Friday, October 5, 2007

Infoshop News: Before and Beyond Jena, by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Until several weeks ago, the name 'Jena' was doubtless unfamiliar to millions of people in the U.S., until the demonstrations around the case of the Jena 6 brought attention to the small Louisiana town.

But, before the case occurred, the name became known to hundreds (if not thousands) of young Blacks, who came to know, quite intimately, that Jena was just another word for racism, rape, violence, and humiliation.

After the ravages of Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and its surrounding areas, hundreds of imprisoned people were transported to the Jena Juvenile Justice Center, in Jena, Louisiana, a place that became their nightmare. The place was so medieval and tortuous in its treatment of young people, that it was severely criticized by a federal judge as a place where people were "treated as if they walked on all fours," before it was closed.

According to published reports put out by the groups Human Rights Watch and the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund, people arriving at JJJC were beaten, brutalized, harassed, and subjected to racist taunts by staff members there. This was after it was reopened in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

They were denied things allegedly required by the Constitution, like grievance forms, calls to family, or pen and paper.

They were treated like they were al-Qaeda, and this was Guantanamo -- this, in the country, and in many cases, the state of their births.

The Human Rights Watch and NAACP-LDF have tried to interest state officials in a meaningful investigation, but this has led to little more than lip service.

Although federal officials have reportedly announced their intention to investigate, it is equally doubtful that any real, serious investigation will emerge.

As for the media (except for some segments of the Black press), Jena was little more than a 1 day, or at best, a 3-day story.

Their coverage, such as it was, was little more than a platform to allow local Jenites to exclaim how they weren't racists, and that nooses are just 'pranks' used by youngins' to have a little fun.

As ever, there has been little attempt to look backwards into recent history, and now that the last Jena 6 accused is out on bail, little looking to the future as well.

How is it possible in the U.S. today, for people wearing KKK robes to always intone, "I'm not a racist?"

When viewing or listening to locals there, it was almost impossible to not hear the echoes of 50 years ago, when civil rights actions began to stir the South, that 'the problem' was, once again, "outside agitators", like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They were the problem, not 'our darkeys.'

Only with the not-too-subtle death threats from Klan-related groups have we seen that the nooses from the so-called 'white tree', which sparked much of the Jena phenomenon, was far more than boys being boys.

The Jena case didn't start with 6 young schoolboys.

It won't end with them.

The case stems from something deep and abiding in the American heart and soul.

And it lives in every state of the union -not just in Louisiana.

This shouldn't be the end of the movement; but the spark for more.
[ Link ]

Fortress of the Assassins

"...Only conjecture and myth remain to explain the origins of the Assassins' name. Some theories link the name to the drug hashish, supposedly taken before battle or as initiation into the cult. A more probable competing theory is that the name is derived from the name of their leader Hassan-i-Sabah, since "Hashshashin" literally means "followers of Hassan." The name itself was a derogatory term used by Europeans to describe the supposedly hashish-using sect. The term "assassin" most likely comes from a pet name Hassan had for his followers: Assassiyun, or “people who are faithful to the foundation of the faith.” The Assassins preferred to call themselves fedayeen. The word, Arabic for “one who is ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause,” was co-opted by groups in Palestine, Armenia, Iraq and Iran for their own organizations during numerous conflicts in the 20th century..."

Consortiumnews: Bush's Global 'Dirty War'

Though this reality has been the subject of whispers within the U.S. intelligence community for several years, it has now emerged into public view with two attempted prosecutions of American soldiers whose defense attorneys cited “rules of engagement” that permit the killing of suspected insurgents.

One case involved Army sniper Jorge G. Sandoval Jr. who was acquitted by a U.S. military court in Baghdad on Sept. 28 in the murders of two unarmed Iraqi men – one on April 27 and the other on May 11 – because the jury accepted defense arguments that the killings were within the approved rules.

