Undernews For November 25, 2008
Undernews For November 25, 2008
The news while there's still time to do something about it
THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith
Cautious, careful people, always
casting about to preserve their reputation and social
standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are
really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing
in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in
season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and
persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the
consequences. - Susan B. Anthony
SWAMPOODLE REPORT: THE HABIT OF REBELLION
As of yesterday, I am one year past the biblical marker of three score and ten. According to the good book, I exist now by "reason of strength" rather than because of any inherent virtue. In fact, the Bible somewhat snottily warns, "yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
Charles Bukowski's in "Thoughts on being 71" notes:
It's better now, death is closer,
I no longer have to look for it,
no longer have to challenge
it, taunt it, play with it.
it's right here with me
like a pet cat or a wall calendar
though, I feel no different
then I did at 35 or 47 or 62:
I am only truly conscious of my
age when I look into a
baleful eyes, grinning
That's all true, but still I prefer the late Gene McCarthy's interpretation, namely that once past the marker you are free of all biblical restrain. After all, as someone put it, just because one is no longer youthful doesn't mean you can't still be immature.
Cicero, naturally, dealt with it all more elegantly:
||| It is after all true that everybody cannot be a Scipio or a Maximus, with stormings of cities, with battles by land and sea, with wars in which they themselves commanded, and with triumphs to recall. Besides this there is a quiet, pure, and cultivated life which produces a calm and gentle old age, such as we have been told Plato's was, who died at his writing-desk in his eighty-first year; or like that of Isocrates, who says that he wrote the book called The Panegyric in his ninety-fourth year, and who lived for five years afterwards; while his master Gorgias of Leontini completed a hundred and seven years without ever relaxing his diligence or giving up work. When some one asked him why he consented to remain so long alive - "I have no fault," said he, "to find with old age." That was a noble answer, and worthy of a scholar. For fools impute their own frailties and guilt to old age. .
There is . . . nothing in the arguments of those who say that old age takes no part in public business. They are like men who would say that a steersman does nothing in sailing a ship, because, while some of the crew are climbing the masts, others hurrying up and down the gangways, others pumping out the bilge water, he sits quietly in the stern holding the tiller. He does not do what young men do; nevertheless he does what is much more important and better. The great affairs of life are not performed by physical strength, or activity, or nimbleness of body, but by deliberation, character, expression of opinion. Of these old age is not only not deprived, but, as a rule, has them in a greater degree. |||
Of course you wouldn't know it by today's American culture which has done everything in its power to infantilize, institutionalize and ignore its elders. Yet we do the same thing to our young. Go back a couple of centuries and you'll find 16-year olds who were captains of ships and 14 year olds who were serving as apprentices or doing a full day's adult work on the farm. When I try to trace my own spirit of independence, the trail inevitably leads back to a 14 year old driving a tractor and a six-wheeled double-clutching Army surplus personnel carrier on a farm or sailing into a thunderstorm with no one but another teenager to two to help me. Our distorted economy has abandoned far more than the unemployment figures show. It has abandoned those it doesn't even count.
But there is something else; I was a member of modern America's most forgotten generation: the silent one. In part, it's our fault. We are, for example, one of two generations never to have elected a president, a fate blessedly secured by Barack Obama's win over John McCain. But it is also true that one of the reasons we didn't have time for such celebrity sports was that we were too busy adapting to a new world thanks to the fact that so much of what we had been raised to believe was being proved wrong.
In this sense, the twenty olds of today are in a situation much like the twenty somethings of my era. We had been taught - whatever our ethnicity or gender - to believe explicitly in white male hegemony and in the rules of the Cold War. Within ten years of leaving high school that was no longer part of our truth. Today, the mythology of Reagan-Clinton-Bush economics and the America's superpower status have been similarly shattered. Never again will a majority of Yale undergraduate tell pollsters they want to go into investment banking.
Our establishment was stupid, cruel, selfish and incapable of reform. Today's is no different - just the issues. Instead of segregation and nuclear bombs we have a collapsing economy, damaged ecology and destroyed democracy.
If today's young want some idea of how to cope, I suggest our example, not because it was any more than occasionally on target but because there are so few parallels. Our efforts ranged from a civil rights revolution to drinking coffee, talking about it all and doing nothing. But there are no right answers when you suddenly find yourself trapped in an interregnum between insanity and uncertainty. The first step, however, is to separate yourself from those who have been running the place and turn your loyalty not to the powerful but to the best truth you can find.
You won't find the answer in the stereotypes but in the rebels. After all we produced Sam Nunn, John Dean, Robert Rubin and Antonin Scalia. But, within three years of my own birth, we also came up with Jerry Rubin, Russell Means, Louis Farrakhan, Bill Moyers, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Abbie Hoffman (born the same year as John McCain), Bobby Seale, James Brown, Woody Allen, Richard Brautigan, Elvis Presley, Gene Wilder, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, the Smothers brothers, Stewart Brand, Lily Tomlin and Hunter S Thompson. And that doesn't even include elders of our own generation like Martin Luther King, Dick Gregory and Jules Feiffer.
During the most determinedly conformist period of modern America, such names became joyously or vigorously familiar among many of the young, because we had learned to combat, ridicule or just ignore the grossly mistaken message of the establishment.
And the interesting thing is that it stuck with us. Unlike the later boomers, many of whom seemed to use the 1960s as a crash pad for their souls and then lost interest once the draft was eliminated, I am struck by the number of refuges of the silent generation who are still on the case. We seemed to have learned a different lesson. Which is why Ralph Nader drives some boomers so crazy; he's refused to sell out.
