights among people of the Global south is an important issue. I know almost nothing about

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From Terraviva

Colonial-Style Land Grabbing Back on the Table
By Kanya D’Almeida

WASHINGTON, Apr 19, 2011 (IPS) - The highly-contested Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI), a set of priorities that peasants’ collectives and food rights groups have been battling for years, are back on the table this week, as the annual Conference on Land and Poverty opened at World Bank headquarters here Monday.

RAI is “dangerously deceptive” for couching the act of annexing land in the language of human rights and corporate social responsibility, said Shalmali Guttal, a representative from Focus on the Global South.

“Corporations and governments will win, but local communities, eco-systems and future generations will lose; the takeover of rural peoples’ lands is completely unacceptable no matter what ‘guidelines’ are followed,” Guttal stressed.

A number of organisations including the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) jointly formulated the RAI framework, which they describe as a ‘responsible’ means of acquiring vast tracts of farmland.

Great Rhetoric Masks Ruinous Policy
Throughout the annual Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that took place here last week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick repeatedly issued warnings about the worsening food crisis, going so far as to call spiking food prices the “biggest threat to the [world’s] poorest nations.”

“You are all aware of the ingredients,” Zoellick said told reporters, “take high food inflation, mix in price gyrations, and then stir in higher fuel costs, and you get a toxic brew of real pain contributing to social unrest.”

While his comments have largely been met by nods of agreement and high praise from the international development community, protestors and rights- groups refuse to be silenced by what they believe to be empty rhetoric, and continue to speak out forcefully for the right of millions to food.

According to Ibrahim Coulibaly from the National Coordination of Peasant Organisations in Mali, “Land grabbing is banditry; it’s about seizing or taking over the only resource that poor people have left and giving it those who already have too much.”

“The breaching of international human rights law is an intrinsic part of land grabbing,” stated Sofía Monsalve from FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN). “Forced evictions, the foreclosure of vast stretches of land for use by rural peoples, the blatant denial of information, and the prevention of meaningful local participation in political decisions that affect people’s lives are all human rights violations.”

The principles are a set of non-binding suggestions for investors to consider before participating in large-scale land-acquisition, and are supposedly based on the possibility of a “win-win” situation for both private investors and impoverished peasants. They include broad notions that investments on land should be transparent, environmentally sustainable and strengthen food security rather than jeopardise it.

Farmers and community organisations have been struggling against the RAI principles, on the grounds that they mask shortsighted annexation by transnational corporations for quick profits.

International civil servants, farmland investors, bankers and government officials, meeting here Apr. 18-20, will discuss regulatory criteria for implementing these disputed policies.

GRAIN, an independent research organisation supporting community struggles, reported Monday that since 2009, the biggest proponents of RAI principles - pushing the agenda onward even while local communities resist - have been the European Union, the FAO, G8, G20, IFAD, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and the World Bank.

Investing in a Food Crisis

In his 2010 commentary ‘Responsibly Destroying the World’s Peasantry’, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter wrote that between 2006 and 2009, land equivalent to the total arable area of France was negotiated for sale - with millions of hectares passing from state or peasant ownership into the hands of Western investors including Wall Street banks and private hedge funds, entities that have come to view land as an investment safe haven in a time of financial turmoil.

De Schutter writes that initial attraction to large-scale land investment was born of the belief that beating hunger was dependent on increased food production and that paltry investment led to scarce supply, resulting in the conclusion that if investors could be lured to the agriculture sector, they should be encouraged to stay.

“Both [this] diagnosis and remedy are incorrect,” De Schutter said. “Hunger and malnutrition are not primarily the result of insufficient food production; they are the result of poverty and inequality, particularly in rural areas, where 75 percent of th
Fighting Through Earth Democracy
While blatant land acquisition remains a tough fight, the loss of natural resources due to less straightforward backroom deals at times presents a much more formidable foe.

At a time when the multilateralism of emerging markets has taken centre stage, locals in the Global South are up against not only transnational companies but also state governments that are hand in glove with international corporations.

“Five years since the government of India agreed to a 12 billion dollar deal with the South Korean Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) - which plans to set up a primarily export-oriented steel plant on the east coast of Orissa with a captive port, a captive power plant and a captive mine - the communities of this coast have been resisting,” Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist-philosopher, told IPS.

Locals have been resisting the deal on the grounds that they have a prosperous bio-diverse economy, where food is produced according to the needs of the people and where the laws of the land - under the decentralised democracy of Panchayati Raj as well as India’s Forest Rights Act - allow them to object.

While researching POSCO, Shiva found that since the Asian financial crisis the ownership of the company had passed largely into the hands of financiers like Warren Buffet and Goldman Sachs.

“So as a result of this so- called globalisation and multilateralism, what does democracy in India look like today?” Shiva asked. “The poor people fighting a company owned by Wall Street, refusing to give up their land, saying ‘we will face bullets, we will face killings, but we will not give up’.”