The Sandoval case also revealed a classified program in which the Pentagon’s Asymmetric Warfare Group encouraged U.S. military snipers in Iraq to drop “bait” – such as electrical cords and ammunition – and then shoot Iraqis who pick up the items, according to evidence in the Sandoval case. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007]

(Sandoval was convicted of a lesser charge of planting a coil of copper wire on one of the slain Iraqis. He was sentenced to five months in prison and a reduction in rank but will be eligible to rejoin his unit in as few as 44 days.)

The other recent case of authorized murder of an insurgent suspect surfaced at a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in mid-September. Two U.S. Special Forces soldiers took part in the execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group.

Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.

According to evidence at the Fort Bragg proceedings, an earlier Army investigation had cleared the two soldiers because they had been operating under “rules of engagement” that empowered them to kill individuals who have been designated “enemy combatants,” even if the targets were unarmed and presented no visible threat.

Yet, whatever the higher-ups approve as “rules of engagement,” the practice of murdering unarmed suspects remains a violation of the laws of war and – theoretically at least – would open up the offending country’s chain of command to war-crimes charges.

[ ... ]

By early 2005, as the Iraqi insurgency grew, an increasingly frustrated Bush administration reportedly debated a “Salvador option” for Iraq, an apparent reference to the “death squad” operations that decimated the ranks of perceived leftists who were opposed to El Salvador’s right-wing military junta in the early 1980s.

According to Newsweek magazine, President Bush was contemplating the adoption of that brutal “still-secret strategy” of the Reagan administration as a way to get a handle on the spiraling violence in Iraq.

“Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy [in El Salvador] to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

The magazine also noted that many of Bush’s advisers were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, including Elliott Abrams, who is now an architect of Middle East policy on the National Security Council.

In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter committed by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children near the town of El Mozote in 1981....


The Peyote Cult

by Paul Radin

from The Winnebago Tribe, pp. 340-78, ARBAE 37


Peyote has never been a drug for thrill seekers. The small, hard cactus is difficult to obtain. It tastes vile, ingestion normally leads to painful vomiting, and the effects are more subtle than other psychedelics.

The Native American Peyote ceremony emerged at the turn of the 20th century, like the Ghost Dance, at a time when Native American culture was under much stress. It blended Christian and traditional beliefs, and used Peyote as a sacrament. The Peyote ceremony spread from the Southwest into the Plains and other culture regions. Participants reported a spiritual cleansing, and experienced healing effects, which may be the result of powerful natural antibiotics in Peyote.

This is one of the first ethnographic accounts of the Peyote ceremony. Paul Radin wrote this monograph, mostly consisting of first-hand accounts, as part of his 1925 ethnography of the Winnebago tribe, who live in Wisconsin. The Peyote 'Cult' did not die out as Radin thought it might, but grew into the Native American Church, which is still going strong today. This group fought the US legal system to get an exemption to use the cactus, which is a controlled substance, in their ceremonies.

[ Link ]

Secret US Endorsement of Severe Interrogations

Reports of unacceptable interrogation techniques led to a shake up in policy and staff at the Justice Department in 2004. After Alberto Gonzales' arrival, the public started hearing things had changed, but new reports claim that things remained the same -- or worsened.
[ Link ]

"A turning point in the legal and political organization of the Western world"

A New Form of State: War and Criminal Law

By introducing the concept of war into national law, the latest U.S. anti-terrorist law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), produces a turning point in the legal and political organization of the Western world. It puts an end to a form of state that succeeded in “establishing peace internally and excluding hostility as a concept of law.”1 It is the constituent act of a new form of state that establishes war as a political relation between constituted authorities and national populations.

By means of the fight against terrorism, the concept of war is introduced into criminal law. The integration of hostility into the legal order is first carried out by administrative acts relative to foreigners and justified in the name of the state of emergency. The MCA incorporates the concept of war into the law permanently. At the same time, it modifies its area of application and its content. It allows the president of the United States to designate citizens and political opponents as enemies.

1. ‘Enemy Combatant’ or Enemy of the Government?
by Jean-Claude Paye

2. A System of Wholesale Denial of Rights
by Michael E. Tigar

They lost the weapons...send them more!

"...The United States must deliver weapons to Iraq more quickly, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday after an announcement that the Iraqis have ordered $100 million (€70 million) in military equipment from China.

The U.S. military has expressed concerns that it is harder to track weapons purchased from countries other than America. In many cases, the Iraqis cannot account for arms flowing into the country, which often end up in the hands of insurgents.

Speaking to reporters, Gates said the issue of slow foreign military sales also arose at his meeting with Chilean Defense Minister Jose Mario Goni just before a news conference.

"This is an issue that we have to look into and see what we can do in the United States to be more responsive and be able to react more quickly to the requests of our friends," Gates said. "Unfortunately the (foreign military sales) program was set up in a way that was not intended to provide sort of emergency or short term supplies, as in the case of Iraq and we're trying to figure out how to do that better."

[ ... ]

The Pentagon sent a team of investigators to Iraq in August because of the growing number of cases of fraud and other irregularities in contracts involving weapons and supplies for Iraqi forces.

And the Government Accountability Office said earlier this year that the Pentagon cannot fully account for US$19.2 billion (€13.6 billion) worth of equipment provided to Iraqi security forces.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said it had reviewed records of the U.S. unit running the program to train and equip Iraqi forces and couldn't account for what happened to least 190,000 weapons. U.S. officials acknowledged that some might have fallen into the hands of insurgents, but also blamed some of the problems on bad record keeping..."

[ full article ]

Demand for nuclear power surging

Nuclear Power's New Dawn

Once synonymous with cash pits, bureaucratic incompetence and environmental disasters, nuclear energy is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity around the world, sending demand for uranium sky-high.

That's big news for uranium-rich countries like Canada, which produces 28 percent of the world's uranium supply. But the heightened demand for uranium has also stirred up controversies in Canada, where some are still jittery about the environmental and political implications.

In total 13 countries are in the process of building new nuclear reactors. According to the World Nuclear Association, more than 34 reactors are currently under construction, 81 are planned, and over 223 more are being proposed.

For the first time since 1978, the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission is receiving applications for new plants, and a flood of them, at that.The commission expects to receive five applications in 2007, and 14 more in 2008....

[ Read on

Mobiot: The Junta's Accomplices

If you want to support democracy in Burma, phone Gary Player and the other western businessmen propping up the generals.
[ Link ]

"Capitalism and Freedom" Unmasked

The Smirking Chimp, Oct 4 2007

An era ended November 16, 2006 when economist Milton Friedman died. A torrent of eulogies followed. The Wall Street Journal mourned his loss with the same tribute he credulously used when Ronald Reagan died saying "few people in human history have contributed more to the achievement of human freedom." Economist and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called him a hero and "The Great Liberator" in a New York Times op-ed; the UK Financial Times called him "the last of the great economists;" Terence Corcoran, editor of Canada's National Post, mourned the "free markets" loss of "their last lion;" and Business Week magazine noted the "Death of a Giant" and praised his doctrine that "the best thing government can do is supply the economy with the money it needs and stand aside."

Rarely had so much praise been given anyone so undeserving in light of the human wreckage his legacy left strewn everywhere. He believed government's sole function is "to protect our freedom both from (outside) enemies....and from our fellow-citizens." It's to "preserve law and order (as well as) enforce private contracts, (safeguard private property and) foster competitive markets." Everything else in public hands is socialism that for free-wheeling market fundamentalists like Friedman is blasphemy. He said markets work best unfettered of rules, regulations, onerous taxes, trade barriers, "entrenched interests" and human interference, and the best government is practically none at all as anything it can do private business does better. Democracy and a government of, by and for the people? Forget it.

He preached public wealth should be in private hands, accumulation of profits unrestrained, corporate taxes abolished, and social services curtailed or ended. He believed "economic freedom is an end to itself....and an indispensable means toward (achieving) political freedom." He thought state laws requiring certain occupations be licensed (like doctors) a restriction of freedom. He opposed foreign aid, subsidies, import quotas and tariffs as well as drug laws he called a subsidy to organized crime (which it is as well as to CIA and money laundering international banks earning billions from it) and added "we have no right to use prevent (someone) from committing suicide....drinking alcohol or taking drugs," while saying nothing about major banks and CIA partnering for profit with drug lords.

He favored a constitutional amendment requiring Congress balance the budget because deficits "encourage political irresponsibility." He claimed taxes were onerous and was "in favor of cutting (them) under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever possible...." and make corporations entirely exempt from them. He opposed the minimum wage, supported a flat tax favoring the rich, and believed everyone should have to buy his or her own medical insurance like any other product or service. Can't afford it? Too bad. Get sick? Let the market heal you....

[ full article ]

General says democracy won't help

Retiring military chief declares: American people can’t vote to end Iraq war

In a statement remarkable for its blunt rejection of democracy, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said Monday that opponents of the war in Iraq could not bring it to an end by voting.

Pace made his comments before an audience that included President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and hundreds of high-ranking Pentagon civilian and military officials, as he swore in his successor as the president’s top military adviser, Admiral Michael Mullen. None of those present made any objection to Pace’s statement.

Outside Ft. Myer, where the ceremony took place, a handful of antiwar demonstrators used a bullhorn to shout their opposition. Reporters inside could hear, “Stop the Killing, George!”, “Arrest the Liar for War Crimes!” and other denunciations of the administration and the Pentagon.

Noting the presence of the demonstrators, Pace said the protest against the war was an exercise of the right of free speech, but that there were limits:

“I just want everyone to understand that this dialogue is not about ‘can we vote our way out of a war.’ We have an enemy who has declared war on us. We are in a war. They want to stop us from living the way we want to live our lives. So the dialogue is not about ‘are we in a war,’ but how and where and when to best fight that war.”

[ ... ]

Pace says that this antiwar majority should not be allowed to use the ballot box to compel a change in policy: the war must go on indefinitely, regardless of the popular will. If there were a national referendum vote to end the war, Pace would presumably demand that the government disregard it and continue the military bloodbath. As he said, concluding his remarks, “We will prevail. There’s no doubt about that.”

The logical conclusion of this argument is the outlawing and forcible suppression of public opposition to the war in Iraq, the suspension of elections and the establishment of a military dictatorship in the United States..."

Italian Campaign Plans Mass "Vote" Against GM Food

Italian food producers, consumers and conservation groups hope to get three million signatures in a petition drive to ban genetically modified food, a move they hope will renew Europe's rejection of biotech crops.

At a time when the companies that make the GM crops grown widely in North and South America hope that European resistance is dwindling, Italian campaigners said they were confident they could turn the tide.

"What's happening is an extraordinary experiment in participatory democracy," Mario Capanna, chairman of Genetic Rights, one of the members of the "GMO Free" coalition, said.

In hundreds of marketplaces and food fairs across Italy, campaigners have been handing out forms that look like ballot papers.

They invite people to answer "yes" or "no" to whether food production should be "genuine ... founded on biodiversity and free from GMOs".

The campaign, supported by consumer associations, agriculture lobby Coldiretti and green groups like Greenpeace and WWF, hopes to have 3 million signatures by Nov. 15....

International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases

Courant: It's Official: $9.8 Trillion Debt

"...Although Congress' approval of President Bush's request to increase the public debt by another $850 billion received scant national notice last week, it was consequential nonetheless.
By a 53-42 vote, the Senate revised upward the maximum amount of money the government can borrow to $9.815 trillion. That's expected to be enough to cover the Bush administration's final years in office, although no one should count on it. After all, the open-ended war in Iraq and Afghanistan may consume more taxpayer dollars than current projections.

Thus, a Republican president who inherited a budget surplus and campaigned on staying true to GOP conservative fiscal principles will leave office as the biggest national debt builder ever. Since Mr. Bush assumed office, the debt has nearly doubled. For most of those years, Republicans also controlled Congress.
[ ... ]
One more grim number: In August, the budget deficit grew to $116.9 billion, a record for that month and 81 percent larger than it was in August 2006..."


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