A few years ago I tried to compile a list of one time Ivy Leaguers who had top positions at campus newspapers or radio stations and yet had pursued alternative rather than conventional media careers. The list was pitifully short, including such names as Bill Greider, Jim Ridgeway, Larry Bensky and myself. And the interesting thing most on the list were from the silent generation.
Despite all the attention given the 1960s, we had somehow managed to set and maintain a course without its aid. I tried to explain it once in discussing my time at Harvard:
||| Seldom have I been so unhappy doing what I was supposed to be doing and so happy doing what I was not supposed to be doing. Both the exuberance and the despair have only occasionally equaled themselves since and while I blame Harvard for the latter I know it also helped provide the former. Few of my friends have fit the pattern the Harvard stereotype suggests, yet it was Harvard that introduced us. There have been divorces, a stay in a mental hospital, unemployment, depression, dissatisfaction with jobs that others envied them for, even a spell in Allenwood. Where peace has been found it has been sometimes after an enormous struggle that in part seems somehow, but inexplicably, tied up with having gone to Harvard.
Perhaps our problem was that we rebelled before the age of rebellion. Dissident students would later attack frontally many of the things we only picked at.
We lived in a time that did not even want to talk about things that really seemed to matter. The most active political group on campus was the Young Republicans and their main activity was drinking, The biggest collective action were riots inspired by local councilman Al Vellucci and Pogo. The drug of choice was booze except for some football players who had discovered peyote and some Social Relations majors who had discovered an instructor named Timothy Leary. The full meaning of the Bomb would not occur to most until after we graduated and even those who considered themselves liberal accepted without question that democracy's only real threats came from without.
The most important book I read my senior year was Stride Towards Freedom by Martin Luther King. It was not on any of my reading lists. We had left high school ready to take on the world only to taught in college that the world wasn't to be challenged, but just examined, analyzed and manipulated side by side with the right people in the right places. That some of us refused to concede this has been perhaps the major triumph of our later lives -- a triumph of will if not of achievement, like standing on the runway in Casablanca watching the plane take off.
My generational peer, Larry Aubach, once said to me, "We will come and we will go and hardly anyone will know we were there."
If true, it won't be entirely fair. Caught between the far more assertive, self-assured and self-important World War II and Boomer eras, my generation did something for which credit is not usually given by power-absorbed historians: we adapted. And one would be hard pressed to find in the past many examples where a group as dominant as the white heterosexual American male of the mid to late 20th century gave up so much power so peacefully so quickly.
By the time we reached full adulthood, the white males of my generation would find the status that we had been promised already threatened. By the time we had reached full maturity almost everything of social significance that we had been taught had been proved or declared wrong. Instead of continuing the role allegedly held for us in usufruct by our elders, our task, it turned out, was to pass it on to, and share it with, blacks, women and gays.
While this was true of all white American men of the time, it was particularly true of our generation because we served as translators of the new to the old. We had, after all, quietly planted some of the change ourselves with the beat rebellion, the irreverence of modern jazz and the civil rights movement. Our generation was the sleeper cell of the Sixties.
Not that many were conscious of this role. Sometimes the change just showed up as divorce, depression, or lowered expectations. And if you joined the fray you might find yourself not unlike an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War: both committed and separate.
Historians don't care for inchoate change built on things like anarchistic acquiescence but perhaps some revisionist scholar will discover the unnoted truth that the Silent Generation, by choosing adaptation over resistance, did far more for its country than if it had simply followed suit and elected some presidents and started a few wars. A truth unnoted but perhaps to be expected of those who had, after all, given America the idea of "cool" and "hip." |||
If we are to free ourselves of the current madness, we must likewise retrieve the capacity to rebel even if, at first, it is only in the inefficient, awkward, stumbling way that characterized those of us in the 1950s guided by the unspoken premise that while you can seldom change history, you can always react to it.
And the fun part is, that once it become a habit, it's not like a hedge fund at all. It will still have value after three score and eleven years. There is no retirement age for rebellion.
Sam Smith, Why Bother? - The words revolution and rebellion attract unjust opprobrium. After all, much of what we identify as peculiarly American is ours by grace of our predecessors' willingness to revolt in the most militant fashion, and their imperfect vision has been improved by a long series of rebellions ranging from the cerebral to the bloody. There is not an American alive who has not been made better by revolution and rebellion.
In fact, the terms sit close to what it means to human, since it is our species that has developed the capacity to dramatically change, for better or worse, its own course without waiting on evolution. No other creature has ever imagined a possibility as optimistic as democracy or as devastating as a nuclear explosion, let alone bring them to fruition. To have done so represents an extraordinary rebellion against our own history, cultures and genes.
Without revolution and rebellion we would let mating and mutation do their thing. Instead, regularly dissatisfied with our condition, our body, our home, and our government we overthrow genetics through application of imagination, dreams, ambition, skill, perseverance, and strength. Every new idea is an act of rebellion, every work of art, every stretch for something we couldn't do before, every question that begins "what if. . ."
Most rebellions don't produce revolutions. A revolution claims, often falsely, to have an known end; a rebellion needs only a known means. When, in the late 90s, college students rioted on some campuses, a dean remarked with bemusement, "There was no purpose in it; it was a rebellion without a cause." The dean didn't catch his own allusion, but I did, because James Dean's movie, Rebel Without a Cause, came out the year I graduated from high school.