“This is the global corporate world that ordinary people in local villages are facing, and they are facing it through what I call ‘Earth Democracy’ - links to the earth and fights where they are on the ground,” she added.

he world’s poor still reside.”

“In the past, agricultural development prioritised large-scale, capitalised forms of agriculture, neglecting smallholders who feed local communities,” he added.

“Since governments have failed to protect agricultural workers from exploitation in an increasingly competitive environment, it should come as no wonder that smallholders and agricultural labourers represent a combined 70 percent of those who are unable to feed themselves today,” De Schutter concluded.

A joint statement was issued Sunday in honour of the International Day of Peasant Struggles by farmers, fisher folk, rights and research organisations, and collectives representing hundreds of millions of peasants from South Asia, Latin America and Africa. Over 50 million hectares of arable agricultural land, “enough to feed 50 million families in India”, have, in the last decade, been snatched from farmers and placed securely in the hands of private, multinational and transnational corporations, the statement read.

High Quest Partners, a private strategy consultation firm working in the service of global food, agro- business, and bio-fuel companies, reported last year that global investment in farmland has hit 25 billion dollars and is likely to triple in the very near future.

“The food price crisis happened because of the commoditisation of food. RAI will legitimise land grabbing worse than in the colonial era,” Henry Saragih from La Via Campesina, an organisation representing 200 million peasants worldwide, warned Sunday.

“One of the objectives of colonialism was to find and absorb the essential resources of the colonies,” Saragih told IPS. “Control over oil, gas, and mining came later - control over food production was always a top priority.”

The Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil expressed fears as to the impact of RAI policies on indigenous communities in South America.

“[It] will have a devastating effect in the Amazon and Cerrado by giving the green light for illegal activities of large cattle ranchers, agribusinesses, mining and lumber companies to destroy protected forests and biodiversity in food production by small farmers,” the network’s representative Maria Luisa Mendonça said (END

Settler Influence In Israel

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

This is interesting. I was just turned on to this guy and wow, pretty good information. I am not so well informed about the situation in Israel as I would like to be, despite having lots of Jewish friends. I am more informed about the goings on in Arabic speaking countries. This is an article about the history of the religious right and the settlers in Israel.

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From Uri Avnery’s News
The Settler State

By Uri Avnery

16/04/11

THE OTHER day, the almighty General Security Service (Shabak, formerly Shin Bet) needed a new boss. It is a hugely important job, because no minister ever dares to contradict the advice of the Shabak chief in cabinet meetings.

There was an obvious candidate, known only as J. But at the last moment, the settlers’ lobby was mobilized. As director of the “Jewish department” J. had put some Jewish terrorists in prison. So his candidature was rejected and Yoram Cohen, a kippah-wearing darling of the settlers was appointed instead.

That happened last month. Just before that, The National Security Council also needed a new chief. Under pressure from the settlers, General Yaakov Amidror, formerly the highest kippah-wearing officer in the army, a man of openly ultra-ultra nationalist views, got the job.

The Deputy Chief of Staff of the army is a kippah-wearing officer dear to the settlers, a former head of Central Command, which includes the West Bank.

Some weeks ago I wrote that the problem may not be the annexation of the West Bank by Israel, but the annexation of Israel by the West Bank settlers.

Some readers reacted with a chuckle. It looked like a humorous aside.

It was not.

The time has come to examine this process seriously: Is Israel falling victim to a hostile takeover by the settlers?

FIRST OF all, the term “settlers” itself must be examined.

Formally, there is no question. The settlers are Israelis living beyond the 1967 border, the Green Line. (“Green” in this case has no ideological connotation. This just happened to be the color chosen to distinguish the line on the maps.

Numbers are inflated or deflated according to propaganda needs. But it is can be assumed that there are about 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, and an additional 200,000 or so in East Jerusalem. Israelis usually don’t call the Jerusalemites “settlers”, putting them into a different category. But of course, settlers they are.

But when we speak of Settlers in the political context, we speak of a much bigger community.

True, not all settlers are Settlers. Many people in the West Bank settlements went there without any ideological motive, just because they could build their dream villas for practically nothing, with a picturesque view of Arab minarets to boot. It is these the Settler Council chairman, Danny Dayan, meant, when, in a (recently leaked) secret conversation with a US diplomat, he conceded that they could easily be persuaded to return to Israel if the money was right.

However, all these people have an interest in the status quo, and therefore will support the real Settlers in the political fight. As the Jewish proverb goes, if you start fulfilling a commandment for the wrong reasons, you will end up fulfilling it for the right ones.

BUT THE camp of the “settlers” is much, much bigger.

The entire so-called “national religious” movement is in total support of the settlers, their ideology and their aims. And no wonder – the settlement enterprise sprung from its loins.

This must be explained. The “national religious” were originally a tiny splinter of religious Jewry. The big Orthodox camp saw in Zionism an aberration and heinous sin. Since God had exiled the Jews from His land because of their sins, only He – through His Messiah - had the right to bring them back. The Zionists thus position themselves above God and prevent the coming of the Messiah. For the Orthodox, the Zionist idea of a secular Jewish “nation” still is an abomination.

