Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The U.S. has no remaining grain reserves

AAM Concerned with CCC Inventories

WASHINGTON - Larry Matlack, President of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM), has raised concerns over the issue of U.S. grain reserves after it was announced that the sale of 18.37 million bushels of wheat from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

“According to the May 1, 2008 CCC inventory report there are o­nly 24.1 million bushels of wheat in inventory, so after this sale there will be o­nly 2.7 million bushels of wheat left the entire CCC inventory,” warned Matlack. “Our concern is not that we are using the remainder of our strategic grain reserves for humanitarian relief. AAM fully supports the action and all humanitarian food relief. Our concern is that the U.S. has nothing else in our emergency food pantry. There is no cheese, no butter, no dry milk powder, no grains or anything else left in reserve. The o­nly thing left in the entire CCC inventory will be 2.7 million bushels of wheat which is about enough wheat to make ½ of a loaf of bread for each of the 300 million people in America.”

The CCC is a federal government-owned and operated entity that was created to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. CCC is also supposed to maintain balanced and adequate supplies of agricultural commodities and aids in their orderly distribution.

“This lack of emergency preparedness is the fault of the 1996 farm bill which eliminated the government’s grain reserves as well as the Farmer Owned Reserve (FOR),” explained Matlack. “We had hoped to reinstate the FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve in the new farm bill, but the politics of food defeated our efforts. As farmers it is our calling and purpose in life to feed our families, our communities, our nation and a good part of the world, but we need better planning and coordination if we are to meet that purpose. AAM pledges to continue our work for better farm policy which includes an FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve.”

AAM’s support for the FOR program, which allows the grain to be stored o­n farms, is a key component to a safe grain reserve in that the supplies will be decentralized in the event of some unforeseen calamity which might befall the large grain storage terminals.

A Strategic Energy Grain Reserve is as crucial for the nation’s domestic energy needs as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. AAM also supports full funding for the replenishment and expansion of Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

The May 1, 2008 CCC Inventory report may be reviewed here
(pdf file).

~ Source: TriState Observer ~

Nine meals from anarchy - how Britain is facing a very real food crisis

The phrase 'nine meals from anarchy' sounds more like the title of a bad Hollywood movie than any genuine threat.

But that was the expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer who was the first head of the Countryside Agency  -  the quango set up by Tony Blair in the days when he pretended to care about the countryside  -  to describe just how perilous Britain's food supply actually is.

Long before many others, Cameron saw the potential of a real food crisis striking not just the poor of the Third World, but us, here in Britain, in the 21st Century.

The scenario goes like this. Imagine a sudden shutdown of oil supplies; a sudden collapse in the petrol that streams steadily through the pumps and so into the engines of the lorries which deliver our food around the country, stocking up the supermarket shelves as soon as any item runs out.

If the trucks stopped moving, we'd start to worry and we'd head out to the shops, cking up our larders. By the end of Day One, if there was still no petrol, the shelves would be looking pretty thin. Imagine, then, Day Two: your fourth, fifth and sixth meal. We'd be in a panic. Day three: still no petrol.

What then? With hunger pangs kicking in, and no notion of how long it might take for the supermarkets to restock, how long before those who hadn't stocked up began stealing from their neighbours? Or looting what they could get their hands on?

There might be 11 million gardeners in Britain, but your delicious summer peas won't go far when your kids are hungry and the baked beans have run out.

It was Lord Cameron's estimation that it would take just nine meals  -  three full days without food on supermarket shelves  -  before law and order started to break down, and British streets descended into chaos.

A far-fetched warning for a First World nation like Britain? Hardly. Because that's exactly what happened in the U.S. in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. People looted in order to feed themselves and their families.

If a similar tragedy was to befall Britain, we are fooling ourselves if we imagine we would not witness similar scenes of crime and disorder.

Well, today Britain is facing a very real crisis. Granted, it is not the threat of a sudden, terrifying phenomenon such as the hurricane that struck New Orleans. But in its capacity to cause widespread hardship and deprivation nationwide, it is every bit as daunting.

Oil prices are spiralling  -  $120 a barrel this week, up 23 per cent since the start of the year  -  and the cost is being felt not only by drivers but by each and every one of us who has seen our food bills soaring.

This week, the British Retail Consortium revealed that food price inflation had risen to 6 per cent  -  the highest figure since comparable records began  -  and up from 4.7 per cent in April and 4.1 per cent in March.

At its most basic, the reasons for this food inflation are twofold: increasing demand (particularly in the emerging economies of India and China) and spiralling production costs.

The former had been predicted for years, but the latter is more unexpected.

Conventional wisdom had it that in an age of mechanisation, the cost of producing the food that we eat would decrease as technology found new ways of improving yields and minimising labour costs. But there was a problem that hadn't been factored in. Production methods are now such that 95 per cent of all the food we eat in the world today is oil-dependent.

The 'black gold' is embedded in our complex global food systems, in its fertilisers, the mechanisation necessary for its production, its transportation and its packaging.

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U.S. Rep. Kucinich introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush

From: The Public Record

Ohio Congressman and former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush Monday evening, stating the commander-in-chief is guilty of numerous crimes, including launching a war on false pretenses, and spying on American citizens, and should be removed from office.

"The House is not in order," Kucinich said to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who has said impeachment "is off the table."

Pelosi pounded her gavel. Kucinich then began to read the impeachment articles.

Kucinich, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war who has consistently voted against funding the conflict, introduced a resolution last year that called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, but the House did not act upon it. Kucinich is up for reelection this year. The move by the congressman to impeach President Bush is not expected to go anywhere. But his recitation on the house floor of the nearly three-dozen articles of impeachment will become part of the Congressional Record.

Impeachment has not been considered by Congress because the Democratic leadership believes it will hurt their party's chances of securing the White House in November's presidential election. Additionally, Democrats said they do not have enough votes to support a move to impeach the president.

Last week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a long-awaited report on prewar Iraq intelligence that concluded President Bush and Vice President Cheney knowingly lied to the public and to Congress about Iraq's links to al-Qaeda and the threat the country posed to the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11.

Kucinich said Monday night that President Bush misled "the American people and members of Congress to believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction so as to manufacture a false case for war."

"President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office," Kucinich said.

Democrats would consider impeachment proceedings if the president authorizes a military strike against Iran without first consulting Congress, according to a May 8 letter sent to President Bush by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

"Late last year, Senator Joseph Biden stated unequivocally that “the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach” the president.

"We agree with Senator Biden, and it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued, Conyers' letter says.

Still, knowingly using flawed intelligence to win support for the Iraq war amounts to High Crimes and Misdemeanors, an impeachable offense, according to former Nixon counsel John Dean.

"To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked," Dean wrote in a June 6, 2003 column for findlaw.com.

"Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.

The articles of impeachment against President Bush comes on the heels of a letter signed by 56 House Democrats Friday that was sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey calling for the appointment a special counsel to investigate whether President Bush and other White House officials violated the War Crimes Act when they authorized brutal interrogation methods against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

The letter says the International Committee of the Red Cross conducted an independent investigation of interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay and “documented several instances of acts of torture against detainees, including soaking a prisoner’s hand in alcohol and lighting it on fire, subjecting a prisoner to sexual abuse and forcing a prisoner to eat a baseball.”

"This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law," the letter to Mukasey says. “We believe that these serious and significant revelations warrant an immediate investigation to determine whether actions taken by the President, his Cabinet, and other Administration officials are in violation of the War Crimes Act, the Anti-Torture Act, and other U.S. and international laws.”

Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com, one of the organizations that has called on Congress to impeach President Bush said Kucinich demonstrated "historic leadership" by introducing the articles of impeachment.