In it, James Dean, as Jim, tried to explain the cause to his father:
"Dad, I said it was a matter of honor, remember? They called me chicken. You know, chicken? I had to go because if I didn't I'd never be able to face those kids again. I got in one of those cars, and Buzz, that -- Buzz, one of those kids -- he got in the other car, and we had to drive fast and then jump, see, before the car came to the end of the bluff, and I got out OK, and Buzz didn't and, uh, killed him...I can't - I can't keep it to myself anymore.". . .
In truth, Jim actually had a cause, a desperate, distorted, adolescent search for identity and honor in a society and family that seemed indifferent to such matters. Rejecting his condition was a necessary manifestation of his rebellion, but not its purpose. Those in power, -- deans, parents, or politicians, too often mistake the conflict for the cause.
A decade earlier, Humphrey Bogart, as Rick in Casablanca, faced some of the same problems but in an infinitely more sophisticated manner. He was all that James Dean wasn't. With skill and cool, Rick knew how to adapt to the chaos and deceit around him without betraying his own code.
Rick maintained his integrity and individuality by stealth even as others were using the same sort of deception to steal and destroy. The film's purist protagonist, the anti-fascist Victor Lazlo -- is a noble prig next to the cynical Rick. "You know," he tells Rick, "it's very important I get out of Casablanca. It's my privilege to be one of the leaders of a great movement. Do you know what I've been doing? Do you know what it means to the work -- to the lives of thousands and thousands of people? I'll be free to reach America and continue my work."
Rick: I'm not interested in politics. The problems of the world are not in my department. I'm a saloon keeper.
Lazlo: My friends in the Underground tell me that you've got quite a record. You ran guns to Ethiopia. You fought against the Fascists in Spain.
Rick: What of it?
Lazlo: Isn't it strange that you always happen to be fighting on the side of the underdog?
Rick: Yes, I found that a very expensive hobby too, but then I never was much of a businessman...
Later Rick tells the beautiful Ilsa "I'm not fighting for anything anymore except myself. I'm the only cause I'm interested in." Ilsa importunes Rick to help Lazlo escape, saying that otherwise he will die in Casablanca. "What of it?" asks Rick. "I'm gonna die in Casablanca. It's a good spot for it."
In fact, however, Rick helps to get Laszlo out of jail in time for a Lisbon-bound plane, shoots the infamous German Major Strasser, and watches as Ilsa leaves Casablanca in the fog with the handsome Laszlo -- thus losing his woman but keeping his soul.
Rick is not a revolutionary, but is definitely a rebel. And he's not the only one in the movie, for as the gendarmes arrive following Strasser's death, the sly police official, Louis Renault, faces a choice of turning Rick in or protecting him. It is then, to audiences' repeated joy, that he instructs his men to "round up the usual suspects."
With La Marseillaise playing slowly in the background, Renault turns to Rick and says, "Well, Rick, you're not only a sentimentalist, but you've become a patriot." And Rick replies, "It seemed like a good time to start."
Of course, a well-schooled progressive of today might prefer, in place of such diffident heroics, the words of Mario Savio in 1964:
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
Or some of the strategies recommended by Howard Zinn:
"A determined population can not only force a domestic ruler to flee the country, but can make a would-be occupier retreat, by the use of a formidable arsenal of tactics: boycotts and demonstrations, occupations and sit-ins, sit-down strikes and general strikes, obstruction and sabotage, refusal to pay taxes, rent strikes, refusal to cooperate, refusal to obey curfew orders or gag orders, refusal to pay fines, fasts and pray-ins, draft resistance, and civil disobedience of various kinds ... Thousand of such instances have changed the world but they are nearly absent from the history books."
In his own memoir, however, Zinn not only urges imagination, courage, and sacrifice, but patience as well, and tells a Bertolt Brecht fable with echoes of Casablanca:
"A man living alone answers a knock at the door. There stands Tyranny, armed and powerful, who asks, 'Will you submit?' The man does not reply. He steps aside. Tyranny enters and takes over. The man serves him for years. Then Tyranny mysteriously becomes sick from food poisoning. He dies. The man opens the door, gets rid of the body, comes back to the house, closes the door behind him, and says, firmly, 'No.'"
And there's also a bit of Rick in Raymond Chandler's private detectives:
"You don't get rich, you don't often have much fun. Sometimes you get beaten up or shot at or tossed into the jail house. Once in a long while you get dead. Every other month you decide to give it up and find some sensible occupation while you can still walk without shaking your head. Then the door buzzer rings and you open the inner door to the waiting room and there stands a new face with a new problem, a new load of grief, and a small piece of money."
Chandler says the detective must be "a man of honor. . .without thought of it, and certainly without saying it."
In such ways can rebellion be far quieter and surreptitious than we suppose. For example, we tend to think of the 1950s as a time of unmitigated conformity, but in many ways the decade of the 60s was merely the mass movement of ideas that took root in the 50s. In beat culture, jazz, and the civil rights movement there had already been a stunning critique of, and rebellion against, the adjacent and the imposed.
Steven Watson credits the term beat to circus and carnival argot, later absorbed by the drug culture. "Beat" meant robbed or cheated as in a "beat deal." Herbert Huncke, who picked up the word from show business friends and spread it to the likes of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, would say later that he never meant it to be elevating: "I meant beaten. The world against me."
Gregory Corso defined it this way, "By avoiding society you become separate from society and being separate from society is being beat." Keruoac, on the other hand, thought it involved "mystical detachment and relaxation of social and sexual tensions."
Inherent in all this was not only rebellion but a journey. "We were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move," wrote Kerouac in On the Road.
