Saturday, May 17, 2008

After the Fall of Bush: A Post-George Prognosis for the World

The Post-Bush Regime: A Prognosis, was published last Dec. 27th:

In that article, I offered a collection of scenarios based on various trends, and based on the apparent motivations of those predators who sit at the center of the webs of power. One of the main scenarios was about the globalization of African-style famine – brought about intentionally, primarily by the creation of a lucrative market for biofuels. I had no idea that only five months later that scenario would be all over the mass media. Events are unfolding more quickly and decisively than I imagined. Of course the intentional part is not found in the mass media, but the globalization of famine is now a recognized crisis, and biofuels – though not being abandoned or cut back – are now at least controversial.

In these past five months a brand new media theme has emerged around food and starvation. We are now reminded regularly that food prices are rising beyond what many in the global South can afford, and that there is little hope of reversing this trend. Food riots are breaking out and the UN is calling for an urgent response from the international community. Some Southern nations are banning the export of certain foodstuffs, and some Northern governments are pledging help of various kinds. Editorials are taking sides in the biofuels debate. As Sherlock Holmes would say to Dr. Watson at the beginning of each investigation – the game is afoot!

One of the things I've noticed about the mass media is that it carries only a few themes at a time. There's always one main theme – a kind of hypnotic focus point – which right now is the US Democratic Primaries, and in the past has been anything from a hostage crisis to a celebrity murder trial. The main theme can be vacuous in content; it needs only to take up a lot of news airtime, and keep people glued to their sets. And then there are always a few secondary themes being carried as well, with interruptions from time to time for natural disasters.

The secondary themes are highly selective. World-shaking events are going on all the time that mainstream TV never mentions. Things like genocide in East Timor – which went on for decades invisibly, and then suddenly it was in our face just when an intervention required justification. That is to say, secondary themes are selected for a purpose. What they are telling us is less important than why we are being told. We can find the news itself much more reliably in other places, mostly online. When they bring a theme to our mainstream attention, that means it is important to them that we view that scenario in certain ways. In other words, they are preparing us for things to come, getting us to frame our thinking in such a way as to be able to accept what we might not otherwise accept.

"Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61."
—Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited

Highway 61 is a rather direct allusion to Highway 66, which is the most famous cross-country US highway. That then leads to a somewhat more comprehensive allusion, to the Madison-Avenue empowered American mass media, which also goes from coast-to-coast, and which can sell anything at all to the masses – not only telephones that don't ring, but wars that don't make sense, buildings that collapse at free-fall speed, concentration camps, and torture. Why are they taking global famine down to Highway 61? Why has it become a media theme? What are they selling us this time?

I think it is very clear that we are being prepared for a massive global holocaust, and the evidence I have seen for this is now much stronger than it was five months ago. There are two kinds of evidence. One kind of evidence is about the hunger crisis itself, and the various conditions forcing that crisis. The other kind of evidence comes from the nature of the interventions that are being planned and announced, to alleviate the crisis.

As regards the crisis itself, is now clear that Project Holocaust has been part of the globalization agenda from the very beginning. Chossudovsky seems to have a very good grasp of this, and his recent article articulates his thinking very well, with his usual thorough documentation:

Global Famine, by Michel Chossudovsky

I'm also drawing on a number of other articles that I've posted to the newslog archives ( I will continue to post ongoing developments to newslog under the theme, Project Holocaust.

This project – this war on the poor – has come as a multi-pronged assault. Perhaps the most effective prong of the assault has been upon the food-production infrastructure throughout the South. Everywhere self-sufficient local food arrangements were systematically destroyed, either by IMF conditions attached to loans, or by manipulations of global markets. A debt-ridden South was forced over the past two decades into a situation where it has to import its food at prices dictated by the global marketplace, and pay for that food by exporting whatever it can, at prices also determined by the global marketplace.

This systematic restructuring of global food production and distribution patterns amounted to putting a noose around the necks of all the poor people throughout the South, and to some extent in the North as well – a noose that can be tightened at any time, simply by manipulating the global market price of various commodities. And as Chossudovsky, Engdahl, and others bring to our attention, the noose is now being systematically tightened, through a variety of manipulations that are both numerous and cumulative.

The same folks who choreographed for us the subprime mortgage crisis, are now choreographing a hyped-up speculative marketplace in energy futures and food futures. Food and energy prices are being bid upwards, and this upward surge has nothing to do with supply and demand in a resource sense. It is not about peak oil, overpopulation, or lagging food production. Instead it is about the exploitation of fears of those things. Just as anticipation of increasing value spurred the housing bubble, so anticipation of scarcity spurs the rise in resource prices.

Fears of scarcity create a speculative market for resource futures. The ensuing speculation fulfills the fears, by making resources unaffordable to millions in the South. When it is thus demonstrated that the fears are real, the upward bidding then gets even more intense – a self-propelled upward spiral of death, orchestrated by elite predators poised in their financial webs. The upward spiral is still in its early days, and soon it will be billions who can no longer afford to eat.

Another of the manipulations is of course the promotion of biofuels, justified by that same fear of scarcity. Peak oil has been taken down to Highway 61, and we were thereby sold an energy solution that doesn't save energy. It takes more energy to produce biofuels than they later yield as fuels – energy in the form of tractor fuel, petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, transport to and from the production site, etc. etc. While not adding to our fuel supplies, biofuels do add very directly to rising food prices. Every acre shifted to biofuel production takes an acre away from food production. When the EU and the US mandate quotas for biofuels – eg, every gallon sold must contain 10% biofuels – that represents a sharp tug on the nooses around the necks of everyone in the South. And the tightness hurts even before the biofuels go into production, because the anticipation of biofuels is already accelerating the upward speculative bidding of prices for food and energy.

All of these manipulations are cumulative and mutually reinforcing. Rising energy prices, for example, add directly to rising food prices, because modern food-production methods are very energy intensive. So the poor are hit twice by energy prices rises, once if they use fuel directly, and again in the market price of food.

As regards the crisis itself, the evidence is clear. Massive famine is inevitable as long as these economic forces continue to operate. And down on Highway 61, on our media waves, these forces are being presented to us as being inevitable. After the newscaster shows you pictures of food riots, he then bemoans the fact that prices are expected to rise even higher. The will of the market is the same as a force of nature – there is nothing that be done about it. In this way the status of financial elites has been raised to the level of gods – whatever they arrange is accepted as being inevitable. This is probably the single biggest scam that has ever been sold down on Highway 61. In early chiefdoms, the chiefs declared themselves to be gods, and people had to bow down before them if they wanted their heads to remain on their necks. Later we had the divine right of kings, and the divine validity of church doctrine. Now we have gods all over again – what Tom Wolfe called the masters of the universe – whose names are so holy that they are never spoken.

Let us now consider the evidence for Project Holocaust that emerges from the nature of the interventions that are being announced, purportedly to alleviate the crisis. In a word, the interventions all amount to more of the same. More indebtedness by the South, as loans are made available for additional energy-intensive agricultural projects. More dependence on direct food aid from the North, when it is well known that rising prices are rapidly decreasing the rate at which direct aid can be supplied. Our leaders' plans for putting out the fires of hunger is to pour gasoline on the fires! We should not be surprised by this. From that same web of control, the same predator elites who arrange financial matters also groom our political leaders throughout their careers, and mold the media treatment of those careers as they see fit. When the master says jump, every political leader in the West answers, "how high?"

Large areas of the global South have been systematically turned into extermination camps, and the process of extermination – the final solution to the crisis of capitalist growth – is now beginning on its planned course. The food crisis has been brought down to Highway 61, as a new media theme, and we are being programmed to accept starvation as being inevitable, and to applaud solutions that can only make the problem worse. Joseph Goebbels would be amazed at the progress that has been made in propaganda since his day. And Heinrich Himmler would be amazed at the increased efficiency of modern methods, "You don't need to run the camp trains, you only need to halt the food trains, very clever!"

The sophistication of the modern propaganda machine – this matrix reality – is truly awesome. Keep in mind that this hunger theme is a secondary theme in the media, not a main theme. We'll get episodic reports of famines, just as we do today from Africa and Burma, but our attention will always be focused on some main theme – anything from elections to scandals to olympics to global warming to 'terrorism'. By such means we are led by the nose down the garden path to genocide, fascism, a continual state of war, impoverishment, disenfranchisement, and soon martial law. None of us need any longer wonder why good Germans stood by while Nazism and the Holocaust were in full swing, we need only ask ourselves the same question.


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Creating Crisis: How to Start a Food Panic

How to Create a Global Food Crisis
by Walden Bello
When tens of thousands of people staged demonstrations in Mexico last year to protest a 60 percent increase in the price of tortillas, many analysts pointed to biofuel as the culprit. Because of US government subsidies, American farmers were devoting more and more acreage to corn for ethanol than for food, which sparked a steep rise in corn prices. The diversion of corn from tortillas to biofuel was certainly one cause of skyrocketing prices, though speculation on biofuel demand by transnational middlemen may have played a bigger role. However, an intriguing question escaped many observers: how on earth did Mexicans, who live in the land where corn was domesticated, become dependent on US imports in the first place?