However, a few religious Jews did join the nascent Zionist movement. They remained a curiosity. The Zionists held the Jewish religion in contempt, like everything else belonging to the Jewish Diaspora (“Galut” – exile, a derogatory term in Zionist parlance). Children who (like myself) were brought up in Zionist schools in Palestine before the Holocaust were taught to look down with pity on people who were “still” religious.

This also colored our attitude towards the religious Zionists. The real work of building our future “Hebrew State” (we never spoke about a “Jewish State”) was done by socialist atheists. The kibbutzim and moshavim, communal and cooperative villages, as well as the “pioneer” youth movements, which were the foundation of the whole enterprise, were mostly Tolstoyan socialist, some of them even Marxist. The few that were religious were considered marginal.

At that time, in the 30s and 40s, few young people wore a kippah in public. I don’t remember a single member of the Irgun, the clandestine military (“terrorist”) organization to which I belonged, wearing a kippah – though there were quite a number of religious members. They preferred a less conspicuous cap or beret.

The national-religious party (originally called Mizrahi – Eastern) played a minor role in Zionist politics. It was decidedly moderate in national affairs. In the historic confrontations between the “activist” David Ben-Gurion and the “moderate” Moshe Sharett in the 50s, they almost always sided with Sharett, driving Ben Gurion up the wall.

Nobody paid much attention, however, to what was happening under the surface – in the national-religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva, and their Yeshivot. There, out of sight of the general public, a dangerous cocktail of ultra-nationalist Zionism and an aggressive tribal “messianic” religion was being brewed.

THE ASTOUNDING victory of the Israeli army in the 1967 Six-day War, after three weeks of extreme anxiety, marked a turning point for this movement.

Here was everything they had dreamed of: a God-given miracle, the heartland of historical Eretz Israel (alias the West Bank) occupied, “The Temple Mount Is In Our Hands!” as a one general breathlessly reported.

As if somebody had drawn a cork, the national-religious youth movement escaped its bottle and became a national force. They created Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), the center of the dynamic settlement enterprise in the newly “liberated territories”.

This must be well understood: for the national-religious camp, 1967 was also a moment of liberation within the Zionist camp. As the Bible (Psalm 117) prophesied: “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone”. The despised national-religious youth movement and kibbutzim suddenly jumped to center stage.

While the old socialist kibbutz movement was dying of ideological exhaustion, its members becoming rich by selling agricultural land to real estate sharks, the national religious sprang up in full ideological vigor, imbued with spiritual and national fervor, preaching a pagan Jewish creed of holy places, holy stones and holy tombs, mixed with the conviction that the whole country belongs to the Jews and that “foreigners” (meaning the Palestinians, who have lived here for at least 1300, if not 5000 years) should be kicked out.

MOST OF today’s Israelis were born or have immigrated after 1967. The occupation-state is the only reality they know. The settlers’ creed looks to them like self-evident truth. Polls show a growing number of young Israelis for whom democracy and human rights are empty phrases. A Jewish State means a state that belongs to the Jews and to the Jews only, nobody else has any business to be here.

This climate has created a political scene dominated by a set of right-wing parties, from Avigdor Lieberman’s racists to the outright fascist followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane – all of them totally subservient to the settlers.

If it is true that the US Congress is controlled by the Israel lobby, then this lobby is controlled by the Israeli government, which is controlled by the settlers. (Like the joke about the dictator who said: The world is afraid of our country, the country is afraid of me, I am afraid of my wife, my wife is afraid of a mouse. So who rules the world?)

So the settlers can do whatever they want: build new settlements and enlarge existing ones, ignore the Supreme Court, give orders to the Knesset and the government, attack their “neighbors” whenever they like, kill Arab children who throw stones, uproot olive groves, burn mosques. And their power is growing by leaps and bounds.

THE TAKEOVER of a civilized country by hardier border fighters is by no means extraordinary. On the contrary, it is a frequent historical phenomenon. The historian Arnold Toynbee provided a long list.

Germany was for a long time dominated by the Ostmark (“Eastern marches”), which became Austria. The culturally advanced German heartland fell under the sway of the more primitive but hardier Prussians, whose homeland was not a part of Germany at all. The Russian Empire was formed by Moscow, originally a primitive town on the fringes.

The rule seems to be that when the people of a civilized country become spoiled by culture and riches, a hardier, less pampered and more primitive race on the fringes takes over, as Greece was taken over by the Romans, and Rome by the barbarians.

This can happen to us. But it need not. Israeli secular democracy still has a lot of strength in it. The settlements can still be removed. (In a future article, I shall try to show how.) The religious right can still be repulsed. The occupation, which is the mother of all evil, can still be terminated.

But for that we have to recognize the danger - and do something about it.

http://www.avnery-news.co.il/english/index.html


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