It is instructive during a time in which even alienated progressives outfit themselves with mission and vision statements and speak the bureaucratic argot of their oppressors to revisit that under-missioned, under-visioned culture of what Norman Mailer called the "psychic outlaw" and "the rebel cell in our social body." What Ned Plotsky termed, "the draft dodgers of commercial civilization."
Unlike today's activists they lacked a plan; unlike those of the 60s they lacked anything to plan for; what substituted for utopia and organization was the freedom to think, to speak, to move at will in a culture that thought it had adequately taken care of all such matters. Although the beats are frequently parodied for their dress, sartorial nonconformity was actually more a matter of indifference rather than, as in the case of some of the more recently alienated, conscious style. They even wore ties from time to time. Yet so fixed was the stereotype that the caption of a 1950s AP photograph of habitués in front of Washington's Coffee 'n' Confusion Café described it as a place for bearded beatniks when not one person in the picture had a beard. Rather they were a bunch of young white guys with white shirts and short haircuts. Cool resided in a nonchalant, negligent non-conformity rather than in a considered counter style and counter symbolism..
To a far great degree than rebellions that followed, the beat culture created its message by being rather than doing, rejection rather than confrontation, sensibility rather than strategy, journeys instead of movements, words and music instead of acts, and informal communities rather than formal institutions.
For the both the contemporaneous civil rights movement and the 1960s rebellion that followed, such a revolt by attitude seemed far from enough. Yet these full-fledged uprisings could not have occurred without years of anger and hope being expressed in more individualistic and less disciplined ways, ways that may seem ineffective in retrospect yet served as absolutely necessary scaffolding with which to build a powerful movement.
Besides, with the end of the Vietnam War, America soon found itself without a counterculture or - with a few exceptions - even a visible resistance by societal draft dodgers. The young -- in the best of times the most reliable harbinger of hope; in the worst of times, the most dismal sign of futility -- increasingly faced a culture that seemed impermeable and immutable. The establishment presented a stolid, unyielding, unthinking, unimaginative wall of bland certainty. It looked upon pain, aspiration and hope with indifference, and played out false and time-doomed fantasies to the mindless applause of its constituency.
The unalterable armies of the law became far more powerful and less forgiving. The price of careless or reckless rebellion became higher. Bohemia was bought and franchised. Even progressive organizations required a strategic plan, budget, and press kit before heading to the barricades. A school district in Maryland told its teachers not to include creativity or initiative in a student's grades because they were too hard to define. Hipness became a multinational industry and no one apparently thought twice about putting a headline on the cover of a magazine "for men of color" that declared "The Rebirth of Cool," exemplified by 50 pages of fashions by mostly white designers.
One west coast student told me bluntly that it was pointless to rebel because whatever one did would be commodified. Others chose not to confront the system but to undermine it in the small places where they lived. You would find them in classrooms or in little organizations, working in human scale on human problems in a human fashion. Their project was to simply recreate the human right where they were. . .
There was something else: music. In rock and rap -- as in blues and folk music earlier -- people found that what they couldn't achieve could still be sung or shouted about. And central to this sound was not just a message but who was allowed to deliver it. For example, the music webzine, Fast 'n' Bulbous, described punk this way:
"Punk gives the message that no one has to be a genius to do it him/herself. Punk invented a whole new spectrum of do-it-yourself projects for a generation. Instead of waiting for the next big thing in music to be excited about, anyone with this new sense of autonomy can make it happen themselves by forming a band. Instead of depending on commercial media, from the big papers and television to New Musical Express and Rolling Stone, to tell them what to think, anyone can create a fanzine, paper, journal or comic book. With enough effort and cooperation they can even publish and distribute it. Kids were eventually able to start their own record labels too. Such personal empowerment leads to other possibilities in self-employment and activism.". . .
By the end of the 1990s, an unremittingly political band, Rage Against the Machine, had sold more than 7 million copies of its first two albums and its third, The Battle of Los Angele, (released on Election Day 1999), sold 450,000 copies its first week. Nine months later, there would be a live battle of Los Angeles as the police shut down a RATM concert at the Democratic Convention.
Throughout the 1990s, during a nadir of activism and an apex of greed, RATM both raised hell and made money.
In 1993 the band, appearing at Lollapalooza III in Philadelphia, stood naked on stage for 15 minutes without singing or playing a note in a protest against censorship.
In 1994, Rage organized a benefit concert "for the freedom of Leonard Peltier." In 1995 they gave one for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In 1997, well before most college students were paying any attention to the issue, Rage's Tom Morello was arrested during a protest against sweatshop labor.
Throughout this period no members of the band were invited to discuss politics with Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer. But a generation heard them anyway. RATM T-shirts became a common sight during the 1999 Seattle protest.
There is no good way to predict how such things will work out. Change often comes without a formal introduction. Like the time in early 1960 when four black college students sat down at a white-only Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were sit-ins in 15 cities in five southern states and within two months they had spread to 54 cities in nine states. By April the leaders of these protests had come together, heard a moving sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. and formed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Four students did something and America changed. Even they, however, couldn't know what the result would be.
"You do not become a 'dissident' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career," Vaclav Havel would say while still a rebel. "You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society . . .
"The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin -- and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost."