The Mexican food crisis cannot be fully understood without taking into account the fact that in the years preceding the tortilla crisis, the homeland of corn had been converted to a corn-importing economy by "free market" policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and Washington. The process began with the early 1980s debt crisis. One of the two largest developing-country debtors, Mexico was forced to beg for money from the Bank and IMF to service its debt to international commercial banks. The quid pro quo for a multibillion-dollar bailout was what a member of the World Bank executive board described as "unprecedented thoroughgoing interventionism" designed to eliminate high tariffs, state regulations and government support institutions, which neoliberal doctrine identified as barriers to economic efficiency.

Interest payments rose from 19 percent of total government expenditures in 1982 to 57 percent in 1988, while capital expenditures dropped from an already low 19.3 percent to 4.4 percent. The contraction of government spending translated into the dismantling of state credit, government-subsidized agricultural inputs, price supports, state marketing boards and extension services. Unilateral liberalization of agricultural trade pushed by the IMF and World Bank also contributed to the destabilization of peasant producers.

This blow to peasant agriculture was followed by an even larger one in 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. Although NAFTA had a fifteen-year phaseout of tariff protection for agricultural products, including corn, highly subsidized US corn quickly flooded in, reducing prices by half and plunging the corn sector into chronic crisis. Largely as a result of this agreement, Mexico's status as a net food importer has now been firmly established.

With the shutting down of the state marketing agency for corn, distribution of US corn imports and Mexican grain has come to be monopolized by a few transnational traders, like US-owned Cargill and partly US-owned Maseca, operating on both sides of the border. This has given them tremendous power to speculate on trade trends, so that movements in biofuel demand can be manipulated and magnified many times over. At the same time, monopoly control of domestic trade has ensured that a rise in international corn prices does not translate into significantly higher prices paid to small producers.

It has become increasingly difficult for Mexican corn farmers to avoid the fate of many of their fellow corn cultivators and other smallholders in sectors such as rice, beef, poultry and pork, who have gone under because of the advantages conferred by NAFTA on subsidized US producers. According to a 2003 Carnegie Endowment report, imports of US agricultural products threw at least 1.3 million farmers out of work--many of whom have since found their way to the United States.

Prospects are not good, since the Mexican government continues to be controlled by neoliberals who are systematically dismantling the peasant support system, a key legacy of the Mexican Revolution. As Food First executive director Eric Holt-Giménez sees it, "It will take time and effort to recover smallholder capacity, and there does not appear to be any political will for this--to say nothing of the fact that NAFTA would have to be renegotiated."

Creating a Rice Crisis in the Philippines
That the global food crisis stems mainly from free-market restructuring of agriculture is clearer in the case of rice. Unlike corn, less than 10 percent of world rice production is traded. Moreover, there has been no diversion of rice from food consumption to biofuels. Yet this year alone, prices nearly tripled, from $380 a ton in January to more than $1,000 in April. Undoubtedly the inflation stems partly from speculation by wholesaler cartels at a time of tightening supplies. However, as with Mexico and corn, the big puzzle is why a number of formerly self-sufficient rice-consuming countries have become severely dependent on imports.

The Philippines provides a grim example of how neoliberal economic restructuring transforms a country from a net food exporter to a net food importer. The Philippines is the world's largest importer of rice. Manila's desperate effort to secure supplies at any price has become front-page news, and pictures of soldiers providing security for rice distribution in poor communities have become emblematic of the global crisis.

The broad contours of the Philippines story are similar to those of Mexico. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos was guilty of many crimes and misdeeds, including failure to follow through on land reform, but one thing he cannot be accused of is starving the agricultural sector. To head off peasant discontent, the regime provided farmers with subsidized fertilizer and seeds, launched credit plans and built rural infrastructure. When Marcos fled the country in 1986, there were 900,000 metric tons of rice in government warehouses.

Paradoxically, the next few years under the new democratic dispensation saw the gutting of government investment capacity. As in Mexico, the World Bank and IMF -- working on behalf of international creditors -- pressured the Corazon Aquino administration to make repayment of the $26 billion foreign debt a priority. Aquino acquiesced, though she was warned by the country's top economists that the "search for a recovery program that is consistent with a debt repayment schedule determined by our creditors is a futile one." Between 1986 and 1993, 8 percent to 10 percent of GDP left the Philippines yearly in debt-service payments -- roughly the same proportion as in Mexico. Interest payments as a percentage of expenditures rose from 7 percent in 1980 to 28 percent in 1994; capital expenditures plunged from 26 percent to 16 percent. In short, debt servicing became the national budgetary priority.

Spending on agriculture fell by more than half. The World Bank and its local acolytes were not worried, however, since one purpose of the belt-tightening was to get the private sector to energize the countryside. But agricultural capacity quickly eroded. Irrigation stagnated, and by the end of the 1990s, only 17 percent of the Philippines' road network was paved, compared with 82 percent in Thailand and 75 percent in Malaysia. Crop yields were generally anemic, with the average rice yield way below those in China, Vietnam and Thailand, where governments actively promoted rural production. The post-Marcos agrarian reform program shriveled, deprived of funding for support services, which had been the key to successful reforms in Taiwan and South Korea. As in Mexico, Filipino peasants were confronted with full-scale retreat of the state as provider of comprehensive support -- a role they had come to depend on.

And the cutback in agricultural programs was followed by trade liberalization -- with the Philippines' 1995 entry into the World Trade Organization having the same effect as Mexico's joining NAFTA. WTO membership required the Philippines to eliminate quotas on all agricultural imports except rice and allow a certain amount of each commodity to enter at low tariff rates. While the country was allowed to maintain a quota on rice imports, it nevertheless had to admit the equivalent of 1 to 4 percent of domestic consumption over the next ten years. In fact, because of gravely weakened production resulting from lack of state support, the government imported much more than that to make up for shortfalls. The massive imports depressed the price of rice, discouraging farmers and kept growth in production at a rate far below that of the country's two top suppliers, Thailand and Vietnam.

The consequences of the Philippines' joining the WTO barreled through the rest of its agriculture like a super-typhoon. Swamped by cheap corn imports -- much of it subsidized US grain -- farmers reduced land devoted to corn from 3.1 million hectares in 1993 to 2.5 million in 2000. Massive importation of chicken parts nearly killed that industry, while surges in imports destabilized the poultry, hog and vegetable industries.

During the 1994 campaign to ratify WTO membership, government economists, coached by their World Bank handlers, promised that losses in corn and other traditional crops would be more than compensated for by the new export industry of "high-value-added" crops like cut flowers, asparagus and broccoli. Little of this materialized. Nor did many of the 500,000 agricultural jobs that were supposed to be created yearly by the magic of the market. Instead, agricultural employment dropped from 11.2 million in 1994 to 10.8 million in 2001.

The one-two punch of IMF-imposed adjustment and WTO-imposed trade liberalization swiftly transformed a largely self-sufficient agricultural economy into an import-dependent one as it steadily marginalized farmers. It was a wrenching process, the pain of which was captured by a Filipino government negotiator during a WTO session in Geneva. "Our small producers," he said, "are being slaughtered by the gross unfairness of the international trading environment."

The Great Transformation
The experience of Mexico and the Philippines was paralleled in one country after another subjected to the ministrations of the IMF and the WTO. A study of fourteen countries by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization found that the levels of food imports in 1995-98 exceeded those in 1990-94. This was not surprising, since one of the main goals of the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture was to open up markets in developing countries so they could absorb surplus production in the North. As then-US Agriculture Secretary John Block put it in 1986: "The idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era. They could better ensure their food security by relying on US agricultural products, which are available in most cases at lower cost."

What Block did not say was that the lower cost of US products stemmed from subsidies, which became more massive with each passing year despite the fact that the WTO was supposed to phase them out. From $367 billion in 1995, the total amount of agricultural subsidies provided by developed-country governments rose to $388 billion in 2004. Since the late 1990s, subsidies have accounted for 40 percent of the value of agricultural production in the European Union and 25 percent in the United States.

The apostles of the free market and the defenders of dumping may seem to be at different ends of the spectrum, but the policies they advocate are bringing about the same result: a globalized capitalist industrial agriculture. Developing countries are being integrated into a system where export-oriented production of meat and grain is dominated by large industrial farms like those run by the Thai multinational CP and where technology is continually upgraded by advances in genetic engineering from firms like Monsanto. And the elimination of tariff and nontariff barriers is facilitating a global agricultural supermarket of elite and middle-class consumers serviced by grain-trading corporations like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland and transnational food retailers like the British-owned Tesco and the French-owned Carrefour.

There is little room for the hundreds of millions of rural and urban poor in this integrated global market. They are confined to giant suburban favelas, where they contend with food prices that are often much higher than the supermarket prices, or to rural reservations, where they are trapped in marginal agricultural activities and increasingly vulnerable to hunger. Indeed, within the same country, famine in the marginalized sector sometimes coexists with prosperity in the globalized sector.

This is not simply the erosion of national food self-sufficiency or food security but what Africanist Deborah Bryceson of Oxford calls de-peasantization -- the phasing out of a mode of production to make the countryside a more congenial site for intensive capital accumulation. This transformation is a traumatic one for hundreds of millions of people, since peasant production is not simply an economic activity. It is an ancient way of life, a culture, which is one reason displaced or marginalized peasants in India have taken to committing suicide. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, farmer suicides rose from 233 in 1998 to 2,600 in 2002; in Maharashtra, suicides more than tripled, from 1,083 in 1995 to 3,926 in 2005. One estimate is that some 150,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives.

Collapse of prices from trade liberalization and loss of control over seeds to biotech firms is part of a comprehensive problem, says global justice activist Vandana Shiva: "Under globalization, the farmer is losing her/his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a 'consumer' of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally."

African Agriculture: From Compliance to Defiance
De-peasantization is at an advanced state in Latin America and Asia. And if the World Bank has its way, Africa will travel in the same direction. As Bryceson and her colleagues correctly point out in a recent article, the World Development Report for 2008, which touches extensively on agriculture in Africa, is practically a blueprint for the transformation of the continent's peasant-based agriculture into large-scale commercial farming. However, as in many other places today, the Bank's wards are moving from sullen resentment to outright defiance.

At the time of decolonization, in the 1960s, Africa was actually a net food exporter. Today the continent imports 25 percent of its food; almost every country is a net importer. Hunger and famine have become recurrent phenomena, with the past three years alone seeing food emergencies break out in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and Southern and Central Africa.

Agriculture in Africa is in deep crisis, and the causes range from wars to bad governance, lack of agricultural technology and the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, as in Mexico and the Philippines, an important part of the explanation is the phasing out of government controls and support mechanisms under the IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs imposed as the price for assistance in servicing external debt.

Structural adjustment brought about declining investment, increased unemployment, reduced social spending, reduced consumption and low output. Lifting price controls on fertilizers while simultaneously cutting back on agricultural credit systems simply led to reduced fertilizer use, lower yields and lower investment. Moreover, reality refused to conform to the doctrinal expectation that withdrawal of the state would pave the way for the market to dynamize agriculture. Instead, the private sector, which correctly saw reduced state expenditures as creating more risk, failed to step into the breach. In country after country, the departure of the state "crowded out" rather than "crowded in" private investment. Where private traders did replace the state, noted an Oxfam report, "they have sometimes done so on highly unfavorable terms for poor farmers," leaving "farmers more food insecure, and governments reliant on unpredictable international aid flows." The usually pro-private sector Economist agreed, admitting that "many of the private firms brought in to replace state researchers turned out to be rent-seeking monopolists."

The support that African governments were allowed to muster was channeled by the World Bank toward export agriculture to generate foreign exchange, which states needed to service debt. But, as in Ethiopia during the 1980s famine, this led to the dedication of good land to export crops, with food crops forced into less suitable soil, thus exacerbating food insecurity. Moreover, the World Bank's encouragement of several economies to focus on the same export crops often led to overproduction, triggering price collapses in international markets. For instance, the very success of Ghana's expansion of cocoa production triggered a 48 percent drop in the international price between 1986 and 1989. In 2002-03 a collapse in coffee prices contributed to another food emergency in Ethiopia.

As in Mexico and the Philippines, structural adjustment in Africa was not simply about underinvestment but state divestment. But there was one major difference. In Africa the World Bank and IMF micromanaged, making decisions on how fast subsidies should be phased out, how many civil servants had to be fired and even, as in the case of Malawi, how much of the country's grain reserve should be sold and to whom.

Compounding the negative impact of adjustment were unfair EU and US trade practices. Liberalization allowed subsidized EU beef to drive many West African and South African cattle raisers to ruin. With their subsidies legitimized by the WTO, US growers offloaded cotton on world markets at 20 percent to 55 percent of production cost, thereby bankrupting West and Central African farmers.

According to Oxfam, the number of sub-Saharan Africans living on less than a dollar a day almost doubled, to 313 million, between 1981 and 2001 -- 46 percent of the whole continent. The role of structural adjustment in creating poverty was hard to deny. As the World Bank's chief economist for Africa admitted, "We did not think that the human costs of these programs could be so great, and the economic gains would be so slow in coming."

In 1999 the government of Malawi initiated a program to give each smallholder family a starter pack of free fertilizers and seeds. The result was a national surplus of corn. What came after is a story that should be enshrined as a classic case study of one of the greatest blunders of neoliberal economics. The World Bank and other aid donors forced the scaling down and eventual scrapping of the program, arguing that the subsidy distorted trade. Without the free packs, output plummeted. In the meantime, the IMF insisted that the government sell off a large portion of its grain reserves to enable the food reserve agency to settle its commercial debts. The government complied. When the food crisis turned into a famine in 2001-02, there were hardly any reserves left. About 1,500 people perished. The IMF was unrepentant; in fact, it suspended its disbursements on an adjustment program on the grounds that "the parastatal sector will continue to pose risks to the successful implementation of the 2002/03 budget. Government interventions in the food and other agricultural markets... [are] crowding out more productive spending."

By the time an even worse food crisis developed in 2005, the government had had enough of World Bank/IMF stupidity. A new president reintroduced the fertilizer subsidy, enabling 2 million households to buy it at a third of the retail price and seeds at a discount. The result: bumper harvests for two years, a million-ton maize surplus and the country transformed into a supplier of corn to Southern Africa.

Malawi's defiance of the World Bank would probably have been an act of heroic but futile resistance a decade ago. The environment is different today, since structural adjustment has been discredited throughout Africa. Even some donor governments and NGOs that used to subscribe to it have distanced themselves from the World Bank. Perhaps the motivation is to prevent their influence in the continent from being further eroded by association with a failed approach and unpopular institutions when Chinese aid is emerging as an alternative to World Bank, IMF and Western government aid programs.

Food Sovereignty: An Alternative Paradigm?
It is not only defiance from governments like Malawi and dissent from their erstwhile allies that are undermining the IMF and the World Bank. Peasant organizations around the world have become increasingly militant in their resistance to the globalization of industrial agriculture. Indeed, it is because of pressure from farmers' groups that the governments of the South have refused to grant wider access to their agricultural markets and demanded a massive slashing of US and EU agricultural subsidies, which brought the WTO's Doha Round of negotiations to a standstill.

Farmers' groups have networked internationally; one of the most dynamic to emerge is Via Campesina (Peasant's Path). Via not only seeks to get "WTO out of agriculture" and opposes the paradigm of a globalized capitalist industrial agriculture, it also proposes an alternative -- food sovereignty. Food sovereignty means, first of all, the right of a country to determine its production and consumption of food and the exemption of agriculture from global trade regimes like that of the WTO. It also means consolidation of a smallholder-centered agriculture via protection of the domestic market from low-priced imports; remunerative prices for farmers and fisherfolk; abolition of all direct and indirect export subsidies; and the phasing out of domestic subsidies that promote unsustainable agriculture. Via's platform also calls for an end to the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights regime, or TRIPs, which allows corporations to patent plant seeds; opposes agro-technology based on genetic engineering; and demands land reform. In contrast to an integrated global monoculture, Via offers the vision of an international agricultural economy composed of diverse national agricultural economies trading with one another but focused primarily on domestic production.

Once regarded as relics of the pre-industrial era, peasants are now leading the opposition to a capitalist industrial agriculture that would consign them to the dustbin of history. They have become what Karl Marx described as a politically conscious "class for itself," contradicting his predictions about their demise.

With the global food crisis, peasants are moving to center stage -- and they have allies and supporters. For as peasants refuse to go gently into that good night and fight de-peasantization, developments in the twenty-first century are revealing the panacea of globalized capitalist industrial agriculture to be a nightmare. With environmental crises multiplying, the social dysfunctions of urban-industrial life piling up, and industrialized agriculture creating greater food insecurity, the farmers' movement increasingly has relevance not only to peasants but to everyone threatened by the catastrophic consequences of global capital's vision for organizing production, community -- and life itself.

Walden Bello is senior analyst at Focus on the Global South, at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He is author and co-author of many books, most recently, Deglobalization (Zed), and recipient of the 2003 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize." In March, he was named Outstanding Public Scholar for 2008 by the International Studies Association.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Los Alamos: Parks Service Sparks Wild Fire

Firestorm hits Los Alamos

High winds have spread the fire towards Los Alamos

A forest fire is spreading through Los Alamos in New Mexico, where the United States government has its main nuclear weapons laboratory.
At least 100 houses have been destroyed and 18,000 residents evacuated as high winds fan the flames.

The nuclear facilities at the site where the world's first atom bomb was built have been shut down. Nuclear materials are protected, though there was a brief fire at one of the laboratory buildings.

"This is a terrible situation," said New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. "Los Alamos is in the path of this fire, a huge fire."

Aeroplanes are dropping slurry onto the flames

There is to be an inquiry into why the National Park Service started the fire, intending to clear brushwood from a Bandelier National Monument.

"I love the National Park Service for starting this; they're a bunch of idiots," said Neil Stoddard, one resident forced to evacuate. "I think better judgement could have been used.

"Getting kicked out of my home town is not something I wanted to do today."

Another evacuee, Al Jaffee, said: "I just keep a sleeping bag in the truck. Other than that, it's just the clothes on my back."

Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Roy Weaver said people had a right to feel "frustrated and angry".

"I wish we could make it right somehow," he said. "My staff just feels terrible, and myself."

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt is expected to visit the area on Thursday to help co-ordinate relief efforts.

Wind fans flames

Aerial television footage has shown burning homes and forest. Thick clouds of smoke are rising into the sky and are being blown hundreds of kilometres.

Los Alamos Fire Department spokesman Jim Danneskiold said high winds had made the fire worse, with forecasts of up to 100km/h (60mph).

The fire has destroyed more than 7,200 hectares of forest

"Houses and buildings at the extreme west of the town are starting to go on fire," he said.

The fire has engulfed nearly 7,200 hectares (18,000 acres) of forest, the US Forest Service has announced.

About 700 fire fighters plus units of the National Guards are tackling the blaze on the ground helped by helicopters and aeroplanes.

A spokesman for the nuclear plant said: "Nuclear materials are stored in concrete bunkers at the plutonium facility.

"They have been built to withstand all kind of potential destruction, including a plane crash, bombings and, of course, a fire."

Another forest fire broke out on 10 May, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Albuquerque, but fire fighters there have brought the blaze under control after it destroyed 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres).

Calling on McGuinty: Free the KI 6!

KI gets celeb support
James Thom - Wawatay News
The KI 6 have some high-profile Canadians on their side.

Author Margaret Atwood, musician Sarah Harmer and former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis are among 20 prominent Canadians who called on Premier Dalton McGuinty to free Kitchenuhmaykoosib Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, Head Coun. Cecilia Begg, councillors Sam McKay and Darryl Sainnawap and band member Bruce Sakakeep, who were jailed March 17 for preventing junior mining exploration company Platinex Inc. from accessing drilling sites in the community’s traditional territory.

The group of Canadians also supports former Ardoch chief Robert Lovelace who was also jailed six months and fined for contempt of court over a dispute with a uranium company.

“The jailing of Bob Lovelace and the KI 6 is a terrible injustice against First Nations people in this province,” said letter-signer Judy Rebick, CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.

“Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government must take the necessary steps to free them and put in place frameworks that would respect First Nations’ rights to protect their land from unwanted industrial development.”

The letter – which was sent to McGuinty April 22 (Earth Day) – says mining shouldn’t take precedence over people’s homes and health.

The letter-writers said it is vital that Ontario “replaces the antiquated free entry system of mining and exploration with a modern, regulated process of granting exploration permits.

Such permits should only be granted after conservation planning, good faith consultation and genuine accommodation of affected Aboriginal Peoples as per Supreme Court decisions.”

The group called on McGuinty to:

• Secure the immediate release of Bob Lovelace and the KI Six;

• Stop mineral exploration on the lands of KI and the Ardoch Algonquins by issuing a ‘stop work’ order and withdrawing the lands from staking;

• Comprehensively reform Ontario’s mining regime and the Mining Act;

• Establish a joint panel with the Ardoch Algonquins and KI to deal with the issue of mineral development on their traditional lands.

“Ontario’s mining legislation is over 100 years old and doesn’t fit with modern society’s understanding of ecosystems, climate change and human rights,” says Anna Baggio, director of conservation and land use planning with CPAWS Wildlands League.

The free-entry system allows prospectors and exploration companies outside of cities and towns to come onto people’s backyards and properties to explore for minerals without permission.

“These companies can dig holes, blast rocks and cut down trees,” Baggio said. “They can do this because while landowners may own the surface rights to their properties they do not own the subsurface rights and there is no recourse for people who wish to stop it.”

The full text of the letter can be found at

The letter was signed by:

Margaret Atwood

Dave Coles, national president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Gerry Antoine, Grand chief Deh Cho First Nations

George Erasmus, former Assembly of First Nations National chief

Graeme Gibson

Sarah Harmer

Bob Huget, Ontario region vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Cathy Jones, comedian, actor and writer

Alice Klein, editor/CEO NOW Magazine

Michele Landsberg, author and activist

Stephen Lewis, professor in Global Health, faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University

Michael Hollett, editor/publisher NOW Magazine

Monte Hummel, president emeritus of World Wildlife Fund

Hugh McCallum, journalist, author of the Dene Nation publication “This Land is Not for Sale”

Craig Norris, musician and CBC Radio 3 host

James Raffan, geographer and writer

Judy Rebick, CAW Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University

Ian Tamblyn, singer, songwriter

Jenny Whitley, Juno-award winning musician

Joey Wright, musician

Canada: The CRTC and "Regulating" the Internet

CRTC launches consultation on broadcasting in new media for future hearing

OTTAWA-GATINEAU - The Canadian Radio-televison and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today launched a consultation on broadcasting in the new media environment for a public hearing to be held in early 2009. The Commission is asking for public input on the scope of such a proceeding.

The Commission has a responsibility to ensure that the broadcasting system is in a position to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, today as well as in the future,” said Konrad von Finckenstein,
Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “New digital technologies and platforms are creating opportunities for the broadcast of professionally-produced Canadian content that simply didn't exist a few years ago. Our intention is not to regulate new media, but rather to gain a better understanding of this environment and, if necessary, to propose measures that would support the continued achievement of the Broadcasting Act's objectives.

Today, the Commission released a compilation of research and views titled Perspectives on Canadian Broadcasting in New Media. This document is the result of research commissioned by the CRTC over the past year and includes views obtained from the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications industries, academia, and national and international policy-makers.

Broadcasting in the new media environment is an expansive and complex subject. Those consulted held different opinions on its very nature. They also expressed various ideas on how to make the most of emerging opportunities for the broadcast of high-quality, professional Canadian content in new media.

The Commission therefore wishes to narrow the range of issues that could be considered as part of a proceeding on broadcasting in this environment. In a call for comments also issued today, it is asking for public input on whether the following questions, and what other questions, should fall within the scope of the public hearing to be held early next year:

- What is broadcasting in new media?

- Should the creation and promotion of Canadian broadcasting content for
the new media environment be supported? If so, how?

- Are there any barriers to accessing Canadian broadcasting content in
the new media environment?

- What other issues should be considered?

Interested parties may submit their comments by July 11, 2008. They may do so by filling out the online form, by writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, or by fax, at 819-994-0218.

Beginning today, the CRTC is also enabling an online consultation to allow Canadians the opportunity to discuss the issues and questions related to Canadian broadcasting in the new media environment. The
website will remain open for postings until June 15, 2008, and is available at:

The Commission will issue a notice of public hearing by the late summer of 2008 outlining the details of the public hearing on Canadian broadcasting in the new media environment.

Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-44
Perspectives on Canadian Broadcasting in New Media
CRTC section on new media

The CRTC is an independent, public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.

Reference documents:
Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-13
Public Notice CRTC 1999-197

- 30 -

Media Relations:
MediaRelations, Tel: 819-997-9403, Fax: 819-997-4245

General Inquiries:
Tel: 819-997-0313, TDD: 819-994-0423, Fax: 819-994-0218
Toll-free # 1-877-249-CRTC (2782)
TDD - Toll-free # 1-877-909-CRTC (2782)
On-line services

These documents are available in alternative format upon request.

Backgrounder on broadcasting in new media

What is broadcasting?
Broadcasting is defined in the Broadcasting Act as the transmission of programs by radio waves or other means of telecommunication and which are for reception by the public. The Act further defines a program as sounds or visual images, or a combination of the two, that are intended to inform, enlighten or entertain. Visual images that consist predominantly of alphanumeric text are not considered as a "program" under this definition.

What is considered broadcasting in the new media environment? Broadcasting in the new media environment consists of the distribution of audio or video content, or a combination of the two, using new
technologies and platforms, such as the Internet and mobile devices. The Commission considers that alphanumeric text and content customized by users fall outside of the scope of broadcasting in new media.

What do you mean by "professionally produced"?
The Commission is mainly concerned with the broadcast of professionally-produced Canadian content over the Internet and through mobile devices. This type of content is generally expensive to produce,
of a high quality and comparable to what has traditionally been aired on television and the radio. Audio and video content customized by users is not considered as being professionally produced.

When did the Commission exempt new media?
In 1999, the Commission examined new media services that deliver broadcasting content over the Internet and concluded that regulation was not necessary to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. The
Commission issued an Exemption Order for these services, observing that:

- there was no discernible impact on conventional radio and television
audiences attributed to new media services

- market forces were providing for a Canadian presence on the Internet,
which was supported by a strong demand for Canadian content, and

- there was no evidence that the Internet had impacted the traditional
broadcasters' advertising revenues.

In 2007, the Commission issued a similar Exemption Order for broadcasting services that are received through cellphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other mobile devices.

Why review new media broadcasting now?
The Commission has made it a practice of periodically reviewing its exemption orders. In the decade since the Commission exempted new media broadcasting services, the landscape has evolved significantly. In particular:

- Canadian are spending more time accessing broadcasting content over
the Internet and on mobile devices, and asserting greater control while
doing so.

- Globally, the pace at which professionally-produced broadcasting
content is being made available online is accelerating, but Canadian
participation is lagging.

- Advertisers are increasingly embracing marketing strategies tailored
to broadcasting in new media.

Which objectives of the Broadcasting Act are relevant to broadcasting in the new media environment?
There are two main objectives that are particularly relevant to the issue of broadcasting in new media. The first is that each element of the broadcasting system must contribute to the creation and presentation of Canadian programming. This programming must reflect Canada's creativity and talent, its two official languages, its multicultural diversity, its social values and the special place of Aboriginal peoples within its society. The second objective is that Canadians should have full access to the broadcasting system, both as audiences and as producers and creators in the industry.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NPR and the Earhquake: When Light Media Meet a Heavy Story

NPR Correspondents, By Chance, in Earthquake
By AP.
NEW YORK (AP) - Two National Public Radio correspondents in central China by chance for a week’s worth of feature stories instead found themselves reporting gripping details of the earthquake that killed thousands on Monday.

Melissa Block narrated a first-person account while the ground was shaking and her report made it onto NPR within an hour and a half.

Block and fellow “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel were in China to report a week’s worth of stories that were to air next week, the first time they had taken their show overseas. They purposely went to Chengdu because it was a city many Americans knew little about.

Block was about to interview a Protestant minister for a story about the influence of religion in the area when the quake struck.

“I had literally not gotten the first question out of my mouth when I heard this deep rumbling noise and this shaking of glass and I saw this look of panic on his face and the face of his colleagues and they dashed out of the room,” she told The Associated Press.

She followed them onto the street, all the while describing what was going on into her microphone. The quake lasted three minutes.

“The pavement was moving up and down and buildings were shaking and bricks and stones were falling off the tops of buildings,” she said. “The cross on the top of the church where we were talking was waving wildly back and forth … It was surreal.”

There was an immediate sense of relief when the earth stopped shaking that the buildings around them had not not fallen, she said. The streets were filled with people using text messages to contact families and friends.

For a few hours, Block and NPR producers in Washington could not locate Siegel. But Block and Siegel found each other near their hotel in Chengdu and compared notes. He had been out reporting.

Block was then driven to the site of a school collapse in the town of Juyuan, where the scene left her shaken.

“I’d just never been confronted by dozens upon dozens upon dozens of bodies of children wrapped in plastic with parents coming in and identifying them and upon realizing it was their child, collapsing in grief,” she said.

“It was a scene that was repeated over and over again,” she said. “I thought I had seen the extent of the victims and my producer said look over there - and there were four times as many under a tent.”

Angry survivors and police surrounded Block and producer Andrea Hsu, forcing them to leave the scene.

Block spoke at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday in China, where she was preparing to sleep for a few hours in her room on the 26th floor of a hotel. Hsu wasn’t as confident, and was planning to sleep on a chair in the hotel’s lobby.

They were to continue their earthquake reporting on Tuesday, NPR said.

By David Bauder


Democracy's Failure by the Numbers

Gulf Seen Between Democracy in Theory and Practice: Survey

By Jim Lobe

13/05/08 - - WASHINGTON, May12 (IPS) - The basic democratic principle that "the will of the people should be the basis for the authority of government" is supported by overwhelming majorities throughout the world, according to a major new survey of more than 17,000 adults in 19 countries released here Monday.

Large majorities in most of those countries also believe that their own governments are not living up to that principle, according to the poll which was conducted and published by (WPO).

Indeed, an average of 74 percent of respondents in the 19 countries, which represent 59 percent of the world's total population, believe that "the will of the people" should have more influence in how their country is concerned than it currently does.

And an average of 63 percent of respondents say their country is being run by a "few big interests looking out for themselves," rather than "for the benefit of all the people."

The belief that governments were being run by "a few big interests" was particularly pervasive in Ukraine (84 percent), Mexico (83 percent), the United States (80 percent), Nigeria and South Korea (78 percent), and Argentina (71 percent).

"The perception that governments are not responsive to the popular will appears to be contributing to the low levels of confidence in government found around the world," noted Steven Kull, who directs both the WPO and its parent organisation, the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

"Most see their governments as primarily serving big interests rather than the people as a whole," he added.

The new survey, part of a series conducted by WPO earlier this year to probe global attitudes towards human rights and other key issues, was carried out between January and mid-March this year. The previous surveys have shown, among other things, majority support in most countries for a free press unfettered by government control, even stronger support for gender equality, and growing unease with the impact of economic globalisation, especially in western countries.

The 19 countries in the latest survey included Argentina, Mexico, and the U.S. in the Americas; France, Britain, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine in Europe; Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories (PT), and Turkey in the greater Middle East; Nigeria in sub-Saharan Africa; and China, India, Indonesia and South Korea in Asia.

On average, 85 percent agreed the principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 60th anniversary is being celebrated this year, that "the will of the people should be the basis for the authority of the government." Fifty-two percent agreed "strongly", while 33 percent said they agreed "somewhat".

Those who said they agreed "strongly" were most prevalent in relatively new democracies, notably Ukraine (77 percent), Nigeria (75 percent), Indonesia (72 percent), Azerbaijan (63 percent), Mexico and the PT (59 percent each), although 70 percent of Turks, whose longer-standing democracy has been interrupted by several military interventions over recent decades, also agreed strongly.

By contrast, respondents in the more long-standing democratic states were less enthusiastic. While 55 percent of British respondents said they agreed strongly, that was true of only 44 percent of U.S. respondents, and 34 percent of French respondents.

The least enthusiastic respondents were found in India, the world's most populous democratic state, where only 53 percent said they either strongly (32 percent) or "somewhat" (21 percent) agreed with the basic principle -- far below the overall average of 85 percent and even the next most-sceptical group of respondents in Iran.

The survey found substantial dissatisfaction among respondents regarding their perceptions of how well their governments reflected the popular will. When asked to rate on a scale of 0-10 how much influence the "will of the people" has on their own government, the mean response was 4.5 -- well below what they said was the preferred level of 8.0.

An average of 74 percent of all respondents said they wished their government would be more responsive to the popular will than they perceived it to be. The biggest gaps were found in Egypt (97 percent), Nigeria (89 percent), Ukraine (86 percent), Mexico (85 percent), the U.S. and South Korea (83 percent). The smallest gaps were found in Jordan (44 percent) and India (46 percent).

The survey also found low levels of trust in their governments to "do what is right", with majorities respondents in 11 of the countries saying their governments did so "only some of the time" (48 percent) or "never" (six percent). Cynicism was particularly high in South Korea, Mexico, Argentina, and Ukraine.

On the other hand 83 percent of Chinese respondents said they could trust their national government to do what is right "just about always" (23 percent) or "most of the time" (60 percent). The percentages for Egypt were also high, at 13 percent and 71 percent, respectively. Smaller majorities in Russia, Jordan and the PT also said they trusted their government at least "most of the time", while 48 percent of Iranians agreed.

An average of 84 percent of all respondents said they believed their government leaders should be selected through elections in which all citizens can vote, as opposed to the 12 percent who said they should be selected some other way. Support was highest in Indonesia (97 percent), the U.S. (96 percent), Poland, Ukraine, and South Korea (91 percent). Support was lowest in India (33 percent), Egypt and Jordan (24 percent).

At the same time, three out of four respondents said elections alone should "not (be) the only time when the views of the people should have influence," but that leaders should also "pay attention to the views of the people as they make decisions". Four out of five respondents said policymakers should pay attention in particular to public opinion polls.

Views on this point were strongest in South Korea (94 percent), Nigeria (93 percent), Mexico (92 percent), Poland (91 percent), and Ukraine (90 percent) and weakest in Egypt (64 percent) and India (56 percent).

Respondents were also asked whether they thought their governments should take account of world public opinion in making decisions. Support for that proposition was strongest in Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, China, Azerbaijan, and Britain in descending order. Support was weakest by far in India, followed by the PT, the U.S., Russia, and Argentina. Among all 19 countries, respondents in the U.S. thought their government took into account world public opinion the least.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Channel Pentagon: The News Through the Filter

How the military analyst program controlled news coverage: in the Pentagon's own words
(updated below)

On the question of whether the Pentagon maintained an illegal covert domestic propaganda program -- and on the broader question of whether the American media's political coverage is largely shaped and controlled by the U.S. Government -- I don't believe it's possible to obtain more conclusive evidence than this:

These are excepts from a memorandum sent on January 14, 2005 -- just before President Bush was to be inaugurated for his second term -- from Capt. Roxie T. Merritt, the Director of DoD Press Operations, to several top Pentagon officials, including Larry Di Rita, the top aide to Donald Rumsfeld (pp. 7815-7816 (.pdf)). It reports on Merritt's conclusions and proposals in the wake of a Pentagon-organized trip to Iraq for their military analysts:


One of the most interesting things coming from this trip to Iraq with the media analysts has been learning how their jobs have been undergoing a metamorphosis. There are several reasons behind the morph . . . with an all voluntary military, no one in the media has current military background. Additionally we have been doing a good job of keeping these guys informed so they have ready answers when the networks come calling.


The key issue here is that more and more, media analysts are having a greater impact on the television media network coverage of military issues. They have now become the go to guys not only for breaking stories, but they influence the views on issues. They also have a huge amount of influence on what stories the network decides to cover proactively with regard to the military. . . .


1.) I recommend we develop a core group from within our media analyst list of those that we can count on to carry our water. They become part of a "hot list" of those that we immediately make calls to or put on an email distro list before we contact or respond to media on hot issues. We can also do more proactive engagement with this list and give them tips on what stories to focus on and give them heads up on issues as they are developing. By providing them with key and valuable information, they become the key go to guys for the networks and it begins to weed out the less reliably friendly analysts by the networks themselves . . . .

3.) Media ops and outreach can work on a plan to maximize use of the analysts and figure out a system by which we keep our most reliably friendly analysts plugged in on everything from crisis response to future plans. This trusted core group will be more than willing to work closely with us because we are their bread and butter and the more they know, the more valuable they are to the networks. . . .

5.) As evidenced by this analyst trip to Iraq, the synergy of outreach shops and media ops working together on these types of projects is enormous and effective. Will continue to exam (sic) ways to improve processes.

The response from Di Rita, in full (ellipses in original):
This is a thoughtful note. . . I think it makes a lot of sense to do as you suggest and I guess I thought we were already doing a lot of this in terms of quick contact, etc. . . We ought to be doing this, though, and we should not make the list too small . . . .

So the Pentagon would maintain a team of "military analysts" who reliably "carry their water" -- yet who were presented as independent analysts by the television and cable networks. By feeding only those pro-Government sources key information and giving them access -- even before responding to the press -- only those handpicked analysts would be valuable to the networks, and that, in turn, would ensure that only pro-Government sources were heard from. Meanwhile, the "less reliably friendly" ones -- frozen out by the Pentagon -- would be "weeded out" by the networks. The pro-Government military analysts would do what they were told because the Pentagon was "their bread and butter." These Pentagon-controlled analysts were used by the networks not only to comment on military matters -- and to do so almost always unchallenged -- but also even to shape and mold the networks' coverage choices.

Even a casual review of the DoD's documents leaves no doubt that this is exactly how the program worked. The military analysts most commonly used by MSNBC, CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC routinely received instructions about what to say in their appearances from the Pentagon. As but one extreme though illustrative example, Dan Senor -- Fox News analyst and husband of CNN's Campbell Brown -- would literally ask Di Rita before his television appearances what he should say (7900, 7920-21), and submitted articles to him, such as one he wrote for The Weekly Standard about how great the war effort was going, and Di Rita would give him editing directions, which he obediently followed.

Among the most active analysts in this program were all three of the most commonly used MSNBC commentators -- Gen. Montgomery Meigs, Gen. Wayne Downing, and Col. Ken Allard. They were frequently summoned by Chris Matthews and (in the case of Downing) by Brian Williams as NBC's resident experts. Matthews referred to them as "HARDBALL's war council" on January 17, 2005, when he had all three of them on together to bash The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh for reporting that the Pentagon was preparing attack plans against Iran -- an article that, like most Hersh articles, infuriated Di Rita and other DoD officials. The next day, Allard proudly wrote to Di Rita:

As you may have seen on MSNBC, I attributed a lot of what [Hersh] said to disgruntled CIA employees who simply should be taken out and shot.

In light of all of this, it is very hard to dispute the excited analysis of an unnamed Lt. Col when, in a March 4, 2005 email to various Pentagon officials (7751), he described the military analyst program as producing a "big payback." He then went further:
There are about 50 retired military analysts that are part of this group. . . . these are the folks that end up on FOX, CNN, etc. interpreting military happenings. These calls are conducted frequently and offer HUGE payback. . . . these end up being the people who carry the mail on talk shows.
On the Los Angeles Times blog a couple of weeks ago, Scott Collins opined that the principal reason the military analyst story had "no legs" (meaning that the original NYT story received so little subsequent coverage in the establishment media) is this:
Many Americans confronted with stories of media manipulation by government officials aren't, at this point, shocked and awed. Instead they've come to expect it. Increasingly, they consider the media simply a mouthpiece for whoever has the most power. You don't have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted. . . .

So, many Americans, confronted with evidence that TV's talking heads are taking orders not just from government officials but also military-contractor clients, can be excused for not being all that surprised.

Clearly, the principal reason the story has received virtually no coverage on the television networks is because the story reflects so poorly on them. But as to his primary point, I don't believe Collins is right. The public has long been inculcated with the notion that we have a "liberal media" that opposes and undermines whatever Republicans do, etc. etc. Yet here is mountains of evidence as conclusive as can be as to how the Government/media cartel actually functions -- media outlets and their corporate parents rely on the Government for all sorts of favors and access and, in return, do nothing to displease them. To the contrary, the Bush administration itself here is proudly touting its ability to control media content and ensure the presence only of pro-Government voices with regard to war and military matters.

It's true that there are plenty of people who understand the core government-amplifying function of the establishment media, but there are also plenty of people -- likely far more -- who don't. That's precisely why the television networks are so eager to suppress and conceal these revelations and the endlessly illuminating evidence which supports them.

UPDATE: Each time I've written about this story, someone -- including, once, one of the producers of the show -- writes to point out that PBS' News Hour did broadcast a segment a couple of weeks ago examining the issues underlying the scandal. Indeed they did, and it was quite a good discussion. The transcript for that show can be read, and the show itself viewed, here.

On a different note, from the "for-what-it's-worth" department, Harry Reid was at FDL's Book Salon today to promote his new book, and this was the answer he gave when someone asked about whether he was planning to hold hearings (h/t Lish, who asked the question):

The answer is yes. I have personally spoken to Chairman Levin and he is tremendously concerned as I. And we are proceeding accordingly.
What is worth noting is that that's the first time Senate leadership has said they intend to hold hearings. In its recent article on the media's "deafening silence" over this story, The Politico said that if there were Congressional hearings held, then "the networks would be hard-pressed to continue their de facto blackout." I guess we'll find out if that's true.

-- Glenn Greenwald

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How the military analyst program controlled news coverage: in the Pentagon's own words
"We develop a core group from within our media analyst list of those that we can count on to carry our water. They become the key go to guys for the networks and it begins to weed out the less reliably friendly analysts by the networks themselves."
Saturday, May 10, 2008 14:48 EDT
CNN, the Pentagon's "military analyst program" and Gitmo
A detailed look at the documents produced by the Pentagon reveals just how corrupt the media's behavior was and, even more so, continues to be.
Friday, May 9, 2008 12:43 EDT
Neocons and the truth: Bitter enemies to the end
The fact-free extremists who brought us the invasion of Iraq haven't gone anywhere and are busy trying to exert their influence before this administration ends.
Thursday, May 8, 2008 14:36 EDT
McCain embraces Bush's radical views of executive power
The GOP nominee actually complains that it is judicial power that is excessive and is unduly limiting the powers of the president.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008 15:39 EDT

RIVERVIEW: University of Life

RIVERVIEW: University of Life
A productive, sustainable, therapeutic community
for people living with substance addiction and mental illness

Set on 244 acres of parkland, the RIVERVIEW University of Life utilises existing buildings and land to provide a unique opportunity for hands on education and training to guest students.


A clinical intake assessment wing where people are helped to stabilise on their medications and detox from their substance use. The time spent in this process is 7-30 days.

Guests then move into a transition wing where they engage primarily in regular psychotherapy, psycho-education and life skills training. During this transition period, guests are encouraged to take part in low impact activities which benefit the community and to reflect upon the skills and training they would like to undertake which will enhance achievement of their future goals. The period of time spent in this process is from 30-60 days.

Now guests are invited to make a decision to commit to remaining in the community for a minimum of two years, ideally three. During this time they will become a working student in any of the five faculties – Arts/Music, Education, Horticulture/Animal Management, Hotel and TradeBased Skills. They will have the opportunity to complete certification in any of the faculties in a timely fashion and then switch to another faculty as they self-manage their education. They may also take the option of ranging across faculties if they would like time to solidify their interest. The time-frame will be flexible and adjustable.

During this time, they will also be expected to fully engage in leisure, sporting and recreational pursuits, and to support the community in extracurricular activities that may be undertaken to enhance and improve the community.

On completion of this educative period, guests will have the option to remain in the community for a mutually agreeable period of time, as peer educators and mentors, or be assisted to gain employment and accommodation as they re-enter society. Those who choose to leave will remain founding members of the community and will be welcome to return at any time.


The open parkland is home to a valuable collection of rare trees. Preserving and studying this collection forms part of the Horticulture/Animal Management curriculum, as does the creation of several extensive organic vegetable gardens, berry gardens, a temperate climate orchard and a small collection of maples. Animals such as chickens, rabbits, goats, llamas, sheep and a small herd of 10 prize winning Jersey cows are also cultivated for food and fibre, with horses, dogs and other companion animals providing therapeutic interaction to the recovering population.

Organic cultivation methods will be used in the gardens, including permaculture, companion planting, crop rotation and use of natural fertilisers and composting. Ancient as well as modern seed varieties will be used to increase the diversity of crops.

Animals are grown for food and fibre in an ethical and humane manner. The companion animals are available to provide support and love to all students while remaining the responsibility of this Faculty


The upgrade, rebuild and renovation of the heritage buildings in an ecofriendly and sustainable way, is the responsibility of the TradeBased Skills faculty. Supervised by a team of qualified tradespeople, the student workforce will progress through construction, carpentry, plumbing and electrical components to achieve a recognised certification of skill level.

Renovating the existing buildings using recycled, natural, recovered, non chemical materials, water saving, solar and wind technology, and non sweatshop products, is the overall goal of this faculty. An intangible yet highly influential aspect of this work is that the student workforce will be directly responsible for creating their own living environment, working on building their community and thus acquiring a sense of commitment and ownership of their own “place”.


First Nations drumming and carving will form the basis of this Faculty, together with music, painting, crafts such as weaving and sewing, and pottery. All the work of the guest students will be used throughout the campus to enhance, furnish and decorate the living areas. Decoration and entertainment for all special events will be the responsibility of this Faculty and all student work will become an intrinsic part of the College. A special responsibility of this faculty will be the creation and maintenance of a special sacred space for all members of the College as well as the decoration of this space on the occasion of visits by spiritual leaders.

The cultural heritage of the First Nations People will manifest across the entire College as a respect for the people, the animals and the land, an understanding and reverence for what went before, what happens now and what is to come for the future.

This Faculty will encourage creativity and diversity across art forms while delivering a high level of fundamental skills training. An important function of the Faculty will be to create a documentary to record the history of the creation and growth of this community.


Guest students will be able to study components of the standard curriculum they need, up to Senior Grade 12. Education will also be responsible for the general administration of the College so students will receive a solid grounding in office management including computer skills, accounting, purchasing, “interoffice liaison”, data collection and record keeping. Community relations will manage the public face of the College via this Faculty.

Education will interact with other Faculties periodically to provide theoretical learning, certification, guest speakers and special inservices as required.

Spiritual leaders, environmental experts, human rights advocates as well as those experienced in healing therapies, will be invited to attend the College on a frequent basis.


Hotel is responsible for feeding and housing the entire campus. Students will gain experience across the entire range of Hotel service, from kitchen prep to fine cuisine, bussing and waiting to front of house, room cleaning to special event organising (in conjunction with Arts/Music), food safety, purchasing and waste management.

All Hotel functions will be carried out using natural and non chemical products, waste will be kept to a minimum, composting, reusing and recycling will be standard wherever possible.

RIVERVIEW understands that all people are not born with equal opportunity. The trauma of years which manifests in drug addiction, mental illness, often physical disability and marginalisation within society, cannot be undone without extensive and ongoing deep therapy.

The overriding philosophy of RIVERVIEW University of Life, is the compassionate, respectful, and nonjudgmental interaction with individuals, animals, and the land. Healing and personal growth will be achieved within a productive environment where everyone is useful and able to contribute, where this contribution is valued and valuable, and where caring for each other and the community is part of the healing process.

Currently there is no organisation which offers an entirely holistic method of healing which includes care for the environment as well as healing the people. There are however numerous therapeutic communities around the world which are similarly structured. These communities have a high rate of success in enabling guests to turn their lives around, deal with their individual traumas, and make a successful return into mainstream society.

With global warming, wars, poverty and increasing dysfunction within urban populations, the alienation of large groups of people with post traumatic stress disorder, mental illness and substance addiction, continues to increase. The creation of long term healing communities which offer a therapeutic process, married to environmentally friendly production, education and hands on useful work, is becoming more urgent.

Just as the land will not be healed overnight from years of pollution and mismanagement, so the people who have suffered deep trauma will not be healed by short term detox and “recovery” options. Hope for the future is dashed upon the reality of a society which does not welcome recovered addicts and criminals. While they may exit treatment clean, enthusiastic and determined to change their lives, “normal” society is not so forgiving of a lack of marketable skills, a history of criminal activity, and chronic illness. Relapse becomes the fault of the addict, yet another negative brick to weigh down a fragile psyche, not the fault of the system which knows the answers yet fails to provide real solutions.

The time has come to erect a healing model where both the people and the planet are respected, nurtured and healed.

This concept is supported by The Riverview Preservation Society, Cottage Farm Centre for Mental Health, S E E R S (Socially Ethically Environmentally Responsible Society), VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users).

For further information please check out the Association of Therapeutic Communities at . See below for other references:

For information, please call Tui Hill at S E E R S Inc, on 778 230 1696, at, or


By Jack Random


Barack Obama has claimed the nomination of his party for the presidency largely on the promise of a new kind of politics, one that transcends traditional party lines. Obama and Republican John McCain will be competing in the fall for the decisive independent voters.

So who are the independents?

We are individuals who are hungry for change. We believe the government does not represent our interests. We believe our country is headed for hard times. We are not all the scapegoat reactionaries or gullible followers that so many media personalities think we are. We do not want war. We want peace and prosperity for all.

We are pragmatic populist progressive libertarians. We are pragmatic in our approach to political change, populist in that we believe the government has an obligation to listen to the people even when it does not want to hear the message, progressive in that we believe in the working class, in equal rights and equal opportunity. We are libertarian because we believe that no government should impose on the private affairs of its citizens.

Our pragmatism dictates that we are tempered in our expectations. We will not push for programs, reforms or legislation that has no realistic chance of being enacted. For example, we recognize that government sponsored health insurance (a single-payer system) is the ultimate solution to our health and medical care crisis but we also know that there is not a sufficient base of support to overcome the inevitable charge of “socialized medicine” – no matter how specious the accusation.

The politics of pragmatism means that in deference to other social, political and economic interests, we do not expect any branch of government to settle the questions of same sex marriage or a woman’s right to choose abortion. We do not believe these issues should decide the composition of our next government.

The politics of pragmatism, however, does not value and will not accept pandering. We expect our leaders to state their positions, express their values and explain their beliefs. We expect you to answer all questions openly and honestly without regard to political expediency.

We demand that our government listen to the people. We expect you to listen as intently as politicians traditionally listen to lobbyists and special interests – as if your political lives depended on it. We expect you to address all issues of great concern to the people. We expect you to find solutions that you believe have the greatest potential to alleviate today’s problems without creating new problems in the future. We expect you to balance the common good against the rights of individuals.

On the issue of national security, we expect a reasoned approach. We will not sacrifice individual civil liberties. We do not deny the relationship between American foreign policy and terrorism. We desire a foreign policy that respects the rights and cultural differences of other nations. We want an end to the policy of American exceptionalism that claims the right to attack other nations without provocation, that exempts America from the universal laws of all nations and that demands of others what we would not submit to ourselves. We support diplomacy, international law and international institutions that provide an alternative to military intervention for the resolution of conflicts.

As we strengthen international institutions and lengthen their reach, we would like to see unnecessary military bases shut down and the resources channeled to other causes that enhance our chances of survival on the planet.

On the issue of immigration, we recognize the concerns that an open border brings but we do not agree that a wall separating us from our neighbors is a reasonable solution. We cannot ignore the fundamental truth that nearly all of us are the descendents of unwanted invaders. A wall is the multi-billion dollar non-solution of pandering politicians who do not want to see the problem go away. If there were no immigration problem, how would they defend the policies they have promoted for two decades? If they could not blame illegal immigrants they would have to accept responsibility for the global trade policies that have stolen our jobs and deflated our wages.

We understand that illegal immigration is a symptom of the disease†that charades under the flag of Free Trade. We understand that neither a wall nor mass deportation is a practical solution. The migrant workers who came to this country were responding to the economic realities of their own nations – realities that were created by the global economic policy that our leaders in the White House and congress not only supported but sponsored.

We want our government to fight for international labor laws, including the right to living wages, and the means to enforce them. We want you to fight against anti-labor laws in our own nation that falsely proclaim the “right to work” as they set up barriers to union organization.

In the case of China, a nation that parlays unfair trade, environmental recklessness and exploited workers to economic dominance, that owns our debt and possesses the means to control our currency, we recognize that we cannot reverse the damage that has been done over decades in a day, a year or even four or eight years but we must begin the reversal now.

In the cases of India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Latin American and African nations, whose workers have been exploited to their ultimate detriment as well as ours, we should form a Fair Trade alliance to effect more immediate change, inviting the European Union and other nations to form a united front against the Free Trade mandate of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We expect our government to take lead this effort.

On the issue of climate change and environmental protection, we recognize that time is short and will not wait for economic reform. In the last few decades we have witnessed an acceleration of global warming and natural catastrophes. We can no longer afford to debate the relative responsibility of human causes; we must act now.

Recognizing that we have done more than any other nation and probably more than all nations combined to fill the planet’s atmosphere with toxic pollutants, we hold a disproportionate responsibility to lead a green revolution.

Unlike labor standards and living wages, we cannot take a gradual approach to this crisis. We cannot allow China, India or any other developing nations to pursue the same industrial path that we followed in the last century. We must therefore enable all nations to follow a new path, a path of clean energy, a path that utilizes all the planet’s resources in solar, geothermal, wind and other renewable sources, a path that maximizes fuel efficiency, localized production and global mass transit.

America can lead this monumental effort by redirecting the resources we have devoted to weapons of mass destruction and war or watch other nations lead while our economy continues to struggle against the tide of planetary evolution. We can lead by moving the world away from the growing threat and inevitable catastrophe of nuclear energy. As recent history has instructed us, nuclear energy begets nuclear weapons. We can afford neither and we must take the lead in disarming and dismantling both with dedicated and sincere resolve.

While we lead the world in this critical transformation, we cannot ignore the degradation of human values that has eroded our standing abroad even as it has weakened us at home. Liberty and justice can no longer be slogans for military invasion even as the rights of citizens are sacrificed at home to the false gods of patriotism and security.

On this there can be no compromise. The right to privacy in one’s property, communications and personal affairs must be guarded religiously. The right to dissent in words and actions must be upheld. Freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and the right to assemble in protest must be defended. The Patriot Act must be exposed for what it is: A pretext for enabling the most abusive government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens in all of human history.

We believe in a press that cannot be bought and will not be used as a government propaganda agent. We believe that every media outlet has a solemn responsibility to investigate and report the facts without fear of consequence. We believe that media reform ensuring the independence and diversity of the press is essential to a functioning democracy.

We believe in the right of individuals to be free from government invasion and interference in all cases except where a clear and compelling cause can be demonstrated to an impartial judicial authority.

We have not thrived as a nation by backtracking on the fundamental rights of our founding. Instead, we have always struggled to expand our rights and liberties and to defend them against the inevitable assault of our enemies.

At this critical time in our history, we must recognize that once again our most dangerous enemies are not those who would strike us from afar but those who live within our borders. These enemies wear the masks of our defenders. They have won positions of power and influence and they have launched a determined attack at the core of our greatness.

These enemies are not new to the American story. They were the profiteers and British loyalist during the revolution. They were the authors of the Alien and Sedition Acts. They were the traders and plantation masters who went to war rather than yield a way of life built on the exploitation of slaves. They were the corporate monopolists that suppressed labor with hired thugs. They were the McCarthy era fear mongers forcing citizens of every stripe to sign loyalty oaths and blacklisting those who resisted. They were the white supremacists preaching a gospel of intolerance, spreading terror with lynching and imposing their will with laws of segregation and disenfranchisement. They were the traditionalists who fought back women’s suffrage and continue to fight women’s rights and civil rights and opportunity for the least privileged among us.

The enemies of American freedom have always lived within our borders, disguised as friends and neighbors, waiting for the opportunity to press their cause of oppression. They always claim the moral high ground, always wear the badge of patriotism and always proclaim themselves defenders of the American way.

The enemies of America have come out of the shadows once again and it is the duty of every loyal citizen to oppose them with all the resolve and unity that we would summon to oppose a foreign invader.

We are at a crossroads. Perhaps all generations believe that theirs is the greatest challenge and all are largely correct. For as long as more and greater weapons are being developed without a reciprocal development of diplomacy and humanitarian values, the world of the future will always be more dangerous until at last the die is cast and we have crossed the threshold of no return.

I fear as we should all fear that we are approaching that threshold. That is the challenge we must embrace. That is the reason we will overcome all barriers to achieve a world that other generations have only dreamed: because we must, we will.




From: "Tony Martin, MP Sault Ste. Marie"

MAY 7, 2008

OTTAWA - With the income gap in this country growing and ordinary Canadians working harder and longer just to make ends meet, the NDP is committed to standing up to the Conservative government's out of touch approach to dealing with important issues. Today, the NDP has introduced a non-confidence motion on the issue for its opposition day motion.

"This prime minister's economic agenda is unbalanced, unsustainable and is failing working families," said NDP Leader Jack Layton. "The Conservatives have drained the fiscal capacity of this country to weather the tough economic times ahead. Stephen Harper is too busy listening to his friends around the boardroom table, and is
ignoring the needs of ordinary Canadians sitting at the kitchen table."

NDP Poverty Critic Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)will present the motion to the House on Thursday during the NDP's opposition day.

"Working families are scraping by and the Conservatives don't care," said Martin. "Since January, 55,000 workers have lost their jobs. And countless ordinary Canadians are left without access to the Employment Insurance program they paid into their whole lives. It's unacceptable."

Martin issued a warning that the Conservatives' current course is causing irreversible damage to Canadian families.

"Each day Stephen Harper's Conservatives are allowed to set Canada's economic agenda, the country takes another step in the wrong direction," said Martin. "The unbalanced economic agenda set by Harper and the Conservatives means the damage being done to working families is irreversible."


For more information, please contact:
Gaby Senay, NDP press secretary, 613-295-9228

The motion reads:

May 6, 2008 - Mr. Martin (Sault Ste. Marie) - That the House recognize the harmful effects on working and middle-income Canadians of the growing income gap fostered by this government's unbalanced economic agenda, including it's failure to reform employment insurance to ensure that people who lose their jobs during economic
downturns are protected and trained, and therefore the House has lost confidence in this government.


LE 7 MAI 2008


OTTAWA - Puisque l'inégalité économique s'empire dans ce pays et que les familles d'aujourd'hui doivent travailler de plus en plus fort pour joindre les deux bouts, le NPD est résolu à lutter contre l'approche déconnectée du gouvernement conservateur relativement aux questions importantes. Aujourd'hui, le NPD a présenté une motion de défiance en ce sens comme motion de l'opposition.

« Le programme économique de ce premier ministre est déséquilibré et intenable et laisse tomber les familles d'aujourd'hui, a dit le chef du NPD, Jack Layton. Les conservateurs ont détruit la capacité fiscale de ce pays de survivre aux
difficultés économiques qui s'en viennent. Stephen Harper est trop occupé à écouter ses amis dans les salles de conférence, et il tourne le dos aux véritables besoins des familles canadiennes. »

Le porte-parole du NPD en matière de pauvreté, Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie), présentera la motion à la Chambre jeudi pendant la journée d'opposition du NPD.

« Les familles d'aujourd'hui peinent à joindre les deux bouts et les conservateurs s'en fichent, a dit le député Martin. Depuis janvier, 55 000 travailleurs ont perdu leur emploi. Et d'innombrables autres Canadiens n'ont pas accès au régime d'assurance-emploi auquel ils ont cotisé toute leur vie. C'est inadmissible. »

Le député Martin a prévenu que les conservateurs font fausse route et que cela aura des conséquences irréparables pour les familles canadiennes.

« Chaque jour que les conservateurs de Stephen Harper décident du programme économique du Canada, le pays fait un autre pas dans la mauvaise direction, a dit le député Martin. Le programme économique déséquilibré de Harper et des conservateurs porte irréparablement atteinte aux familles d'aujourd'hui. »


Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez contacter :
Gaby Senay, attachée de presse du NPD, 613-295-9228

La motion se lit comme suite :

6 mai 2008 - M. Martin (Sault Ste. Marie) - Que la Chambre reconnaisse les effets néfastes sur la classe ouvrière et les Canadiens à revenu moyen de l'écart de plus en plus profond entre les revenus, creusé par le programme économique déséquilibré du gouvernement, notamment le fait qu'il n'ait pas réformé le régime d'assurance-emploi de manière à ce que les travailleurs qui perdent leur emploi en période de fléchissement économique soient protégés et formés, et par conséquent la Chambre a perdu confiance en ce gouvernement.