Saturday, June 21, 2008

BBV set to launch new smear attack on 9/11 Truth

The BBC is set to launch another savage smear attack on the 9/11 truth movement with two documentaries about the September 11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings that attempt to debunk evidence of government complicity and smear doubters of the official story as holocaust deniers, Neo-Nazis, and crop circle fanatics.

Having taken its rightful place alongside Popular Mechanics and The History Channel as one of the 21st century's most plentiful peddlers of yellow journalism with their first 9/11 hit piece last year, "Auntie Beeb" is set to have another crack at the whip on July 6th when it airs a documentary about the collapse of WTC Building 7, the 47-storey skyscraper that imploded into its own footprint on 9/11 without being hit by a plane, called The Third Tower.

The preview clip for the show claims that the program will offer the solution to the "final mystery of 9/11," presumably self-satisfied that the BBC's previous woeful effort to debunk 9/11 truth dismissed the mountains of other contradictions and outright falsehoods of the official story.

Judging from the end of the clip, it seems as if the BBC is ready to violate the fundamental laws of physics and proclaim that fire caused the steel-framed building to collapse, an unprecedented event in history.

The making of the show was undoubtedly motivated by the BBC themselves having been shamed last year by footage that emerged of them reporting the collapse of Building 7 before it had happened, a revelation that prompted a series of blundering PR gaffes on behalf of the corporation and seemingly a vendetta against 9/11 truthers who bombarded the company with bad publicity at the time.

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When the Kremlin tried a little openness

A dash of openness can be a dangerous thing in an autocratic state.

Mikhail Gorbachev discovered this two decades ago when his campaign to inject some daylight into Soviet society doubled back on him like a heat-seeking missile.

Now China's leaders are playing with the same volatile political chemistry as they give their own citizens and the world an unexpectedly vivid look at the earthquake devastation in the nation's southwest regions. The rulers of cyclone-battered Myanmar, by contrast, are sticking with the authoritarian playbook, limiting access and even aid to the stricken delta region where tens of thousands of people were killed by the storm.

While China's response to its natural catastrophe is certainly more humane, and is only a small step toward openness, it could set in motion political forces that might, over time, be unsettling. That's especially true in an age of instant communications, even in a nation like China, which tries to control Internet access.

"When you start opening up and loosen controls, it becomes a slippery slope," Jack F. Matlock Jr., the American ambassador to Moscow during much of the Gorbachev period, said last week as he watched the events in China. "You quickly become a target for everyone with a grievance and before long people go after the whole system."

Chinese leaders are well aware of the Soviet experience. The bloody crackdown against the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989 seemed motivated in part by fears that a relaxation of repression would lead to a replay of Soviet turbulence in China. It was no accident that China was the first country to translate and reprint Mr. Matlock's 1995 account of the demise of the Soviet Union, "Autopsy on an Empire."

And China has taken a different reform path, in effect offering its people robust economic growth, with a degree of responsiveness when problems can be blamed on local officials, in exchange for continued one-party rule. Playing up the response to the earthquake, even as China restricts coverage of repression in Tibet, could prove a shrewd move, rather than one that cascades into instability.

Still, it is worth recalling a time when a little openness flew out of control.

As a correspondent and bureau chief for The New York Times in Moscow in the late 1980s, I had a ringside seat to observe the slow disintegration of the Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev. The collapse of the Soviet empire and dissolution of the Communist Party were not exactly what he had in mind when he took power in 1985 and launched his twin policies of glasnost (greater openness) and perestroika (political reform).

As events unfolded, it was like watching a scientist start a nuclear chain reaction that races out of control, eventually consuming him and all those around him.

Mr. Gorbachev realized his country was rotting from within, paralyzed by repression and ideological rigidity, a backward economy and a deep cynicism among Russians about their government. "We can't go on living like this," he told his wife, Raisa, hours before he was named Soviet leader, he recalled in his 1995 memoirs.