Not every revolt is just. One of Tom Stoppard's characters says, "Revolution is a trivial shift in the emphasis of suffering; the capacity for self-indulgence changes hands. But the world does not alter its shape or its course." Too often this true. Infatuation with revolutions has been a particular handicap of the left causing such embarrassments as support for the Stalin regime when no possible excuse could be made for it. It is not that revolutions are wrong - how can an American say that? Rather it is that, on average, revolutions are defined not by the wonder of their promise but by the horrors of what preceded them. They replace evil, but without a warranty.
To be a free thinker, Bertrand Rusell said, a man must be free of two things: "the force of tradition, and the tyranny of his own passion." It is the obliteration of the former but subservience to the latter that creates the revolutionary dictator. . .
In fact, every act in the face of wrong carries twin responsibilities: to end the evil and to avoid replacing it with another. This twin burden is analogous to what a doctor confronts when attempting to cure a disease. There is even a name for medical failure in such cases; the resulting illness is called iatrogenic - caused by the physician. In politics, however, we have been taught to believe that simply having good intentions and an evil foe are sufficient.
This is not true. Arguably from the moment we become aware of an evil, and certainly once we commence an intervention, we become a part of the story, and part of the good and evil. We are no longer the innocent bystander but a participant whose acts will either help or make things worse. Our intentions immediately become irrelevant; they are overwhelmed by our response to them.
Our language confuses this business terribly. That which is known at the personal level as terrorism is called humanitarian or a peacekeeping mission when carried out by the state. Thus both the office building destroyed by a few individuals and the country destroyed by a multinational alliance lie in ruins to support the tragic myth that Allah or democracy will be better for it. But nothing grants us immunity from responsibility for our own acts. So if we are to revolt, rebel, avenge, or assuage, our duty is not only to the course we set but to what we leave in our wake. . .
PAGE ONE MUST
RIA Novosti, Russia - Opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 150% since a NATO-led security and development mission entered the country in 2001, Russia's Federal Drug Control Service said. "Afghanistan has become the absolute leader in narcotics production, producing 93% of the world's entire opiates. . . Afghan drug dealers have in two years set up the successful production of cannabis with over 70,000 hectares of land being cultivated, taking Afghanistan into second place in the world behind Morocco in terms of the cultivation of such drugs," the service said in a statement.
Since the Taliban regime was overthrown in the 2001 U.S.-led campaign, Afghanistan, with almost all its arable land being used to grow opium poppies remains the world's leading producer of heroin. According to the UN, Afghanistan's opium production increased from 6,100 tons in 2006 to 8,200 tons in 2007.
WJLA - A farm couple got a huge surprise when they opened their fields to anyone who wanted to pick up free vegetables left over after the harvest - 40,000 people showed up. Joe and Chris Miller's fields were picked so clean that a second day of gleaning - the ancient practice of picking up leftover food in farm fields - was canceled "Overwhelmed is putting it mildly," Chris Miller said. "People obviously need food."
She said she expected 5,000 to 10,000 people would show up Saturday to collect free potatoes, carrots and leeks. Instead, an estimated 11,000 vehicles snaked around cornfields and backed up more than two miles. About 30 acres of the 600-acre farm 37 miles north of Denver became a parking lot.
"Everybody is so depressed about the economy," said Sandra Justice of Greeley, who works at a technology company. "This was a pure party. Everybody having a a great time getting something for free." Justice and her mother and son picked 10 bags of vegetables.
Miller said they opened the farm to the free public harvest for the first time this year after hearing reports of food being stolen from churches. It was meant as a thank you for customers.
Farm operations manager Dave Patterson said that in previous years the Millers allowed schoolchildren and some church groups to come to the farm during the fall to harvest their own food.
He estimated some 600,000 pounds of produce was harvested Saturday.
Weld County sheriff's deputies helped direct traffic and the Colorado State Patrol issued citations for cars illegally parked on the side of the road.
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing - If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now [ of the bailout] exceeds $4.6 trillion dollars. . . The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history. Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures - combined:
- Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
-Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
- Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
-S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
-Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
-The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
-Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
-Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
-NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion
TOTAL: $3.92 trillion
SIMON JENKINS, GUARDIAN The reason not to let Iraq slip un-mourned into history is that the episode has one last service to perform. It should teach a lesson that foreign expeditions undertaken in a spirit of jingoist revenge, with a crazed optimism and no strategic plan, are usually a bad idea.
That lesson could not be more relevant, as the identical error is being made in Afghanistan and by the same two men who privately or (in Obama's case) publicly expressed reservations about Iraq. In his last utterance Gordon Brown himself seemed blind to the parallels, talking as if one more push, one more hearts-and-minds campaign, should send Johnny foreigner back to the hills so decent people can walk the streets of London in peace.
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has grown increasingly exasperated with the blatant failure of NATO to bring security to his country. He is no fantasist. He knows that he is powerless outside his capital, except where a genius for wheeler dealing can keep the drug lords in funds and the Taliban at bay. The Taliban are gaining ground and he is running out of time to negotiate with their leaders with leverage behind him.
Hence last week's outburst, in which Karzai indicated his determination to talk with the Taliban and offer safe protection to Kabul for their former leader, Mullah Omah, for that purpose. Should the Americans object, he replied that "if I say I want protection for Mullah Omah, the international community has two choices, remove me or leave".
Meanwhile, a private war is being fought by US special forces against anyone with a gun in the east of the country, the bombing of Pakistani villages so capricious and counter-productive as to suggest a lack of all tactical control. In the south the British have no strategy except to re-enact the Zulu wars at exorbitant cost in money and lives. The Helmand campaign is magnificent but mad. . .