"We've waited seven years to find one Member of Congress brave enough to stand up for our Constitution, for which generations of Americans have fought and died," Fertik said. "We are thrilled and honored that Dennis Kucinich has chosen to be that one genuine patriot."



Hopi and Navajo truth confirmed in censored climate report

With the release of the US censored climate report -- that Bush and his corporate handlers censored for four years -- the words of the late Hopi spiritual leaders are mirrored forth.

Thomas Banyacya.jpgHopi Sinom, including Thomas Banyacya and Dan Evehema, foretold of a time when hurricanes, storms and wildfires would seize the planet if human beings did not care for Mother Earth. They also warned if the secret agenda of coal mining was carried out on Black Mesa, under the guise of the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute and Navajos were relocated, that natural calamities would increase.

Just a few days ago in the Navajos' Chuska Mountains, I was listening to a traditional Navajo farmer talk about how dry the earth is. Looking at the dry pinon trees and dusty earth, she said it would be hard to get the corn and squash to grow this summer. The earth is so dry that it does not absorb water like it used to. Every year it gets worse.

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Ohio Police terrorized Longest Walk women and children


CAMBRIDGE, Ohio -- Seated at the Longest Walk Northern Route camp in the woods, Marie Littlemoon, Mescalero Apache cook and walker, remembers how Columbus, Ohio police grabbed her, bruising her right arm, and terrified the preschoolers in the car, as the walkers walked the prayer near downtown Columbus.
Marie Littlemoon, 60-year-old grandmother, said she was shocked by the brutality of the officers and the way they terrified the children.
"I saw what I thought was a gun pointed at Michael Lane, which was a taser. The taser was only two to three feet from his face, pointed directly between his eyes.
 
"Immediately to the right, I saw four officers wrestle and throw Luv the Mezenger to the ground. The officers stepped on Luv's neck.
"I immediately got out of the car and began filming. When I tried to ask the officer to let my car with the children go, I was grabbed and spun around. So I kept videotaping the police officer verbally attacking Michael Lane.
"Michael remained very calm and explained we were a peaceful prayer walk. The children's mother tried to reach her children in the car. The police officers would not let her. So I stepped forward while she ran around the other side to get in. I was grabbed again and spun around again.
"At that point, the police were taking Luv to the paddy wagon. I started following and taking pictures, to make sure Luv did not get abused again.
 
 

A New Zealander who took his family to join Mohawk, Paiute, Navajos, Choctaw and the American Indians making a symbolic "Longest Walk" across the USA has been threatened by police in Ohio.

Michael Lane - a lawyer who participated in the first "Longest Walk" in 1978 - intervened when police confronted marchers in Columbus Ohio.

Squad cars and paddy wagons pulled up walkers in Columbus, and one held a Taser about a metre from Mr Lane's head.

A journalist accompanying the walkers, Brenda Norrell, reported: "Michael Lane, who arrived on the walk with his wife, Sharon Heta ... and their children from New Zealand, was targeted by police with a Taser.

"As dozens of police came at the walkers, a police officer held a Taser three feet away from Lane's head," she said on independent news websites.

Police had not checked whether the Longest Walk marchers had notified the Ohio Department of Transportation of their route.

Mr Lane, who has a law degree from the Arizona State University, said the worst part of being targeted by a police officer with a Taser was that it terrified his daughters who only knew that a gun was being pointed at their father's head.

He has been accompanied on the 5800km walk by his wife, Sharon Heta, of Tuhoe, and their three children, Merehuka, Ranguitau and TeRuihi.

'House Democrats want Bush administration investigated for war crimes'

House Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey Friday requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether White House officials, including President Bush, violated the War Crimes Act when they allowed interrogators to use brutal interrogation methods against detainees suspected of ties to terrorist organizations.

The letter, signed by 56 Congressional lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, who is leading an investigation into the administration's interrogation practices, says the International Committee of the Red Cross conducted an independent investigation of interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay and "documented several instances of acts of torture against detainees, including soaking a prisoner's hand in alcohol and lighting it on fire, subjecting a prisoner to sexual abuse and forcing a prisoner to eat a baseball."

"We believe that these events alone warrant action, but within the last month additional information has surfaced that suggests the fact that not only did top administration officials meet in the White House and approve of the use of enhanced techniques including waterboarding against detainees, but that President Bush was aware of, and approved of the meetings taking place," the letter, dated June 6, says. The Justice Department is reviewing the letter, a spokesman said.
 
However, Mukasey has defended the administration's interrogation policies, and with seven months to go before a new president is sworn into office, it appears unlikely that Mukasey will act on the Democrats' request. Earlier this year, Mukasey appointed a special counsel to investigate the destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogators subjecting detainees to waterboarding.
 
 

Right-wing extremists find ballot-box success in Saxony

Germany's right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) has long found some measure of success in the voting booths of eastern Germany. In Sunday municipal elections in the state of Saxony, the run of success continued.

With the state's 2.9 million voters choosing new county and municipal councils, the neo-Nazi NPD pulled in some 5.1 percent of the vote across the state and looked set for representation in every county council in the state. In two counties, the NPD even came in ahead of the Social Democrats. In terms of total votes, the NPD managed to quadruple its total from 2004, moving from 41,000 votes to 160,000.

Despite the advances made by the NPD, however, the conservative Christian Democrats emerged as the victors of the weekend election, winning 39.5 percent of the vote. The Left Party, successors to the post-Communist PDS, managed 18.7 percent while support for the Social Democrats, came in at just 11.5 percent.

The vote marked the first time the NPD put up candidates in every county in the state. But the extremist party has long been making inroads into the political establishment in Saxony. The NPD won 9.2 percent of the vote in 2004 state parliament elections and the party has eight seats in the state parliament in Dresden, just behind the 13 held by the Social Democrats. Opinion polls routinely show that support for the NPD is approaching double digits in Saxony. Far right parties also have seats in the parliaments of Brandenburg and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, both in eastern Germany.

In one small town called Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, long known as a bastion of far-right sentiment, the NPD got 25.2 percent of the vote.

~ Source: Spiegel Online ~

 

Republican House candidate from Indiana speaking before his Nazi supporters


It's honestly hard to tell what's most awesome about this photo of Republican Tony Zirkle, running for the Republican nomination in Indiana's 2nd District: the inbred-looking skinhead kid just to Zirkle's right or the "Happy Birthday" sign in front of the table. Let's go with the sign, since it was to celebrate the birthday of Adolf Hitler.

Even more awesomer? Zirkle's explanation. He was there to talk about getting rid of pornography: "'Most of the male porn stars were Jewish at the beginning,' Zirkle explained. Now the male porn stars are mostly black, he claimed, and the women who appear in pornographic works tend to be 'young, white, Christian women.' If people think he is targeting the Jews, he said, they are misinterpreting his position. He is targeting, Zirkle said, the 'porn dragon' that inspires Jews to get involved in pornography. Jewish men are culpable for running the business end of the pornography business, he said, but young white women are guilty of starring in it."
 
 

Latest Toronto 18 ‘terror’ wiretaps confirm youths goaded by reservist, paid police informant

"They're probably expecting what happened in London … some bombing in a subway," he says, referring to the July 2005 terror attack. "Our thing is, it's much, much greater on a scale. It's you do it once and you make sure they can never recover again."

He criticizes Canada's military presence and role in Afghanistan and explains why it warrants retribution.

"You harm one Muslim, the whole Muslim nation has to defend that person," he is overheard saying. "You wanna be on the sidelines or you wanna be on the front lines? Sideliners get no reward and they still die. Frontlines gets you rewards."

Rather than attacking Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, where they will retaliate using a "carpet bomb" to destroy an entire village and kill hundreds of Muslims, it makes more sense to attack here, he says.

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Extraterrestrial biopolitics and creative industries security

 
Global media and business networks create a planetary environment for geopolitical experimentation with global parameters of life - and death. The "Grand Chessboard" of the geo-strategic world has expanded to outer space and inner space. Conflict management has migrated into the military entertainment complex, the domain of culture, media and the creative industries.

The space age began with a grand media spectacle. In the 1960's, for the first time in history, planet Earth was emerging in the consciousness of a global audience, terrestrials on a pale blue dot in the vastness of the skies. But the innocent picture of Man on the moon was diverting attention from an advanced weapons program for the militarization of space. The rockets of the United States space program and the Soviet Union's Cosmic Troops were based on the V-2 ballistic missiles of World War II. In 1945 Wernher von Braun and his team, who developed and manufactured the V-2 based on slave labor, were brought to America. This operation named Project Paperclip included scientists linked to human experiments in concentration camps. Nazi military officers were at the core of Defense Department projects that centered on carrying military personnel up into space and moving them around, but also on the use of robotic weapons in orbit, nuclear missiles and the setup of armed "Death Stars".

In the 1950s the Army's missile program and later NASA's space program began a concerted effort to sell the idea of space flight to the American public and ensure adequate funding of the space program. Walter Elias Disney, an ardent supporter of right-wing politics, joined Wernher von Braun to sell terrestrial audiences on the idea of space. When they communicated a vision of space in simple terms but with the authority of science, audiences became moonstruck. The same year von Braun worked on Disney TV programs about "Man in Space", "Man and the Moon" and "Mars and Beyond", Disneyland opened its doors. In 1955 Disneyland became a milestone in the exploitation of the human imagination, an environment where people enjoy being manipulated. Visitors to this experimental theme park happily indulged in artificial cheerfulness that was comfortable, reassuring and very well operated. Disney, an early sympathizer of the American Nazi movement and a main figure in McCarthyism's Hollywood witch-hunt, developed a model of experimental psychological totalitarianism where subjects gladly settle for containment in an artificial illusion of power and autonomy.

In 1960 the rocket development center was transferred from the U.S. Army to the newly established NASA and von Braun, converted to a born-again Christian, became director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Even though programs were shifted to a supposedly civilian organization they have never been much about science or space exploration. Apollo missions were driven by a military offensive in support of ideological domination and global nuclear warfare while a grand media spectacle created the illusion of a peaceful mission for all humankind. When the US military sent air force pilots to the moon in 1968 it officially declared space as "Today's Front Line of Defense" and the extension of weapons systems beyond the lower atmosphere as "natural and evolutionary". Star Wars, Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in the 1980's, became a smokescreen for a plethora of approaches to global warfare that go far beyond galactic weapons systems. However, most of Reagan's "Star Wars" ideas had been conceived in the 1950's, including details of antiballistic systems in space with hundreds of satellites armed by scores of missiles. Even today's Space Shuttle design has its source in Third Reich research for an orbital bomber plane. Military strategies in the 1990's confirmed space as the "real priority for national security" and concepts for new exotic weaponry advanced. Recent projects focus on networks of space-based lasers, directed-energy cannons, radar satellites, exo-atmospheric kill vehicles and a range of other projects including high-powered global non-lethal weapon systems.

When humans went to space for the first time in history, a mission to the terra incognita of the human mind had a lift-off too. At the very same time when technology extended the arena of human conflicts into outer space, the mapping of inner space and the policing of the cognitive act was skyrocketing. The first mind control projects in the 1950's simply aimed at finding ways to force and to prevent unauthorized extraction of information. Programs for colonization and militarization of outer space have gained momentum synchronously with the quest for counterintelligence truth serums in the 60's. When rockets were launched into space, the first mass production and large scale involuntary testing of psychotropic and mind-altering drugs took off as well. A series of exotic psychological experiments were initiated alongside a massive diffusion of psychoactive substances worldwide. Secret human tests evaluated the offensive uses of unconventional interrogation methods, including hypnosis and sophisticated combination of drugs. Experimentation with human guinea pigs extended to practical try-outs on the lethal dose of LSD for a bull elephant. Donald Ewen Cameron, a member of the Nuremberg medical tribunal who became President of the new World Psychiatric Association in 1961, expanded some of the German experiments on humans. Beyond psychoactive and paralytic drugs combined with sleep deprivation, Dr. Cameron specialized in extreme electroconvulsive shocks, months of drug-induced coma with exposure to audio loops as well as extended memory and sensory modification tests. Missions of covert research programs aimed at the creation of "Manchurian" killer marionettes, and ranged from brain telemetry with intra-cerebral control devices to the possibilities of using telepathic control and remote viewing. The dislocated German scientists provide an important historical, technical and ideological link between these programs for supremacy in outer and inner space.

The successful collaboration of Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun, Disney's expert on the "World of Tomorrow", was deeply emblematic as it represents a historic point in time and the beginning of a new era of geopolitical domination beyond the planet. It marks the chemical wedding of technologies of war and the mind, the conception of cosmic warfare and the birth of the new military-entertainment complex. Pong, the first videogame ever, developed at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the late 50's, was based on missile trajectory plotting; and the first game for a digital computer in 1962 was named Spacewar. The digital entertainment of today has its source in the massive investment in cold war military research and computer science. By now technologies of warfare, war games and combat training, 3D simulations and recreational computer games have converged on many levels. The marriage of the security complex and the entertainment industry is breaking the ground of what experts consider the future of post-human conflict management.

Disneyland and the global media sightings of men on the moon are exemplary for the universal power of imagination management and the spectacle. Receptiveness for the spectacle is deeply embedded in human desires for excitement, stimulation, knowledge acquisition and the construction of self esteem. Largely based on the bio-cybernetic exploitation of human response mechanisms that influence emotion, excitement and thrill, the technological spectacle in its play with danger and disorientation is rooted in the biology of ancient neural patterns. But its arena has been dramatically extended through technology. The machinery of the spectacle generates affect by triggering failures of orientation and control. This can be loss of physical balance, a rollercoaster ride or cognitive dissonance. The intensity of affect is directly correlated with the depth of disorientation and the more that vital human response structures are touched, the deeper the effect. Contextual parameters of relatively secure environments allow appreciating these disorientations as hedonistic experiences instead of discomfort and panic. These mechanisms trigger delight and numinous experiences, moving and enthusing audiences.

The 18th century political economist Adam Smith based his lycanthropic mythology of social order on "invisible hands" and fear. The business of politics historically implied a delicate equilibrium of hope and terror but with the end of the bipolar world of the cold war, the balance of devices to uphold authority tipped from positive to a negative reinforcement stimulus. In the 21st century, the social engineering of dread and longing evolved into a bio-political arena of terror and a psycho-political culture of internalized domination. The globally deployed technology of the spectacle transforms to a creative panic industry, the pacification of the self and the silencing of multitudes. With no visible alternatives to universal pan-capitalism there seems to be no need for payoffs for the disenchanted, no necessity to bribe the dissenting segments of the population and no incentive to grant extension of freedoms. Instead of peddling hope and visions of mutually shared commonwealth, authority is maintained by the production of synthetic fear and the need to secure property against some other. Deimos and Phobos, the gods of panic, angst and terror dominate the omni-directional realm of geo-psychological strategies in an asymmetric world war against invisible enemies without qualities. Market concentrations benefit neo-feudal power structures that know how to use access to media, private security and intelligence services to advance their interests. Private oligarchic networks of finance and business cartels cultivate relations to governmental entities controlling state agencies and military units. Media narratives and public relations strategies transform synthetic fear into advantages that produce windfalls of power and profit. This theater of fear is a skillful interplay of compartmentalized information units, privatized command centers, loyal officials and gatekeepers as well as professional Special Forces. Productions of artificial angst call for scenarios of counter-terrorist theater rehearsals and paramilitary actors as well as the professional staging of scapegoats and dupes. The dark networks draw on privatized intelligence units, so called "asteroids", business entities which provide cover for compartmentalized operations.

Space was formerly known as heaven and manned space flight from earth could be understood as mechanical equivalent to an ascent to divinity. Johannes Kepler suspected paradise to be located on the moon and Konstantin Tsiolkowsky, the Russian pioneer of modern rocket science, saw manned space flight as a freeway to the supernatural. In his novel "Gravity's Rainbow" Thomas Pynchon contemplates the ambiguous interrelations between sex, rockets and magic. Jack Parsons, a key figure in American rocketry, lost his reputation and security clearance in obsessive pursuit of occult rituals and sexual mumbo-jumbo before he diffused into space in a lab explosion in 1952. A crater on the dark side of the moon is named in memory of Parsons, a tribute to the shady cofounder of the famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The 19th century spiritualist pseudoscience of a world of ghosts and occult belief in spirits, a complex adaptation to modernity, has morphed into 20th century sciences. From social theories and "optimization" of the workplace, from operations research to scientific communication and applied psychology, many genres of academic disciplines and the influence business are rooted in the twilight zone of the netherworlds.

When Norbert Wiener, who developed his work on cybernetics from ballistics research, writes that "Communication and control belong to the essence of man's inner life, even as they belong to his life in society" he evokes the ancient art of assessing the human personality and exploiting motivations. Developed out of clandestine mind control programs in the 1960's, the methodical application of Personality Assessment Systems became standard operating procedure in business and intelligence. Systems of discipline and control which took shape in the 19th century on the basis of earlier procedures have mutated into new and aggressive forms, beyond simplistic theories of state and sovereignty. In the past, the science of power branched into the twin vectors of political control and control of the self. In the 21st century the technologies of material control and subjective internalization are in a process of converging. The traditional twin operations, with which the authorities aim to win the hearts and minds, the binding maneuvers of law enforcement and the dazzling illusionist control of the imagination, are transforming into each other. Not unlike werewolves using the powers of the moon for a violent metamorphosis, contemporary agencies of power turn into shape shifters and fluctuating modes of dominance. Star Wars technology shape-shifts into applications of creative industries, into the domain of desire, imagination and mediated lunacy. Technologies of individualization bound to controllable identities and the global machinery of homogenization are superimposing to a double-bind of contemporary power structures. The renaissance heretic Giordano Bruno anticipates these developments in his visionary treatise "De Vinculis in Genere" - a general account of bonding - on operational phantasms and the libidinal manipulation of the human spirit. The disputatious philosopher of an infinite universe, beyond his unique investigation into the imaginary and the persuasion of masses and the individual, also challenged the ontological separation between the spheres of the heavens and the sublunary world of his time. Today, in a technological marriage of heaven and earth, there is a full spectrum military entertainment fusion of global conflict management. A strategic analysis of the enforced colonization of space and mind will certainly provide a more comprehensive understanding of the parameters of life and death on planet Earth.

 

Security Aesthetic = Systems Panic

Let's approach this whole thing philosophically. Where does security end, and insecurity begin? Systems analysts recognize this as a classic boundary question. Its answer determines the precise deployment of any security system. But as we shall see, this particular boundary question cannot be answered under present conditions, except through the definition of a second system, a specifically interrogatory one. Drawing on the special definition of an American art critic of the 1960s, I'll call this second kind of bounded entity an "aesthetic system."

First we should consider how security systems are installed in reality. Attention is focused on every point where an environment, conceived as "secure," comes into contact with its outer edges. Typically, these edges of the system are doors, windows, property lines, borders, coasts, air-space - every place of ingress or egress. At each of these edges, a catalogue of known and present dangers is established. An analysis is conducted to determine the most effective responses to these dangers; and locks, barriers, fences, warning devices, surveillance personnel, armed guards, etc. are positioned at the system's boundaries to repel the threat. Further efforts are expended to look into the crystal ball of the future, predicting all those points where new threats could call for the definition of new boundaries. More matériel and personnel can then be deployed, or at least, readied for deployment. The security system expands dynamically, continually adjusting its relations to the outside world, continually redefining its own boundaries as a system.

One can easily imagine how a home, an airport or a harbor can be made "secure." An initial, safe or "quiet" inside space must simply be preserved from outer harm. But what happens in a complex social system, one composed of many different actors, some with irreconcilably diverging interests? In other words, what happens in an environment where threats can arise from within? The response is clear: what happens is deep paranoia.

The problem of the system's edges suddenly multiplies: the boundary to be secured is now the entire volume of the system, its width, its breadth, its depth, and most dammed of all, its human potential for change in the future. The resulting proliferation of eyes, ears, cameras, snooping devices, data banks, cross-checks and spiraling analytical anxiety in the face of every conceivable contingency is what defines the present security panic. Yet there is a further complication, which merits our attention, particularly in what is called a democracy. This is the fact that security measures, in the face of an internal enemy, come very rapidly to be shrouded in a veil of secrecy. This is not only to preserve their immediate effectiveness, though that is, of course, an issue. But secrecy, from the viewpoint of the security system, is also required to keep the initial security measures from backfiring and actually increasing insecurity.

For what if innocent but marginalized social groups knew the extent to which they are being spied on? Would they not then feel further alienation, and maybe even defect to the side of the enemy? And what if mainstream citizens themselves had to be surveilled, for fear that a violent anomaly might be lurking somewhere in an average profile? If they knew they were being spied on, wouldn't these honest citizens become angered, and demand an end to the proliferation of security measures? Doesn't opinion control then become necessary too? And how about cultural censorship? Where does security end, and insecurity begin?

As you can see from the world around us, any security system is destined under stress to become an entity of uncertain contours, a veritable black hole in society, extending its cloak of invisibility to the extent that its internal paranoia deepens; and at the same time generating an external paranoia about its operations that can only translate into a redoubling of its initial drive to stealth and invisibility. Under these conditions, what becomes necessary for the maintenance of a democracy is a specific kind of social system, whose probing and questioning can provide some renewed transparency. This is where art criticism used to have great ideas.

Writing in 1968, Jack Burnham predicted the coming demise of the traditional art object, and with it, of the figure of the artist as Homo faber, or man the maker. In their place would arise the "aesthetic system" shaped by Homo arbiter formae, man the decider of forms. The essential reasons were technological and organizational: in an age of ever-more complex and powerful information machines, constructed by ever-more sophisticated and extensive organizations, an art that retained the simple posture of manufacture, or hand-making, would inevitably be condemned to lose all relevance in the world. Yet this declining relevance could be countered if the artist rose to the challenges of the contemporary process of production.

As Burnham wrote:
The systems approach goes beyond a concern with staged environments and happenings; it deals in a revolutionary fashion with the larger problem of boundary concepts… Conceptual focus rather than material limits define the system. Thus any situation, either in or outside the context of art, may be designed and judged as a system… In evaluating systems, the artist is a perspectivist considering goals, boundaries, structure, input, output, and related activity inside and outside the system. Where the object almost always has a fixed shape and boundaries, the consistency of a system may be altered in time and space, its behavior determined both by external conditions and its mechanisms of control.

Burnham's ideas were way ahead of his time. In the 1960s, what he mainly had before his eyes were sculptural environments, or what we now call installations: relatively simple systems of interaction with the public, which no longer appeared as art objects, but rather as heterogeneous assemblages of parts, some of which might break down and could then be replaced, without in any way damaging the originality or authenticity of the system. That was already a revolution. What we've seen emerging in the art of our time, however, particularly since computerized communications technology became available in the 1990s, are aestheticized versions of complex socio-technical systems: networks of actors, equipment, physical sites and virtual spaces allowing for the orchestration of quite diverse activities. In this context of spiraling interactivity, the most important artistic decisions are the ones that shape the systemic boundary, lending the system its degrees of recognizability and irrecognizability, and thus, its potential for symbolic agency. As Burnham remarks, the systems artist "operates as a quasi-political provocateur, though in no concrete sense is he an ideologist or a moralist."

How then does a democratic aesthetic come into play, in the face of a security panic with its inherent tendencies toward invisibility, concealed intentions, censorship and even aggression? What we have is the paradoxical, yet also paradigmatic case where one systemic boundary can only be identified by determining another. What this means is that an aesthetic system must be constituted as a fully operational reality, an alliance or network, which can probe the contours of the secret, dissimulating system, and at the same time, reveal those hidden outlines mimetically, through its own outer forms, its own vocabularies and images, its characteristic modes of appearance and communication. What you get then, in art, are elaborate fakes, doppelgangers, double agents, fictional entities that strive to produce outbreaks of truth at their points of contact with the hidden system. What you get, in other words, are counter-models, the virtual outlines of rival systems. This is the principle of some of the most advanced art of today. Jack Burnham understood it in 1968. But there's just one problem: later generations of critics did not read him. The job of art and cultural criticism today is to help create space in democratic societies for the necessary fictions, satires, double-identities and shadow-boxing of aesthetic systems.

Brian Holmes

 

Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty vote

10 June 2008
 
The EU's Bernard Kouchner has stepped into the debate
WARNING that the Irish would be the "first victims" if they reject the EU constitutional treaty in a referendum this Thursday, Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister, yesterday made the highest-profile intervention by a major European player in the country's fierce debate.
 
Speaking on RTL radio, Mr Kouchner said the Irish "have benefited more than others" from the EU's integration and would "be punishing themselves" if they vote No in the referendum.

He said that such an outcome would be met with "gigantic incomprehension" in the rest of Europe.

This week, it will be up to 2.8 million Irish voters to determine whether the EU's nearly 500 million citizens should be governed by the treaty, which was painstakingly crafted to replace a draft constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

If the treaty clears the Irish hurdle, supporters are optimistic it could be ratified this year throughout the 27-nation bloc because no other member state is putting it to a referendum.

Three opinion polls over the past week have left the result too close to call, putting pro-treaty voters anywhere from seven percentage points ahead to five points behind.

"I believe this treaty will be passed. I believe in the discernment and the common sense of the Irish people," said Brian Cowen, the prime minister, who has toured the country over the past month warning of the damage that a treaty rejection would do to Ireland and the EU.

Most of the Irish establishment – the government and opposition parties, employers, major newspapers and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions – back the treaty as the best possible deal for Ireland. They argue that an Irish No would undermine the nation's diplomatic clout and its attractiveness as a base for foreign companies – the secret of its economic success.

But grass-roots Ireland, despite profiting handsomely from 35 years of EU membership, has never sounded so Euro-sceptical as now.

That's because Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy, which roared to life in the mid-1990s and has pretty much been booming ever since, is suddenly looking deeply vulnerable as households battle rising prices and debts.

Government spending has fallen hard into the red, the global credit crunch has hammered a long-soaring property market, and unemployment is on the rise.

The Tiger attracted 200,000 eastern European immigrants who poured into Ireland when the bloc nearly doubled in size in 2004 – and now there are complaints that there aren't enough jobs to go around.

Unlike most European Union members, Ireland promoted an open-door policy for EU job-seekers.

Today, one out of every six jobs is held by a foreigner, including 90 per cent of the past year's newly created jobs, a government report found this month. EU critics claim the Lisbon treaty will accelerate the import of lower-salaried workers and export of jobs eastward.

Experts say that in the current climate it's easy to forget how much the EU has brought to Ireland.

"The future of the EU could hang on whether prosperous middle Ireland, whose very existence is considered one of the triumphs of European integration, will care enough on the day to turn up," said Hugo Brady, an analyst at the Centre for European Reform.

Irish referendum laws require both sides to enjoy equal media time and state funding. This has helped propel unknowns from the political fringes into the mainstream.

Dublin humorist Brendan O'Connor mocked the anti-EU lobby as "a motley crew of crusties from the far left, mysterious and downright mad people from the far right, and former terrorists and their colleagues."

Nonetheless, these ill-documented fringe groups and nationalists like Sinn Fein, have kept the Yes campaign on the defensive.

They have plastered Ireland with posters warning that the treaty will force Ireland to surrender its sovereignty on moral, military and financial matters.

One conjures up the memory of Ireland's patriot dead from the 1919-21 war of independence from Britain. "They died for your freedom. Don't throw it all away. Vote no," it reads.

An arch-conservative Catholic group called Coir – "Justice" in the native Gaelic – warns darkly that the treaty could force Ireland to legalise abortion, euthanasia, prostitution and hard drugs.

Micheal Martin, the foreign minister, after debating with a Coir activist live on national radio, sounded exasperated. "It's hard to believe that anyone in their right might could believe such ridiculous nonsense," he said.

The government has struggled, however, to rebut widespread predictions that the EU will ambush Ireland with post-referendum demands to raise its corporate tax rate, even though the treaty does not alter the rule that all member nations must agree unanimously on EU-wide tax laws.

Ireland's rate is among the lowest in Europe and a major reason why more than 600 US companies have chosen Ireland over other potential European bases. EU heavyweights France and Germany have repeatedly complained it is unfair and against the spirit of the common euro currency.

"The hour after Lisbon is passed, the 12.5 per cent tax rate will be in peril," predicted Shane Ross, an Irish senator and business commentator.

BACKGROUND

THE Treaty of Lisbon would reshape EU institutions, create potentially powerful new roles for an EU president and foreign policy chief, and streamline the way the bloc takes decisions by reducing national veto powers.

Essentially it would resurrect most reforms proposed in the failed EU constitution, which was rejected in referendums by France and the Netherlands in 2005.

The treaty would trim the European Commission from 27 to 18 members; increase decision-making based on majority rather than unanimous votes among nations; and boost the policy-making powers, but at the same time prune the membership of the 785-seat European Parliament.

So far, 15 countries have ratified the treaty which would come into force in 2009.
 
 

The campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland is buoyant, thanks in large part to the zeal of Declan Ganley. But the question remains: who is bankrolling him?

By David McKittrick
Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Outside Dublin's Croke Park traders were selling hats, scarves and T-shirts to the thousands of fans on their way in to watch Dublin play Louth at Gaelic football. A well-dressed, well-groomed highly articulate man with an English accent was on a rather different selling mission, handing out, not sporting paraphernalia, but copies of the Lisbon Treaty on Europe's future.

The man, Declan Ganley, should be a member of Ireland's elite establishment: he is after all a millionaire, living in a mansion in Galway and owning a Rolls-Royce, a Merc and a helicopter. Yet the establishment is intensely fearful of him, because of the highly effective role he has played in persuading Irish voters to reject the Lisbon Treaty and send the European Union back to the drawing board.

They worry in Brussels too, apprehensive that an anti-Lisbon vote would deliver a huge setback to the entire European project.

While all of Ireland's major political parties are urging the electorate to turn out and support the Treaty in this Thursday's referendum, 39-year-old Mr Ganley has been at the centre of the campaign against the document.

His performance seems certain to help notch up the highest negative vote ever recorded in Ireland's periodic referendums on European issues. The latest opinion poll puts the Yes campaign only three points ahead: the No people may even win.

On the surface, Mr Ganley seemed on Sunday to have little enough in common with the fans streaming into Croke Park. Yet although vendors seemed to be selling few scarves, Mr Ganley and the other anti-Lisbon campaigners have been doing a roaring trade in pushing for a No vote.

An unscientific straw poll of fans produced a large anti-Lisbon majority. "I'm voting No," said one woman. "We had to fight for freedom and I don't like to see that thrown away."

A young man added: "I'll be voting No. I've heard the tax would go up. It would affect the money we're earning." A cheerful woman in her fifties, wearing a jester's cap in Dublin colours, said: "We won't have a proper vote in Europe if we go with the Yes vote, so we're voting No."

A middle-aged couple shook their heads: "The government is terrible, so we're voting no. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."

A man in his forties, wearing sunglasses, was one of the few Yes supporters: "Ireland has done very well out of Europe. I know the arguments against but they're mainly spurious, with people wanting every single axe to grind."

More representative was the young man who declared: "I just don't agree with a lot of what they're going to do. I would be generally pro-European but not on this Treaty. It's a step too far as far as I'm concerned."

Many opponents of the Treaty insist they are pro-Europe, but do not feel that voting No makes them bad Europeans. Mr Ganley repeatedly makes this point: "Ireland is a pro-European country," he said, raising his voice above the din of horns from the fans. "We want Ireland to be at the heart of Europe, but we want a democratic and accountable Europe and the Lisbon Treaty gives us the opposite."

Lisbon, he contends, is bad for the Irish economy, in particular endangering its low rate of corporation tax. It would, he says, reduce Ireland's influence and hand over much power to Brussels.

He can hardly be accused of being insular, since he has amassed his fortune with international ventures which have taken him to the US, Russia, Bulgaria and Latvia where he once worked as an adviser to the government. His English accent comes from the fact that he was born in London, though his Irish-born parents took the family back to live in rural Co Galway when he was 13.

In some ways he did not fit in, but he compensated with precocious entrepreneurial flair which emerged in his teens. After school he went from working on construction sites in London to a lowly position in an insurance company before going on to build a business career ranging from aluminium in Russia to forestry in Latvia, telecommunications in Bulgaria and jewellery on the internet. Some of his concerns have not been huge successes, while others are said to have been sold on for phenomenal sums. What is clear is that until this campaign, he was much better known in the business world than in political activity and that he has concentrated on international rather than Irish activity.

Some of his many companies do business with the US military-industrial complex – one supplies emergency response systems to the military – leading some in the Yes camp to portray him as a shadowy figure with connections to neoconservatives whose organisation is being bankrolled by sinister money from outside Ireland. One senior figure asked: "Are they getting it from the CIA, the UK Independence Party or their friends in the US military?" Certainly, his campaign movement Libertas has spent plenty of money. On Sunday, for example, he could afford to have a private plane soar over Croke Park trailing the message "Keep Europe off the pitch – vote No".

Libertas, which dismisses all such suggestions, is one of a wide range of anti-Treaty groups ranging from the far-right to the far-left. They concentrate on different areas affected by the Treaty and indeed in some cases areas which are, arguably, not affected by it at all. The key word is "arguably" since the Treaty is almost 400 pages long and so filled with legal complexities as to be unintelligible to the layperson.

The Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, admitted he had not read it "from cover to cover". Ireland's European commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, added that "only a lunatic" would try.

Mr Ganley attracted interest by saying he had gone through it, a feat which earned him the nickname "The Man Who Has Read the Treaty."

The sheer length and density of the document means that the campaign has ranged over workers' rights, a European army, Irish neutrality, discharges from Sellafield nuclear plant, abortion and euthanasia. These are reflected on the posters enlivening Dublin: "We don't want EU military expansion," proclaimed one. "Don't vote EU taxation," said another while a third urged: "People died for your freedom, vote No."

Sinn Fein is prominent in the No campaign, arguing that Lisbon gives Brussels too much power, would damage the economy, undermine neutrality and drive down salaries.

A familiar pattern has emerged in this campaign: referendum propositions generate automatic coalitions of opponents who may have very different and indeed contradictory reasons for opposing them. One Irish politician remembers the late British Labour leader John Smith saying privately that the trouble with referendums is that people often answer questions they weren't asked.

A government supporter, handing out Yes leaflets near Croke Park, complained: "The Yes campaign has a more difficult task. The No campaign can cherry-pick areas – but I have to sell the entire Treaty, as it is."

The trouble for the Yes people is that the Lisbon Treaty offers no obvious reward for supporting it, either in terms of idealism or practical benefits. And most voters seem to have concluded that there is no real penalty involved if they vote No.

A further tactical disadvantage for the Yes people is that the No campaign was much faster out of the traps, becoming active from the start of the year, long before major parties got organised. Since then almost the entire establishment – business, farmers, major trade unions, media – have lent their weight to the Yes campaign. The big political beasts like Mr Cowen are out on the streets and finally seem to be making up lost ground, though it will take a late swing to deliver a Yes victory.

But a problem lies in the standing of the political classes themselves, whose reputation has taken a severe pounding through the years of the corruption tribunals, still in session after many years of unsettling revelations.

But at a deeper level Irish opinion seems disenchanted with the European project itself. The elite is still as pro-Brussels as ever, but comments such as Mr McCreevy's have added to the familiar criticism that people at the top are becoming more complacent and condescending.

Ireland was once hugely, automatically pro-European, originally in terms of idealism and later in terms of major funding. But eaten bread is soon forgotten, and now that monies are diverted to newer EU entrants Irish Euroscepticism is rising.

This may seem ungrateful, since EU money helped create the Celtic Tiger. And, at another important level, it has greatly increased national self-respect and self-assurance.But self-assurance tends to bring a decrease in deference, as the Irish electorate is showing.

A Yes vote will allow the European project to continue. A No vote would produce the paradox that the Irish, long so pro-Europe, could hold up the entire thrust of continental development.

 

The Pride of the Irish

By ROBIN SHEPHERD
June 10, 2008

Few things inspire greater terror among senior European Union officials than the word "referendum." Thursday's ballot on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland is, therefore, guaranteed to have nerves a jangling. If the Irish vote "no," Brussels will be faced with two choices, neither of them pretty. It could accept that a nation of four million people has consigned a treaty for a union of 490 million people to the dustbin of history. Or it could, once more, trash the EU's democratic credentials by pressuring Ireland to hold another ballot until its people vote the "right" way.

That is exactly what happened after the Irish rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001. They simply repeated the exercise the following year and, hey presto, got the "right" result. Once again, the momentum is clearly with the "nos." A Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post suggests that the treaty supporters' lead is down to three percentage points from eight two weeks ago. Another poll last week even had the "no" camp in the lead.

It would be more than ironic if the Irish of all people were to trip up the Treaty. In a Eurobarometer poll last December, which asked EU citizens whether they thought membership had benefited their countries, the Irish came top of the list with a positive reading of 87%. They are among the most pro-European peoples in the entire EU.

So what is going on? Simply dismissing the no camp as a bunch of euroskeptic "scare mongerers" won't cut it.

True, fears among Treaty opponents that Brussels may override Ireland's restrictive abortion laws are misplaced. But the threat to Ireland's neutrality is not quite so far-fetched. The Treaty won't force the country to join EU military missions, but it does seek to considerably strengthen defense capacities. Europe-wide defense policies are already a reality, and a debate now seems fair for a neutral country whose EU membership implies a shared moral responsibility for all European policies.

The no camp is also right that the Lisbon Treaty will reduce Ireland's voting power. As such, the entire panoply of EU policies is surely worthy of discussion since Ireland's voice will be weakened. Take the recent proposal from France, which takes the EU presidency in July, to harmonize the corporate tax base. Since France has a history of complaining about "tax dumping" from countries like Ireland, which has a corporate tax rate of just 12.5%, it is hardly scare mongering to have a debate about whether this could be the thin end of the wedge toward harmonizing – read: "raising" – corporate taxes across the union.

Taken together, this may not be enough to warrant rejecting the treaty. But there is plenty of room for a decent debate. Uniquely, that's what's taking place in Ireland – the only country out of 27 whose people will be directly consulted. This brings us to a bigger issue, which forms the subtext to much of the "no" camp's grumblings but which matters to all of Europe. That issue, of course, is democratic legitimacy.

Consider the sheer awfulness of the farrago surrounding the 2005 French and Dutch referendums that rejected the European Constitution. Since many EU leaders have since boasted that the Lisbon Treaty is practically the same as the "Constitution," the fact that the French and Dutch will effectively get something they rejected is obviously a travesty of democracy. In some ways this is more antidemocratic than if the EU had rigged the referendums. To rig a vote is at least to accept the principle that political legitimacy requires victory at the polls, even if the "victory" is secured by cheating. To hold a ballot, lose it and then ride roughshod over the result is not even to accept that a democratic vote matters at all.

Worryingly, too many of the EU's most passionate supporters tend to dismiss such criticism as heresy. But just because the EU's enemies use the democratic legitimacy argument as a pretext to question the entire project, this does not mean the matter can simply be brushed aside. There are lots of people who believe that the EU has in many ways been a magnificent success, especially in integrating the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but who also see that something has gone wrong. They must not be intimidated by a zealotry that will brook no criticism, however constructive, of the beloved "project." That is not only anti-intellectual; it makes the more enlightened supporters of European integration fearful of speaking up.

In spite of the pressures, some have had the courage to do so. Last year, Germany's former President Roman Herzog wondered whether given all the laws coming from Brussels, Germany could still be called "a parliamentary democracy." If a former head of Germany's constitutional court, who chaired the convention that drafted the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, says people worry that the "democratic control mechanisms are failing," perhaps it's time to sit up and listen.

Admittedly, the problem is easier to describe than to solve. There is no European "demos," and that makes for a difficult fit between democratic practice and realities of integration. The conundrum is particularly difficult for those who see benefits in pan-European cooperation but who also believe that the exercise of power must yield position to the source of that power's legitimacy. If consulting the people means that integration must be held back or reversed, so be it. Democracy is an end in itself.

It is not easy to define when referendums about European integration are appropriate. But given that the general thrust of EU integration has been to take powers away from national parliaments, genuine democrats should probably err on the side of calling referendums more often than not. Whichever way the Irish go this week, they can at least be proud their country has given them a choice. The rest of Europe looks on in envy.

Mr. Shepherd is senior fellow for Europe at Chatham House.

 
Sunday, June 8, 2008

DUBLIN: Critics of the draft treaty to overhaul the European Union in Ireland, which will vote on the ratification of the document Thursday, are a diverse group that is united by the belief that the treaty would undermine democracy.

Opponents of the pact include pacifists, anti-abortionists, nationalists and a handful of business executives who all share the view that Ireland and its people will be left with a weaker voice in the 27-member group.

An opinion poll published Friday indicated that their campaign might succeed. Rejection by Ireland, the only EU member country that is holding a referendum on the treaty, could unravel years of work to reach an agreement over how the rapidly expanding bloc should be run.

"On the democracy issue, across the no campaigners, you will find that is a key concern emerging," Mary Lou McDonald, a European Parliament deputy from the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, said during an interview.

The anti-treaty camp argues that the pact will give more powers to the EU, strengthen the voice of larger states at the expense of smaller ones and leave loopholes enabling the bloc to compromise Irish neutrality and dilute its control over taxes, trade and abortion.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland has accused opponents of the draft treaty of spreading fear and confusion by campaigning on extraneous issues.

The official referendum monitor in Ireland, whose task is to inform the public about the issues at stake, and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin have rejected concerns that the treaty would open the way for the EU to weaken Ireland's strict abortion and euthanasia laws.

But Libertas, a policy research group headed by Declan Ganley, a businessman, said that he believed the treaty would give up power to "an unelected elite in Brussels" and that it was little more than a rehash of the EU draft constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Other opponents say smaller states would see their share of votes shrink on the decision-making European Council, since the distribution of votes would be weighted according to population size. They also object to states' losing permanent representation on the European Commission, the EU executive body.

Cowen said Ireland had ensured that commission posts would rotate equally among all countries. The treaty, he said Friday on RTE radio, resolves "the whole question of expressing equality of treatment for all countries."

Pro-treaty parties say that as well as strengthening EU leadership, the pact would give national Parliaments a say in drafting laws, reviewing proposals, and demanding amendments when at least one-third of them object.

Critics of the draft treaty say that whichever way the vote goes, they have at least ensured a proper debate in a country where almost the entire political establishment is backing the pact.

"We have forced them at least to some extent to actually knuckle down and deal with concrete issues," said McDonald of Sinn Fein.

The surge in support for opponents of the treaty has alarmed some of its advocates, who say there is no alternative to fall back on. But Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said he remained confident.

"I still believe that the Irish referendum will succeed," he said. "I'm very sure of that."

Other supporters of the draft treaty made it clear they were concerned.

"We've been struggling to reform for years and there is no prospect of renegotiating the treaty," said Andrew Duff, a supporter of the pact and British Liberal member of the European Parliament.

José Ignacio Torreblanca, a senior research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said. "People are very scared in Brussels, because it is going to be a real mess if the Irish vote no."

Britain and others could then suspend ratification, leaving the EU to continue under decision-making structures straining under the weight of 27 member states. "A no vote would unleash a sort of chain reaction," Torreblanca said.

The treaty would create a long-term president of the European Council of EU leaders, a stronger foreign policy chief with a real diplomatic service, a more democratic voting system and more say for the national and European Parliaments.

If the anti-treaty camp prevails, it would turn a meeting of EU leaders the following week into a crisis session and put a cloud over the incoming French EU presidency and its goal of ensuring the treaty comes into force.

"Of all European countries, Ireland is one of those which has been able most magnificently to adapt to the European Union," President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said Friday.

He urged a vote in favor of the treaty while visiting Athens on Friday in preparation for France assuming the EU presidency next month.

"I hope that the Irish understand the extremely important issues at stake for them and for us," Sarkozy said.

 

Lisbon Treaty for dummies!

By (Courtesy of eurolinknews.com) Saturday June 7th, 2008

DON'T have a clue what we are being asked to vote on in the upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th? Join the rest of the country!

The treaty comprises 270 pages of complex legal language – it's the kind of thing that induces a strong craving for 'Heat' magazine. Here's a sample: 'In Article 122(2) the second sentence shall become the first subparagraph of Article 117a(2); it shall be amended as set out above in point 102.' Etcetera.

But, don't worry, help is at hand. Here is a breakdown of the treaty into a ten point summary, so you can make up your mind without having to enlist a lawyer…

Unreadable. Impenetrable. Confusing. This is the general reaction of anyone who has read or attempted to read the Lisbon Treaty, from politicians to pundits to ordinary people trying to find the facts. The Treaty amends the contents of several existing EU treaties in a document running to hundreds of pages of legal articles, protocols, declarations and annexes.

Those in favour of a 'Yes' vote argue that complexity is unavoidable when a treaty needs to set out the rules governing relations between 27 sovereign member states. Those opposed to the Treaty have claimed it is deliberately unclear, and that we should not be asked to vote on something we cannot understand.

Both sides agree that the Lisbon Treaty preserves the main substance of the EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Both sides also agree that some reform of EU structures is necessary, to facilitate the continuing expansion of the union and streamline its decision-making processes.

The question is whether the Lisbon Treaty, signed by EU leaders last December and due to come into effect in 2009, represents the best path to reform.

Ireland is the only country in the EU to hold a referendum on the Treaty, as required by our constitution. Every other member state can ratify the Treaty by a vote in their national parliament. As such, we hold responsibility for supporting or rejecting the Treaty on behalf of about 490 million Europeans who do not have the option to vote.

Below are some of the main changes that will come about if the Lisbon Treaty is approved by the people of Ireland. Whether they are positive, negative, necessary, significant or otherwise is up to you to decide:

1. Top jobs:

A politician will be chosen to be President of the European Council for two and a half years, replacing the current system where presidency is rotated between member states every six months. Another post to be created will be the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, combining the current roles of EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana and External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

2. Charter of Fundamental Rights:

The Lisbon Treaty makes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights a legally-binding document. The Charter lists the human rights recognised by the European Union.

3. Citizens' Initiative:

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission is obliged to consider any proposal signed by at least one million citizens from a number of member states.

4. National parliaments to get 'yellow card' facility:

All proposals for EU legislation will have to be sent to national parliaments, who will then have eight weeks to offer a 'reasoned opinion' on whether they believe the proposal respects the principle of subsidiarity (this is the principle by which decisions should as far as possible be made at local or national level). If enough national parliaments object to a proposal, the Commission can decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it.

5. Smaller Commission:

The European Commission is the EU's executive arm; it put forwards legislation and ensures that EU policies are correctly implemented. Since 2004, it has been made up of 27 commissioners, one from each member state. Under the new treaty, the commission will be reduced to 18 members from 2014, with membership rotating every five years. This means that only two-thirds of member states will have their own commissioner at any one time, and each country will lose its commissioner for five years at a time.

6. European Parliament to get greater powers but reduced numbers:

Currently, the European Parliament has joint lawmaking power with the Council of Ministers over about 75% of legislative areas. If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, co-decision will be extended to virtually all areas of EU policy.

The European Parliament comprises 785 MEPs from across the union; under the treaty, this will be permanently reduced to 751. The number of Irish MEPs will drop from 13 to 12.

7. New areas of EU competence:

The Lisbon Treaty will set out those areas over which the EU has exclusive competence, shared competence with member states, or supporting competence. The Treaty gives the EU no new areas of exclusive competence, however it establishes joint competence in the areas of space and energy. It also gives the EU the role of supporting competence in several new fields including health, education, tourism, energy and sport.

8. Redistribution of voting weights between member states:

Within those areas to be decided by qualified majority voting, the current rules require the support of a little over 72% of member states for a law to be passed. Under the new system due to come into effect from 2014, a vote can be passed if it is backed by 55% of member states, and secondly, if these countries represent 65% of the EU's population. It can also be passed if less than four countries oppose it. The changes mean that it will be easier to pass legislation, and more difficult to block it. Countries with smaller populations will have less chance of blocking legislation.

9. Shift from unanimity to majority voting:

The Lisbon Treaty will see an increase in the number of policy areas to be decided by a majority vote at the Council, rather than by unanimity. Qualified majority voting will become the norm, however there are some notable exceptions that will still require unanimous decisions, including taxation and defence.

One area where the unanimity veto will give way to qualified majority voting is Justice and Home Affairs, covering issues such as asylum, immigration, criminal law, border controls and police cooperation. Ireland has the power to opt-out of this area on a case-by-case basis.

10. Changes to Common Security and Defence Policy:

The Lisbon Treaty provides for the progressive framing of a common defence policy for the European Union, which will nonetheless respect the neutrality of member states like Ireland. It also allows the European Council to change decision-making from unanimity to majority voting in a number of areas, excluding military and defence. However such changes will themselves require unanimous decisions.

The Treaty extends the range of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions for which the union may draw on member states to include disarmament operations, military advice and assistance and post-conflict stabilisation.

 
 
Prague- The Czech government will prepare a study on the Lisbon treaty for the Constitutional Court that is to decide whether it is in harmony with the Czech legal order within one week, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) told journalists.
 

The court deals with the document at the proposal by the Senate, the upper house of the Czech parliament, which was initiated by the ODS since the cabinet has no power to ask the court for an analysis.

The Czech Republic has not yet ratified the Lisbon treaty on the new division of powers between the EU and its member states pending the Constitutional Court's ruling.

The Lisbon treaty that will replace the rejected European constitution is designed to reform EU institutions.

It will introduce the posts of the President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

Some ODS members reject the Lisbon treaty. The Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), a junior governing party, have announced that they will support the document even if the Constitutional Court decided that the Lisbon treaty contradicts the Czech constitutional order.

They said that in such an event the party would support changing the Czech constitution.

The Greens (SZ), another junior coalition partner, also demand the ratification of the document.

The Lisbon treaty is important for the Czech Republic because it will assume the EU six-month rotating presidency in the first half of 2009.

The Constitutional Court have asked all constitutional institutions for their positions on the document.

President Vaclav Klaus who sent its position to the court last week stressed he firmly believed that the complex assessment of the Lisbon treaty by the Czech Constitutional Court was "an absolutely key pre-condition for its ratification."

Klaus wrote it should also be considered whether people themselves should make a decision on the treaty in a referendum.

 

John Bolton: Lisbon Traty will undermine democracy

09/06/2008
 
John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN who served under Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior, said the new Treaty could hurt the military alliance between Europe and the US.

He was speaking only days before Ireland hold a referendum on the EU Treaty, the only member country to do so, with the latest polls showing the Yes campaign slightly ahead.

But an Irish vote No on Thursday will mean the Treaty, which abolishes dozens of national vetoes and creates the new post of EU president, cannot come into force in any of the 27 member states.

The Treaty is also subject to a High Court challenge in London today (mon) and a vote in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

Mr Bolton has previously warned the deal threatens Britain's special relationship with the United States and yesterday said he would not understand the Irish giving "more powers to bureaucrats."

He added: "The only people you elect have a very limited role and I think this treaty will further enhance the power of institutions in Brussels without extending democratic authority to people."

Speaking before he delivered a speech on transatlantic relations at University College, Dublin, Mr Bolton warned the Treaty could "undercut" Nato, something that would be a "huge mistake".

He argued that if the EU has its own military capability, people will think Nato is redundant and Europe "can take care of their own defence".

The latest referendum opinion poll, published by the Sunday Business Post yesterday, indicated a tight contest with the Yes vote at 42 per cent compared to 39 per cent for the No campaign.

The result is a blow for those opposed to the Treaty  a similar poll conducted on Friday gave them a five-point lead  but the overall trend is a surging No vote.

Gordon Brown has said Britain will not get a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, although the House of Lords will vote on this decision this week.

But Stuart Wheeler, the millionaire businessman and major Conservative donor, will today (mon) begin a High Court challenge, attempting to force the Prime Minister to call a public vote.

A Global Vison/ICM poll published yesterday found 64 per cent of Britons would back a renegotiated looser relationship with the EU in a referendum, against 26 per cent who would oppose it.

 

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