But he clearly had no inkling of where his initiatives were headed when, shortly after taking office, he broke new ground for a Kremlin leader by mingling with citizens in Leningrad and giving unscripted interviews.

In those early days of glasnost, it was hard to tell whether the changes were purely superficial or the start of something more profound.

One day in late 1985, Allen Ginsberg, the American beat poet, unexpectedly turned up at the Moscow bureau of The Times, bearing a package from Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Soviet poet. It was the text of a speech that Mr. Yevtushenko had given to the Writer's Union.

Serge Schmemann, my colleague, described it a few days later in a front-page story: "The session was a closed one, but even so the poet's strong words against distortion of history, against censorship, self-flattery, silence and privilege in the world of letters were strikingly bold."

As glasnost gathered force in the years that followed, it ripped away the layers of deceit that were the foundation of the Soviet state. Each step undermined the authority of the party and the government.

The explosion of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in April 1986 shattered the Kremlin's credibility — and gave a powerful impetus to glasnost. The Kremlin, like the Burmese leaders after the cyclone, seemed paralyzed by the accident. The first government announcement — an innocuous 44 words — came more than a day after the reactor meltdown, and hours after Sweden detected alarming levels of radiation in its air, 800 miles north of Chernobyl.

The glacial flow of information imperiled thousands of people living in the accident area. Mr. Gorbachev, embarrassed by the debacle, redoubled his efforts to make the government and party more transparent.

The truth about Stalin's brutality, and even Lenin's, was exposed as a bright floodlight illuminated the hidden recesses of Soviet history. Newspapers and journals wrote honestly for the first time about government corruption and mismanagement. Artists, playwrights, filmmakers and writers looked unsparingly at the abuses of the Soviet system.

"Children of the Arbat," a long-suppressed, unvarnished novel about life under Stalin by Anatoly Rybakov, was the sensation of Moscow when it was published in 1987. "Repentance," a bitingly satirical film about Stalinism, was freed from the censors the same year.

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How Iran would retaliate if it comes to war

Pressure is building on Iran. This week Europe agreed to new sanctions and President Bush again suggested something more serious – possible military strikes – if the Islamic Republic doesn't bend to the will of the international community on its nuclear program.

But increasingly military analysts are warning of severe consequences if the US begins a shooting war with Iran. While Iranian forces are no match for American technology on a conventional battlefield, Iran has shown that it can bite back in unconventional ways.

Iranian networks in Iraq and Afghanistan could imperil US interests there; American forces throughout the Gulf region could be targeted by asymmetric methods and lethal rocket barrages; and Iranian partners across the region – such as Hezbollah in Lebanon – could be mobilized to engage in an anti-US fight.

Iran's response could also be global, analysts say, but the scale would depend on the scale of the US attack. "One very important issue from a US intelligence perspective, [the Iranian reaction] is probably more unpredictable than the Al Qaeda threat," says Magnus Ranstorp at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

"I doubt very much our ability to manage some of the consequences," says Mr. Ranstorp, noting that Iranian revenge attacks in the past have been marked by "plausible deniability" and have had global reach.

"If you attack Iran you are unleashing a firestorm of reaction internally that will only strengthen revolutionary forces, and externally in the region," says Ranstorp. "It's a nightmare scenario for any contingency planner, and I think you really enter the twilight zone if you strike Iran."

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Law school to plan Bush war crimes prosecution

A conference to plan the prosecution of President Bush and other high administration officials for war crimes will be held September 13-14 at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover .

"This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred," said convener Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the school. "It is, rather, intended to be a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth."

"We must try to hold Bush administration leaders accountable in courts of justice," Velvel said. "And we must insist on appropriate punishments, including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war-criminals in the 1940s."

Velvel said past practice has been to allow U.S. officials responsible for war crimes in Viet Nam and elsewhere to enjoy immunity from prosecution upon leaving office. "President Johnson retired to his Texas ranch and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was named to head the World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was allowed to grow richer and richer," Velvel said.

He noted in the years since the prosecution and punishment of German and Japanese leaders after World War Two those nation's leaders changed their countries' aggressor cultures. One cannot discount contributory cause and effect here, he said.

"For Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Yoo to spend years in jail or go to the gallows for their crimes would be a powerful lesson to future American leaders," Velvel said.

The conference will take up such issues as the nature of domestic and international crimes committed; which high-level Bush officials, including Federal judges and Members of Congress, are chargeable with war crimes; which foreign and domestic tribunals can be used to prosecute them; and the setting up of an umbrella coordinating committee with representatives of legal groups concerned about the war crimes such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, among others.

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover was established in 1988 to provide an affordable, quality legal education to minorities, immigrants and students from low-income households that might otherwise be denied the opportunity to obtain a legal education and practice law. Its founder, Dean Velvel, has been honored by the National Law Journal and cited in various publications for his contributions to the reform of legal education.

Further information Jeff Demers at   978) 681-0800; or Sherwood Ross, media consultant to MSL, at

Italian probe alleges huge arms sale bid by Libya in grab for global role

The Libyan officer tried to cloak the purpose of his call to the Italian arms dealer. "A friend," he said, wanted to buy 1 million "pieces" and 50 million items of "food."

But when that phone call was placed in 2006, Italian police were listening. They knew the meaning. Libya was shopping for guns — lots of them.

Authorities shadowed the negotiations between Libyan officials and a group of black-market dealers from across Italy for a year before they moved in and broke up what would have been a $64 million deal for hundreds of thousands of Chinese-made assault rifles.

The case, detailed in documents obtained by The Associated Press, raises questions about whether Libya, a country eagerly shedding its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism, is still surreptitiously supporting suspect groups and regimes. The investigation also underscores the Italian underworld's role as a go-between for illegal arms deals.

The court papers say at least part of the shipment was expected to go to other countries, and experts believe likely destinations were African countries including war-torn Chad and Sudan, where killings of civilians are widespread.

Libyan officials did not respond to questions from the AP about the allegations.

Italian prosecutors say the deal involved hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to senior Libyan officials.

Italy was a natural place for them to shop.

"Organized crime syndicates ... use Italy for brokering or transshipping illegal arms transfers to the Balkans, Africa, the United States and Colombia, in a trade that includes cocaine and human trafficking," said Sergio Finardi, a military logistics expert at TransArmsEurope, a nonprofit group based in Italy and the United States that monitors arms deals.

It was anti-Mafia prosecutors in the central city of Perugia who discovered the Libyan transactions, while conducting an unrelated investigation into drug trafficking by the mob. One of the drug suspects was found to be part of a group that used offshore companies in Malta and Cyprus to broker arms deals.

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Bulcha Demeksa says Woyanne is a genuine dictatorship

When it was announced last month that the ruling party of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had swept local polls in this vast Horn of Africa nation, few expressed surprise.

Zenawi's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition was declared by the country's national electoral board to have won 559 districts in the kebele and woreda divisions of local government and all but one of 39 parliament seats contested in the by-election. Out of a total of 26 million registered voters, the electoral board claimed that 24.5 million, or 93 percent, voted.

April's ballot was the first chance for the EPRDF to flex the muscles of its electoral machinery since general elections in May 2005. Though early returns that year suggested an electoral triumph for the country's two main opposition parties, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). Prime Minister Zenawi declared a state of emergency before final results were announced. In the unrest that followed, hundreds of people were arrested and at least 200 killed by Ethiopian security forces. Official results — not released until September — gave 59 percent of the total vote to the EPRDF.

Cries of fraud stained the reputation of one of Washington's closest African allies. to whom, according to U.S. defense department figures, the Bush administration sold $6 million worth of weapons to in 2006, more armaments than went to any other African country. The weapons are used in part to aid Ethiopia in its war against Islamic militants based in neighboring Somalia, which Ethiopia invaded in late 2006 and where it remains involved in active combat to this day.

Some observers contend that this year's ballot was even more compromised than the 2005 vote. With an estimated 3.6 million posts up for election, Ethiopia's opposition parties were only able to register some 16,000 candidates due to obstacles placed in their path by the country's electoral council. In response, the UEDF, now the largest opposition party in Ethiopia's parliament, and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) — a political party claiming to represent the interests of the Oromo ethnic group (Ethiopia's largest) — both boycotted the final round of voting.

Though international observers were not permitted, an electoral law passed in June allowed domestic organizations to formally monitor the ballot. However, local observers such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Council never received responses from the electoral board to their requests to monitor the elections.

One official at a foreign diplomatic mission in the capital, who surveyed polling places on the days of the vote, told IPS that "what we saw in Addis Ababa did not correspond" to 93 percent participation total announced by the electoral council.

"These elections weren't even good enough to be rigged," asserts Bulcha Demeksa, a former United Nations and World Bank official who currently leads the OFDM and serves in Ethiopia's parliament. "A genuine dictatorship has been evolving."

The situation of the Oromo people — who form the majority in Ethiopia's largest and most populous state, Oromia — is but one of the thorny poltico-ethnic quandaries confronting Ethiopia's ruling party today.

Running the gamut from the democratic advocacy of the OFDM to the violent militarism of the Oromo Liberation Front guerilla group, the struggle of the Oromo — the Oromo were conquered and consumed into the Amhara-Ethiopian empire emanating from the nation's north near the end of the nineteenth century — has found echoes in other regional struggles in the country.

In the southeastern Ogaden region, which abuts volatile Somalia, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has been fighting to make the region an independent state since 1984. In a report earlier this month, New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of having "deliberately and repeatedly attacked civilian populations in an effort to root out the insurgency." The attacks were by way of reprisal following an ONLF attack on a Chinese-run oil installation in April 2007 that killed at least 70 Chinese and Ethiopian civilians.

Amidst such internal dissent, several areas of the country currently are on the brink of famine, with the Word Food Program currently estimating that, of Ethiopia's 80 million citizens, 3.4 million will need emergency food relief from July to September, a number that comes in addition to the 8 million currently receiving assistance. (see Q&A: Ethiopia's Urban Poor Cannot Afford To Eat).

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Britain's deadly business

Britain won a dubious new accolade this week: it became the world's number one arms exporter. Not that the government had any regrets: the trade minister Digby Jones greeted it as "outstanding" and promised: "I look forward to working with the defence sector in future."

Others may find it harder to celebrate. In a country that has lost well over a million manufacturing jobs since 1997, where there were not enough trained engineers to fix the west coast mainline last Christmas, there is something galling about our remaining manufacturing excellence being concentrated in weapons, warplanes and military equipment. When UK Trade and Investment, the government agency that published these figures, was asked yesterday in which other export industries Britain ranked number one, it could not name one.

Then there are our dodgy customers. Every year the Foreign Office puts out a human rights report. Last year's edition names as one of the government's "major countries of concern" Saudi Arabia. Yet this despotic regime was the biggest customer for British arms last year, placing an order worth roughly £4.4bn for Typhoon aircraft alone. These deals may not break the letter of Labour's manifesto pledge in 1997 that "we will not permit the sale of arms to regimes that might use them for internal repression", but they certainly flout its spirit. And can Labour ministers, with their long-standing commitment to development, really be glad that impoverished countries such as Tanzania are shelling out tens of millions for radar defence systems?

Those who style themselves as hard-headed argue that if Britain did not sell these armaments, someone else would; at least this way the trade is cleaner than it might be otherwise. The first contention could obviously be used by a drug dealer, and it would not detain any court for a moment. And the second part can hardly stand while the allegations that BAE Systems, the giant among British defence companies, bribed brutal regimes to purchase its stuff go uninvestigated by British authorities.

Nor is this trade helpful for the British. BAE, for instance, has more workers in America than the UK. Yet the industry gets plenty of taxpayers' money: not just its own dedicated staff at UK Trade and Investment, but subsidies for research. Campaigners calculate that the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, a taxpayer-funded body, spent £35m in 2004 in research grants for "defence and aerospace" projects with BAE and others. This money and support could be directed elsewhere, to more pressing needs. Rather than boast of their connections with defence, ministers should look to minimise them.

~ From: Guardian Online ~


Russia draws Georgia into war: Georgian Foreign Ministry

Russia tries to draw Georgia into armed conflict in Abkhazia, Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister told journalists and said that military exercises of Russian peacemakers had begun in Abkhazia.

Vashadze said that these exercises were not coordinated with Georgia and held in the Kodor Gauge, the only Georgian enclave of Abkhazia, which is under control of Tbilisi.

" Russia undertakes every panic action, directed at strengthening tension in the conflict region," Vashadze said. He noted that all these actions were specified in a Russian President's decree on establishment of special relations with the Georgian separatists, dated 16 April.

"The most dangerous point of this decree carried out currently covers fulfillment of military components, delivery of armaments, strengthening of the military infrastructure," he said.

~ From: Trend News ~


'Authorizing torture with the very best of intentions'

It isn't easy to justify torture. It does, after all, violate centuries' worth of human rights norms and international and domestic law. It has famously been used by the Nazis and Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Il-Sung—not really the kinds of folk we usually strive to emulate. And as professor Darius Rejali explains in his superb Torture and Democracy, it also doesn't work, at least not as a means of extracting useful information. It doesn't work because, among other things, torture leads to false confessions, because interrogators are not skilled at detecting false confessions, and because tortured prisoners are inclined to misremember and misstate what information they do know. You would think that having decided to permit torture, in the face of all these legal, moral, and practical objections, those members of the Bush administration who did so could assemble a coherent defense: We tortured because it works; we tortured because nothing else worked better. We tortured because after careful consideration, it was worth the moral price we paid. But as Congress begins the painful process of tracing the origins of the government's abusive interrogation program, its members are now confronted by the last refuge of torturers everywhere: We tortured with the very best of intentions.

Before the Senate armed services committee this week, some Bush administration officials offered up the hazy recollections, circuitous chains of command, and the passing of the buck that are the hallmarks of any such investigation. The lowlight came Tuesday with the Senate testimony of William J. Haynes II, former general counsel of the Department of Defense. If suspending the Geneva Conventions, then reverse-engineering torture-resisting techniques taught at the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School for use against prisoners had worked so well in the summer of 2002, you might think a Jack Nicholson moment would have been nigh this week. You might imagine someone brave would leap to his feet before the Senate committee and holler, "Yes, I walked on the dark side, and it saved you all!" But nobody seemed willing to explain or justify the momentous decision to violate the legal ban on torture. What we heard instead was that desperate times called for desperate measures, and thus any old desperate measure would do.

"What I remember about the summer of 2002," Haynes testified, "was a government-wide concern about the possibility of another terrorist attack as the anniversary of Sept. 11" approached. "There was a limited amount of time and a high degree of urgency," he later explained. The implication is that he'd have tried anything in that climate and that anything he'd tried would somehow have been justified. The editors at the Wall Street Journal took the same tack this week, excoriating congressional Democrats for persecuting noble men who authorized the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "other murderers" for the good of us all. Those men acted in good faith, we are lectured. "When the threat seemed imminent after 9/11, Democrats were only too happy to keep quiet and let the Bush administration and CIA do whatever it took to prevent another attack." Desperate times. Desperate measures. Case closed.

In a speech delivered in precisely the same key last month at Boston College, Attorney General Michael Mukasey characterized Americans who seek answers on the genesis of the Bush torture policy as "hostile and unforgiving." Describing the "difficulty and novelty" of the legal questions faced by government lawyers in the supercharged aftermath of 9/11, Mukasey suggested it was enough that the questions were tough and that these government lawyers had acted "in good faith." Yet if the Senate hearings have proved anything at all this week, it's that the legal questions surrounding torture were neither tough nor novel. At Tuesday's hearing, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham—a lawyer by training—described the legal reasoning supporting the abusive interrogation program as "bizarre." Announcing that the rationale for these torture techniques would go down in history "as some of the most irresponsible, shortsighted legal advice" ever offered, Graham was nevertheless willing to let the advisers off the hook because they acted with the country's best interests at heart.

Last I checked that's how they first paved the road to hell. ...


Alternative medicines draws fire

After decades of fighting for credibility within mainstream medicine, alternative health practitioners are once again in the firing line.

This latest salvo has been launched from Britain, where two recently released, hard-hitting books accuse the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) industry of quackery and trickery.

The attack comes at a time when, in Australia, more money than ever is being invested in CAM remedies.

In the 2006-2007 financial year, Medicare Australia paid out more than $23 million in rebates for patients who received acupuncture, chiropractic therapy and osteopathy.

While only a small number of people qualify for the rebates – those with chronic conditions and with complex care needs – the cost to the public purse could rise dramatically if CAM becomes part of mainstream medicine as forecast by some within the medical fraternity.

And at an international CAM congress staged in Sydney earlier this year, the Federal Government announced more than $7 million in grants for the creation of new centres and research projects across the country.

In Queensland, more than $660,000 was awarded to establishing a new clinic at the University of Queensland in a bid to integrate CAM with conventional medicine.

However, scientists in Britain are now labelling most CAM practices as fake, with new research analysis showing the majority of them provide nothing more than a placebo effect.

So, what are we to believe?

Are alternative therapies finally getting the kudos they deserve or have they ultimately been revealed as fake?

According to British author Rose Shapiro, CAM has grown into a "massive social and intellectual fraud" – a "dangerous global delusion" – with no scientific evidence to justify the global industry.

"What's happened is that patient satisfaction and demand has replaced evidence when it comes to the efficacy of complementary medicine," Shapiro writes in her new book, Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All.

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Swiss campaign group says food giant Nestle hired spy against it

A left-wing campaign group asked Swiss authorities on Friday to investigate Swiss food and drinks giant Nestle SA for allegedly hiring a spy to infiltrate the group.

A Swiss chapter of anti-globalization group Attac filed the legal complaint in Vaud canton (state), after learning that an employee of Securitas AG security company took part in its private meetings between late 2003 and June 2004, according to the group's lawyer, Jean-Michel Dolivo.

The meetings were part of a research project that culminated in the publication of a book titled "Attac against the Nestle Empire," which criticized the company's position on genetically modified organisms, water privatization and trade unions.

It is now up to Vaud's investigating magistrate to decide whether to prosecute.

Attac's complaint claims that Nestle, Securitas and an unidentified person "obtained documents, information, photographs, photographs and data sets through illegal means," Dolivo said.

Nestle declined to comment directly on the allegations.

In a statement, the world's biggest food and drink company said it worked with Securitas to ensure the safety of its staff and facilities during the G-8 summit of world leaders in June 2003.

"It is evident that these measures were based on the strictest respect for the law," Nestle said.

Securitas could not immediately be reached for comment. The company, based in Zollikofen near Bern, is not connected to the Swedish security company of the same name Securitas AB.

Dolivo said the group has also made a civil complaint to Switzerland's Data Protection Office.

~ Source: International Herald Tribune ~


40 years after Paris: Can mass protests still make a difference?

The marches were a prelude to what became a two-week general strike, the impact of which remains hotly debated to this day. The events of May 13, 1968 were not the world's first mass protests, but their role in the subsequent alteration of French society was widely hailed as proving the power of political action outside the electoral process. The United States also saw mass protests in 1968, but their failure to end the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon that November left many activists frustrated. The successful WTO protests in Seattle reasserted the power of mass protest, but this appears to have dissipated as the Bush Administration invaded Iraq despite millions taking to the streets and the federal government failed to legalize undocumented immigrants despite the mass protests of the Spring of 2006. Can mass protest still make a difference in the United States, or is the electoral process -- embodied in the mass involvement of those in the Obama campaign -- now seen as the leading if not exclusive route to progressive change?

For forty years, the phrase "May 1968" has connoted a unique mass outpouring in Paris that many saw as the germination of a new social order. The Paris events were distinguished from mass protests in the United States by the mass involvement of workers, who occupied factories and engaged in a two-week general strike in one of the world's most advanced industrial nations.

There are enough books about May 1968 to fill entire libraries, and the UC Berkeley Art Museum currently has an exhibit of stirring photos taken by Serge Hambourg. Seeing the sense of hope and excitement on the faces of protesters, it is clear that participants believed that taking to the streets was a profoundly meaningful act--something that cannot often be said about today's mass events.

Critics of the impact of May 1968 have focused on the transitory aspect to the French protests, the lack of a concrete agenda, and the fact that a major target of the protests--French leader Charles De Gaulle--was easily re-elected in June. But less frequently noted is De Gaulle's leaving office after losing a vote of confidence a year later, and that Parisian, if not French, society was visibly changed.

For many, May 1968 showed the continued power of mass protest, and of the primacy of political engagement outside the electoral process. Even as the protests are commodified--a candy store is selling $75 chocolate bars in the shape of the pavers that protesters dislodged from cobblestone streets--their power continues to resonate.

U.S. Protests in 1968

In the United States in 1968, student and anti-war protesters saw the year end with Richard Nixon winning the presidency, and the Vietnam War's escalation. Less obvious at the time was the increasing backlash to the civil rights movement that has moved American politics largely rightward for nearly forty years.

Many young activists responded to Nixon's victory by moving from protests to voter registration and the electoral process. This effort culminated in anti-war progressive George McGovern winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, but his landslide defeat resurrected activist doubts about the potential of national elections to bring progressive change.

During the 1970's and 1980's, the successful mass protests against nuclear power, as well as against U.S. funding of military assistance to anti-democratic forces in Nicaragua and El Salvador, led to renewed respect for non-electoral strategies. Until at least 1992, progressive activists prioritized local and state elections over national political campaigns.

40 years later, you’d think ‘Hair’ would be going gray — maybe not

"Hair" — the "American Tribal Love Rock Musical," as it's billed — opened on Broadway 40 years ago this spring.

The passage of four long decades presents a challenge for Michael Watkins, who is directing the latest production of the show at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. It has been a sold-out favorite every few years for the little Eugene theater company, most recently in 2004.

But 40 years? Anyone still remember the generation gap? Remember not trusting anyone over 30?

Watkins does.

"I wanted a cast that was under 30," he said during a break in rehearsal the other night. "So my oldest actor is 29."

"My mom was a hippie!" says 25-year-old Cate Wolfenbarger, who plays Sheila, the apex of the play's romantic triangle. "She grew up on a Midwestern farm. And in her high school class she was the only person into the Beatles."

Watkins himself is 57.

"That means I've been doing a lot of explaining about things to the young cast. Hey, I was alive then."

He well remembers those crazy years of the late 1960s: Vietnam, marijuana, sexual experimentation, a manic energy that infused practically every walk of life, at least for those who were then younger than 30.

Like some kind of living history project, Watkins brought his old draft card in to show the young actors, many of whose characters are called on to burn their draft cards in the course of the story.

(Watkins remembers the draft well. He got a losing number in the first draft lottery and was called up for a military physical — which he happily flunked because of a kidney condition.)

"The biggest thing for me is, here we are 40 years later. And nothing has changed. We're in another war. We're killing off young men and women. Nothing much has changed."

[ ... ]

It hit just about every cultural hot button of the time, from desecrating the American flag to explicit profanity to an entire song built out of derogatory racial epithets.

Its disdain for the establishment was most clearly illustrated by "Hair's" famous nude scene at the end of Act I, when the entire cast disrobed and stood side by side on stage in an earnest proclamation of Edenic innocence.

In 1968 all this theatrical ferment drew police raids, court injunctions and even bombings as the show played around the world. Mexico closed "Hair" down after one performance; the cast fled the country to escape arrest.

In Boston the production defied a court order that actors keep clothes on; legal wrangling reached the U.S. Supreme Court before a split decision allowed the show to reopen, nudity and all.

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Is impeachment "off the table" due to Congress' voting record?

So, why is impeachment "off the table?" Of course, it is not within my powers to read minds and hold a crystal ball. Not being some kind of Merlyn or Wizard of Oz, all I can do is speculate. But based on a few facts, I think there is ample evidence to conclude that Congress fears not turning off their constituents with the "waste of time" argument by doing a negative show where impeachment is concerned. Neither are they, I believe, lying down or "caving" in to Bush's fear mongering.

Instead, I believe they are protecting themselves. If they impeached either Bush or Cheney, so much would come to light about Congress' own complicity in Bush and Cheney's crime rings, that they would be impeaching themselves along with the two murderers holding nuclear weapons in their hands.

Having posted this a million times before, let me apologize right now for the eyeball-rolling repetition. Those of you who have read what I have posted about the Congressional voting record, may sign off here right now, keeping in mind what I have stated above. But before you do sign off, let me suggest that it would be terribly important to have a communal brainstorm: How do we get around the problem of impeachment being "off the table"  based on Congress' attempts to protect their seats in office, and not to earn themselves a seat in jail? I doubt that they are protecting Bush and Cheney, who are disgraces to the Republican and Democratic parties alike. Far from it. Instead, they are self-concerned. And until we can find a way to break through, impeachment is never going to happen. Period.

~ read on... ~


A new look at mystical Los Angeles and its high priest, Manly Hall

In his lifetime, Hall befriended notables as disparate as Bela Lugosi and John Denver. For his writings alone he was made an honorary 33rd-degree Freemason (the highest honor), and even Elvis was a fan, sending Priscilla Presley to one of the world renowned orator's lectures because he was afraid of getting mobbed himself.

Aimed to be 'high priest'

Hall died in 1990 at age 89, and it wasn't until a few year later that Sahagun, who'd written his obituary, began to delve deeply into his history and body of work -- which includes more than 200 books, most notably his magnum opus, "The Secret Teachings of All Ages."

"It turned out he was a pretty darn good writer," Sahagun said. "His books were strange and absolutely fascinating, and his whole raison d'être was applying ancient philosophies to solve modern problems. . . . He wanted to be the high priest, the hierophant, of Southern California."

The year Hall arrived in Los Angeles, 1919, was the year the city started to boom. "It's a fascinating parallel," Sahagun said. "Southern California in general was the last best place, a place of new beginnings." To Sahagun, Hall's journey was "the spiritual equivalent of the California dream," and when he decided to write "Master of the Mysteries," he wanted it to be as much a history of mystical Los Angeles as a biography.

Jodi Wille, the editor of "Master of the Mysteries," said, "I learned so much working on this book. Not only was Manly P. Hall this incredible thinker, but Los Angeles was this remarkable city run by wild bohemian visionaries who were totally tuned in. It makes me just want to turn everybody on to it so we can know what our real roots are. Our roots are not Britney Spears."

A junior high school dropout from a broken home, Hall was regarded by many as a magician, but to Sahagun he was really a "one-stop scholar of ancient ideas." One of Hall's first friends was Sydney Brownson, a phrenologist with a booth on the Santa Monica Pier, who shared his knowledge of Hinduism, Greek philosophy and Christian mysticism. Hall, who had a photographic memory, furthered his studies of ancient religions and soon was speaking at the Church of the People downtown. By 1920, only 19 years old, he was running the church and delivering Sunday lectures about Rosicrucianism and Theosophy, the mystical philosophical system founded by Madame Helena Blavatsky; as well as the teachings of Pythagoras, Confucius and Plato.

And he was not addressing some fringe contingent. At this time Los Angeles was alive with esoteric ideas and populated by spiritualists with names like Princess Zoraida and Pneumandros. As Sahagun put it, "Even flamboyant holy roller Aimee Semple McPherson, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1918, was milquetoast compared to others setting up religious shops in town."


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