Last month Taliban operating out of Pakistan's North-West Frontier territory cut the Khyber Pass, a crucial supply link into Kabul, which can be traversed only in massively armed convoys. This is precisely the trap into which invading forces have been sucked for a century and a half, be they British, Russian or now American. As a blunder it ranks with marching on Moscow. Yet NATO has done it. Nobody reads history.
The error of Afghanistan is far more serious than the error of Iraq. If the resulting insurgency is now exported to Pakistan, both errors will seem peccadilloes. Pakistan is the sixth largest state in the world, and nuclear-armed.
The awful prospect is that Obama and Brown may feel too weak to learn from Iraq and pull back. They will blunder on, not to a clean defeat but to something far worse, a war of attrition whose poison will spread across a subcontinent.
Marshall Kirkpatrick, Read Write Web - The ways young people use the internet everyday are transforming learning in ways that adults often fail to understand but represent major new opportunities that need to be taken advantage of by supportive educators. That's the conclusion of a major new study by 28 researchers over three years released today by the University of California at Berkley and the MacArthur Foundation. . .
Funded by the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Series, the research [finds]:
New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in classroom setting. Youth respect one another's authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.
Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technological skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning. Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access "serious" online information and culture. Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.
Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads. Such learning differs fundamentally from traditional instruction and is often framed negatively by adults as a means of "peer pressure." Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting "learning goals," particularly on the interest-driven side, where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.
Tree Hugger - For a brief period on Monday, November 24th wind power provided 43% of all of Spain's demand for electricity, according to the Spanish wind power association. At around 5 AM, wind power generated 9,253 megawatts of power out of a total demand of 21,264 megawatts.
So demand was low because of the early hour of the morning, but it's still a record worth noting. The previous wind power record for Spain was 40.8% , set back in March of this year. For the year, wind power is expected to supply about 11% of total Spanish electricity demand.
The town of Rock Port, Missouri manages to supply 123% of its electric demand through wind power. Residents of that town have the honor of living in the first fully wind powered town in the United States.
ACLU - A federal court should block the government from blacklisting an Ohio-based charity without providing it due process and should lift a freeze on the organization's assets, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio and several civil rights lawyers argued. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (]froze the funds of Kind Hearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development. more than 33 months ago without notice or a hearing, based simply on the assertion that the charity was "under investigation." OFAC then threatened to designate Kind Hearts as a "specially designated global terrorist" based on classified evidence, again without providing it with a reason or meaningful opportunity to defend itself.
"OFAC's unlimited authority to seize Kind Hearts' property and shut it down without giving the charity notice or an opportunity to defend itself is unconstitutional," said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and lead ACLU attorney on the case. "Kind Hearts has been in limbo for more than two and a half years and is asking for independent judicial scrutiny of what has been, until now, unilateral government action."
Kind Hearts' founders established the charity in 2002 - after the government shut down a number of Muslim charities - with the express purpose of providing humanitarian aid abroad and at home in the United States in full compliance with the law. Despite the efforts Kind Hearts took to implement OFAC guidance and policies and otherwise exercise diligence, OFAC froze its assets in February 2006.
ABC News - Wall Street might have been happy with the government's latest multibillion-dollar banking intervention, but many small community banks are asking for equal treatment. main street vs big city banks Some small banks feel the government is ignoring them in favor of big banks.
"I guess appalled is not too strong a word," Cindy Blankenship said to describe her feeling after learning of the government's help for Citigroup. Blankenship and her husband founded the Bank of the West back in 1986. The bank, based in Grapevine, Texas, has since grown to eight locations in Northern Texas and has about $280 million in assets.. . .
"We're sitting there taking deposits, making loans, operating on a very conservative and prudent basic banking business model," Blankenship said. "We simply could not do what the big banks have done."
Blankenship and other small bank owners are upset that the executives leading Citi and other banks are getting help but not being held personally responsible. In small banks, she said, all the key decision makers have a large financial stake in the bank. If it goes broke, they lose their own investment.
"We haven't committed these sins but yet, our reputation is tarnished and yet, we still aren't too big to fail," she said. "We're the good guys and I'm furious about it. There is no equal treatment. I'm not too big to fail. If I had gone out and done what the big banks did, I would have been shut down."
Mark Kukis, Time - As the roster of corporations and financial institutions on line for government bailouts seems to grow, some public policy advocates in Washington D.C. are calling on policymakers to focus more efforts on the nation's poorest. The ranks of the destitute are growing quietly but alarmingly as much of the world focuses on troubles surrounding Wall Street. . .
An estimated 36.5 million Americans currently live below the poverty line, but those numbers will likely increase by as many as 10.3 million if current projections for the depth and duration of the recession hold true. According to the center's analysis, the number of poor children will grow by as many as 3.3 million. And the number of children in deep poverty, those in families living on less than half the wages of the official poverty line, will climb by as many as 2 million.
Signs of the recession's impact on America's impoverished are increasingly apparent. . . The number of people using food stamps has risen 9.6%, or roughly 2.6 million people, between August 2007 and August 2008, the last period for which data are available. Food banks around the country are reporting longer lines even as donations are falling.
Washington Times - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's team has told the Federal Election Commission that she continued her campaign even after endorsing Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama on June 7, a claim that lets her transfer millions of dollars from her presidential bid to her Senate campaign.
The former first lady made the $6.4 million transfer from her White House campaign, which remains more than $7 million in debt, to Friends of Hillary on Aug. 28. That date would fall outside the legal deadline for making such a move if her campaign were to have ended June 7.
Her campaign treasurer told federal regulators that Mrs. Clinton spent more than a quarter-million dollars engaging in "vigorous political activity" throughout June, according to newly released FEC filings.
"The committee continued to actively contest for delegates at the state and local delegate-selection events during the month of June," campaign treasurer Shelly Moskwa wrote in a letter to the FEC dated Nov. 20. "Nothing in Senator Clinton's remarks indicated that she was withdrawing from the race. While she indicated that she was suspending her campaign, the term 'suspension' has no legal meaning," Ms. Moskwa wrote.
Precisely when Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to be Mr. Obama's secretary of state nominee, dropped out of the Democratic presidential primaries is emerging as an important legal question for FEC regulators examining the transfer of funds. Such transfers are legal if donors give their permission, and the Clinton campaign has said donors indeed authorized the move.
Still, such transfers also must take place within 60 days of when a candidate withdraws from the race, according to FEC rules. The Aug. 28 transfer date fell more than 80 days after her June 7 concession to Mr. Obama, in which she told supporters in Washington that "we must elect Barack Obama our president. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him."
Given Mrs. Clinton's concession speech in early June, the FEC has raised questions about the timing of the Aug. 28 transfer, sending a letter to the Clinton campaign last month asking for more details.
Tom Zoellner, Slate Napolitano has looked the other way on police excess when political calculation demanded it, as well as tolerated the questionable use of local sheriff's deputies to serve as a roving immigration patrol. All of this can be traced to her friendship with the media-obsessed Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., who would consider it his own personal failing if you haven't yet heard of him. He is "America's toughest sheriff," a man who rose to prominence in the 1990s with such newsmaking stunts as feeding his inmates green bologna, clothing them in pink underwear, housing them in surplus Army tents behind barbed wire in the desert, and putting them to work on chain gangs. This punishment is inflicted equally on convicted criminals and those who have been convicted of no crime at all but are awaiting trial and unable to afford bail. Inmates who assault guards are put on rations of water and fortified bread.
The public devours it, and Arpaio has consistently enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings of any elected official in Arizona (Maricopa County includes Phoenix). That inmates have a way of getting killed in Sheriff Joe's jails, costing Maricopa County millions of dollars in lawsuits, has not dimmed his star. Nor has a federal judge's order that he provide a constitutionally mandated minimum level of food and health care, an order that said Arpaio had inflicted "needless suffering and deterioration" on the mentally ill.
More than a decade ago, Napolitano was in a position to help curb Arpaio's excesses. As a U.S. attorney in 1995, she was put in charge of a Justice Department investigation into atrocious conditions in Arpaio's "tent city." Napolitano carried out her task with what can best be described as reluctance, going out of her way to protect Arpaio from flak almost before the probe had started. "We're doing this with the complete cooperation of the sheriff," she told the Associated Press. "We run a strict jail but a safe jail, and I haven't heard from anyone who thinks that this is a bad thing."
The Justice Department's final report, issued about two years later, confirmed a list of disgraces, including excessive use of force, gratuitous use of pepper spray and "restraint chairs" (since blamed for at least three inmate deaths), and hog-tying and beating of inmates. It also said Arpaio's staffing was "below levels needed for safety and humane operations."
The Justice Department filed suit and settled with the sheriff the same day after Arpaio agreed to administrative changes, including limiting the use of pepper spray and improving inmate grievance procedures. Napolitano stood with Arpaio at a press conference in which she, according to the Arizona Republic, "pooh-poohed her own lawsuit as 'lawyerly paperwork.' " Arpaio called the result a vindication.
Ray McGovern, Antiwar - After meeting in Canada with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in "surging as many forces as we can" into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009. At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: "It's important that we have a surge of forces."
Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq "surge," Gates knows a winning word when he hears one - whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the "surge" with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons - including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the "surge" and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods.
In Washington political circles, there's also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the "surge" early in 2007. The Americans killed during the "surge" represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.
THE OBAMA DONOR MYTH
Campaign Finance Institute - It turns out that Barack Obama's donors may not have been quite as different as we had thought. Throughout the election season, this organization and others have been reporting that Obama received about half of his discrete contributions in amounts of $200 or less. The Campaign Finance Institute noted in past releases that donations are not the same as donors, since many people give more than once. After a more thorough analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission, it has become clear that repeaters and large donors were even more important for Obama than we or other analysts had fully appreciated. "The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama's finances," said CFI's executive director Michael J. Malbin. "The reality of Obama's fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth." Although an unusually high percentage (49%) of Obama's funds came in discrete contributions of $200 or less, only 24% of his funds through October 15 came from donors whose total contributions aggregated to $200 or less. Obama's 26% compares to 25% for George W. Bush in 2004, 20% for John Kerry in 2004, 21% for John McCain in 2008, 13% for Hillary Clinton in 2008, and 38% for Howard Deal in 2004.
Mark Ames, Nation - After his stint in the Reaganomics brain trust, [Summers] returned to Harvard to serve as one of the university's youngest professors. In 1988, he was Michael Dukakis's chief economic advisor, but when that campaign failed to bring Summers to power, he turned to America's great rival, the former Soviet Union, to try out his economic experiments. In 1990, Lithuania, a restive Soviet republic seeking independence, hired Summers to advise on that country's economic transformation. Poor Lithuania had no idea what it got itself into. This was Summers's first opportunity to tackle a country in economic crisis and put his wunderkind theories into practice. The results were literally suicidal: in 1990, when Summers first arrived, Lithuania's suicide rate was 26 per 100,000 and falling. Just five years after Summers got his hands on Lithuania's economy, life became so unbearable under the economic transition that the suicide rate nearly doubled to 46 per 100,000, worse than any other ex-Soviet republic in transition. In fact, it was the highest suicide rate in the world, suggesting something particularly harsh and brutal about the economic transition in that country as opposed to the others, where suffering and pain were common. Things got so bad that in 1992, after just two years of Summers-nomics, the traumatized Lithuanians voted the communist party back into power, the first East European nation to do so -- even though just a year earlier Lithuanians actually died on the streets fighting communism.
Fresh off his success in Lithuania, Summers moved to the World Bank, where he was named the chief economist in 1991, the year he issued his famous let's-pollute-Africa memo. It was also the year that Summers, and his Harvard protege Andrei Schleifer (who worked with Summers on the Lithuania economic transformation), began their catastrophic "rescue" of Russia's crisis-ridden economy. It's a complicated story involving corruption, cronyism and economic devastation. But by the end of the 1990s, Russia's GDP had collapsed by more than 60 percent, its population was suffering the worst death-to-birth ratio of any industrialized nation in the twentieth century, and the financial markets that Summers and Schleifer helped create had collapsed in what was then the world's biggest debt default ever. The result was the rise of Vladmir Putin and a national aversion to free markets and anything associated with Western liberalism.
Summers, through Schleifer, was also tainted with some of that country's corruption, which resulted in a US Justice Department lawsuit against Schleifer and others. While Schleifer was being paid by US taxpayers to advise the Russians on capital markets in the 1990s, his wife, Nancy Zimmerman, bought and traded Russian equities for a Boston hedge fund she ran -- they even used Schleifer's US taxpayer-funded offices to run Zimmerman's Moscow-based hedge fund operations.
How close were Larry Summers and Andrei Schleifer? According to former Boston Globe economics correspondent David Warsh, Summers and Schleifer "were among each other's best friends," and Summers taught Schleifer "as an undergraduate, sent him on to MIT for his PhD, took him along on an advisory mission to Lithuania in 1990, and in 1991, shepherded his return to Harvard as full professor, where he was regarded, after Martin Feldstein and Summers, as the leader of the next generation."
In 2000, the Justice Department sought $102 million in damages from Schleifer, one of Schleifer's Harvard associates and Harvard University in a conflict-of-interest suit resulting from Schleifer's role as the lead US adviser to Russia's economic reforms -- questioning the way Schleifer and his wife profited from his position. . . After Schleifer returned to Harvard to face the lawsuit, Summers, now president of Harvard, presided over a controversial settlement that all but let his protege off the hook. Thanks to pressure by Summers, Schleifer kept his chair at Harvard, where he continues to teach today.
Summers's other favorite man in Russia was Anatoly Chubais -- who consistently ranks at the top of Russia's " most hated man" polls. Chubais was executor of the Russian government's privatization program, in which state companies worth tens of billions of dollars were handed over to insiders for a fraction of their worth in blatantly rigged auctions. Summers praised Chubais as a "demigod" and called Chubais and his free-market cohorts "the dream team." In September 1998, after Russia's capital markets collapsed, along with billions in US-taxpayer-backed loans, Chubais boasted to a Russian newspaper, "We swindled them." By "them," he meant the Western and American aid institutions that funded his reforms.
USA Today - Children of displaced families from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have serious health and mental ailments, a new study says. The report, by the New York-based Children's Health Fund, reviewed medical records of 261 children who lived in a federally funded Baton Rouge trailer park until early summer. . .
One of the most alarming findings: 41% of children younger than 4 were diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, more than double the rate of children living in New York City homeless shelters, Redlener says.
55% of elementary-school-aged children had a behavior or learning problem.
42% of children were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, known as hay fever, and/or upper respiratory infection.
24% had a cluster of upper respiratory, allergic and skin ailments.
NY Times editorial - [Summers and Geithner] have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today's financial crisis. Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration's erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend's multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup.
Given that history, the question that most needs answering is not whether Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers are men of talent - obviously they are - but whether they have learned from their mistakes, and if so, what.
We are not asking for moral mea culpas. But unless they recognize their past mistakes, there is little hope that they can provide the sound judgment and leadership that the country needs to dig out of this desperate mess.
As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments - aka toxic assets - that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.
That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.
Mr. Summers now will advise a president who has promised to impose rational and essential regulations on chaotic financial markets. What has he learned?
At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year's serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under - only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup.
It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know - or what they thought they knew but didn't - in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system.
Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions.
John Merline, USA Today - Here's one campaign promise President-elect Barack Obama is virtually guaranteed to break: He'll cut health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. That promise was a centerpiece of Obama's health care pitch to voters. But a closer look at his plan shows that he will have a very difficult, if not impossible time, making good on that vow.
The $2,500 figure comes from an estimate by unpaid Harvard University advisers to Obama's campaign. They calculated that if you inject more information technology into health care, manage diseases better and cut extraneous paperwork, you could save about $200 billion a year in health spending - or about $2,500 off the average family's health insurance bill.
Obama's advisers figure that more IT would save $77 billion, based on a report from the RAND Corp., a prominent research organization. . . But when the Congressional Budget Office looked at the RAND report, it found serious problems, including that researchers had excluded studies, even those published in peer-reviewed journals, "that failed to find favorable results" from adding more IT in health care. Meantime, a comprehensive look at ways to cut health care costs by the independent Commonwealth Fund pegged annual savings from IT at just $29 billion - and not until 2017.
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND THE REVIEW WEB SITE
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith