Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

U.N. Urges Israel to Jettison any Weapons

Expand Messages
  • Prasanna Raghavendra
    U.N. nuclear watchdog urges Israel to jettison any weapons by Ramit Plushnick-Masti ASSOCIATED PRESS JERUSALEM -- The head of the United Nations nuclear
    Message 1 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
      U.N. nuclear watchdog urges Israel to jettison any weapons

      by Ramit Plushnick-Masti

      ASSOCIATED PRESS JERUSALEM -- The head of the United Nations' nuclear
      watchdog agency says he believes Israel has nuclear weapons and suggests
      Israel rid itself of any stockpile to promote Mideast peace.

      In the same interview, Mohamed ElBaradei also revealed that he has toured
      some of Israel's nuclear plants, although not the reactor in the southern
      town of Dimona, where it is believed Israel produces arms.

      Mr. ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke to the
      Israeli daily Ha'aretz at his office in Vienna, Austria. The newspaper
      didn't say when the interview was conducted.

      Mr. ElBaradei said he has made several visits to Israel, most recently in
      the late 1990s when he met with Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then prime
      minister. The visits were not made public at the time.

      The newspaper said Mr. ElBaradei was the guest of the Israeli Atomic Energy
      Commission. Mr. ElBaradei has been a senior member of the International
      Atomic Energy Agency since 1984.

      Mr. ElBaradei said his most recent contact with Israeli leaders was at a
      meeting in Vienna with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. The newspaper did not
      say when the meeting occurred.

      Mr. ElBaradei said he cannot confirm independently that Israel has nuclear
      arms, but that "we work on the assumption that Israel has nuclear

      "I haven't seen that Israel ever denied it," he added.

      Israel has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, aimed at
      stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, because it objects to international

      Although widely assumed to have a stockpile of nuclear weapons, the
      government is purposely vague, stating only that Israel will not be the
      first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

      In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona plant, gave
      pictures of his workplace to the Times of London. Based on the photographs,
      scientists at the time said Israel had the sixth-largest stockpile of
      nuclear weapons in the world. Vanunu is serving an 18-year term for treason
      and espionage.

      In his talks with Israeli officials, Mr. ElBaradei said he "raised the
      regional situation and issues of nuclear weapons with them. The status quo
      is not one with which I feel comfortable."

      He told Ha'aretz that opening discussions on the nuclear issue does not
      prejudge their outcome, but dialogue is essential to reduce tension.

      "My fear is that without such a dialogue, there will be continued incentive
      for the region's countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to match
      the Israeli arsenal," he said.

      "As I go around the Middle East, there is a sensation of frustration and
      impotence. People say there is an asymmetrical situation and a situation
      that is not sustainable and that we cannot go on like this, and I agree."

    • Onkemetse Barima
      Ad Hominem? by Karen Kwiatkowski As part of the occasional series Know Your Neocons, we have Max Boot on Monday�����s edition of C-Span�����s Washington
      Message 2 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
        Ad Hominem?

        by Karen Kwiatkowski

        As part of the occasional series "Know Your Neocons," we have Max Boot on
        Monday�s edition of C-Span�s Washington Journal. It was quite informative.

        Max was busy fending off a series of caller comments regarding the
        war-mongering and war-profiteering of neoconservatives in America. Max seems
        quite the reasonable man, but he refused to address a caller who asked why
        people around the world sometimes see Israel as a threat to peace in the
        region. Instead, he resorted to a cry of ad hominem.

        By this he meant that callers complaining about neocons in Washington or
        neoconservative assumptions are simply "appealing to personal considerations
        rather than to logic or reason." Why not acknowledge how 200 nukes and a
        very tough occupation might legitimately be considered a factor that
        detracts from the image of "liberalism and a beacon of regional democracy"
        that Max claims? There are several valid arguments that may be made, and Max
        could have made them, but he did not.

        Never mind.

        Max likes to discuss evil, as did several callers. Max says amorphous
        dictatorial evil like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein must be addressed
        militarily, and now. This fight against evil, in all of its Manichean
        simplicity, gives powerful meaning to the wars sought by neoconservatives in
        the Bush Administration. Several callers, however, felt that evil was more
        accurately perceived as a beam in our own eye. Callers mentioned that
        Saddam�s purported WMD, if they existed at all, were the degraded residuals
        of our own sale and gifts of WMD to Saddam-the-ally over a decade ago. They
        mentioned the lies we used to justify the 2003 adventures in Mesopotamia.
        Callers mentioned the evil of institutional and executive disrespect of the
        Constitution, of our leaders failing "to seek peace and pursue it" and
        instead fomenting war, in the extreme and reckless waste of American
        taxpayer contributions, past-present-future, by George W. Bush and his
        minions. Max felt these were all ad hominem attacks, not appealing to logic
        or reason. Max apparently has a very narrow definition of logic and reason.

        Max fended off a question about Richard Perle�s war profiteering, again, as
        an ad hominem insult against a major neoconservative. For future reference,
        Max, intellectuals like yourself who do not, I assume, personally profit
        from the current foreign policy of government subsidized contracts to
        rebuild what government funded destruction has wrought, ought to seriously
        consider putting some daylight between yourselves and profiteering
        neoconservatives like Richard Perle. If you can.

        A Democrat calls up. He fully supports the war in Iraq as justified (even if
        started and continued ad nauseum on a foundation of lies and propaganda,
        devoid of reality on the ground or in the region). This caller advocates a
        "two-party system" for Iraq. Can you imagine? Max likes this idea. Iraq will
        be resolved and all will be well if we could just put in place a two-party
        system there. Kind of like the great two-party system we have today in
        America. The same two-party system that brought us the pre-emptive war
        against a fourth-class military power that did not threaten us, and Patriot
        Acts I and II at home to keep dissenters in line.

        But there is hope � a female caller claims that Bush is really playing the
        man behind the green curtain, except the difference is that the Wizard of Oz
        meant no harm, and Bush does. She is a Wes Clark supporter, and she believes
        that Bush should be charged with treason. Hear, hear!

        Max responds that treason is an unreasonable charge, because, thanks to the
        two/one party system we have, both houses of Congress supported Bush in this
        war. The argument that Max hopes we will follow is that it is unreasonable
        to charge both houses of Congress with treason. Actually, Max, it�s not
        unreasonable at all! You are, for this moment, approaching a clarity of
        perception worthy of your intellect.

        Finally, Max brings up the alleged anti-Semitic aspect of those who
        criticize the neoconservative program. Earlier on the show, Max admitted
        that neocons are mainly present in Washington thinktanks and exist only as
        policy-makers, who neither have nor seek a domestic constituency, a neocon
        "voting bloc" so to speak. Yet, when people criticize or question the
        national "democracy" inherent in such a small, non-representative, and
        powerful policy making group, Max is very sensitive that we have ignored all
        the non-Jewish members of this policy bloc. Max mentions the virtuous
        gambler Bill Bennett, former Director of Central Intelligence under Bill
        Clinton, Jim Woolsey, and Catholic policy writer Rev. John Neuhaus.

        Max failed to mention a far more substantive fact that separates
        neoconservatism from any of the great Semitic religions � Judaism,
        Christianity or Islam. Neoconservatism springs from a 1930s atheistic
        communist/Marxist-leaning world revolution movement transformed throughout
        the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s by a Cold War�driven domestic agenda, and crowned
        by the current global military ascendance of the United States.
        Neoconservatives indeed have a religious bent, but it's not monotheistic in
        the tradition of the great religions. If neoconservatism has a religious
        aspect, it may be found in its general anti-traditionalist roots, or perhaps
        in its apparent worship of several lesser gods. Gods of unilateral power and
        this idea of a holy American-enforced "democracy" spread all over the world
        come to mind. There are probably other idols that animate neo-cons in the
        privacy of their own minds, but I don�t want to go ad hominem on good old

        Neoconservatism, Max, is a historical pinprick. It rose on the wings of
        domestic tactical success in America only to be foiled by its remarkable
        ability to create foreign and domestic policy disaster after disaster. These
        disasters include falsely justified invasions and occupations of other
        countries, as well as the profligate Bennett-ese gambling away of this
        nation�s assets, in blood and treasure. Our immediate political future looks
        to be one of painful, at times violent and angry, recovery from the
        neoconservative era. An era that, logically, reasonably, and thankfully, is
        at the cusp of its sorry existence.

        December 30, 2003

        Karen Kwiatkowski is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent
        her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now
        lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.

      • Ajit Silas
        Now wait for the political tremors The political after-effects of a terrible earthquake are already being felt DISASTER could hardly have struck at a worse
        Message 3 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
          Now wait for the political tremors

          The political after-effects of a terrible earthquake are already being felt

          DISASTER could hardly have struck at a worse time or taken a less
          anticipated form. Before dawn on December 26th, a Friday, the Muslim day of
          rest, the sleeping town of Bam was all but razed by an earthquake measuring
          6.7 on the Richter scale. More than one-third of the town�s 80,000
          inhabitants were killed, either immediately, or later in the rubble of their
          homes. The authorities were ill-prepared. It was Bam�s first big quake in a

          New and old, public and private, the buildings of Bam had one thing in
          common: their disregard for anti-earthquake regulations. Even the swankiest
          homes collapsed: the governor was the only senior official to survive. Two
          hospitals were destroyed. Prisoners fled a wrecked jail on the edge of the
          town. One man, forewarned by a subterranean rumbling, had spent the night in
          his car. He survived but lost about 40 relations. Fearing after-shocks,
          survivors clogged the road to Kerman, the provincial capital.

          In Tehran, Iran�s capital, more than 1,000km (621 miles) north-west,
          sclerotic state organs lumbered into action. The Iranian Red Crescent was
          hindered by the concentration of its stores and people in the quake-prone
          north. As a result, thousands of survivors in Bam spent two freezing nights
          without the tents they had been promised. The few bulldozers that arrived
          promptly to sift through the rubble stopped working at nightfall. Most
          �rescue� operations were in fact exhumations by the bereaved, using their
          bare hands.

          On the whole, the Iranians seemed unable to co-ordinate the emergency teams
          that were dispatched from 26-odd countries, including the United States, the
          Islamic republic�s bitter enemy. Would-be rescuers were stuck in their own
          countries, while the Iranians got around to issuing them with formal
          invitations. When they arrived at Bam�s tiny airport, no one was on hand to
          guide them to those parts of the town where they would be of most help.

          On Sunday evening, as supplies rolled belatedly into Bam, the authorities
          abandoned hope of finding more survivors, and foreign helpers prepared to go
          home. The interior minister said that more than 15,000 bodies had been
          buried; by Tuesday an official said the final death toll would exceed
          28,000, though it was unclear whether that figure included the many
          casualties in villages nearby; by Wednesday, the most pessimistic estimates
          put the number of dead at between 40,000 and 50,000.

          For a few days, the reformist supporters of President Muhammad Khatami and
          their rivals in the clerical establishment, which rallies around Iran�s
          �supreme leader�, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave up their vicious politicking.
          In scenes reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, ordinary Iranians
          responded to the disaster by piling up food and clothes at collection points
          across the country.

          In a trip to Bam on Monday, Mr Khamenei pledged that the town would be
          rebuilt, �stronger than ever�. That would be some feat. The town lost its
          Persian-speaking middle class long ago, to gradual migration. It, in turn,
          was replaced by tribal Baluchis, whom Persians tend to look on with
          distaste, partly for their reputation as traffickers of drugs.

          More recently, the authorities tried to develop Bam by rebuilding the
          ancient town as a tourist attraction and by building a car factory on the
          edge of the desert. The plant still stands but the celebrated mud-brick
          citadel was ruined in the quake. As for the palms that produce Bam�s
          famously succulent dates, they survived. But the underwater channels that
          irrigated them may have collapsed.

          Iran�s brief unity may not engender lasting good sense. Bam is too distant,
          its concerns too peripheral, for its agony to have much effect on building
          techniques in vulnerable cities like Tehran, where developers and regulators
          pay scant attention to best practice.

          But the catastrophe may have one benign effect: a lessening of the Islamic
          republic�s distrust of foreigners. That distrust was evident in 1990, when
          the Iranians turned down many offers of outside help in the aftermath of a
          previous catastrophic quake and officials denounced sniffer dogs as
          �unclean�. Mr Khatami, in recent days, has showed no such qualms, appealing
          for help from all bar Israel. Some people in Bam were rescued thanks to the
          once-reviled canines.

          Mr Khatami�s conservative rivals have mixed feelings about foreign help.
          During his trip to the area, the supreme leader did not deign to mention the
          mainly western countries that had rushed to Iran�s aid, let alone thank the
          rescuers in person. That is not untypical of Iran�s stand-offish
          conservatives. Last Friday, while survivors of the disaster surveyed the
          wreckage of their lives, Mr Khamenei found time to extol at length the
          merits of making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

        • Ajit Silas
          Something nasty in the Balkans The revival of extreme nationalists in Serbia bodes ill for the country�����and the Balkans as a whole THE scene in
          Message 4 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
            Something nasty in the Balkans

            The revival of extreme nationalists in Serbia bodes ill for the country�and
            the Balkans as a whole

            THE scene in Belgrade�s central Republic Square the morning after the
            country�s general election on Sunday December 28th was striking. Young
            people were handing out a free booklet to passers-by explaining their
            citizens� rights. At the same time their sound system was playing a hit song
            by the English chanteuse Dido, in which she warbles mournfully: �I won't put
            my hands up and surrender.� Behind the youngsters stood the statue of
            Mihaljo Obrenovic, prince of one of Serbia�s two royal households, whose
            bloody feuding plagued Serbia throughout most of the 19th century.

            The turnout was high and 2.1m people voted for more or less
            western-oriented, democratic parties. However, the largest party in
            parliament, with 81 out of 250 seats, will be the extreme nationalist
            Serbian Radical Party, which along with the Socialists of the former
            president, Slobodan Milosevic, got almost 1.4m votes. The revival of
            nationalist groups in Serbia mirrors similar comebacks in recent elections
            in two other parts of the former Yugoslavia. In Croatia, Ivo Sanader, the
            leader of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), took office as
            prime minister two days before Christmas, having won the largest share of
            the vote in parliamentary elections in November. And nationalist Croat, Serb
            and Muslim groups made big gains in Bosnia�s elections late last year.

            Though Serbia's Radicals celebrated their comeback with champagne, there is
            virtually no chance that they will actually be in government. It is back to
            the future then, since Serbia's next administration will consist of many of
            the same people who have run the country since Mr Milosevic was overthrown
            three years ago.

            A sigh of relief from all concerned then, except for the Radicals?
            Unfortunately not. The result of Serbia�s election was as expected, only
            worse. Opinion polls had shown that the Radicals might well be the largest
            single party, but none had predicted that they would get as much as 27% of
            the vote. Does this mean that Serbia is closing in on itself and is about to
            plunge the whole Balkans back into war? After all, Vojislav Seselj, the
            leader of the Radicals, boasted in 1991 that he intended to gouge out
            Croatian eyes with a rusty spoon. Since many of his party militiamen then
            went on to commit many a similar foul deed, he is now in jail in The Hague,
            awaiting trial at the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal (where Mr Milosevic is
            already on trial).

            In fact, even if the hard core of nationalist voters do want to reverse the
            Serbian losses of the Yugoslav wars, they have no means to do so. Serbia�s
            army is a shadow of what it was and NATO-led troops are in Bosnia and
            Kosovo, Serbia�s southern, majority-Albanian province, which is currently
            under UN administration. Most Serbs are desperate for their country to get
            into the European Union, not to go back to war.

            Tomislav Nikolic, who is acting head of the Radicals while its leader is
            otherwise detained, said recently that although his party remained committed
            to a Greater Serbia, including much of Croatia, if it ever came to power it
            would seek to gain what it had failed to win in war by diplomatic means.
            Such nonsense implies that (as with recent nationalist gains elsewhere in
            the Balkans) much of the Radical vote is a protest vote and comes from
            Serbia�s most embittered people. Nationalists they may be, but they also
            include workers who have lost their jobs thanks to privatisation,
            middle-class professionals who, thanks to war, have ended up on the economic
            scrapheap and Serbian refugees from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. According to
            Aleksa Djilas, a commentator, Serbia �is a defeated country and [its] great
            ideological zeal is burned out�.

            That may be, but another stark reality is that Serbia will now more than
            likely just lurch from crisis to crisis�and back to the polls again. Indeed,
            Mr Nikolic may actually be glad that he will not be forming the next
            government. Smart analysts, such as Vladimir Goati, are ringing alarm bells.
            With no strong government in sight, they foresee new elections within a year
            or so, in which many dispirited Serbs will fail to vote. That would lead to
            an even stronger vote for the Radicals. The glum Mr Goati says that the
            current situation reminds him of the cycle of elections and weak governments
            in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, in which the Nazis became ever stronger
            until they were actually able to take power.

            Of course, it may not happen like that, but the outlook is still bleak. The
            so-called democratic block now consists of four parties. The largest is led
            by the man who ousted Mr Milosevic as president three years ago, Vojislav
            Kostunica. He has sworn, like the leaders of the other three parties, that
            he will not do business with the Radicals. Thus he must strike a bargain
            with these leaders to create a coalition or minority government. Easiest to
            do business with will be G17 Plus, a party of liberal, western-oriented
            reformers. More difficult will be a party that includes Vuk Draskovic, a
            monarchist who is notoriously unpredictable. Harder still will be dealing
            with the Democratic Party, which was led by Zoran Djindjic, who was Serbia�s
            prime minister until he was assassinated last March.

            Apart from personal enmities, the most fundamental problem is that all these
            parties stand for different things. G17 Plus is, for instance, in favour of
            Serbian independence and cares little for Kosovo. Mr Kostunica, by contrast,
            wants to strengthen the current weak �state union� with Montenegro and will
            not willingly give up Kosovo, even if he has no other viable option.

            Behind the scenes, horse-trading could now take a couple of months. Mr
            Kostunica does not really want to be prime minister. Privately, he says that
            he wants to be Serbia�s president again; currently the country does not have
            one because voter turnout has been below the 50% threshold in each of the
            recent presidential polls. Whatever the results of the bargaining, it is
            clear that Serbia will lose time. Since the death of Mr Djindjic, reform has
            stalled. Barring the extremely unlikely outbreak of harmony between the
            leaders of the democratic block, Serbia will continue to drift.

            It is not only Serbs who will suffer from weak government in Belgrade. An
            economically moribund Serbia will be a drag on development for its
            neighbours. Furthermore, if Serbia does not deliver indicted war-crimes
            suspect General Ratko Mladic to The Hague by the end of March, America is
            set to cut aid and prevent further loans from international financial
            organisations. With nothing to gain, no Serbian politician will grasp the
            thorny issue of Kosovo. And with no progress towards independence, more
            Albanians in the province will be tempted to revert to violence.

            And all the while, those who heard Dido singing in Republic Square will have
            to wonder who is refusing to surrender: embittered, western-hating
            nationalists or those who believe that Serbia can look forward to a
            prosperous, outward-looking future?

          • Ajit Silas
            Milking lessons It seems that a massive fraud was behind the collapse of Italy�����s Parmalat. But how did it happen and who benefited? WHEN Enrico Bondi, a
            Message 5 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
              Milking lessons

              It seems that a massive fraud was behind the collapse of Italy�s Parmalat.
              But how did it happen and who benefited?

              WHEN Enrico Bondi, a turnaround expert, arrived at Parmalat in mid-December,
              he thought his job was merely to help restructure the finances of Italy�s
              biggest dairy group. Within days, however, events moved faster than even the
              shrewd Mr Bondi can have predicted. First, Calisto Tanzi, Parmalat�s founder
              and boss, was ousted in a brutal show of strength by the company�s main
              banks. Then Mr Bondi began to uncover the truth behind Parmalat�s strange
              balance sheet, and a bad story got much worse.

              The immediate problem at the company had been one of short-term liquidity.
              As a regular heavy user of the bond markets, Parmalat had been criticised as
              being inefficient for its habit of carrying large debts that were supposedly
              offset by big cash holdings. Suddenly in December, it struggled to redeem a
              �150m ($180m) eurobond, despite apparently having already bought back much
              of the issue. Financial markets wondered why the redemption was a problem
              for a group with more than �4 billion of reported cash and short-term
              assets. Investors then panicked when Parmalat admitted that it had been
              unable to release almost �500m trapped in a mutual fund based in the Cayman

              That was when Mr Bondi arrived. He quickly discovered that Parmalat had
              overseen a huge and long-running deception, perhaps dating back nearly a
              decade. The Tanzi family lost control of the company as forensic accountants
              got down to work. Mr Tanzi went abroad, but was arrested for questioning on
              Saturday December 27th when he returned to Italy. On Monday, Parmalat�s by
              now almost worthless shares were suspended indefinitely on the Milan stock
              exchange. A full-scale judicial inquiry is under way, with some 20 people
              under investigation. And America�s Securities and Exchange Commission has
              accused Parmalat of misleading bond investors in �one of the largest and
              most brazen corporate financial frauds in history.�

              Colleagues of Mr Tanzi, including a former finance director, have alleged,
              according to investigating magistrates, that he personally siphoned up to
              �800m from Parmalat. Mr Tanzi�s lawyer denies that any money has
              �disappeared�. Mr Tanzi did have a penchant for buying football clubs, but
              his lifestyle was reportedly not especially lavish. Even if this specific
              allegation against him turns out to be true, it would not explain the
              billions more that have gone missing.

              So where were Parmalat's auditors during all of this? Grant Thornton were
              long-time auditors of Parmalat itself and have remained auditors of Bonlat,
              a Parmalat subsidiary. Deloitte & Touche, Parmalat's main auditor since
              1999, insists that it abided by Italian accounting standards and is
              co-operating fully with investigators. For its part, Grant Thornton has
              claimed that a letter from Bank of America vouching for �4 billion of cash
              in Bonlat was a forgery good enough to fool them into approving accounts
              that were fake.

              But there were numerous such documents. Indeed, investigating magistrates
              claim that four times a year Parmalat was operating a crude, but effective,
              system for forging documents that purported to show big cash balances within
              Bonlat. The balance sheets of the subsidiaries were simply adjusted to make
              sense of the group�s overall financial position, and then reported to the
              centre as audited numbers.

              Grant Thornton claims that it too was the �victim� of a fraud. But it seems
              either to have been too close to its client or to have been incompetent. For
              example, investigating magistrates say that, according to former finance
              officials with Parmalat, the auditor used Parmalat�s internal mail to
              request financial information, rather than dealing with banks or other
              parties directly. If so, this would mean that vital transactions were not
              scrutinised outside a closed loop of communications.

              Among other things, Mr Bondi wants to know where the missing money has
              gone�assuming it ever existed. The sooner he can separate invented assets
              from real ones, the sooner he can reassure investors that there will be
              money to recover from the mess. Shareholders seem set to lose everything and
              there will be painful negotiations with the holders of Parmalat�s numerous
              bond issues. However, Mr Bondi probably has just enough breathing room in
              which to pare Parmalat back to a viable operating business with a manageable
              financial structure and to save as many of the firm�s 36,000 jobs as

              Using new laws rushed through by the government, Mr Bondi is now acting as
              the sole administrator of Parmalat. He has 180 days to try to salvage what
              he can. The new law allows Parmalat to use its working capital to pay
              suppliers, and will also make it likely that its banks will give it more
              short-term capital within a few weeks.

              It remains possible that the task will prove too much, even for the talented
              Mr Bondi. So far, there has been no good news to offset the steady flow of
              bad developments at Parmalat. Outsiders are still guessing at the size of
              the black hole in the firm�s accounts�is it �10 billion? �12 billion? More?
              One likely scenario is that Mr Bondi will break Parmalat into pieces,
              selling what he can and trying to retain a core milk business. Whether he
              can close the funding gap, however, is a big question.

              If he is to have a chance, Mr Bondi needs to know quickly, and in detail,
              how the fraud was committed. Untangling such schemes is never easy,
              especially when there are hundreds of interwoven subsidiaries and shell
              companies, not to mention tax havens and offshore banks, involved. Mr Bondi
              has done the sensible thing and looked first for the big sums, only to
              realise the scale of his challenge. Now he must go after multiple, smaller
              amounts. It will take time, perhaps several months.

              Until there is more precise information, most people can only guess at how
              such a large fraud can have been constructed. But the broad outlines have
              begun to emerge. On the face of it, a financial-holding company seems to
              have been used to grab cash from the operating company, before losing that
              money through the silly use of derivatives and other speculative financial
              dealings. As the losses mounted, instead of coming clean, it seems that the
              stakes were raised in a desperate and ultimately futile effort to keep the
              scam going. If such a picture is broadly accurate, then Parmalat will look
              much like other corporate scandals. Until then, the worry is that fresh
              horrors may yet emerge.

            • Bernard Petrella
              The O Connor Project Can we end racial discrimination without affirmative action? Here s what it will take. Lisbeth B. Schorr Justice Sandra Day O Connor,
              Message 6 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                The O'Connor Project

                Can we end racial discrimination without affirmative action? Here's what it
                will take.
                Lisbeth B. Schorr

                Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, speaking for a majority of the U.S. Supreme
                Court in the University of Michigan affirmative-action case, declared, "We
                expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer
                be necessary ... ."

                What would it take for that to become a reality?

                In what we might call The O'Connor Project, we would have to commit
                ourselves to eliminating racial disparities at the starting line and at four
                subsequent crucial points, each of them involving changes that we already
                know how to make. By assembling existing knowledge, deepening it and scaling
                up from current isolated successes, our society could make a long-term
                commitment to action in each of these five arenas so that minority college
                applicants of 2028 would be educationally so well-equipped that they would
                not need the extra help of racial preferences.

                Here are the concrete steps that would achieve that goal:

                1. Eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. We could accomplish
                this by reducing the incidence of teen births and ensuring every pregnant
                woman high-quality prenatal care. Birth outcomes that predispose children to
                trouble at school, such as low birth weight (found twice as often among
                African American babies as among whites), are associated with serious
                cognitive impairments, behavioral and learning disorders, health problems
                and school failure.

                2. Eliminating racial disparities in school readiness. By harnessing the
                tremendous growth in understanding of how parental support and early
                education (an essential part of high-quality child care) can equip young
                children for school learning, we could reduce by at least half the existing
                racial gap. A child's ability to reason and to master language and math
                depends on the stimulation, caring relationships and supports he or she
                experiences long before entering school. The founders of Head Start and
                other early childhood education programs knew this 40 years ago. Their
                successors are now proving it.

                Because school readiness is more than a set of mechanical skills, the most
                effective ways to set children on a path to school success rely less on
                flash cards than on attention to emotional, social and health needs, and to
                the necessity of nurturing, supportive adults in settings that are
                language-rich and knowledge-centered. For families where parents are
                impaired by depression, substance abuse, personality disorders or domestic
                violence, programs must compensate by ensuring that all young children can
                grow up in environments that are safe, nurturing, stimulating and

                3. Eliminating racial disparities in the opportunities offered by
                elementary, middle and high schools. Many individual schools have
                successfully broken the link between academic achievement and racial,
                economic and family background. Most recently, entire school districts have
                begun to shrink the race-based gaps that were once seen as immutable.
                Success has been most dramatic in the early grades. The latest results of
                nationwide testing among fourth-graders have shown universal improvement,
                and a significant narrowing in the gaps among racial groups.

                Progress in middle schools has been slower and more sporadic, as broader
                reform efforts have collided with lesser capacity among front-line educators
                and greater chaos, indifference and hostility in the bureaucratic

                In high schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is among those
                showing that we know enough to attack the gross inequities in preparing
                underserved young people for college. The foundation is successfully
                investing in the creation of smaller, more personalized learning
                environments, where every student is known by a school adult and held to
                high expectations.

                Schools at every level and in every neighborhood must be able to attract,
                retain and support fully competent teachers, ending the scandal of children
                who need the most skilled instructors being taught by those least able to

                4. Eliminating racial disparities in the opportunities for adolescents to
                make a healthy transition into young adulthood. Here, too, our understanding
                of what works has taken a quantum leap in the last two decades. Local
                organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters have been successful in matching
                at-risk young people with adult mentors. These trusting relationships
                produce measurable decreases in first-time drug use and improvements in
                school performance and behavior. Boys and Girls clubs, YMCAs, 4-H clubs,
                AmeriCorps and schools are running programs that are keeping youngsters
                constructively occupied during the hours when teens without such
                alternatives often get into trouble. In these ways, local communities are
                already well ahead of federal policy-makers in putting together the adults
                and resources that influence youth in a positive direction, complementing
                the work of schools in strengthening the capacity of adolescents to become
                competent and confident adults.

                5. Eliminating racial disparities in the opportunities that families have to
                provide their children a good start in life. Most families share the same
                dreams for their children and would, if they could, provide them with safe
                neighborhoods, decent housing and good schools. Most would transmit to their
                children the security and optimism that usually comes to parents who work at
                jobs that pay a living wage. Most would provide the guidance that children
                need to grow into productive adults if they could command the resources to
                afford regular meals, books, computers and time. And yet large numbers of
                families, especially African American families in America's inner cities,
                cannot realize these dreams without help -- from kin, from neighbors and
                from social institutions, including government. We know how to provide
                families with supports to enhance their economic well-being, the safety of
                their neighborhoods, the cohesiveness of their social environment and their
                parental abilities. We have work to do, though, before we are able to
                provide the needed supports at sufficient scale and in ways that a majority
                of Americans find compatible with their values. But that objective is also
                within our reach.

                The leadership and the financial and intellectual resources for such an
                ambitious undertaking as the O'Connor Project would have to come from a
                broad partnership, including government and public officials at all levels,
                philanthropy, the professional and academic communities, and the local
                groups throughout the country that are already working to make their
                communities a better place to live.

                While we seek a wide base of support for committing the necessary resources,
                one model we could look to as a way to begin is the one now flourishing in
                Great Britain. When Prime Minister Tony Blair took office, the long-standing
                gap between the least and most advantaged populations was continuing to
                increase. He committed his government to eliminating poverty among children,
                to radically reducing income-based health disparities, and to narrowing the
                gap between deprived neighborhoods and the rest of the country -- all within
                20 years. Funding from both government and philanthropy has mobilized an
                extraordinary array of Britain's most daring and able individuals into the
                service of achieving these objectives. In the United States today, the
                challenge to embrace similarly lofty aspirations may seem particularly
                daunting, and even unrealistic. At a time of philanthropic retrenchment and
                fierce cuts in federal, state and local human-service budgets, how can the
                American public be expected to support an agenda as bold as the O'Connor
                Project contemplates?

                First, we must be realistic about what works. We have already seen teen
                birth rates and juvenile violent crime decline in response to initiatives of
                the last two decades, which incorporate some of the principles described
                above. But the most effective initiatives are typically underfunded and do
                not reach those most at-risk. And many well-intentioned efforts are not
                achieving their objectives. We must be prepared to move resources from less
                effective efforts to more effective ones -- and to pay the costs of what it
                takes to understand the difference.

                I calculate that the O'Connor Project would cost somewhere between $110
                billion and $125 billion a year. These estimates do not include the costs to
                universal health coverage for children, adolescents and pregnant women,
                which the nation seems gradually to be moving toward for reasons other than
                the elimination of racial disparities.) This amount could be recouped by
                rescinding the portion of the 2001 tax cut allocated to the wealthiest 5
                percent of U.S. families when fully phased in (about $88 billion a year),
                together with a modest increase in the gas tax or a 25 percent cut in
                "corporate welfare."

                To bring the nation's actions in line with our best intentions, in just the
                ways that Justice O'Connor's decision implies, requires action on an agenda
                that is coherent, bold -- and difficult. But don't let anybody tell you that
                it can't be done or that we don't know how to do it.

              • Kuribayashi Sensei
                Poland, Israel sign missile deal Warsaw reaps rewards for its politically risky support of the US-led war in Iraq. By Matthew Clark After going out on a limb
                Message 7 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                  Poland, Israel sign missile deal

                  Warsaw reaps rewards for its politically risky support of the US-led war in

                  By Matthew Clark

                  After going out on a limb as one of the United States' staunchest allies in
                  the war in Iraq, Poland is starting to see some payback. The latest reward
                  comes not from the US but from Israel in the form of a ten-year missile
                  contract valued at around $350 million.

                  The anti-tank "Spike LR" missiles, which can be shoulder-fired, will be
                  produced in Poland under license from the state-owned Israeli Rafael arms
                  corporation by the Polish firm Mesko, reports the Associated Press. This
                  deal, which will help bring Poland's Soviet-era missile program up to NATO
                  standards, will also "give Mesko financial breathing room after a decade of
                  losses," reports AP.

                  As The Jerusalem Post reports, "the deal was so important for Poland that
                  [its] Minister of National Defense Jerzy Szmajdzinski was on hand to sign
                  it" in Skarzysko Kamienna, 90 miles south of Warsaw.

                  According to the Post, the Israeli Defense Force "has used the Spike and
                  various derivatives for a number of years," including in Lebanon, the West
                  Bank, and Gaza Strip. Director general of Israel's Defense Ministry Amos
                  Yaron pointed out that "this decision is not confined solely to the
                  industrial sphere but rather reflects a strategic choice that will hopefully
                  pave the way for a further enhancement of Polish-Israeli defense relations."

                  Last April marked a politically significant reward for Poland's support of
                  the coalition when the country signed a $3.5 billion deal to buy 48 US-made
                  F-16 jet fighters. This was the biggest defense contract by a former Soviet
                  bloc country since the end of Cold War. However, The New York Times reports
                  that the "contract is starting to stir frustration [in Poland] because of
                  the time it is taking Lockheed to fulfill its promise to steer American
                  investments to Poland to offset the purchase."

                  When it comes to economic payback for its support of the Iraq war, at least
                  in the form of rebuilding contracts in Iraq, "few people are waiting with
                  more impatience than the Poles," reports the Times.

                  While the Polish government cited moral and political reasons for its
                  support of the United States, economic motives were never far from the
                  surface. Polish officials freely acknowledged that they hoped that backing a
                  friend in a time of need would translate into more profitable economic ties.
                  To many here, winning contracts in Iraq is one way to judge whether that bet
                  paid off. Some see it as an ominous sign that Poland has so far netted just
                  one project, a $7 million telecommunications contract.

                  Poland might not have to wait long for recontruction contracts though. As
                  Reuters reports, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said on Saturday
                  that his country's involvement in Iraq's reconstruction will be on the
                  agenda during top-level bilateral talks in Washington next month. Speaking
                  after the deadly attack that killed 18 people in the Iraqi city of Karbala,
                  Mr. Kwasniewski also said that the coming weeks in Iraq might be
                  "extraordinary difficult."

                  Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes of Poland as a "geopolitical spa" for
                  America and the "antidote to European anti-Americanism." But he points out
                  that this goodwill is tenuous.

                  Poland's becoming a member of the EU will give the US an important friend
                  within that body � a counterweight to those EU forces that would like to use
                  anti-Americanism as the glue to bind the expanding alliance and that would
                  like to see the EU forge its identity as the great Uncola to America's

                  But as powerful as Poland's bond to America is these days, we dare not take
                  it for granted. Poland has some 2,400 troops in Iraq. That's the good news.
                  The bad news is that roughly 75 percent of Poles oppose their deployment.
                  Polish officials will tell you Poland sent troops to Iraq to help keep the
                  Americans in Europe. But the public doesn't make such connections, and most
                  people don't understand what their boys are doing there or what Poland is
                  getting out of it.

                  Mr. Friedman cites a Polish foreign policy expert as saying that the US is
                  currently losing to Europe in the competition for the hearts and minds of
                  Poland's youth.

                • Wantana Lertlumnapakul
                  Something s Rotten... So, it seems Bush is still eating beef. A little Mad Cow disease, the White House assures us, isn t going to scare our red meat-loving
                  Message 8 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                    Something's Rotten...

                    So, it seems Bush is still eating beef. A little Mad Cow disease, the White
                    House assures us, isn't going to scare our red meat-loving leader. We
                    suppose that's supposed to make us all feel better, encouraging us to accept
                    the USDA's assertion that its inspection rules are sufficient.

                    Somehow, we aren't convinced.

                    Maybe that's because the meat from the diseased heifer slaughtered in
                    Washington state wasn't distributed in Texas, where the prez is spending his
                    holiday. Maybe it's because one of the key administration officials telling
                    us everything's okay is a former agribusiness lobbyist. Or maybe it's just
                    because we know that the meat industry and its allies in Congress have for
                    years managed to kill every effort to reform the inspection and feed rules
                    -- including one that would have kept meat from this particular dairy cow
                    from ever reaching anybody's plate.

                    We should remember, this is not a new fight. It dates back nearly a century,
                    to Upton Sinclair and Teddy Roosevelt, uneasy allies who fought bitterly to
                    get the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 through a similarly recalcitrant
                    Congress. Ever since, cattle ranchers and meat packers have managed to water
                    down or kill efforts to strenghten federal rules on meat inspection,
                    slaughtering, and feed lot management. In that fight, the beef industry has
                    been aided by scores of allies in Congress, lawmakers willing to oppose any
                    measure that might make the meatpacking business less profitable. And with
                    the arrival of Bush and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman -- an
                    agribusiness lobbyist before joining Bush's team -- the industry has been
                    given red-carpet treatment. Now, the Madison Capital Times argues, the cost
                    of such laissez-faire political favoritism is becoming unavoidably clear.

                    "Veneman was put in charge of the Department of Agriculture by President
                    Bush because he knew the longtime advocate for the genetic modification of
                    food, factory farming and free trade policies that favor big agribusiness
                    over family farmers and consumers could be counted on to choose the side of
                    business interests over the public interest.

                    Veneman did just that when she announced that mad cow disease had been found
                    in the United States. Instead of offering a realistic response to the news,
                    she was still doing public relations for agribusiness. She declared the case
                    was isolated, praised the USDA for a 'swift and effective' response, and
                    discounted any risk to human health.

                    Unfortunately, because of the USDA's lax approach to inspections and
                    regulation, Venemen has no idea whether she is right."

                    In fact, the USDA has been more than lax -- as John Munsell knows too well.
                    As Mother Jones reported last month, the Montana meatpacker became a food
                    inspection activist after meat ground at his family-run plant tested
                    positive for E. coli. Munsell took his concerns to the USDA, and found out
                    what the agency's real priorities are.

                    "Instead of tracking the contaminated meat back to its source, the USDA
                    launched an investigation of Munsell's own operation in Miles City, Montana.
                    Never mind that the local federal inspector had seen the beef go straight
                    from the package into a clean grinder -- a USDA spokesman called that
                    testimony "hearsay." By February 2002, three more tests of meat Munsell was
                    grinding straight from the package came back positive in USDA tests for E.
                    coli. This time, as he would later testify in a government hearing, he had
                    paperwork documenting that the beef came from a single source: ConAgra's
                    massive Greeley, Colorado, facility, which kills as many cows in three hours
                    as Montana Quality Foods handles in a year.

                    Munsell fired off an angry email to the district USDA manager, warning of a
                    potential public-health emergency, and adding that if no one tracked down
                    the rest of the bad meat, "both of us should share a cell in Alcatraz." The
                    agency moved immediately and aggressively -- not to recall meat from
                    Greeley, but to shut down Munsell's grinding operation, a punishment that
                    lasted four months.


                    'I want the world to know what the real policies are,' says Munsell, driving
                    through Miles City, a ranching town on Montana's eastern plain where the
                    casinos compete with saddle shops on Main Street and the men don't take
                    their hats off for much. 'The real policies imperil the consumer," he says.
                    "The USDA doesn't want that out.'"

                    There is plenty of evidence to support Munsell's assertion. As James
                    Ridgeway of The Village Voice writes, a study by the Center for Public
                    Integrity found that "only 43 percent of all meat products recalled by their
                    manufacturers from 1990-1997 was recovered."

                    "The rest of the meat�some 17 million pounds�was eaten by unsuspecting
                    consumers. Yet Congress fought off efforts by the Secretary of Agriculture
                    during that time to get the authority to issue mandatory recalls of
                    contaminated meat.

                    The investigation found that during the 1990s the highly exclusive meat
                    business spent $41 million financing political campaigns of Congress
                    members, more than one third of them from House or Senate agriculture
                    committees. Among them: the majority and minority leaders of the Senate
                    (Trent Lott and Tom Daschle), the speaker of the House and the House
                    minority leader (Newt Gingrich and Dick Gephardt), and six past or present
                    chairmen or ranking minority members of the Senate and House agriculture

                    The cattle industry during that period employed 124 lobbyists to work the
                    Hill, 28 of them previously either lawmakers or aides to lawmakers. And it
                    worked. 'During the escalating public health crisis of the past decade,' the
                    Center reported, 'the food industry has managed to kill every bill that has
                    promised meaningful reform.' In lieu of any serious rulemaking, the Clinton
                    administration struck a weak-ass deal with the industry to allow cattlemen
                    to do their own inspections and label their records "trade secrets" so the
                    public can't look at them."

                    There is little chance the industry's friends in Congress will be able to
                    keep their stonewalling record intact. Already, the USDA has announced it
                    will ban the slaughtering of "downer" cattle -- animals that cannot move on
                    their own because of disease or some other ailment. The Washington state
                    dairy cow that tested positive for Mad Cow, it should be noted, was a
                    "downer". Of course, Congress had repeatedly failed to adopt a similar ban
                    -- even though it was already embraced by some of the meat industry's
                    largest clients, Wayne Pacelle writese in The Seattle Times.

                    "The fast-food industry -- led by McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King --
                    considers downer meat too dangerous for its customers and no longer buys it.
                    So do mink farmers who refuse to feed it to their animals.

                    Three years ago, the USDA banned it from the National School Lunch Program.
                    Several states including California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas,
                    Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin prohibit downers from being sold or killed at
                    state-inspected abattoirs, but have no control over federally regulated
                    slaughterhouses that process most of these disabled animals."

                    Still, there are other legislative initiatives in play, The Denver Post
                    reports, including one measure making it easier to track infected beef from
                    farms to markets. That bill was introduced a year ago, but has been blocked
                    by the beef industry's alllies on the Agriculture committee. But are such
                    changes enough? John Stauber, co-author of Mad Cow USA, insists it is not.
                    Writing on Alternet, Stauber argues that far more sweeping reforms are

                    "The feed rules that the United States must adopt can be summarized this
                    way: you might not be a vegetarian, but the animals you eat must be. The
                    United States must also institute an immediate testing regime that will test
                    millions of cattle, not the 20,000 tested out of 35 million slaughtered in
                    the past year in the United States. Japan now tests all cattle before
                    consumption, and disease experts like Dr. Prusiner recommend this goal for
                    the United States. And of course, no sick "downer" cows, barely able to
                    move, should be fed to any humans. These are the type of animals most likely
                    to be infected with mad cow and other ailments � although mad cows can also
                    seem completely healthy at the time of slaughter, which is why testing all
                    animals must be the goal.

                    Ann Veneman and the Bush administration, unfortunately, currently have no
                    plans to do the right thing. The United States meat industry still believes
                    that the millions of dollars in campaign contributions doled out over the
                    years will continue to forestall the necessary regulations, and that
                    soothing PR assurances will convince the consuming public that this is just
                    some vegetarian fear-mongering conspiracy concocted by the media to sell
                    organic food. Will the American public buy this bull? It has in the past."

                    Finally, while the current uproar is over a single cow, the problems with
                    our meat inspection and feed rules aren't limited to the beef industry, Geov
                    Parrish reminds us in his latest column on Working for Change. The entire
                    meat production business -- dominated by huge factory-farming conglomerates
                    -- is plagued by dangerous and inhumane practices which need to be exposed,
                    Parrish asserts.

                    For the worst corporate violators, the ones actually inspected and found to
                    be egregiously violating food safety laws, the penalties are slaps on the
                    wrist. Many large operations consider such fines a cost of doing business, a
                    pittance compared to the money they save through mistreatment of the
                    animals, fouling of the environment, and careless handling of the meat.

                    These issues are hardly confined to cattle -- industrial pig farming has
                    become notorious for its noxiousness -- or to meat. The use of antibiotics
                    on farm animals, pesticides on crops, and genetic engineering on anything
                    agribusiness can figure out how to "improve" all carry risks right through
                    the food chain into our bodies.


                    The discovery of mad cow disease in one cow, out of nearly 100 million now
                    living in the U.S., is hardly a major risk to the public. But the factors
                    that made it possible -- big agribusiness, lax regulation, and consumer
                    ignorance -- also fuel any number of far more common problems. For meat,
                    such problems are usually avoidable by buying organic meat free of
                    antibiotics and the ravages of factory farming. In fact, for nutrients and
                    taste as well as food safety, organics in general are well worth the higher

                    In the meantime, while we wait for Congress and the Bush administration to
                    take action, the carnivores among us can always follow the lead of the folks
                    at Free Range Graphics -- the animation jocks behind The Meatrix. Or we
                    could embrace the vegetarian option. Apparently, producers of
                    vegetable-based meat alternatives expect many of us will -- Planet Ark
                    reports several such companies expect their business is about to boom --
                    just not in Crawford, Texas.

                  • Tamilade Ukpai
                    Cry Haiti By Kevin Y. Kim Trouble brews as country heads toward bicentennial Haiti celebrates its 200th anniversary in January. But the majority of citizens of
                    Message 9 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                      Cry Haiti

                      By Kevin Y. Kim

                      Trouble brews as country heads toward bicentennial

                      Haiti celebrates its 200th anniversary in January. But the majority of
                      citizens of the Western Hemisphere�s second-oldest democracy still face
                      shorter lives, subsist on less than $1 a day, and struggle, jobless, in a
                      country sliding toward disorder, isolation and permanent penury.

                      �Haiti�s verged on crisis more times than I can count,� says Merrie Archer,
                      human rights director for the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. �This
                      past year alone, it�s courted catastrophe any number of times, yet reaches
                      the brink and pulls back again and again.�

                      In 2000, the country held legislative elections partly challenged by
                      international monitors who quit the country without overseeing the
                      presidential re-election of populist firebrand Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since
                      then, Haiti has been stuck in political gridlock, unleashing a cycle of
                      violence that has left the hands of government partisans, opposition figures
                      and lawless thugs equally bloodied.

                      On October 26, a girl riding a bicycle in the northern town of Gonaives died
                      from a stray bullet during an attack by antigovernment forces on a police
                      station. One month later, Aristide partisans fired on a crowd of protesters
                      outside a courthouse in Petit-Goave, wounding a 2-year-old. As Haiti�s
                      political crisis worsens, such tragic events increasingly become everyday
                      incidents�in the past two months, violent demonstrations have left at least
                      15 dead and dozens wounded.

                      Critical independent reporting in Haiti largely has disappeared. Since 2000,
                      about 30 Haitian journalists have gone into exile. The murder of its most
                      prominent, outspoken journalist Jean Dominique, remains unsolved in the
                      burgeoning docket of a judiciary powerless to stop spreading human rights
                      abuses. Already 146th in the world in human development and the poorest
                      country in the Americas, Haiti is the region�s second-most dangerous country
                      for journalists, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect

                      The growing crisis coincides with Aristide�s long-delayed promise to hold
                      elections in November and December. Not only are Haiti�s peace and
                      development at stake, but more than $500 million in foreign aid frozen by
                      the international community in response to the 2000 elections�including
                      millions of dollars in direct U.S. aid to the Haitian government, which
                      direly needs to bolster its democratic institutions.

                      Many observers, including U.S. officials, regard Aristide�s ability to
                      conduct free and fair elections pivotal to Haiti�s problems and future
                      international support. But that narrow focus ignores the inability of the
                      recently formed Haitian National Police (HNP) to ensure safe elections that
                      include the political opposition. After a promising start under U.N.
                      auspices, the HNP�s abandonment by a fickle international community in the
                      mid-�90s led to its corruption and politicization by competing government

                      �I�m not sure Aristide has total control of the country,� says Robert
                      Maguire, a former State Department staffer and leading Haiti expert. �There
                      are deeply ingrained political habits in Haiti that, if not Aristide
                      himself, then many around him have fallen captive to.� Louis Joinet, a
                      recent U.N. envoy to Haiti, has reported that the HNP is demoralized by its
                      inability to enforce significant rule of law, with some high-ranking
                      officers simply quitting.

                      Unsurprisingly, as of press time the Haitian government had yet to announce
                      an elections timetable. Instead of taking tension-reducing steps within its
                      power, Aristide�s government seems content to muddle through for now. Either
                      way, it�s unclear if Aristide can appease an intransigent opposition�partly
                      composed of former authoritarian and elitist elements with disturbing ties
                      to the International Republican Institute, a D.C.-based advocacy group
                      influential in Bush administration circles. Unlike Aristide, the opposition
                      lacks popular support and seems more bent on ousting Aristide and
                      destabilizing Haiti than reaching any electoral compromise.

                      �The government and opposition need to put their money where their mouths
                      are and come up with a viable program for the country,� Archer says.

                      After three years of an inconsistent, hands-off approach leaving Haiti
                      policy strongly driven by special interests, the Bush administration is
                      showing signs of a closer engagement with Haiti that could facilitate a
                      much-needed breakthrough. Recent bilateral cooperation over
                      narco-trafficking and refugee migration�two of Washington�s primary
                      concerns�has led the Bush administration to reiterate U.S. support for
                      Aristide, appoint a high-level envoy to study the ongoing crisis and approve
                      $202 million in multilateral loans.

                      But simply giving aid, shunning Aristide or holding rushed, one-sided
                      elections are unlikely to stem Haiti�s downward spiral. Equal, sustained
                      pressure must be brought by the U.S.-led international community against
                      Aristide and the opposition to finally put Haiti�s suffering people ahead of
                      their mutually destructive self-interests.

                      �Aristide�s no devil, but no angel either,� Maguire says. �But instead of
                      Bush�s past estrangement policy or Clinton�s soft love stance, we need a
                      tough love policy holding everyone accountable.�

                      Kevin Y. Kim was a 2001-2002 Fulbright Scholar in South Korea.

                    • Ivette Montemayor
                      An Introduction to Classic American Pragmatism Raymond Pfeiffer, who edited this issue, takes a look at the scope of the Pragmatic tradition. If pragmatism has
                      Message 10 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                        An Introduction to Classic American Pragmatism

                        Raymond Pfeiffer, who edited this issue, takes a look at the scope of the
                        Pragmatic tradition.

                        If pragmatism has meant different things to different people, which it has,
                        then our current issue should ruffle few feathers. Purists may, of course
                        react differently. But how could one be both a pragmatist and a purist?

                        In everyday speech, �pragmatism� expresses a penchant for the practical. But
                        as a philosophical movement, its roots run deeper. Its originator, the
                        brilliant Charles Peirce, was a rebellious thinker who, in the second half
                        of the nineteenth century, was gripped by both the natural sciences and the
                        need to ponder great philosophical questions. The lead essay by Cornelis de
                        Waal shows how scientific pursuits shaped Peirce�s philosophy. Pragmatism
                        was originally the thesis that the meaning of an idea can be found by
                        attention to its practical consequences. Such an idea is no mere penchant
                        for the practical: Rather, it is a direct and specific theory of meaning
                        with implications beyond the laboratory and the library.

                        As David Boersema points out in his essay on Peirce and Sartre, Peirce
                        eschewed the possibility of some innate intuition of a priori knowledge.
                        Although not a positivist, he thought natural science would approach the
                        truth. Pragmatism was one way he applied logic and the methodology of
                        science to philosophy. His theory of knowledge was fallibilist, breaking
                        with much of the philosophical tradition and maintaining that some beliefs
                        are true, some not, but that no knowledge is infallible, and that there is
                        no certainty. Yet Perice wasn�t a skeptic � he didn�t go so far as to argue
                        that we should suspend belief on all matters. He thought it worthwhile to
                        pursue metaphysical (but still uncertain) knowledge by trying to identify
                        and state the most general categories of all phenomena.

                        The second great pragmatist was William James, who seized upon Peirce�s
                        pragmatic principle to understand the religious life. James argued that it
                        could be entirely reasonable to live a religious life even though one did
                        not know with any certainty about the truth of religion. If the choice is
                        real, important and unavoidable, one�s full decision and commitment to live
                        a fully and deeply religious life can be as rational, coherent and
                        defensible as any decision we make in the presence of uncertainty. And all
                        real human decisions are made in the presence of extensive uncertainty.
                        James maintained that the practical needs of humans in this world might
                        justify beliefs and practices that cannot otherwise be proven true. The
                        faith of our fathers and mothers might be reasonable not because it is true,
                        but because it is practical.

                        Kevin Decker points out that the third great pragmatist, John Dewey, was
                        struck by the implications of the pragmatic maxim for human thought and
                        history in a broad sense. A fallibilist like Peirce and James, Dewey viewed
                        the old philosophical search for real, final, truths as a threat rather than
                        a virtue. It is the search for knowledge that emerges from the junk heap of
                        human thought and misguided prophets. Whatever promotes thinking, dialogue
                        and rational inquiry should be encouraged, and whatever stifles it avoided.
                        Dewey identified certain philosophical distinctions, called dualisms, as
                        obstacles to improved understanding. In the end, both human experience and
                        nature, for Dewey, lack sharp breaks, distinctions or dichotomies.
                        Destructive dualisms include supposed sharp ontological and epistemological
                        divisions between mind and body, between knowledge and inquiry, between
                        logic and reality, and between government and society. Since Dewey, other
                        philosophers such as W.V.O. Quine have harnessed the tools of linguistic
                        analysis to level devastating attacks on distinctions between analytic and
                        synthetic sentences, a priori and a posteriori knowledge, facts and
                        theories. As Nikolas Gkogkas shows, Nelson Goodman continued the pragmatic
                        juggernaut by attacking in analytic detail the distinction between art and

                        The influence of American pragmatism has been broad, and its
                        interrelationships with other philosophies rich. Boersema�s essay reveals
                        some suggestive and possibly historic relationships between the approaches
                        and conclusions of Peirce and Jean-Paul Sartre. Both started their inquiries
                        from similar points and came to similar conclusions about the nature of the
                        human self.

                        Richard Rorty, one of the most influential recent American pragmatists, was
                        interviewed by Giancarlo Marchetti. Rorty offers us reflections on James and
                        Dewey and further thoughts on some more contemporary movements such as
                        deconstructionism, forms of relativism, and anti-foundationalism. Rorty�s
                        controversial political writings are briefly summarized by Carol Nicholson
                        in her article about pragmatic patriotism.

                        Where Kevin Decker explains how Dewey sought to extend democracy to all
                        areas of life and promote a dialogue that builds on openness of vision to
                        promote justice, Nicholson addresses a philosophical problem of patriotism.
                        Given Rorty�s recognition that a sense of patriotism can inspire the best in
                        a people, how can it do so in the USA today? What can Americans draw from
                        their rich and varied past that can, intellectually, bring moral leadership?
                        Nicholson argues that Rorty�s choices, Dewey and Whitman, are not suitable.
                        Yet, Decker�s essay offers possible grounds for defending Dewey from
                        Nicholson�s charges.

                        So what then best characterizes American pragmatism? Consider six
                        characteristics. 1) Questions of the meaning of language are best resolved
                        by studying the practical consequences of the ideas and statements in
                        question. 2) The extent to which an idea fulfills important human goals
                        clarifies the idea and also provides important evidence for and against the
                        likelihood of its truth. 3) There is no real need for and little to be
                        gained from pursuit of a First Philosophy in Descartes� sense, or of a
                        foundation of our knowledge, or of the foundation of reality, or of the
                        foundation of all value, or of some set of basic truths that will answer the
                        great philosophical questions. 4) Sharp, fixed distinctions of thought and
                        reality are not reflected in nature, where one thing fades off into the
                        next, one flows into another and the complexity of our thought is clarified
                        only by theories that give tentative illumination to reality. 5)
                        Enlightenment by some form of a priori knowledge is illusory. Even the
                        definitions of our terms may be changed later, as inquiry proceeds. 6)
                        Whatever promotes reasoned dialogue, inquiry and further understanding is
                        good, and what stifles it is bad.

                        Can one be a strict pragmatist? It seems unlikely if one is to steer clear
                        of dualisms, recognize the tentative nature of concepts and theories and
                        avoid commitment to a supposed First Philosophy. Pragmatism does not merely
                        reach out in all directions to all forms of thought: it is self-conscious
                        and self-reflective and self-critical. That is, it is prone to examine its
                        own ideas as tentative. We may one day need to reformulate parts of some of
                        our thinking about ourselves. And finally, no parts of our thinking are
                        immune to the weight of evidence that might come in future experience.

                      • Gabriel Wimpfheimer
                        Sex in the Garden by Sharman Apt Russell They met in the desert, on a sultry New Mexican night. Their affair was brief, a few stolen moments. It was everything
                        Message 11 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                          Sex in the Garden

                          by Sharman Apt Russell

                          They met in the desert, on a sultry New Mexican night. Their affair was
                          brief, a few stolen moments. It was everything they desired.

                          ach flower on a sacred datura plant blooms only for a night. During those
                          brief hours, the large silky trumpet-shaped blossom must do everything it
                          can to attract a suitor: one who will sip the sugary nectar at the base of
                          the floral tube, pick up grains of pollen (the flower's male sperm), and
                          carry these off to fertilize another flower on another sacred datura. Sex is
                          the sine qua non. For this reason alone, the creamy white petals of Datura
                          wrightii open at twilight (or on cloudy days), release a lemony scent, and
                          seem to glow in the dark.

                          Luscious and seductive, sensuous and sly, Datura wrightii is a rather common
                          weed whose dark-green heart-shaped leaves grow in mounds along roadsides, in
                          ditches and arroyos, on desert slopes and in pinyon-juniper forests from
                          California to Texas. Varieties of the plant are also called thorn apple,
                          angel's trumpet, moonflower, jimsonweed and, somewhat appropriately, devil's

                          When my children were small, I carefully rooted out the sacred datura around
                          my house and property in New Mexico. When they were older, I showed them a
                          patch of the blue-green leaves, a healthy tangle four feet high with green
                          prickly fruit and six-inch-long flowers, and I explained: These plants are
                          members of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family, with high concentrates of
                          alkaloids such as atropine, a component of belladonna. Every part -- leaf,
                          flower, and seed -- is toxic.

                          Native Americans traditionally used sacred datura as a hallucinogen by
                          soaking and steeping the leaves into a tea or chewing the seeds or roots. In
                          one Zuni myth, "When the earth was still soft," two curious children spied
                          on the gods and later gossiped about the secrets they saw. The Twin War Gods
                          were so upset that they caused the earth to swallow up the children and, at
                          the place where they disappeared, the sacred datura grew and blossomed for
                          the first time. The use of the plant, even by experienced rain priests or
                          shamans, is considered dangerous: Visions can turn into convulsions or
                          death. Only a few years ago, teenagers in El Paso, Texas, went into the
                          desert near where I live and made a tea of sacred datura, hoping for a
                          vision or cheap high. Two boys died. A third came home, staggering and
                          delirious, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

                          I also grew up in the desert, and as a teenager in the early 1970s, I heard
                          stories about "datura tea." This gorgeous, sinister flower has become part
                          of my understanding of the natural world, where beauty and violence often
                          intertwine -- or wear the same face. The beautiful white trumpets of the
                          sacred datura still evoke in me a physical response: a slight hollowness in
                          the chest, a momentary stillness. Perhaps that is why when Datura wrightii
                          began to reappear on the edges of my garden, in the scruffier parts of the
                          backyard where the ground slopes and weeds take over, I was happy to see the
                          plant leaf and bloom. Often in the summer as the sky turned dusky, I would
                          take a backyard stroll, drawn ineluctably to those opening flowers flaunting
                          their scent, their curvy shape, their luminous color.

                          None of this come-hither had anything to do with me, of course. The drama of
                          any flower is designed to attract its pollinator, usually an insect. For
                          most sacred datura in the wild, that pollinator is a stout-bodied,
                          fast-flying species of sphinx moth, often the tobacco hornworm moth (Manduca
                          sexta). In my garden, however, the more popular visitor is the white-lined
                          sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) commonly found across the United States.

                          Sometimes mistaken for a hummingbird, the white-lined sphinx moth hovers
                          while feeding, its wings a-whir as it sips nectar from a larkspur or evening
                          primrose or the deep white tube of a sacred datura. Its proboscis, or
                          "drinking straw," extends more than an inch, over half the length of its
                          body, a kind of magic trick, like pulling an impossibly long scarf from your
                          sleeve. After a few seconds, the moth rotor-whirls away, a spinning dervish,
                          a Black Hawk on a mission. Although the body appears unnecessarily large, it
                          enables the moth to regulate its temperature: shivering to warm up and
                          circulating blood through the abdomen (which acts like an air-cooled
                          radiator) to cool down. They are hard to see despite their size; they seem
                          to be in constant motion, quickly buzzing past your ear or hair. Like most
                          moths, they have wonderful eyesight and they can keep feeding as the sun
                          sets, through dusk, starlight, and moonshine.

                          My experience with white-lined sphinx moths is kaleidoscopic. They are a
                          blur, a movement that seems half-imagined. Then, suddenly, they come
                          perfectly in focus, poised before a white flower, the heavy body kept aloft
                          by the beat of narrow wings. One can fully appreciate their display of color
                          and symmetry only when they are dead -- which is how I usually encounter
                          them, my broom sweeping up a stiff corpse hidden in a corner. (This is how
                          most of us get to know moths, when they invade our houses and die there.)

                          More often than not, I stop to spread out the sphinx moth's body and admire
                          its pattern: the upper wings slashed with a diagonal buff-colored band, the
                          shorter wings marked with broad bands of pink and black. The furry brown
                          head and thorax are vertically striped in white. Down the brown back are
                          alternating squares of black and white. The effect reminds me of an Escher

                          The caterpillars of these moths are also highly designed: variably colored,
                          often lime-green or yellow, with side rows of spots bordered by black lines,
                          and a protruding yellow-orange rear horn, whose function is to scare off
                          attackers. These larvae have the habit of rising up like miniature sphinxes,
                          regal and demanding, daring you to interfere with their happy lives of
                          eating. Periodically, they hatch from their eggs en masse and can be seen
                          migrating toward food. Recently, an amateur entomologist reported on the
                          Internet a herd of larvae stretched out for hundreds of yards on a
                          well-traveled road in Tucson, Arizona. Amid carcasses "splattered
                          everywhere," thousands of live yellow caterpillars were dashing across the
                          hot pavement. Eventually the larvae make shallow burrows in the soil where
                          they pupate and emerge, usually in several broods, from February to

                          My friend Rob Raguso, a biologist at the University of South Carolina, has
                          been studying sphinx moths for over a decade. In 1993, he placed electrodes
                          on their antennae to record their responses to different odor compounds. He
                          wondered what, exactly, these moths could smell. It turned out they could
                          smell everything, at least every floral odor from sweet to spicy that Rob
                          could produce. Rob also wondered how a sphinx moth, with its
                          sesame-seed-sized brain, knew when to stop and feed. How does a moth
                          experience the world?

                          At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Rob manipulated sacred datura
                          plants. Flowers covered with dyed cheesecloth bags could be smelled but not
                          seen. Flowers with plastic bags over them could be seen but not smelled.
                          White paper funnels with nectar tubes simulated real flowers but without
                          fragrance. In the end, he realized that sphinx moths were fairly
                          discriminating. In order to be fully seduced -- to slow down and uncurl
                          their proboscis -- the moths need both the right smell (that lemony scent)
                          and a visual display (those creamy-white petals tinged with lavender).

                          Rob is studying the white-lined sphinx moth's courtship with evening
                          primroses in Utah. Wild evening primroses are delicate flowers with yellow
                          or white petals that seem tissue-thin, veined like the skin of the very
                          young or old. Female sphinx moths lay eggs on these plants while drinking
                          nectar. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the flower buds and petals. "I'd
                          like to look at the costs and benefits," Rob says, "of having white-lined
                          sphinxes as your pollinator."

                          In other words, why attract a suitor whose offspring will turn around and
                          eat you up? Perhaps the key is timing. If you have already sent your pollen
                          into the world, if your eggs have been fertilized and gone to seed, then
                          your job is done. You don't mind being nibbled to death.

                          Rob's study was inspired by his observation that primrose flowers being
                          eaten by sphinx moth caterpillars produce a fragrance different from that of
                          flowers from an undamaged plant. Like the sphinx moth, Rob specializes in
                          smell: where smells are produced on a flower, how they evolve in a plant,
                          what role they have in pollination and plant-insect interactions. Like a
                          perfumer, he has trained his nose to recognize hundreds of floral scents.
                          "Instead of smelling like Earl Grey tea," he says, "the flowers of these
                          wounded plants smell faintly like cream."

                          When being eaten by caterpillars, crop plants like corn and cotton produce
                          flowerlike fragrances from their leaves. This chemical cry for help drifts
                          through the air and attracts insects such as wasps, which hurry over to eat
                          or parasitize the caterpillars. From the plant's point of view, these wasps
                          are the cavalry. Rob wants to know what happens to plants such as evening
                          primroses that already produce a flowerlike fragrance. Is their change in
                          odor a similar cry for help? If not, what are their strategies against
                          pollinators who have become abusive?

                          In truth, pollination often involves abuse, a range of violence and deceit.
                          Some orchids imprison their pollinators in a carnival fun-house of chutes
                          and cages. Sometimes these flowers eject their pollinium (a disk of pollen
                          with a stem attached) into a sphinx moth's eye, an experience akin to having
                          a hockey stick attached to your face. Eventually, the vision-impaired insect
                          may starve if it cannot feed itself. In the meantime, it might pollinate a
                          few more flowers. Flowers pretend to have nectar when they don't, or they
                          exaggerate the richness of their pollen with bright yellow coloring. In the
                          common milkweed, pollen can stick so persistently to a visiting bumblebee
                          that, as the bee flies away, its legs tear off. This doesn't matter so much
                          to the milkweed if the bee has already brought some pollen to fertilize its

                          By comparison, the interaction between a sacred datura and a white-lined
                          sphinx moth almost seems romantic. At least no one is getting hurt. In my
                          garden, after the big night, the datura flower hangs limp, wilted, hopefully
                          fertilized. The white-lined sphinx moth is somewhere around, waiting and
                          sheltering against the day's heat. If it is a male sphinx moth, he waits to
                          find a female to mate before he dies. If it is a female sphinx moth, she
                          waits to mate and then lay her eggs before she dies. In any case, her life
                          span as a moth measures three to ten days. Meanwhile, the datura plant is an
                          important food source.

                          I like this pollination story in part because it is a common one. The sacred
                          datura is classified as a weed and the white-lined sphinx moth as a pest,
                          not endangered, not threatened (although heavy uses of herbicides and
                          insecticides could change that). Their lives are entirely their own. They
                          are indifferent to me, my children, my garden. They care, really, about one
                          thing only. You know what that is. The white trumpet unfolds. The proboscis
                          uncurls. It's as complicated as that.

                        • Denise Gordon
                          The Tragedy of Rwanda by Lukin Robinson U.S. Hegemony: Continuing Decline, Enduring Danger by Richard B. Du Boff The Demand for Order and the Birth of Modern
                          Message 12 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                            The Tragedy of Rwanda
                            by Lukin Robinson

                            U.S. Hegemony: Continuing Decline, Enduring Danger
                            by Richard B. Du Boff

                            The Demand for Order and the Birth of Modern Policing
                            by Kristian Williams

                            Sneak and Peek
                            by Marge Piercy

                            The Tragedy of Rwanda
                            by Lukin Robinson


                            Lukin Robinson is a longtime trade unionist in Ontario, Canada.

                            Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the
                            Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton University Press, 2001), 384 pages, paperback

                            Linda Melvern, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda�s Genocide
                            (London and New York: Zed Books, 2000), 288 pages, hardcover $69.95,
                            paperback $19.95.

                            In Rwanda, in four months of 1994, as many as a million people were
                            massacred in a well prepared and organized orgy of killing amounting to
                            genocide. Seldom in recorded history has there been such a concentrated
                            frenzy of mass murder of innocent people. How could such a thing have
                            happened? Who was responsible? Could it have been prevented and why wasn�t
                            it? These questions are the subject of the two books under review.

                            Linda Melvern�s book deals with all three questions, Mahmood Mamdani�s deals
                            mostly with the first. Melvern is an English journalist and author. Mamdani
                            was born and brought up in Uganda and is now a professor and the director of
                            the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. The style of each
                            book reflects the profession of its author.

                            A Canadian, General Rom�o Dallaire, is the hero of the Rwandan tragedy. He
                            was the commander of the UN peacekeeping force sent to Rwanda in 1993. There
                            are a few other heroes as well, but mostly the genocide is a story of
                            hatred, slaughter, unimaginable horror, fear, cowardice and betrayal. It is
                            one of the great crimes of the last century. It is also the great
                            unacknowledged scandal of the Clinton administration.

                            Rwanda is a small, landlocked country in Central Africa, with seven to eight
                            million people. It is all hills, mountains, and valleys. It was in Rwanda
                            that Diane Fossey studied the mountain gorillas and tried at the cost of her
                            life to protect them from poachers. It has no railways, but passable roads.
                            The people are overwhelmingly rural and make their living from the land, as
                            owners, herdsmen or peasants. Most of them are also poor.

                            Unlike many African countries, Rwanda�s people all speak the same language
                            and, until the advent of the Catholic Church, shared the same religion and
                            told the same ancestral stories. But, when the Europeans arrived at the end
                            of the nineteenth century, Rwandans were divided into three castes: the
                            Tutsi, the Hutu, and a tiny minority of Twa.

                            The Tutsis, accounting for 14 percent of the population, were the rulers,
                            the Hutu, accounting for 85 percent, were the ruled, and the Twa were the
                            remaining 1 percent. The Tutsis owned the land and raised cows. The more
                            cows a Tutsi owned, the greater his wealth and power and the higher his
                            status in the ruling hierarchy. The Hutu cultivated the land and were in
                            effect serfs of the Tutsi lords, to whom they had to give part of their
                            harvest in return for protection and the use of a cow. As long as the
                            population was small, this system was stable, although oppressive.

                            But as the population grew, trouble developed. More Tutsis meant more cows,
                            taking up more and more of the land and pressing irreconcilably on the land
                            needed by the growing number of Hutu for cultivation. Just as the livelihood
                            of the Hutu majority was threatened, so was the power of the Tutsi minority.
                            The conflict came to a head in the 1950s.

                            The first European to set foot in Rwanda was the German Count G. A. von
                            G�tzen. He arrived in 1894. In 1885, the Berlin Conference had �awarded�
                            Rwanda to Germany�without consulting or even informing the Rwandans. In 1918
                            Rwanda and its neighbor Burundi were awarded to Belgium as a mandate under
                            the League of Nations and later the United Nations. With the Belgians came
                            the Catholic Church. It gathered many adherents and became a pillar of the
                            combined Belgian and Tutsi rule. When, in the 1950s, movements of national
                            liberation from colonialism took hold in Africa as they had elsewhere, the
                            Tutsis began to agitate against Belgian authority. Hoping to maintain its
                            position, Belgium switched its support to the Hutu, who were allowed to take
                            power in 1959 in a bloody revolution. The underdog became the top dog. There
                            were widespread massacres of Tutsis, as well as the first wave of Tutsis
                            fleeing in fear of their lives into neighboring countries, especially Uganda
                            to the north and Burundi to the south, where Tutsis still held power. They
                            were followed by many thousands more. This was the beginning of the descent
                            to genocide.

                            Mamdani sets out three identities: cultural, market-based, and political. By
                            political, he means a person�s ethnic or racial identity as defined by the
                            state. He considers political identity to be primary, so that the key
                            difference between Tutsi and Hutu was their ethnic or supposed racial
                            origin. He argues against the opposite tendency �to see political identity
                            as derivative of either market-based or cultural identities� (p. 21). But,
                            however important it may be in itself, political identity is also the door
                            to economic opportunity. Thus: �The key socioeconomic right is the right to
                            use land as a source of livelihood.� This right is �not accessed
                            individually but by virtue of membership in the ethnic community...The link
                            between political violence and social redistribution has been key to
                            revolutionary politics everywhere� (pp. 29, 201). So it was in Rwanda.
                            �Political� and �market-based� identities were inseparable. Colonialism made
                            use of both. Hence, �the Rwandan genocide needs to be thought through within
                            the logic of colonialism� (p. 9).

                            The Belgian colonial administration displaced the native king as the symbol
                            of national authority and made the local chiefs, all of whom were Tutsi,
                            their agents of government, solely responsible to the central administration
                            and ending any form of accountability to their communities. The colonial
                            administration, together with the Catholic Church, also promoted the myth
                            that the Tutsi were of Hamitic origin and were therefore descended from a
                            superior, partly Caucasian race who had come to Rwanda centuries ago from
                            the northeast�Ethiopia and southern Sudan. The administration thus changed
                            the difference between the Tutsi and the Hutu from an ethnic to a racial
                            one. This was confirmed in the identity card issued to each person which
                            �classified the entire population as Tutsi, Hutu or Twa.� Tutsi power and
                            privilege was thus identified with race, foreign versus indigenous,
                            non-native versus native. The Tutsi were exalted as superior, the Hutu
                            branded as inferior. As Mamdani explains, the change was crucial and

                            To make things worse, Belgian rule was the harshest the Hutu remembered ever
                            having endured. The power of the chiefs was reinforced; the administration
                            of �customary� law became stricter as well as arbitrary; state and church
                            taxes were increased, and more and more unpaid, forced labor was required
                            for a growing variety of purposes. Finally, because famines were frequent,
                            the peasants were required to grow famine-resistant but protein-deficient
                            crops plus coffee, which was the country�s main export and was required to
                            pay for �development.� The agents for all this oppression were the Tutsi
                            chiefs, who were happy to believe in the myth of their superiority. The Hutu
                            had their own reasons for believing the myth; it added acid to their hatred.

                            The revolution of 1959, leading to independence in 1962, changed the state�s
                            top personnel from Tutsi to Hutu. But the new regime failed to change much
                            else. The Tutsis retained their position in the lower ranks of government;
                            they continued to run the church and church education and most of the
                            non-agricultural economy. In short, they continued to dominate so-called
                            civil society. The gradually developing Hutu elite, in particular the
                            students vainly looking for jobs, became increasingly dissatisfied.

                            In July 1973, the relatively moderate Hutu government was overthrown and the
                            head of the Rwandan army (General Juvenal Habyarimana) became president. The
                            new government at first sought accommodation with the Tutsi. It changed the
                            designation of the Tutsi back from racial to ethnic and wanted to give them
                            a place in Rwandan society in proportion to their number, i.e. 14 percent.
                            This meant quotas throughout the government, the church, and the economy.
                            The Tutsi naturally did not see this �accommodation� as a blessing.
                            Thousands lost their jobs, and the tensions arising from enforcing the
                            quotas made many fear for their safety; thousands fled. From their point of
                            view, democracy for the Hutu meant despotism for them.

                            But a drive to exclude the Tutsi won out. In particular, the president�s
                            wife, Agathe Kazinga, her three brothers, and their cronies gained
                            increasing power and appropriated�actually stole�privatized state property.
                            The regime became a dictatorship, which the Tutsi, together with a small but
                            growing number of the Hutu majority, opposed. The economy also turned sour.
                            There were recurring droughts and famines, the price of coffee collapsed,
                            and a structural adjustment program (SAP) imposed by the IMF was the last

                            Many Tutsi fled to refugee camps in Uganda, seeing no hope under the new
                            regime. The early refugees wanted above all to go back home and, together
                            with the new generation growing up without hope or prospects, they turned
                            increasingly to armed struggle. At first there were only small groups of
                            so-called terrorists, but eventually a powerful force was built up under the
                            leadership of what called itself the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). It had
                            the support of the Ugandan government, which wanted the refugees out. Every
                            incursion into Rwanda led to renewed Tutsi massacres and new waves of
                            refugees, and each of these in turn lead to an increase in the determination
                            of the RPF and the strength of its army.

                            In 1990, the RPF forces embarked on a full-scale invasion. They saw
                            themselves as liberators; but most Hutu feared and hated them as returning
                            oppressors. When in 1993 the RPF reached the outskirts of the capital,
                            Kigali, President Habyarimana appealed to his friend President Mitterrand of
                            France�a bad man if ever there was one�who quickly sent a contingent of
                            French paratroopers. The RPF could easily have beaten the Rwandan army, but
                            French paratroopers were something else. The result was a stand-off.

                            During these years Agathe Kazinga and her clique began to advocate for the
                            extermination of the Tutsi, as well as of all Hutu opposed to the
                            increasingly corrupt and oppressive dictatorship. A new radio station was
                            established to spew hatred and prepare the Hutu population for the genocide.
                            More arms and ammunition were bought from abroad, mostly from Egypt, and
                            Rwanda became the third largest African importer of weapons. The army was
                            expanded from five thousand to twenty-eight thousand men and was trained by
                            the French. A new militia, the Interahamwe, crazed with racism, was
                            organized throughout the country. Together with the Presidential Guard and
                            the army, it took a leading part in the genocide. The hate broadcasts and
                            calls for the extermination of the Tutsis became more frequent and vicious;
                            arms were stockpiled and, when the time came, were openly distributed to the
                            waiting killers. The slaughter was planned and organized at the top, and was
                            systematically carried out. Lists of people to be killed were drawn up.
                            Every Hutu was encouraged to take part. Hundreds of thousands did. The
                            preparations for the coming slaughter were well known and reported many
                            times in the foreign press. Repeated warnings were sent to the Belgian,
                            French, and U.S. governments, and later also to the UN. No one would ever be
                            able to plead ignorance.

                            In the evening of April 6, 1994, the president�s plane was shot down as it
                            approached the Kigali airport. The president and his advisers were returning
                            from a meeting intended to ensure the implementation of the Arusha
                            Accords�the peace agreement between the government and the RPF reached the
                            previous summer. The genocide began the next day. It lasted one hundred
                            days. Most of the victims were Tutsi, but Hutu relatives, friends, and
                            political moderates were not spared either.

                            Both books describe what happened in horrifying detail. There was no effort
                            to keep the genocide secret or hidden. It was not carried out in death camps
                            and gas chambers in remote areas. It was all done in the open and publicly,
                            in the streets and public buildings, with clubs, knives, and machetes, as
                            often as with guns. It could be seen and heard everywhere. Churches,
                            schools, and hospitals, where people gathered thinking they would be safe,
                            were instead the scene of wholesale massacres; hundreds and probably
                            thousands were burned alive.

                            The ten Belgian peacekeepers sent to protect the prime minister were taken
                            prisoner and murdered. So was the prime minister and her husband, the
                            president of the Constitutional Court, and every member of the proposed
                            broad-based transitional government called for under the Arusha Accords, as
                            well as political leaders, government officials, and every priest, doctor,
                            lawyer, teacher, student, and journalist, whether Tutsi or Hutu, known to be
                            opposed to the dictatorship. Trying to help those in danger was to risk, and
                            for many to lose, one�s life.

                            Most astonishing of all, doctors and nurses as well as priests, nuns, and
                            teachers took an active part in the slaughter, including the murder of their
                            own Tutsi colleagues. All were prime enthusiasts of the genocide. Mamdani
                            writes: �How could it be that most massacres of the genocide took place in
                            churches? How could all these institutions that we associate with nurturing
                            life�not only churches, but schools and even hospitals�be turned into places
                            where life was taken with impunity and facility?� A doctor reported that
                            �some of the most horrific massacres occurred in maternity clinics, where
                            people gathered in the belief that no one would kill mothers and new born
                            babies� (p. 227).

                            Tutsi women and the children of mixed marriages were killed by their
                            husbands and fathers. A survivor told of Hutu men who were �forced to kill
                            their Tutsi wives before they got to kill anyone else. One man tried to
                            refuse. He was told he must choose between his wife and himself. He chose to
                            save his own life. Another man rebuked him for having killed his Tutsi wife.
                            That man was also killed� (p. 4).

                            The Rwandan army was finally routed in July 1994 and the genocide came to an
                            end. But the victorious RPF took over a ravaged and ruined country. The
                            government buildings were in a shambles, there were no chairs, no desks, no
                            paper, no telephones, nothing. The streets of the capital were almost empty.
                            Sixty percent of the population was either dead or displaced. The flood of
                            Hutu, fleeing the country as well as their own guilt and fear of revenge,
                            �broke all refugee records; it was the fastest and largest exodus ever
                            recorded. In two days, about one million people crossed into Zaire.
                            According to one observer, it was as though the whole country was emptying�
                            (Melvern, pp. 217�18).

                            And suddenly, when the flood began, the so-called international community
                            and the media opened their eyes and saw that a new humanitarian crisis was
                            in the making, although refusing to see that it was a consequence of the
                            genocide which they had done so little to prevent or stop. Having turned
                            their backs on the Tutsi and Hutu moderates when they were being
                            slaughtered, they now overflowed with sympathy and help for their killers.
                            The United States allocated $300�400 million for humanitarian aid, with up
                            to four thousand troops and hundreds of civilian relief workers. They
                            arrived within three days and began distributing fresh water and food to the
                            refugees. How easily it could have been done four months earlier!

                            The flood of refugees led to further disasters. The Hutu killer-leaders
                            among the refugees terrorized and made life hell for everyone else, so much
                            so that some relief agencies had to leave. The remnants of the Rwandan army
                            and militia were merged and slowly rearmed. They then began incursions into
                            Rwanda, killing and pillaging at random and boasting that they would
                            reconquer the whole country. They also got involved in Zaire�s civil war,
                            which eventually drew in several other central and southern African
                            countries and has cost up to three million lives. Recovery and
                            reconstruction in Rwanda proceeded at a snail�s pace. Outside help was�and
                            still is�a mere fraction of what was needed. It is easy to apologize after
                            the event, as President Clinton did when he visited Rwanda. What the people
                            have needed since the genocide, but did not get, is generous and
                            disinterested aid in rebuilding their ruined country.

                            A shortcoming of Mamdani�s book is his treatment of the question: could the
                            genocide have been prevented? He quotes the opinion of a United States
                            Agency for International Development official that �it would have been
                            virtually impossible to do anything under the circumstances,� but admits
                            that General Dallaire thought otherwise. He says,�Many were killed right in
                            front of UN troops, who just stood by and let it happen,� without mentioning
                            that, under instructions from UN headquarters in New York, they were
                            forbidden to intervene if it meant using force. His disinterest in the
                            international betrayal of Rwanda is illustrated by his single reference to
                            General Dallaire, whose name he misspells and whom he refers to as �the
                            Belgian commander in charge of UN forces in Rwanda� (emphasis added). In
                            contrast, Linda Melvern marshals the evidence which amply justifies the
                            title of her book.2

                            If Mitterand had not sent French paratroopers to support the government when
                            the RPF was about to take Kigali, the RPF would have won in 1993. A year
                            later the French intervened again to protect the fleeing ragtag of the
                            Rwandan army and helped it to escape into Zaire. The French bear a heavy

                            Under the Arusha Accords of 1993 to end the civil war, a UN peacekeeping
                            force was to be sent to Rwanda to observe and help the parties carry out the
                            agreement. The trouble was that the Rwandan government had no intention of
                            carrying them out. On the other hand, the UN force approved by the Security
                            Council was given only a peacekeeping mandate. This assumed that both sides
                            wanted the accords to succeed and needed only some help in resolving
                            differences. The peacekeeping mandate was thus based on an illusion. It also
                            had a low priority in New York. It did not take General Dallaire long to
                            realize this. He at first asked for a minimum of 4,500 troops. The Security
                            Council cut this down to 2,400. They were under-equipped, and many units had
                            only one or two days� water supply and rations, about twenty rounds of
                            ammunition for each soldier and practically no reserves of fuel. The
                            timorous officials in New York kept General Dallaire under constant
                            restraining instructions and he was not allowed to intervene with force when
                            the genocide began. And when the ten Belgian peacekeepers were killed,
                            Belgium recalled its entire contingent of 1,000 men. Thereupon Britain and
                            the United States proposed that all peacekeepers be withdrawn. A
                            �compromise� was eventually reached; the Security Council agreed that 270
                            would be left. Dallaire defied the council and kept 456. Even so, this was
                            hardly more than a token force. The exterminators in Rwanda concluded that
                            they had a free hand to do as they pleased, which they did.

                            Meanwhile, Belgium, France, and Italy sent troops, but under orders to
                            rescue Europeans only. Rwandan staff of foreign embassies and aid agencies
                            were left behind. This made it plain that foreign lives were valuable,
                            Rwandan lives were not. In authorizing the peacekeepers to use force if
                            necessary to help the evacuation, but not to protect Rwandans, UN
                            headquarters expressed the same view. It was a flagrant betrayal. Dallaire
                            was bitter: �We were left to fend for ourselves with neither mandate nor
                            supplies,...an inexcusable apathy by sovereign states that make up the UN
                            that is completely beyond comprehension and moral acceptability� (Melvern,
                            pp. 147�48).

                            At every point, the United States blocked effective UN action and obstructed
                            every preventive measure, with the detestable Madeleine Albright taking the
                            lead and public responsibility for Clinton�s political cowardice. The
                            governments of Belgium, England, and France were not far behind. The excuse
                            that no troops were available is false. Troops to rescue foreigners were
                            sent within a couple of days, and later, troops�French troops in
                            particular�were promptly sent to protect the fleeing refugees from the
                            pursuing RFP. After the Belgium contingent was withdrawn, Ghana offered to
                            increase its contingent and ten other countries offered troops, but they
                            lacked weapons; these could easily have been supplied by the rich countries
                            with ample stocks and money. There were no offers. More than criminal
                            negligence, this amounted to knowingly encouraging the killers by allowing
                            them a free hand.

                            Linda Melvern writes: �Dallaire had trained and risen through the ranks of
                            an army proud of its tradition of peacekeeping. He was a committed
                            internationalist and had first hand experience of UN missions. He was a hard
                            worker. And he was obstinate� (p. 83). But nothing had prepared him for what
                            he was compelled to witness but not allowed to prevent in Rwanda. When he
                            returned to Canada, he suffered prolonged and disabling trauma, from which
                            he has now recovered and has become a powerful voice of conscience.

                            We must not forget the background and circumstances of the chicken-hearted
                            perfidy of the governments which allowed the genocide to happen. This was
                            not the first example of such behavior, nor will it be the last. The current
                            policy in the �war on terrorism� and against Iraq is but the latest in a
                            long line of imperialist villainy and crime. To know of this behavior, and
                            to be angered by it, is to oppose it. Mamdani�s book, as he himself says, is
                            mainly for specialists in area studies and as such is valuable. Linda
                            Melvern�s book is an exemplary piece of political history, and is for


                            Linda Melvern writes: �The idea that Hutu and Tutsi were distinct ethnic
                            groups appears to have originated with the colonial agent and celebrated
                            explorer John Hanning Speke, who �discovered� and named Lake Victoria in
                            1859....[He] theorized that in this part of Central Africa there was a
                            superior race, which differed from the common order of natives....The Tutsi
                            ruling classes were thought to have come from further north, perhaps
                            Ethiopia, and were more closely related to the �noble Europeans� � (p. 8).
                            See Mamdani, p. 23. See also Ryszard Kapuscinski, �A Lecture on Rwanda� in
                            The Shadow of the Sun (New York: Knopf, Vintage Books, 2002). �Only one
                            group inhabits Rwanda, the Banyarwanda, a single nation divided into three
                            castes; the Tutsi cattle owners, the Hutu farmers and the Twa labourers and
                            servants� (p. 165). Kapuscinski�s lecture is an eloquent and moving summary
                            of the background and events of the genocide, although regrettably it does
                            not deal with the role of West.

                            There is another account of the Rwanda tragedy for which two Canadians can
                            take a great deal of credit. In 1997, the Organization for African Unity
                            (OAU) appointed an International Panel of Eminent Persons to report on what
                            had happened. Stephen Lewis was a member of the Panel and Gerald Caplan was
                            its principal writer and author of the report, Rwanda �The Preventable
                            Genocide. It confirms all the main facts and conclusions of Linda Melvern�s
                            book and carries the story of the resulting upheavals in Central Africa
                            forward for the following five years. It is unsparing in its criticism and
                            condemnation of the UN, the United States, France, Belgium, and others
                            responsible for what happened, all the more remarkable because it has the
                            authority of the eleven panelists from four continents who signed it.
                            Unfortunately, copies of the report are as scarce as hens� teeth and
                            practically impossible to get, except perhaps from the OAU.

                          • Reg Engelbrecht
                            Gagged Proposed mining activity by BHP Billiton, backed by the Australian government, threatens both West Papua�����s environment and Indonesia�����s fragile
                            Message 13 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003

                              Proposed mining activity by BHP Billiton, backed by the Australian
                              government, threatens both West Papua�s environment and Indonesia�s fragile

                              by Jason Mcleod

                              Abdul Teng is in his element. Mr Teng is from the North Malukus and is the
                              head of Gambir Village, the only settlement on Gag Island, a diminutive and
                              isolated 56-square-kilometre coral atoll located 150km north-west of Sorong,
                              in the Raja Ampat archipelago, the world�s most diverse marine environment.
                              He agreed to talk about BHP Billiton�s planned open-pit nickel mine on Gag
                              Island, and his settlement of around 600 people.

                              Abdul Teng talks animatedly about his time working for the company and his
                              hopes that the mine may soon be operational. Asked about the company�s
                              environmental record, Mr Teng looks reflective, smiles, pulls back on his
                              clove cigarette and tells a story:

                              One time a big snake came into our village. Everybody was running around in
                              a panic. We all wanted to kill it, but one of the Australian men who worked
                              for the company wouldn�t let us. He made us catch the snake. We put it in a
                              sack and carried it into the forest where we released it. Also whenever we
                              travelled on the company�s boat we weren�t allowed to throw our cigarette
                              butts into the ocean. All the workers had to put out their smokes in the
                              ashtrays provided. So you see, this is definitely a company that cares about
                              the environment.

                              Abdul Teng says that he trusts that BHP Billiton will respect the
                              environment and protect the people�s gardens, sago palms and fishing
                              grounds, but adds that if they don�t �the people will close the mine down�.
                              Mr Teng hasn�t heard of Ok Tedi. He doesn�t know that the same company that
                              wanted the people of Gambir Village to protect snakes on Gag and encouraged
                              them not to throw their cigarette butts into the ocean also dumped 80,000
                              tons of toxic tailings daily into the Fly River. The tailings sucked the
                              life out of the Fly and destroyed the livelihood of those who depended on
                              it. Local people can no longer catch fish. Their sago palms and food gardens
                              are smothered under a blanket of waste stretching for hundreds of kilometres
                              along the river. Thousands of square kilometres of rainforest have been
                              poisoned. The dead trunks point upwards like bony fingers, giving silent
                              testimony beside the deoxygenated banks.

                              Afterwards, the company walked away and, in a widely criticised deal, has
                              left the Papua New Guinea government to pick up the pieces. The profits have
                              been effectively privatised, but the debt � a damaged environment and the
                              clean-up costs � have been socialised. The local people have paid the
                              heaviest price. This hasn�t happened yet on Gag. But it could.

                              Protestors hand out information about Gag Island at BHP Billiton's 2003
                              annual general meeting in Melbourne

                              Gag Island is part of West Papua, a resource rich territory on the western
                              rim of the Pacific bordering independent Papua New Guinea. Indonesia gained
                              sovereignty of the former Dutch colony after a widely condemned and
                              fraudulent referendum known as the 1969 Act of Free Choice. West Papuans
                              call it the Act of No Choice. It is not hard to understand why. The
                              Indonesian government, advised and assisted by the United Nations who
                              sanctioned the process, press-ganged 1022 tribal elders, less than one per
                              cent of the population, to vote on the question of independence or
                              integration. Observers, including internationals present at the time, say
                              that participants were told to vote for integration or have their tongues
                              cut out. Not surprisingly, in this climate of intimidation and outright
                              violence, 100 per cent of �participants chose� to remain with Indonesia. The
                              United Nations rubber-stamped the result, but the struggle for
                              self-determination hasn�t gone away.

                              The waters surrounding Gag Island are an underwater paradise. The tiny
                              island is one of hundreds of islets that make up the Raja Ampat archipelago,
                              an area believed to be the richest source of coral reefs, with the highest
                              marine bio-diversity in the world. A 2003 study by a UNESCO expedition
                              covering 61,200 square kilometres of the Raja Ampat archipelago found
                              hundreds of previously undocumented fish and coral species, bringing the
                              number of new species discovered to 1065 fish species and 505 coral species.
                              Significantly, the coral reefs were found to contain an incredible 64 per
                              cent of the world�s total coral diversity. Because of its outstanding
                              scenery and immense marine bio-diversity, the Raja Ampat archipelago is
                              currently being considered by UNESCO for world heritage listing.

                              Gag Island also sits on top of an incredibly rich seam of nickel which
                              stretches from Halmahera Island in the Northern Malukus, continuing in a
                              sweeping arc into West Papua, through Gag Island and across to Waigeo Island
                              on the eastern end of the Raja Ampat archipelago. BHP Billiton began
                              exploration in 1995 and P.T. Gag Nickel (75 per cent owned by BHP Billiton
                              and 25 per cent owned by the Indonesian company Aneka Tambang) and the
                              Indonesian government signed a contract of work in 1998. Operations were
                              stalled after the Indonesian government enacted one of its most impressive
                              pieces of environmental legislation to date, Forestry Law No. 41, which
                              prevented open-cut mining in protected forests, of which Gag Island was
                              declared one. Since then, however, the mine has been held in care and

                              Ian Wood, previously BHP�s environmental manager for Ok Tedi and now the man
                              responsible for the Gag Island project as head of External Affairs at BHP
                              Billiton�s Melbourne office, claims that since BHP�s merger with Billiton,
                              Gag Island �is no longer on our current five-year development schedule�.
                              However he is quick to reassure me that the company has made a significant
                              investment in Gag. �It is a project that the company would ultimately like
                              to see come to fruition,� he says.

                              The same message was reinforced by the current CEO, Chipp Goodyear, at the
                              recent annual general meeting in Melbourne. Goodyear argued that the
                              company�s success is predicated on a strategy involving a �diverse mix of
                              commodities and geography�. BHP Billiton is currently the world�s third
                              largest nickel producer, a mineral essential for the production of aluminium
                              and stainless steel. Runaway Chinese demand for nickel is driving up world
                              prices and putting pressure on BHP Billiton to bring the Gag mine out of the
                              project development pipeline and into full operation.

                              If mining operations do go ahead as planned, up to three-quarters of the
                              total landmass of the island will be turned into an open-pit mine. Mining
                              would continue for up to twenty years and extract up to 33,000 metric tons
                              of nickel from the 660,000 metric tons of rock dug out of Gag. That�s a lot
                              of waste for a tiny island in the middle of a marine wonderland.

                              Wood explained that the company is currently considering three likely
                              options for tailings disposal. The first method effectively involves
                              strip-mining two-thirds to three-quarters of the island via a series of
                              holes drilled into the earth to extract the nickel. These old mined-out
                              holes are then filled in with the mine tailings. This is the most expensive
                              option for the company. The second method involves building a tailings dam
                              in a small valley in the northern section of the island. This valley also
                              happens to be where local people have their food gardens. Both of these
                              land-based options are considered extremely risky, partly because of cost
                              and partly because the high levels of rainfall and seismic activity in the
                              region could jeopardise the structural stability of a land-based tailings
                              option and adversely affect the health and wellbeing of those who live and
                              work on Gag. Spillage from a land-based tailing option could also damage the
                              island�s fragile fringe of coral reefs, which are extremely sensitive to
                              run-off and turbidity. Wood concedes that the community would oppose a
                              conventional tailings dam because it would affect their food gardens.

                              The disposal option most favoured by the company is Submarine Tailings
                              Disposal (STD) � that is, the company wants to dump toxic waste in the
                              ocean. It is a practice outlawed in Australia and condemned by
                              environmentalists worldwide. It wouldn�t be allowed in the Great Barrier
                              Reef, so why is BHP Billiton even considering doing it next door? Dumping
                              mine tailings in the world�s most diverse marine environment is a practice
                              that is hard to reconcile with BHP Billiton�s much lauded public policy
                              position of �zero-harm� to the environment. A position that chairman Don
                              Argus says he �is very proud of. ... A leadership position that � is not an
                              add-on � but an integral part of what the company does�.

                              Widely respected West Papua specialist and Australian National University
                              academic Chris Ballard, who has worked for years with communities affected
                              by mining in West Papua, says that this is the standard modus operandi for
                              mining companies operating in the Asia Pacific region. �Line up the option
                              for tailings disposal that you really want � in this case STD � then
                              identify two other horror options to pressure the community into accepting
                              your preference. I�d be very surprised if their engineers could only come up
                              with three options. I would want to know what other options are technically
                              feasible but were discarded because of cost,� says Ballard.

                              In an effort to pressure the Indonesian government to allow mining on Gag,
                              BHP Billiton has enlisted the support of the Australian Government. Normally
                              reticent to be seen as meddling in Indonesia�s domestic affairs, especially
                              when it comes to West Papua, the Australian government established a special
                              departmental position within the Australian embassy to lobby the Indonesian
                              government on behalf of Australian mining companies. Responding to questions
                              asked in Parliament by Greens Senator Bob Brown in 2002, Foreign Affairs
                              Minister, Alexander Downer, admitted that former Australian Ambassador to
                              Indonesia, Richard Smith, personally lobbied the Indonesian Minister for
                              Mines and Energy, the Minister for Economic Affairs, the Minister for the
                              Environment, the Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, Indonesian
                              parliamentarians and senior Indonesian officials from the Department of
                              Forests on behalf of BHP Billiton and other Australian mining companies to
                              pressure Jakarta to make changes to legislation to allow mining in protected

                              According to Downer, �the Ambassador meets on a quarterly basis with
                              representatives of Australian owned mining operations in Indonesia... to
                              discuss issues of concern to the Australian mining industry in Indonesia.�
                              In other words, the Australian government will obstruct and deny the West
                              Papuan people�s legitimate right for self-determination on the one hand, but
                              actively support corporations to maximise profit at the expense of the
                              environment and local communities on the other.

                              Early last year the Secretary of the Australian Department of Industry,
                              Tourism and Resources, Mark Patterson, proposed the abolition of the
                              embassy�s pro-mining activities. The mining industry was infuriated.
                              Regional exploration manager for Newcrest Indonesia, Tim Richards � whose
                              company is desperately trying to get approval for a mine in neighbouring
                              Halmahera Island � says that those who had worked in the role had done a
                              �terrific job in Indonesia ... to discuss issues of concern to the
                              Australian mining industry in Indonesia�.

                              BHP Billiton has denied pressuring the Indonesian government to allow mining
                              in protected environmental areas. In reply to a question from shareholder
                              Roger Moody at the company�s 2003 AGM in London, Chairman Don Argus stated:
                              �To my knowledge, no. And I certainly wouldn't believe we would apply any
                              pressure anywhere�. Argus again denied knowledge of the Australian
                              government pressuring the Indonesian government on behalf of the mining
                              giant at the AGM in Melbourne.

                              Given the high level lobbying and the Australian government�s admission that
                              it had done this work on behalf of BHP Billiton, Mr Argus�s comments just
                              don�t add up.

                              The pressure is certainly having an effect. Pro-mining, anti-environment
                              activities by the Australian government and mining industry threaten to
                              undermine not just the environment but also threaten Indonesia�s fragile
                              democratic process with foreign intervention. In June 2002, the Indonesian
                              Director General of Geology and Mineral Resources, Wimpie S. Tjejep, and the
                              Minister for the Environment, Nabiel Makarim, revealed that the Indonesian
                              government feared international legal action if it excluded mining from
                              protected areas. �There were investment activities before the Forestry Act
                              was effective. If shut down, investors demand and Indonesia cannot pay,�
                              said Minister Makarim. This is exactly Ian Wood�s point and obviously the
                              one Australia�s ambassador was pushing when meeting Indonesian ministers and
                              officials on behalf of BHP Billiton: that the company had a legal agreement
                              prior to Gag Island being protected under Forestry Law No. 41.

                              Some Indonesian government ministers have expressed concern regarding the
                              threat by foreign mining companies to seek international arbitration, if not
                              granted exemptions to Forestry Act 41/1999. Members of Indonesian
                              parliamentary environment committee VIII have complained of the
                              international pressure to allow mining to continue in protected forest areas
                              or lose all foreign investment. Oxfam CAA Mining Ombudsperson, Ingrid
                              Macdonald, writes: �industry sources now believe that, despite the forestry
                              law and the intervention of reputable NGOs and institutions like UNESCO,
                              mining on Gag is inevitable�.

                              Mining watchdog, the Mineral Policy Institute, says that central to
                              Australian lobbying of the Indonesian government �is the dubious claim that
                              some of the protected areas are �not forested� or are not of high quality or
                              biodiversity value. [These] claims are unsupported by documented independent
                              investigations but in any case ignore key functions of protected forest

                              Under the Forestry Law of 1999, a protected forest is defined as an area
                              with the purpose of protecting livelihoods and ecology through flood
                              mitigation, controlling erosion, inhibiting the intrusion of saltwater and
                              maintaining soil fertility and other lifesaving functions. Indonesian
                              environmentalists point to evidence that clearly shows that Indonesia�s
                              forests and coral reefs are in crisis; both are disappearing at an
                              unprecedented rate. Pollution and catastrophic flooding plague water
                              catchments. Indonesian environmentalists insist that Forest Law No. 41/1999
                              is essential to protect Indonesia�s rapidly diminishing forests and coral

                              A few weeks ago, I returned to West Papua. Riding on the back of a
                              motorcycle taxi, I sped along Jayapura�s foreshore to meet Mama Loretha. She
                              is an indigenous Papuan from the Beteuw tribe, which she claims is the
                              original custodian of Gag. The motorcycle climbed up the side of the hill,
                              stopping outside a simple and sparsely furnished dwelling with a view out to
                              Cendrawasih Bay. At first Mama Loretha is shy, perhaps even suspicious of
                              me. To begin with she stays in the kitchen, stoking the wood fire, but
                              before long joins her husband and me in conversation. The Beteuw, says Mama
                              Loretha, are from neighbouring Pam Island but have always maintained a
                              living relationship with Gag, regularly visiting the island which she says
                              is �a place of great supernatural power�. Over the last few years Mama
                              Loretha and her husband � from the North Malukus � have traversed nearly the
                              length of the Indonesian archipelago to resolve the conflict on Gag. They
                              have travelled by boat from Jayapura to Sorong, then to Jakarta and back to
                              Jayapura, and the weariness of it all shows on their faces.

                              She tells me that shortly after the contract of work was signed between P.T.
                              Gag Nickel and the Indonesian government in 1998, members of the Beteuw
                              approached the company to discuss their traditional rights and claim over
                              Gag Island. Until now, she says, the company have refused to meet with them.
                              �Everyone living on Gag,� says Mama Loretha, �are migrants from the Malukus.
                              They are not from Gag at all. We are!� she says, pointing to herself. �Why
                              does the company refuse to talk to us?�

                              Despite this, Mama Loretha insists that the Beteuw have a good relationship
                              with those now living on Gag and that the people living at Gambir Village
                              are free to garden and fish. Their anger is directed at BHP Billiton.
                              �Everybody on Gag knows who owns the land,� says Mama Loretha. She backs
                              this up by saying that when BHP Billiton paid Rp.439,000,000 (approximately
                              AU$80,000) compensation to the villagers of Gambir in recognition, the
                              people of Gambir Village � migrants from the neighbouring North Malukus �
                              independently paid the Beteuw Rp.30,000,000 (approximately AU$6000) in
                              recognition of their prior existing land rights over Gag Island. �If the
                              migrants living on Gag acknowledge and respect us,� ask the Beteuw, �why
                              can�t BHP Billiton?�

                              It is a question that Ian Wood avoids by questioning the legitimacy of their
                              claim, adding that the company doesn�t want to meet with the Beteuw because
                              it could create expectations that the project will begin in the near future.
                              �I feel sorry for the people on Gag,� says Wood. �They have been waiting for
                              this project to go ahead for nearly 30 years.� For the Beteuw, however, it
                              is not a question of expectations about future work, but about addressing
                              conflict over work already completed. Mama Loretha says that the company
                              hasn�t negotiated with them or compensated the Beteuw for the extraction of
                              several tons worth of samples during the exploration phase or for the
                              building of the airstrip and base camp.

                              Both the Beteuw and those on Gag are adamant that they want the project to
                              go ahead, hopeful that at the same time the environment will be respected.
                              Both communities also acknowledge the good that the company has done so far,
                              helping to build a boat and supplying the island with much needed
                              facilities. They believe that the project will be a means to provide for the
                              health, education, employment and welfare needs for both themselves and
                              future generations. The Beteuw in particular want the company to ensure that
                              the wealth generated by the mine benefits the Beteuw, local communities from
                              Raja Ampat and indigenous Papuans in particular, rather than being siphoned
                              off to Jakarta and western shareholders. The Beteuw have drafted up
                              recommendations for the percentage of Beteuw, indigenous Papuans,
                              non-Papuans (Indonesians) and outsiders to be trained and employed by the
                              company. They have yet to receive a response to this document from BHP

                              The Beteuw and the community of Gambir Village, however, are not the only
                              parties closely watching what happens on the island. Pro-independence
                              activists also argue that mining companies are exploiting West Papuan
                              resources without their permission, creating havoc, destroying the
                              environment and undermining a future economic basis for an independent West
                              Papua. Indigenous West Papuans living in island communities surrounding Gag,
                              however, don�t have the liberty to speak freely about their aspirations. In
                              violence-ridden West Papua, the manner in which the conflict is framed can
                              be a matter of life and death. Mama Loretha goes to great lengths to explain
                              to me that this issue is not about �M� � the code for �Merdeka� or �Freedom
                              from Indonesian rule�. She and her husband, Pak Ibrahim, even meet with
                              local police and military commanders to explain their problem and reassure
                              the security forces that their anger and frustration centers around the
                              company�s failure to recognise and respect local indigenous people and has
                              nothing to do with the struggle for independence.

                              It is not hard to understand her concern. Around the gargantuan Freeport-Rio
                              Tinto gold and copper mine in West Papua, for example, the military have
                              targeted local communities opposed to the mine, on the pretext that they are
                              pro-M. The result: killings, detention without trial, torture, the
                              destruction of homes and food gardens, hunger and a legacy of deep distrust
                              and collective trauma. In Waisor, communities opposed to illegal and legal
                              logging have been subject to sweepings, sadistic killings and the
                              destruction of homes and gardens.

                              The pattern in West Papua is that security forces create the need for their
                              involvement by engineering incidents. Resource extractive industries are
                              then used as a base to wage further military operations and solidify the
                              military�s economic base. BHP Billiton has not addressed this systemic
                              problem. In Indonesia, the military only receives 20 to 30 per cent of its
                              budget from the government. In order to make up the shortfall, and to enrich
                              individual soldiers, the military engages in a variety of offline budget
                              activities: business ventures that include illegal and legal logging
                              operations, fishing, prostitution, extortion, gun- and drug-running and
                              trading in flora and fauna. Freeport-Rio Tinto, for example, has been widely
                              criticised for its practice of paying the Indonesian military to provide
                              protection for the mine. Again and again in West Papua, legitimate community
                              concerns get re-framed within the rubric of law and order, justifying
                              repression by the security forces and guaranteeing their continued presence
                              in order to protect companies involved in resource extraction.

                              On Gag Island, the problem is further complicated by the project�s proximity
                              to the Malukus, the scene of sectarian violence between Muslims and
                              Christians and a base for the feared Muslim militia, Laskar Jihad, which has
                              links to terrorist outfit Jeemah Islamiyah. In the last few years, Laskar
                              Jihad have been establishing themselves in West Papua, particularly in
                              Sorong and Fak Fak, the two West Papuan cities closest to Gag Island.
                              Indigenous West Papuans and human rights defenders from these two regencies
                              are scared that if the Gag Island mine goes ahead the huge influx of money
                              created by the project could be yet another a lightening rod to deep-seated
                              tensions simmering away under the surface � tensions that could easily be
                              exploited by the military and their militia proxies.

                              In a place where conflict is rife and government weak, companies have an
                              added responsibility to take an active role in the resolution of conflict.
                              In Gag, this means negotiating with all parties, including neighbouring
                              island communities. BHP Billiton needs to face the issues of land rights
                              head on. Local communities need independent information in order to make
                              informed decisions. The company also needs to ensure that the problems of
                              Freeport-Rio Tinto and the military are not revisited on Gag.

                              If BHP Billiton decides to begin operations on Gag, it has a responsibility
                              to tackle the concerns of local communities already affected by their
                              presence. If the mining multinational decides to walk away, it has a
                              responsibility to ensure that a legacy of mistrust and conflict is not
                              handed on to the next mining player, who may be less scrupulous. Given BHP
                              Billiton�s failure to outlaw the use of STD in this marine wonderland; its
                              lack of policy around dealing with the military; and the ongoing and
                              unresolved complexity that still surrounds land rights issues, one can�t
                              help wondering if the company has learnt anything at all from its reckless
                              adventurism at Ok Tedi. For the sake of local communities, the people of
                              West Papua and a stunning marine environment, I hope I am wrong.

                            • Leda Brondizio
                              Taking the asylum war to Blunkett By Nigel Rose ... While energetic in campaigning against the specific excesses of government asylum policy, the left has yet
                              Message 14 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                Taking the asylum war to Blunkett

                                By Nigel Rose

                                While energetic in campaigning against the specific excesses of government
                                asylum policy, the left has yet to offer any ideas for an alternative
                                programme. Here, Red Pepper aims to initiate a debate on the issue. By Nigel

                                The latest Immigration and Asylum Bill is the fifth piece of such
                                legislation in the last 11 years. Each has been more repressive than the
                                last, with the latest including measures such as electronic tagging and the
                                removal of children from failed asylum seeker parents if the latter refuse
                                to return to their countries of origin. It is disheartening that the left�s
                                response to the government�s plans has been so muted. If ever there was a
                                repressed and marginalised minority asylum seekers are it. They are the
                                bottom of the pile. In the most basic terms asylum seekers, especially
                                failed ones, are the poorest people in society.

                                We have allowed the government, particularly home secretary David Blunkett
                                (though we can�t be sure how much Tony Blair is backing him on this issue),
                                to make the running in terms of policy on immigration and asylum seekers �
                                not only in the UK, but in Europe as well. There has been a good deal of
                                protest from the liberal press, pressure groups and the left that has
                                secured some successes, the most notable being the withdrawal of the
                                food-vouchers scheme. But nobody seems to be making much effort to formulate
                                a realistic alternative that might unite this opposition and mobilise the
                                mass of the people against government asylum policy.

                                The truth is that many of us working with refugee organisations are so
                                immersed in the desperate daily problems facing asylum seekers that we have
                                had little time to stand back and work on a comprehensive alternative. Any
                                such programme must involve countering the demonisation of asylum seekers in
                                the media. This demonisation conflicts directly with the government�s stated
                                aim of community cohesion. Red Pepper wants to use its pages to stimulate an
                                urgent debate to produce such a programme. First we need to be clear about
                                what we are up against.

                                Government policy

                                The main thrust of government policy is to reduce the number of asylum
                                seekers coming to the UK. This is to be achieved by making it very difficult
                                for people to get into the country and by making the period in which people
                                must wait for decisions on asylum applications as unpleasant as possible.
                                Superficially, the policy seems to have worked. The number of people
                                claiming asylum has halved over the past six months.

                                The likelihood is, however, that just as many people are entering the
                                country as before but that 50 per cent of them are not bothering to claim
                                asylum. There is only anecdotal evidence of this, but if it is the case then
                                the government may have simply compounded the burden on refugee communities
                                supporting relatives and friends, and increased the numbers of
                                super-exploited workers paid below the minimum wage.

                                On the Continent the focus is on border controls in the EU�s perimeter
                                countries. EU member states have agreed to share information so as to
                                prevent people from claiming asylum in more than one EU country, and to
                                allow the UK to return asylum seekers to other European countries that they
                                may have passed through previously. Discussions are continuing about
                                harmonising � effectively to the lowest level � support for asylum seekers.

                                The stated aims of the British government are four-fold: asylum seekers
                                should spend the minimum time in the UK before a decision is made about
                                their claims; assistance should be at a sub-Income Support level, and asylum
                                seekers should have a minimum level of rights compared with UK citizens;
                                asylum seekers should be closely tracked and monitored while in the UK; and
                                failed applicants should leave the country immediately following a negative

                                The UK�s already biased and unfair process of making decisions on asylum
                                applications has been made much worse. There is now radically reduced access
                                to competent legal services. Financial and material support has been reduced
                                to the extent that people cannot always afford food. The final brutality is
                                that the government has removed access to support for people facing
                                deportation; the idea is to force failed asylum seekers to return home
                                �voluntarily�. These measures have reinforced the media frenzy against
                                asylum seekers that has fuelled the kind of fears and xenophobia that drive
                                people towards the BNP. Polls show that over 30 per cent of the British
                                public believes the issue of asylum seekers is their number-one concern.

                                Debating alternatives

                                What alternatives policies are currently under debate? The mainstream
                                liberal line is that we just need to make existing agreements work properly:
                                there is nothing wrong with the UN�s 1951 Refugee Convention, the problem is
                                to do with the way the convention is exercised; there should be a fair
                                immigration system, in which people�s claims are carefully but quickly
                                considered and they are given permission to stay in the UK or are returned
                                to their countries of origin; while they remain in the UK, asylum seekers
                                should be supported decently by the state.

                                This view is based on the suspect belief that it is right to distinguish
                                those who have been persecuted from migrants who may be moving because they
                                have no possibilities of earning a living, they have been displaced or they
                                have suffered in any number of other ways. But suffering feels much the same
                                whether it is caused by a repressive regime or grinding poverty.

                                More recently the mainstream line has embraced the concept of managed
                                migration. This acknowledges the highly problematic relationship between
                                developed and developing nations. It legitimises the present situation of
                                effectively setting quotas by which the state decides how many new economic
                                and other migrants it is prepared to let into the country. However, it is
                                entirely unclear on what basis decisions are made about quotas. And the
                                principle of managed migration is based on the questionable assumption that
                                the UK is really able to control its borders.

                                The radical alternative, and the one that many of us feel in our hearts is
                                the right one, is the idea of �no borders�: people should be free to go
                                wherever they please. The nation state is a recently created and dangerous
                                racist fallacy that should be opposed. This solution takes the moral high
                                ground, but to make it a feasible policy we need to go on to debate the
                                steps that must be taken to get there. It is essential that asylum seekers
                                themselves should participate in that debate.

                                Any such debate must:

                                � put the latest wave of migration into its proper historical
                                context by highlighting the importance of immigration to the cultural and
                                economic history of the UK;

                                � address the reasons why people migrate, including the
                                relationships between developed and developing countries;

                                � take place within the context of a wider European debate about

                                � address the issue of forcible return; this is the most difficult
                                issue for many of us, but if there are to be any kinds of control then it
                                needs to be discussed;

                                � recognise the level of public concern about immigration, not just
                                dismiss people because we don�t like what they are saying;

                                � address the impact of migration on employment rights, particularly
                                with regard to enforcement of the minimum wage and exploitation of illegal

                                � deal with the issue of numbers, both to dispel myths and to
                                address real issues including sustainability and regional distribution;

                                � address the impact of migration on local services, including
                                health, housing and education; and

                                � promote active integration; the state has a responsibility to
                                enable and hasten integration, and must address related issues of
                                citizenship and community cohesion.

                                This would not be an easy debate. But we have to provide an alternative to
                                government policy, or we will fail the migrants that we want to welcome to
                                the UK. We need to be leading the debate for realisable alternative
                                policies, not just responding to the next wave of repressive legislation.
                                Many asylum seekers still see the UK as a tolerant, multi-racial beacon of
                                democracy. This is something to be proud of but which we are in danger of

                              • Lany Dimaculangan
                                Stolen Lives: Fighting Against the Nightstick Kari Lydersen Kenneth R. Dukes was a ... son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend reads the poster Dukes s sister,
                                Message 15 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                  Stolen Lives: Fighting Against the Nightstick

                                  Kari Lydersen

                                  "Kenneth R. Dukes was a ... son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend" reads the
                                  poster Dukes's sister, Jacinta Whitlow, is carrying down the street of
                                  downtown Chicago on October 22.

                                  On August 3, Dukes was killed by Chicago police while trying to get into the
                                  back door of his home in the comfortable Belmont Morgan Park neighborhood of
                                  Chicago. They shot him five times in the back and twice in the back of the
                                  head. He didn't even have time to figure out what was going on. He was only

                                  "I don't even know what they were doing there," said Whitlow, 30. "There
                                  were no circumstances leading up to it, he wasn't wanted for anything, he
                                  had no weapons. It was completely unjustified. It was just because he was

                                  As usually happens in cases of police brutality and murder, so far, no
                                  disciplinary action has been taken against the officers who killed Dukes.

                                  That's why Whitlow and thousands of others like her took to the streets in
                                  cities around the country on October 22, the 8th annual national day of
                                  protest against police brutality, repression and criminalization of youth.

                                  "We want the cops who did this to pay, to go to prison," said Whitlow.
                                  "We're trying to bring attention to police brutality."

                                  Whitlow noted that her brother, who worked as a construction worker, "came
                                  from a family of doctors and lawyers and nurses" and had dreams of buying a
                                  home and having a family.

                                  "Now he'll never be able to buy his first home or have kids," she said.

                                  Besides the impunity that her brother's killers themselves are enjoying,
                                  Whitlow is also angry at what she sees as the general public's indifference
                                  to police brutality, the fact that many people assume police brutality
                                  victims must have been guilty of something.

                                  "People don't understand until it happens to them," she said. "Our family is
                                  devastated, we'll never see the world the same way again. I'll never be
                                  joyous again now that my brother has been ripped away from me. And someone
                                  has the nerve to tell me that it's okay, he must have deserved to die."

                                  Juanita Young's son, Malcolm Ferguson, was also 23 when he was killed by
                                  police in Bronx, New York on March 1, 2000. Young is still fighting for
                                  justice for his killer, and she is suffering ongoing harassment and turmoil
                                  because she is speaking out.

                                  Ferguson was shot at point blank range in the lobby of a building where he
                                  and a friend were waiting out the rain. She said he and his friends acted
                                  defensively as plainclothes officers burst into the lobby with guns drawn.

                                  "They thought they were being robbed," she said. "They didn't know they were

                                  Young said she wasn't surprised police had rushed her son in the lobby that
                                  day, since he had been having trouble with police for a while, as many youth
                                  of color in low-income neighborhoods do. She noted that three times in 1999
                                  he was arrested for drugs, but had the charges dropped since he didn't
                                  actually have any drugs on him.

                                  "The DA knew something was wrong with those cases," she said. "They were
                                  trying to frame him."

                                  During one arrest, his hand was broken by improper handcuffing and he wasn't
                                  given medical treatment for two days, leading the family to file a lawsuit
                                  against the police department. But now that Ferguson is dead, that lawsuit
                                  has been dismissed.

                                  "They would continually harass him, and he was angry about it," Young said.
                                  "People would tell me how they saw him on the street being harassed."

                                  No criminal charges were filed against the officer who killed Ferguson, of
                                  course, though Young has filed a civil suit for wrongful death.

                                  Meanwhile, Young is facing criminal charges herself in connection with her
                                  eviction from her apartment this summer. She says police officers and her
                                  landlord, who is a former cop, treated her violently during the eviction,
                                  breaking down doors, handcuffing her and throwing her to the floor and even
                                  killing her cat.

                                  She was charged with trespassing, and when she demanded to go to the
                                  hospital for injuries to her hand during the scuffle, she says police
                                  upgraded the charges against her to criminal trespassing.

                                  "He pushed me into the police car and said, 'You're not going to anymore
                                  rallies now,'" she said. "That's how I know there was something behind it
                                  all. They knew who I was."

                                  Young, 49, noted that recently at least two local residents have had heart
                                  attacks after police used grenades to break down their doors. One woman died
                                  from the attack.

                                  Besides the rampant acts of brutality and murder themselves, the October 22
                                  events and ongoing campaigns against police brutality aim to raise public
                                  awareness of the issue, and to address the almost complete immunity that
                                  police like Ferguson's and Duke's killers enjoy. In Chicago and New York, as
                                  in most cities, complaints against police, including complaints of serious
                                  violence and murder, are handled by internal affairs divisions that hand out
                                  shockingly light punishments. And even these disciplinary measures are
                                  usually challenged by the police officers' union. Rarely are officers
                                  prosecuted for anything in criminal court. In extreme cases, they might be
                                  fired from the force, but normally they receive only suspensions of two
                                  weeks or less, often with pay.

                                  "How can you have the police policing themselves?" asks Whitlow, who wears a
                                  T-shirt with her brother's photo and the words, "Justice for Kenny: We won't
                                  go quietly into the night" at the October 22 protest. "How can there be
                                  justice in this unjust system?"

                                  The crowd in Chicago this year on October 22 was smaller than in most years
                                  past, perhaps because of the chilly weather or all the attention that has
                                  been focused on fighting human rights and civil liberties abuses related to
                                  the war on terrorism. Still, Whitlow was joined by a crowd of other
                                  activists including many victims of police brutality and family members of
                                  people killed by police, carrying posters with photos of their loved ones.
                                  Among them was Fred Hampton Jr., whose father, the Black Panther Fred
                                  Hampton, became a famous victim of police murder when he was shot to death
                                  while sleeping with his pregnant girlfriend in their Chicago home in 1969.

                                  A black cardboard gravestone topped with artificial flowers bore the names
                                  in stark white of various people killed by police over the years, and photos
                                  of victims of police murder lined the stage where people of various races,
                                  sexual orientations and economic classes spoke about how police brutality
                                  has affected their lives.

                                  Among the photos was a graduation photograph of Robert Russ, a 22-year-old
                                  Northwestern University student and football player who was shot to death by
                                  police in June 1999 after he failed to immediately pull over for a traffic
                                  stop. He drove for only 10 minutes at 45-50 mph, hardly overly suspicious or
                                  dangerous behavior, before being shot to death through his back windshield.

                                  The week before the October 22 march, Russ's family was awarded $9.6 million
                                  in damages by a jury for his wrongful death. But still, the officers
                                  responsible received only a 15-day suspension. Latanya Haggerty, a
                                  26-year-old woman who worked as a computer programmer, was killed by police
                                  in a similar situation the same weekend as Russ. She was the passenger in a
                                  car that refused to pull over. Even though a police dispatcher had ordered
                                  officers to call off the chase, they continued and ended up shooting
                                  Haggerty in the head, claiming they mistook her cell phone for a gun. Last
                                  year, Haggerty's family was awarded $18 million in damages, yet the officers
                                  involved in that case likewise were barely disciplined and faced no criminal

                                  The Russ and Haggerty cases made headlines in the city, probably partly
                                  because the killings happened on the same weekend and both were "good" young
                                  people with clean records and promising futures. But most police brutality
                                  and even murder by police gets little attention from the media or the
                                  general public.

                                  The Stolen Lives Project aims to change that. The project tries to document
                                  every case of murder by police around the country, commemorate the victims
                                  and publicize the circumstances. Since 1990, the project has documented over
                                  5,000 cases and published two books. It is trying to raise funds to publish
                                  a third book, and also wants to publish one in Spanish. Along with
                                  documenting the specific cases, the project shows the systematic nature of
                                  police brutality as well as the racist dimensions of the problem.

                                  For "people who don't deal with police brutality in their daily lives, this
                                  book shows that it's more than just a 'few bad apples' or some 'isolated
                                  incidents,'" a flier about the book states. "Many such people will be moved
                                  to join the struggle against police brutality and stand with those under the
                                  gun when they see the shocking scope of this epidemic."

                                  The Stolen Lives Project, which is a joint project of the National Lawyer's
                                  Guild, The Anthony Baez Foundation and the October 22nd Coalition, has aired
                                  public service announcements with the voices of families of victims as well
                                  as artists including Wyclef Jean and Chuck D of Public Enemy.

                                  It also includes an emergency response network, which dispatches people
                                  immediately to the scene of a police killing to take photos and witness
                                  statements "before police can intimidate people into giving false
                                  statements," their literature says. "Often a press conference helps get the
                                  truth out before police can put their own spin on media coverage."

                                  While the Stolen Lives Project and other grassroots efforts do a good job of
                                  documenting cases of police murder and vicious brutality, another side of
                                  the story is the countless daily incidents of lower level police harassment
                                  and abuse that are far too numerous to catalogue, yet have a definite and
                                  direct effect on people's lives. In many low-income minority communities,
                                  being harassed, intimidated, groundlessly searched and even beaten by police
                                  is literally a daily occurrence�one that becomes almost "normal" to
                                  residents, yet can't help but have a massive psychological and emotional
                                  effect over time.

                                  Fourteen-year-old Tiera Brown, a member of the Urban Youth International
                                  Journalism Program in Chicago, recently wrote a story for The Residents'
                                  Journal newspaper about the effect police brutality has on her community.

                                  "Last week I was downstairs playing and the police came for nothing and took
                                  some boys to jail because they said they had drugs on them, but people
                                  thought the police had put the drugs on them," Brown wrote. "In most of the
                                  interviews I did, people said police brutality is bad because police are
                                  beating and destroying people and taking people out of their territory and
                                  leaving them in other territory where they might get attacked."

                                  "Also not long ago the police had raided our buildings and the building next
                                  to mine," Brown said. "There was a lady coming down the stairs and the
                                  police officer made her suck his penis."
                                  Brown notes that even if they work hard and do well in school, the youth in
                                  her community are terrified of being scapegoated by police.

                                  "The police are putting a bad reputation on young kids and some of the kids
                                  are so afraid of the police that when they see them they run and start
                                  crying," she said.

                                  Police brutality turns many "regular people" into activists, both victims of
                                  police abuse themselves and family members like Whitlow. Whitlow says, "It
                                  is such a shame that this is the only time a story is being written about my
                                  brother. He was such a great guy."

                                  And she is determined to keep his memory alive, and to fight for justice for
                                  him and others like him.

                                  "We will keep fighting, until we die if need be," she said.

                                  Young feels the same way.

                                  "No matter what they do to me, it's not going to stop me from going out and
                                  speaking against them," she said. �

                                  Kari Lydersen is a journalist based in Chicago and an instructor for the
                                  Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

                                • Kate Milner
                                  Good News for Women By Katha Pollitt There was plenty of gloomy news for women in 2003. American women make just under 80 cents on the male dollar for
                                  Message 16 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                    Good News for Women

                                    By Katha Pollitt

                                    There was plenty of gloomy news for women in 2003. American women make just
                                    under 80 cents on the male dollar for full-time, year-round work. We lost
                                    Carolyn Heilbrun, Carol Shields, Rachel Corrie, Nina Simone and Martha
                                    Griffiths. Russia tightened its abortion laws; in Slovakia Romani women were
                                    sterilized without their permission; Iraqi women were freed from Saddam but
                                    confined to their houses by crime and Islamic fundamentalists. The Globe ran
                                    a slutty cover photo of Kobe Bryant's accuser. The New York Times reported
                                    that women are having painful and potentially crippling surgery on their
                                    toes in order to fit into their Manolos and Jimmy Choos, while in China,
                                    where short people are subject to major discrimination, they are undergoing
                                    excruciating operations to lengthen their legs. What's the matter with
                                    people? Don't answer that.

                                    Still, it's the end of the year, so let's break out the champagne for good
                                    news around the world for women in 2003--accomplishments, activism, bold
                                    deeds and grounds for hope.

                                    1. Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Iranian feminist and human
                                    rights crusader is the first Muslim woman to receive this honor. The
                                    ayatollahs are furious!

                                    2. Hormone replacement therapy was further debunked. Instead of protecting
                                    you from Alzheimer's, it doubles your risk. The unmasking of HRT is a major
                                    triumph for the women's health movement, which has claimed for decades that
                                    its supposed benefits are drug-industry hype. You can read all about it in
                                    Barbara Seaman's devastating expos�, The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed
                                    on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth.

                                    3. Antiwar activism got a feminist edge. The Lysistrata Project saw 1,029
                                    productions of Aristophanes' hilarious, bawdy comedy performed all over the
                                    world on March 3. Code Pink took on Bush--and Schwarzenegger--with nervy

                                    4. Barbara Ransby's moving and invaluable Ella Baker and the Black Freedom
                                    Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision illuminated a behind-the-scenes
                                    heroine of the civil rights struggle. As Ransby showed, there are other,
                                    more egalitarian ways to move forward than by playing follow the leader.

                                    5. A Department of Education commission rejected energetic efforts to water
                                    down Title IX, the main legal vehicle promoting equality for women's
                                    athletics in schools; the Supreme Court didn't overturn affirmative action.

                                    6. Some movies had leading female characters who were not wives,
                                    girlfriends, prostitutes or assassins: Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham,
                                    Sylvia, Mona Lisa Smile. Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation got raves.
                                    Older women were beautiful and sexy in Swimming Pool, starring the
                                    ever-fabulous Charlotte Rampling, and in Something's Gotta Give, where
                                    57-year-old Diane Keaton gets to choose between grumpy-old-man Jack
                                    Nicholson and boy toy Keanu Reeves.

                                    7. One in four people in Ireland saw The Magdalene Sisters, the movie that
                                    exposed the lifelong virtual consignment to hard labor in convent laundries
                                    of Irish girls who fell afoul of the church's harsh double standard of
                                    sexual morality by, for example, being raped.

                                    8. Afghan women set the gold standard for courage with major conferences in
                                    Kandahar and Kabul to push for women's rights in the new constitution. At
                                    the loya jirga, 25-year-old delegate Malalai Joya electrified the world when
                                    she accused the mujahedeen who control the assembly of destroying the
                                    country in the early 1990s.

                                    9. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws
                                    criminalizing gay sex. The Massachusetts Supreme Court, headed by a woman,
                                    ruled that the state Constitution required that gays should be able to

                                    10. Amina Lawal, condemned to death by stoning by a Nigerian Sharia court
                                    for having sex out of wedlock, was set free on appeal.

                                    11. Prodded by an ACLU lawsuit, Michigan stopped drug-testing welfare
                                    recipients (only 7.8 percent came up positive, by the way--the same as at
                                    your office) as well as applicants.

                                    12. Jessica Lynch showed herself a real heroine by refusing to go along with
                                    the propaganda parade.

                                    13. Seventy-eight-year-old Essie Mae Washington-Williams confirmed
                                    longstanding rumors that she is the daughter of racist Senator Strom
                                    Thurmond and his family's 16-year-old black maid, Carrie Butler. That Strom
                                    died at 100, reputation intact, definitely proves that God does not exist.

                                    14. In New York, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the
                                    2001 ruling in Nicholson v. Scoppetta that child services can't take away
                                    the children of battered women.

                                    15. Louise Gl�ck, who has written poems that are burned into my brain,
                                    became Poet Laureate, only the ninth woman to hold the post in the past
                                    sixty-six years.

                                    16. Desperately poor women in Nigeria's Niger Delta staged militant
                                    demonstrations--including stripping--against Shell, demanding that the
                                    company employ locals and share the wealth with the community. They won!

                                    17. An FDA panel gave the thumbs-up to making emergency contraception an
                                    over-the-counter drug. Teen pregnancy, still too high, has hit a historic

                                    18. Under heavy attack from women, DaimlerChrysler abandoned its sponsorship
                                    of the Lingerie Bowl, a pay-per-view Super Bowl halftime event involving
                                    models playing full-contact football in their underwear. Turns out women buy
                                    cars too.

                                    19. Lieut. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who thinks Allah is an idol and that
                                    God put Bush in the White House, quoted his ex-wife as follows: "I don't
                                    love you anymore, you're a religious fanatic, and I'm leaving you."

                                    20. The Dixie Chicks survived. Pro-war crowds stomped on their records,
                                    Clear Channel refused to give them airplay and Christopher Hitchens called
                                    them "f**king fat slags." But they're still singing to sold-out crowds, and
                                    they're still great.

                                    Hoping you are the same,

                                    Happy New Year!

                                  • Valentina Chan
                                    This interview took place in Boston, Massachusetts. *** IS: Poetry and politics. In you and your work, the two converge. What does a poem do? ME: A professor
                                    Message 17 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                      This interview took place in Boston, Massachusetts.


                                      IS: Poetry and politics. In you and your work, the two converge. What does a
                                      poem do?

                                      ME: A professor of mine, Herbert Hill, used to say that ideas have
                                      consequences. I really believe that. Poems communicate ideas in a variety of
                                      ways. One never knows what kind of impact the poem is going to have, who
                                      it's going to reach, what change it might engender. I don't put too many
                                      expectations on an individual poem. Eduardo Galeano has written that it�s
                                      madness or arrogance to think a work of art, by itself, can accomplish
                                      social change, but it would be equally foolish to think that a work of art
                                      can�t contribute to making that change. Personally, I see what I do as my
                                      small contribution.

                                      The crossroads of poetry and politics is a place where craft encounters
                                      commitment, where the spirit of dissent encounters the imagination, where we
                                      labor to create a culture of conscience. There the dynamic of oppression and
                                      resistance distills itself through the image, the senses. It is essential
                                      that we see and hear, taste and touch and smell in the world of the
                                      political poem. It is essential for the political poem to be crowded with
                                      exact, human details. We must work to give history a human face, eyes, nose,
                                      mouth. If we do otherwise, than we risks all the familiar perils of
                                      political poetry. The complacency you refer to is indeed widespread among
                                      poets, and often begins with the rationalization that good political poetry
                                      is impossible. Aside from the huge body of evidence to the contrary, this
                                      argument strikes me as utterly arbitrary. We can write about anything, in
                                      theory�but not things political.

                                      This is akin to saying that we should never write any poems with trees in
                                      them. (Parenthetically, if we're going to write political poems we should
                                      know our trees; we must draw our metaphors from the world around us, and our
                                      metaphors have to be accurate.) True, there is a great deal of bad political
                                      poetry out there, filled with rhetoric, but this does not prove the
                                      impossibility of the political poem. There is a great deal of bad love
                                      poetry or bad nature poetry in circulation, yet no one seriously argues that
                                      love poems or nature poems are impossible. The argument that political
                                      poetry is a contradiction in terms is advanced by complacent poets who
                                      defend their lethargy with impressive fury. They justify their apathy with
                                      passion. If only these poets devoted the same energies to writing poems that
                                      mattered to other human beings. I want to see poems pinned on the
                                      refrigerator, carried in wallets until they crumble, read aloud on the phone
                                      at 3 AM. I want to see poems that are political in the broad sense of urgent
                                      engagement with the human condition, poems that defend human dignity.

                                      IS: How did you discover poetry? Or better, when did you first see yourself
                                      as a poet?

                                      ME: I discovered poetry when I was 15 years old. At that age, I was a
                                      terrible student. I failed English one semester, in the eighth grade. By the
                                      tenth grade, I was more interested in the exploration of mood-altering
                                      substances in the parking lot than in the mysteries of poetry. Yet, those
                                      mysteries found me. A tenth grade teacher confronted a group of us young
                                      thugs in the back row of his classroom, and gave us an assignment: We had to
                                      produce our own issue of The New Yorker magazine. We had never seen The New
                                      Yorker magazine. We were all New Yorkers, but that was a different New York.
                                      Nevertheless, the magazine was passed from hand to hand, down the hierarchy
                                      of thuggery, until it came at last to me. All that was left, at the back of
                                      the magazine, was a poem. I was rather agitated. However, I didn't want to
                                      fail English again, so I went to the window, sat down, and wrote a poem. It
                                      was raining that day. I wrote a poem about rain. I don't have the poem
                                      anymore, and I don't remember it, except for one line�"tiny silver hammers
                                      pounding the earth"�to describe rain. I had just invented my first metaphor.
                                      I didn't know what a metaphor was. I found out a week later, and went
                                      strutting down the hallway. But I discovered something else that day. I
                                      discovered that I loved words. I loved slamming words into each other and
                                      watching them spin around the room. I soon discovered that I had something
                                      to say with all those words. Virtually from the start, I have written about
                                      the idea of justice, in practical, philosophical, and political terms.

                                      IS: Let's talk more about the tension between Puerto Rico as an island and
                                      the Puerto Rican diaspora. Do you feel a connection with island literature
                                      today, and with its poetry in particular?

                                      ME: There is a definite tension between Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans of
                                      the diaspora. The island and the diaspora represent opposite poles of
                                      identity in constant reaction to each other. We are a colonized people, by
                                      definition divided. We will remain powerless as long as we are engaged in
                                      distracted squabbles over authenticity, ethnic purity, our own brand of
                                      "blood quantum." In spite of all this, Puerto Rico is poetry to me. The
                                      impact on my senses, and on my sense of history, is overwhelming. Moreover,
                                      I feel a strong connection with two poets of the island: Clemente Soto V�lez
                                      and Juan Antonio Corretjer. These were major Nationalist poets imprisoned in
                                      the 1930s and 40s for their pro-independence ideas and activities. I met and
                                      read with Corretjer, but my deepest influence came from Soto V�lez, who
                                      became a close friend and mentor in the last decade of his life (he died in
                                      1994). Soto provided a political and ethical example for me to follow. His
                                      poems were powerfully surreal, yet totally engaged with the fate of
                                      humankind. Inspiration does not necessarily equal imitation; yet, to the
                                      extent that my poems ever leap into surreal and fantastic places, I owe it
                                      to him.

                                      IS: There�s a lack of interest of US newspapers and magazines in Puerto
                                      Rican poetry, which is hardly reviewed in any significant fashion.

                                      ME: Let's look at simple demographics. There are precious few Puerto Rican
                                      editors employed by newspapers and magazines and publishing houses in this
                                      country. Puerto Rican writers and especially readers are widely regarded as
                                      nonexistent. Puerto Rican literature is received by Anglos as Puerto Rican
                                      food is received, in the words of our friend Earl Shorris: "dinner with the
                                      doorman, a janitor's repast, the flavor of failure." That won't sell. No
                                      Puerto Rican writer has ever received a major book award in the U.S. On the
                                      other hand, I would prefer that we be left alone rather than be manipulated
                                      and twisted into knots by the mainstream media. I was recently interviewed
                                      for a New York Times article about Nuyorican poetry, and I was appalled at
                                      the results. My words were grossly distorted so that a false debate was
                                      created between me and some of the Nuyorican poets in the article. I was
                                      quoted as opposing the creation of a film about Miguel Pi�ero, an early
                                      influence of mine. I said no such thing. Instead, I warned the reporter that
                                      I had never seen the film. I also said that many more films should be made
                                      about Puerto Rican writers like Clemente Soto V�lez. Other writers
                                      interviewed for the piece were furious as well. One young poet was
                                      supposedly "energized" by the Pi�ero film�in contrast to me�but she hadn't
                                      seen the film either. In other words, writers who had not seen this movie
                                      were asked about the movie, and then pitted against each other in a phony,
                                      manufactured argument about this movie they hadn't seen. In the New York
                                      Times, por favor.

                                      IS: Since World War II poets have been "bought" by academic institutions to
                                      teach in English Departments and in Creative Writing Programs. You are part
                                      of this trend. Can you reflect on the tension between literature and the
                                      university at the level of language, pedagogy, politics, etc.?

                                      ME: Certainly, the academy has been perfecting its stranglehold over poetry
                                      since the days of Pound and Eliot. Though I receive a paycheck from the
                                      English Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, they haven't
                                      "bought" me. I have not mutilated my ideas, or censored the expression of my
                                      ideas, to suit the academy�and no one has asked me to do so. On the other
                                      hand, I�m critical of MFA programs as a rule. More often than not, they do a
                                      terrible job recruiting poets of color; they rely on reading lists that are
                                      often relentlessly white; they turn out poets who mimic their masters in a
                                      pose of detached, hip cynicism; they train their students in the arts of
                                      social-climbing and professional ambition above the arts of poetry; they
                                      hand out countless degrees as credentials for teaching jobs that don't
                                      exist; they are run autocratically; they are extremely resistant to change,
                                      especially political change, and exercise a chilling effect on real academic
                                      freedom. Bulletin: No one needs an MFA to be a good poet. There are decent
                                      MFA programs, but not many. I work outside the MFA system, and am glad for

                                      IS: Your Puerto Ricanness is at the core of your identity and of the poetry
                                      that you've been writing since 1981 or '82 when your first book was
                                      published. And yet, you were not born in Puerto Rico, you were born in
                                      Brooklyn. How did the Puerto Rican-ness come to you, from the neighborhood,
                                      from the family, when you were a child?

                                      ME: New York is the largest Puerto Rican city in the world. There are more
                                      Puerto Ricans in New York than in San Juan. I was surrounded by that from
                                      the beginning. My father, Frank Espada, was an activist, a leader in the
                                      Puerto Rican community of New York in the 1960's, and his role in the
                                      community was reflected everywhere around me. Later on he made a transition
                                      and worked as a documentary photographer, recording the life of the Puerto
                                      Rican community; again, that had a big impact on me. It was quite natural to
                                      develop and to nurture that identity, even though I was born in Brooklyn and
                                      not in San Juan.

                                      IS: When did words become in you a tool to begin exploring your own universe
                                      and to begin communicating the ideas that were in your mind?

                                      ME: I can remember early on the influence of my father and his use of
                                      language. I recall a political use of language in particular. Again, this
                                      was natural. This was endemic to the environment. When I was about seven
                                      years old, my father participated in a demonstration at the New York World's
                                      Fair. He was protesting, with other members of the Congress of Racial
                                      Equality [CORE], against discriminatory hiring practices at the Schaeffer
                                      Brewing Company. There were many, many arrests at that World's Fair. One of
                                      the people arrested was my father, who disappeared for at least a week. No
                                      one explained this to me at the age of seven. I simply assumed that my
                                      father was dead. I would sit holding a picture of him and crying, and that's
                                      the way it was up until the moment he walked through the door.

                                      I looked at him and said, �I thought you were dead.� He thought that was
                                      funny and started laughing. Then he realized, on another level, that he had
                                      to begin explaining all of this to me, that the time had come. Over the
                                      years I would follow him to various kinds of events, demonstrations, what
                                      have you. He had a storefront headquarters in the East New York section of
                                      Brooklyn, on Blake Avenue, called East New York Action, and I would go visit

                                      My first art, if you will, was visual. I drew, constantly. I would draw
                                      demonstrations on the back of flyers announcing these demonstrations. It was
                                      just part of my environment. There's a blank piece of paper. It happens to
                                      announce a demonstration, but I flip it over and draw on it. I remember this
                                      being part of the whole ethos. I was raised with an ethos of resistance all
                                      around me.

                                      IS: When did you eventually or finally make it to Puerto Rico, what was the
                                      experience of having been born in the so-called Diaspora, in the mainland,
                                      and being exposed to the island culture? You have poems that deal with this.
                                      I'd like you to reflect a little bit.

                                      ME: Yes. I first went to the island at the age of 10, around 1967. For me,
                                      it was first and foremost an explosion of the senses. I came from Brooklyn.
                                      I came from that urban environment, that industrialized city, and found
                                      myself in Puerto Rico. It was absolutely remarkable to see the trees. For
                                      the first time in my life, to actually hold a real coconut in my hand, not
                                      the hairy shriveled up husk we see in the supermarket, but a big green
                                      shell, and to watch someone cut the top of that shell off so I could drink
                                      right out of the damn thing--it was a revelation. It was miraculous. I was
                                      surrounded by miracles. The island revealed itself to me in that way, as an
                                      explosion of the senses. Being that little fat kid, I ate and drank my way
                                      across the island like Pac Man.

                                      For me, Puerto Rico is a constant learning experience. The island is, I
                                      believe, only 111 miles long. and yet to me it is enormous, so deep and so
                                      rich. I'm always going to mine something from the experience of being there.

                                      IS: The poetics of compassion� And yet, somewhere in your past you were a
                                      bouncer at a bar.

                                      ME: I was a bouncer in a bar in Madison, Wisconsin, of all places. The
                                      physical was definitely there. Now, mind you, being a bouncer can be a
                                      compassionate business, because most of the time you're not punching people
                                      in the face. You are helping people who have had too much drink find the way
                                      out the door and, eventually, home. That was what I did most of the time. I
                                      could stand there and watch someone drink seven, eight, nine hours, slowly
                                      killing themselves. But once that person indeed had blacked out, it was my
                                      job to find the coat, to find the hat, to find the books, to call a cab, to
                                      carry that person and all of their worldly possessions down the stairs, to
                                      get that person and the stuff into the cab, to make sure that person got

                                      IS: Aside from being a poet, which is, I would assume, the essence of who
                                      you are, you are also a professor, but you have been a lawyer involved in a
                                      variety of different areas of law. Tell me about that and how that informs,
                                      yet again, your condition of poetry.

                                      ME: Both as a poet and a lawyer, I was engaged in the business of advocacy,
                                      speaking on behalf of those without an opportunity to be heard. It made
                                      perfect sense. Sometimes people would ask me: �How could you be a poet and a
                                      lawyer?� They are two totally contrary ways of using the brain. For me, it
                                      was perfectly congruent. I was an advocate both as a poet and a lawyer,
                                      speaking on behalf of people without an opportunity to be heard in the
                                      Latino community, immigrants, the poor, and so on. I went to Northeastern
                                      University Law School in Boston, graduated from there and pursued the
                                      practice of law in the Boston area.

                                      I practiced bilingual education law with an organization called META. Later
                                      I worked as a supervisor for a program called Su Clinica Legal, a legal
                                      services program for low-income, Spanish-speaking tenants in Chelsea, a city
                                      right outside Boston, representing immigrants from Puerto Rico, the
                                      Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, and occasionally even from
                                      Vietnam or Cambodia when necessary. We did the things that tenant lawyers
                                      do: eviction defense, no-heat cases, rats and roaches, crazy landlords. I
                                      wrote about those things. I wrote lawyer poems. To this day, once in a
                                      while, I read one and still get this familiar kind of chill.

                                      IS: In your poetry I see obviously influences from Whitman and Neruda. The
                                      elasticity that Whitman brought to American literature in many ways opened
                                      the door for somebody like you. The passion and the pathos of somebody like
                                      the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, is also there. When did you discover the
                                      early poems and poets that influenced you, and how did they influence you?

                                      ME: I began writing poetry before I knew what it was. I started using poetic
                                      devices before I knew that these devices had names, that these tools had
                                      actually been used before and came from somebody else's toolbox, so to
                                      speak. I began writing poetry when I was 15 years old. There were no books
                                      of poetry in my house at that time. That was not part of our experience, per
                                      se. My parents read. My father, in particular, would read books about
                                      politics and history, but I didn't read poetry and they didn't read poetry,
                                      as a rule. I just began writing it, and later on I would discover that there
                                      was a place for me. There was a history and a tradition from which I
                                      emerged, that I only dimly perceived at first, and discovered in a strange
                                      attempt to find out who I was, both as a person and a poet.

                                      I didn't start at the beginning. I didn't start with Whitman and move
                                      forward. I moved backwards to Whitman. I was influenced by Allen Ginsberg. I
                                      was influenced by Langston Hughes, by Carl Sandburg, by Pablo Neruda. Only
                                      later did I realize that they were all descended from Walt Whitman. Then,
                                      once I discovered Whitman, that was like going to the source; that was the
                                      fountain from which the waters sprang. I actually carried Leaves of Grass
                                      under my arm (as Whitman instructed me to do by the way; I mean, it's in the
                                      book). I would open it periodically and realize I had discovered a kind of
                                      Bible. What strikes me even now as I read Whitman, as with his disciples
                                      like Neruda, is the profound empathy, a poetics of compassion, which guides
                                      everything that Whitman does. Whitman is about this ultimate empathy, this
                                      deep fellow feeling.

                                      IS: In between Whitman and Ginsberg is, of course, William Carlos Williams�

                                      ME: Williams was a wonderful poet. Like most of his readers, I had no idea
                                      he was Puerto Rican when I first encountered him. Even without this
                                      knowledge, I loved his precise, jeweled images of urban life, the green
                                      bottle in the trash, the fire engine. He is not a major influence on my
                                      work, but he is certainly present.

                                      IS: How do you perceive his influence on the Beat Generation?

                                      ME: Williams, of course, wrote the famous introduction to Ginsberg's Howl:
                                      "Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell."
                                      Again, I would say that Williams was a presence but not a major influence
                                      for the Beats. Whitman was their guru. (Mine, too.)

                                      IS: There appears to be a few degrees of separation between your work and
                                      the Nuyorican tradition. It all comes down, I guess, to what one perceives
                                      as street poetry. Pietri, Algarin, Pi�ero, Esteves � there�s an urgency in
                                      their voices, urgency and roughness. Your style, in contrast, is more

                                      ME: I have various links to the Nuyorican tradition: I�m culturally
                                      Nuyorican�that is, a Puerto Rican born and raised in New York City. I�m
                                      writing from the same general experience and perspective as the poets of the
                                      Nuyorican school. In my twenties, I was inspired and influenced by several
                                      major Nuyorican works: Puerto Rican Obituary, by Pedro Pietri; Down These
                                      Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas; and Short Eyes by Miguel Pi�ero. Again, to be
                                      inspired by a writer is not to say that I must imitate that writer. To be
                                      influenced by a writer is not to say that I must emulate that writer.
                                      Hopefully, our inspirations and influences lead us to discover our own
                                      unique voices. Though I was born and raised in New York, I evolved as a poet
                                      elsewhere, particularly in Boston, where, keep in mind, I practiced tenant
                                      law in the Latino community at the same time I was practicing poetry. My use
                                      of language is indeed different from most poets of the Nuyorican tradition.
                                      I don't want to sound like anyone else. Moreover, why we should invent and
                                      repeat our own clich�s, like every other community of writers? My language,
                                      though "lyrical," is hopefully accessible, available to the community that
                                      provoked these poems in the first place. When I gave a reading just the
                                      other day at the local jail, the Puerto Rican inmates responded strongly.
                                      The experience, the point of view of the community, is still reflected in
                                      the poems. I�m ultimately more interested in what unites the Puerto Rican
                                      community, and its writers, than in what divides us.

                                      IS: There is often among Latino writers a perceived sense of burden. As a
                                      so-called ethnic writer, one is destined to become the spokesperson for your
                                      people. You're destined to use political tools and infuse your work with
                                      that. You don't share this concept of burden. It is for you something all
                                      together different. It comes naturally. It comes from also the tradition in
                                      Latin America of the writer that represents the voiceless. Do you feel a
                                      constraint for Latino writers forced to represent, forced to speak out for
                                      others? What does that create in you?

                                      ME: I don't feel that this is a burden. I don't feel that it's something I'm
                                      forced to do. It's a privilege. It's a responsibility, but also an honor. I
                                      have a subject. I have something to say. For me one of the great dilemmas of
                                      contemporary poetry in this country is that most poets don't have anything
                                      to say. They're writing poems instead of putting down new tile in the
                                      bathroom, or horseback riding, or tending the garden, or something else that
                                      could have been done just as easily. I feel blessed with a certain kind of
                                      gift, which is the gift of a tale to tell. There is a story. That's a gift.
                                      It's not a burden at all.

                                      IS: Tell me how the story comes to you and how it gets formed? How is the
                                      poem born and how does it mature? How does it become an entity? And once
                                      published does it keep on evolving or does it stop evolving?

                                      ME: Many of my poems are narrative poems, so it does begin, quite literally,
                                      with a story. Over the years I�ve developed the same eye for a story that a
                                      journalist might develop. There are certain instincts. You watch events
                                      unfold before you, or someone tells you the tale, and you find yourself
                                      translating it into poetry. There's a reflex action which takes over.

                                      I think of it as a kind of internal tuning fork. I sometimes think that
                                      sound, that �ting� I'm hearing, can only be heard by poets and dogs. It�s a
                                      very high-pitched sound.

                                      It's a combination of instinct plus experience, plus practice, practice,
                                      practice. All of that creates the impulse towards a poem. There are
                                      situations where I'll sit up in bed at three o'clock in the morning and
                                      realize that something that happened to me when I was 16 years old is, in
                                      fact, a poem.

                                      IS: And how long does it take to become a fully developed poem? How long do
                                      you work and rework?

                                      ME: The poems are so idiosyncratic. Some of them come quickly. In fact, some
                                      of the poems that have gained the most circulation for me are the ones that
                                      came most quickly and easily.

                                      IS: As if they were dictated to you?

                                      ME: As if dictated. It almost feels like cheating. I feel as if I didn't
                                      work hard enough on that kind of poem; why would anyone want to read it? I
                                      wrote a poem about a janitor called "Jorge the Church Janitor Finally
                                      Quits", in the voice of a janitor friend who worked at a church in Harvard
                                      Square, Cambridge, years ago. One night he had had enough and walked off the
                                      job. When I found out that he had done this, I was so angry about it that I
                                      sat down and wrote the poem on the back of a napkin in about ten minutes.

                                      IS: And that was it?

                                      ME: That was it. I remember another occasion when I wrote a poem in my head,
                                      while I was sitting with my wife watching a production of the Nutcracker in
                                      Boston (her idea, not mine). I was so bored. After staring at the Exit sign
                                      for a good long time, I began to develop a poem about a totally unrelated
                                      scenario. After we got out of the theater I said: �We've got to get
                                      someplace fast.� We went to a nearby restaurant. Then I said: �I need
                                      something to write on.� She gave me a paper bag; that's all she had in her
                                      purse. Then I said: �I need something to write with.� She found a magic
                                      marker. I tore the bag open lengthwise, so I would have enough space to
                                      write on. I wrote this poem on the bag with a magic marker. It was called,
                                      �Portrait of a Real Hijo de Puta,� about an abused child my wife worked with
                                      as a swim coach at the Dorchester House in Boston.

                                      IS: But others take longer?

                                      ME: Others take much longer. Often, I'm scratching and chipping away at
                                      anything that doesn't look like a poem. That could take years. If I don't
                                      feel like it's ready, I'll hold it back. I won't send it out or include it
                                      in a book until I have it in its least objectionable form.

                                      IS: You speak Spanish and English or better, English and Spanish. These are
                                      two universes, these are two ways of life, these are two languages. And as
                                      far as I know you mostly or only write in English, although your poems are
                                      infused with Spanish. What's your relationship--love/hate, passion--towards
                                      the two languages, Shakespeare's language and Cervantes'?

                                      ME: I have the entire range of emotions you describe with respect to both
                                      languages. I love both languages and struggle with both languages. English
                                      is my first language and Spanish my second language, but they blend into
                                      each other. They influence each other. I find more and more with my poetry
                                      that this is the case. The relationship between the two languages has taken
                                      various forms over the years. There are poems I�ve written in English which
                                      have been translated into Spanish, where I serve as the co-translator. There
                                      are other situations where I will combine the two languages and bounce them
                                      off one another. I recently did a poem called "En La Calle San Sebasti�n,"
                                      about a street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is famous for its music.
                                      I alternate one line of Spanish with one line of English throughout the
                                      poem. The alternating line in Spanish is �En la calle San Sebastian:� On
                                      Saint Sebastian Street. I'm trying to evoke the sound of the music by using
                                      this refrain, because Spanish has that great musicality.

                                      IS: And when you do that as you do in that poem, are you conscious or even
                                      perhaps paralyzed by the fact that someone in the audience might not speak
                                      Spanish, and that there might be a line in that case or a few words
                                      sprinkled in other cases that might pass by that person's understanding? Do
                                      you feel compelled to explain everything that is in the other language?

                                      ME: I try to be accessible. I try to communicate. That accessibility can be
                                      achieved in a variety of ways when it comes to the use of Spanish in the
                                      body of an English-language poem. I think of it in terms of "the three C's":
                                      context, cognates and crossover words. I will employ some of those devices
                                      in the process of putting a bilingual poem out into the world. Oftentimes
                                      that seems to be enough.

                                      On the other hand, I don't feel obligated to explain all the time. I don't
                                      feel obligated to translate all the time. There's a point at which I think
                                      the reader must do some of the work. Hopefully, the poet can motivate the
                                      reader to do that work. If I get the reader engaged, then the reader will
                                      want to know what certain words mean. Thus, I may use the word �alabanza� in
                                      a poem, and repeat that word, emphasizing its importance. If the reader in
                                      English doesn�t know that �alabanza� is �praise,� he or she might just be
                                      compelled to look it up in the Spanish dictionary, even if that means buying
                                      the dictionary first.


                                      It first aired on PBS-WGBH as part of La Plaza: Conversations with Ilan
                                      Stavans (September 24th, 2002)
                                    • pothik
                                      Antibiotics legislation needs your support today! Antibiotics are being misused in meat production to accelerate animal growth and prevent diseases caused by
                                      Message 18 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                        Antibiotics legislation needs your support today!

                                        Antibiotics are being misused in meat production to accelerate animal growth
                                        and prevent diseases caused by overcrowded and unsanitary factory farm
                                        conditions, contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases in
                                        humans. Fortunately, bi-partisan bills to end the overuse of medically
                                        important antibiotics in animal agriculture were recently introduced in the
                                        House and the Senate. Please urge your Congressmembers to cosponsor these
                                        bills to preserve antibiotics for you and your family.

                                        Learn More

                                        Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) recently joined
                                        their House colleagues, Representatives Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Wayne
                                        Gilchrest (R-MD) to introduce legislation that, if enacted, will end the
                                        overuse of medically important antibiotics in animal agriculture.

                                        The overuse of antibiotics contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant
                                        infections in humans that are costly and difficult to treat. Moreover, the
                                        burden of antibiotic resistance is borne by the most vulnerable in our
                                        society: children, the elderly, and those with already weakened immune
                                        systems, such as people undergoing chemotherapy or persons with HIV/AIDS.

                                        The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (S. 1460/H.R.
                                        2932) will phase out the practice of feeding massive quantities of
                                        antibiotics to food animals within two years of enactment. Livestock and
                                        poultry producers misuse these life-saving medicines to accelerate animal
                                        growth and prevent diseases caused by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions
                                        on industrial-style factory farms, not to treat disease. An estimated 70% of
                                        antibiotics and related drugs produced in this country--nearly 25 million
                                        pounds per year--are used in animal agriculture for these nontherapeutic
                                        purposes. This amount is more than 8 times the antibiotics and related drugs
                                        used to treat human illness.

                                        While some producers and retailers of meat products have announced policies
                                        that take steps to curb antibiotic use, private-sector initiatives to reduce
                                        antibiotic use in animal agriculture are rare, limited in scope, and
                                        difficult to verify. Federal action is needed to achieve comprehensive
                                        reductions and create a level playing field for all producers and retailers.

                                        Passage of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act is
                                        critical to keep antibiotics working for human health. In addition to
                                        averting the harmful effects of antibiotic overuse on human health, ending
                                        this practice will force producers to raise animals using more sustainable

                                        The American Medical Association and over 300 other health, consumer,
                                        environmental, agricultural, and humane organizations support The
                                        Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

                                        Your voice is needed to build support for this critical legislation. Write
                                        to your Senators and member of Congress and urge them to cosponsor this
                                        legislation to preserve antibiotics as an important tool to protect human

                                        Write Letter
                                        January 01, 2004

                                        Your U.S. senators

                                        Your U.S. representative

                                        I am writing to urge you to protect human health and cosponsor The
                                        Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

                                        The overuse of antibiotics contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant
                                        infections in humans that are costly and difficult to treat. Moreover, the
                                        burden of antibiotic resistance is borne by the most vulnerable in our
                                        society: children, the elderly, and those with already weakened immune
                                        systems, such as people undergoing chemotherapy or persons with HIV/AIDS.

                                        The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (S. 1460/H.R.
                                        2932) will phase out the practice of feeding massive quantities of
                                        antibiotics to food animals within two years of enactment. Livestock and
                                        poultry producers misuse these life-saving medicines to accelerate animal
                                        growth and prevent diseases caused by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions
                                        on industrial-style factory farms, not to treat disease. An estimated 70%
                                        of antibiotics and related drugs produced in this country--nearly 25 million
                                        pounds per year--are used in animal agriculture for these nontherapeutic
                                        purposes. This amount is more than 8 times the antibiotics and related
                                        drugs used to treat human illness.

                                        While some producers and retailers of meat products have announced policies
                                        that take steps to curb antibiotic use, private-sector initiatives to reduce
                                        antibiotic use in animal agriculture are rare, limited in scope, and
                                        difficult to verify. Federal action is needed to achieve comprehensive
                                        reductions and create a level playing field for all producers and retailers.

                                        I urge you to act immediately to preserve antibiotics for my family and me
                                        by cosponsoring The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

                                        Sign your letter in the following link:
                                      • pothik
                                        Equality Now Campaign Against Video Travel Video Travel is a sex tour company based in Honolulu, Hawaii, owned by Melvin M. Hamaguchi and operating under
                                        Message 19 of 28 , Dec 31, 2003
                                          Equality Now Campaign Against Video Travel

                                          Video Travel is a sex tour company based in Honolulu, Hawaii, owned by
                                          Melvin M. Hamaguchi and operating under license from the Hawaii Department
                                          of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Video Travel sends sex tourists on its
                                          Ultimate Asian Sex Tour to Thailand every May and November. The next sex
                                          tour was scheduled to leave for Thailand on November 12, 2003. Equality Now
                                          believes Mr. Hamaguchi through Video Travel is promoting prostitution in
                                          violation of Hawaii�s Penal Code.

                                          In August 2002, Equality Now filed a complaint with the Regulated Industries
                                          Complaints Office (RICO) of the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and
                                          Consumer Affairs, requesting that Mr. Hamaguchi�s travel agency license be
                                          revoked on the basis that he is an �unfit person� to hold a license or be
                                          registered as a travel agent. As far as Equality Now is aware, in the 15
                                          months since the complaint was filed, Mr. Hamaguchi�s license or
                                          registration has not been revoked, and Video Travel is still conducting
                                          business promoting and organizing sex tours.

                                          Equality Now is continuing its campaign against Video Travel by urging
                                          Hawaii Attorney General Mark J. Bennett to shut down the operations of Video
                                          Travel and prosecute Mr. Hamaguchi to the fullest extent of the law. Acts of
                                          prostitution that take place on Mr. Hamaguchi�s tours are explicitly
                                          highlighted in Video Travel�s promotional materials and on its website,
                                          http://www.videotravel.net The Frequently Asked Asian Sex Tour Questions
                                          section of Video Travel�s website provides information on the �cost to have
                                          sex with a lady.� It then explains that there is a �barfine� to remove a
                                          woman from the bar where she works and an additional �tip� to the woman
                                          taken from the bar. The �tip� is given directly to the girl or woman from
                                          whom the sex is being purchased and according to the website is �expected�
                                          and �required�.

                                          Equality Now believes Mr. Hamaguchi is promoting prostitution by:
                                          advertising the services of Ultimate Asian Sex Tour via the internet,
                                          answering inquiries from potential customers and mailing promotional
                                          materials, organizing the trip abroad for customers, and receiving payments
                                          from customers for his services, all for purposes of facilitating sex tours.
                                          In Thailand, Mr. Hamaguchi continues to advance prostitution by providing
                                          �guided tours to three major sex areas in Bangkok, including selected go-go
                                          bars and massage parlors...� Mr. Hamaguchi also assures his customers that
                                          �this isn�t the type of tour where you will be dropped off and picked up
                                          later.� He promises that, �I will personally be your guide throughout your
                                          stay in Thailand.�

                                          This heightened campaign follows on the heels of Equality Now�s seven-year
                                          campaign against Big Apple Oriental Tours, a sex tour company based in New
                                          York. In July 2003, the New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer
                                          obtained a temporary restraining order against Big Apple Oriental Tours,
                                          which severely restricted its ability to continue its business and
                                          effectively disabled its website. Equality Now hopes that the successful
                                          campaign against Big Apple Oriental Tours will serve as a precedent to other
                                          law enforcement and relevant agencies, including those in Hawaii, to close
                                          down all sex tour operations based in the United States.

                                          In February 2003, President George W. Bush signed a National Security
                                          Presidential Directive to advance the United States Government's fight
                                          against trafficking in persons. It characterized prostitution and related
                                          activities as "inherently harmful and dehumanizing" and stated that sex
                                          tourism contributes to the trafficking of persons. The 2003 Trafficking In
                                          Persons Report issued by the U.S. Department of State lists "discouraging
                                          sex tourism" as one of the best practices in the fight against trafficking.

                                          Equality Now believes sex tourism contributes to the demand for trafficking
                                          in women and is a human rights violation. Melvin Hamaguchi and Video
                                          Travel�s customers must no longer be allowed to respectively promote and
                                          engage in the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and girls.

                                          November 4, 2003
                                          Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan lanant@...
                                        • pothik
                                          INDIANA SUPREME COURT GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO GARY, INDIANA S LAWSUIT AGAINST GUN INDUSTRY Immunity Bill Pending in Congress Would Override Court s Decision and
                                          Message 20 of 28 , Jan 1, 2004
                                            GUN INDUSTRY

                                            Immunity Bill Pending in Congress Would Override Court's Decision and
                                            Dismiss Case

                                            In an important legal victory against the gun industry, the Indiana Supreme
                                            Court today unanimously ruled that the City of Gary may proceed with its
                                            lawsuit against gun manufacturers and sellers. The Court reversed a lower
                                            court ruling dismissing the City's claims and rejected virtually every
                                            argument made by the industry against the suit.

                                            This ruling comes as Congress is considering legislation to ban civil suits
                                            by gun violence victims and cities and immunize negligent gun sellers.
                                            Currently, 44 states allow suits by victims or cities against negligent gun
                                            sellers. The federal immunity bill would override all of these states' laws.
                                            Attorneys with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence represent Gary,
                                            Indiana in this case.

                                            "This is a tremendous victory for cities seeking to hold gun manufacturers
                                            and sellers accountable for supplying guns to criminals," said Daniel R.
                                            Vice, Staff Attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and
                                            attorney. "The U.S. Senate should reject pending legislation to immunize
                                            negligent gun sellers and allow these important cases to go forward."

                                            The Gary suit charges that the industry has designed, marketed and
                                            distributed firearms in ways that ensure the widespread accessibility of
                                            handguns to prohibited purchasers, including children and criminals. It
                                            asserts nuisance, negligence and product liability theories of recovery
                                            against the industry, seeking damages for the millions of dollars in costs
                                            incurred by the City in combating illegal guns.

                                            The Indiana Supreme Court decision clears the way for the Gary suit to
                                            proceed to pretrial discovery and trial.

                                            Since 1989, the Legal Action Project has pioneered innovative legal theories
                                            of liability against gun manufacturers and sellers in an effort to reform
                                            the industry. The Project provides free legal representation to victims of
                                            gun violence as well as to the cities and counties that have filed lawsuits
                                            against the gun industry. Through its groundbreaking legal work, the
                                            Project's goal is to compel the gun industry to change its irresponsible
                                            business practices that contribute to the shameful level of gun violence in
                                            this country.

                                            For more information about this lawsuit, other litigation against the gun
                                            industry, and efforts to reform the gun industry, visit the Legal Action
                                            Project's web site at www.gunlawsuits.org.

                                          • Jaydeep Sharma
                                            THE MEANING OF MARXISM Marxism is more relevant than ever By Paul D�����Amato | ON THE 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in 1998, an investment
                                            Message 21 of 28 , Jan 1, 2004
                                              THE MEANING OF MARXISM
                                              Marxism is more relevant than ever

                                              By Paul D�Amato |

                                              ON THE 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in 1998, an investment
                                              banker told the New Yorker, "The longer I spend on Wall Street, the more
                                              convinced I am that Marx was right. I am absolutely convinced that Marx�s
                                              approach is the best way to look at capitalism."

                                              Perhaps the banker read the Communist Manifesto, which reads almost like it
                                              was written yesterday: "[The bourgeoisie] has resolved personal worth into
                                              exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered
                                              freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom--Free Trade. In one
                                              word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has
                                              substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."

                                              Or perhaps he read the Manifesto on capitalist economic crisis: "In these
                                              crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have
                                              seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds
                                              itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as a famine,
                                              a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of
                                              subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because
                                              there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much
                                              industry, too much commerce."

                                              No doubt the investment banker would be less charitable toward Marx�s ideas
                                              about getting rid of the capitalist system--that the workers who produce the
                                              profits that investment bankers rake in should collectively seize that

                                              It�s one thing to point out that the system has "problems," and another to
                                              argue that if we are to survive, capitalism--through its own internal
                                              contradictions--must make way for a higher human form of existence, without
                                              class distinctions, without poverty and without war.

                                              Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto not as an academic exercise, but as a
                                              call to action. Its aim was not only to expose the system�s failings, but to
                                              show how it could be transformed by the collective action of the mass of
                                              workers and oppressed people.

                                              Of course for every banker enthusiastic about Marx�s theory of crisis,
                                              there�s a "renowned" figure proclaiming that "Marxism is dead." The latest
                                              round of assertions came after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
                                              "Socialism is dead! Capitalism is triumphant!" It�s time for the "peace

                                              This assertion came amid a growing gap between rich and poor the world over,
                                              where the assets of the top three billionaires are more than the combined
                                              GNP of all the least developed countries, with a population of 600 million
                                              people. In the U.S., profits and CEO salaries skyrocketed in the 1990s,
                                              while workers� wages stagnated or slumped.

                                              Notwithstanding claims about the end of world conflict, our world has become
                                              increasingly dangerous, where powerful nations like the U.S. threaten the
                                              world with war to maintain their empire.

                                              So, try as they may to dismiss him, Marx keeps coming back. His ideas are
                                              alive because his indictment of capitalism--that it is a class society that
                                              creates great wealth for the few, the rich capitalists, at the expense of
                                              the many, the working class; that it is a society prone to economic crisis
                                              and war that create misery for millions--continues to be confirmed on a
                                              daily basis.

                                              As the misery worsens, the glaring class divisions give rise to what Marx
                                              argued was always the motor of historical change. "The history of all
                                              hitherto existing societies," Marx and Engels wrote in the first sentence of
                                              the Manifesto, "is the history of class struggle."

                                              Moreover, those who loudly applauded the fall of Stalinism left out one
                                              important factor: The death of what passed for communism in the East--but
                                              what was in reality bureaucratic, state capitalism--paves the way for masses
                                              of people to rediscover the real Marxist tradition behind years of
                                              distortion that was encouraged both East and West.

                                              Far from being dead, Marxism is experiencing a rebirth.

                                            • Jaydeep Sharma
                                              THE MEANING OF MARXISM Proving Marxist ideas into practice By Paul D Amato I WAS at a meeting on Marxism the other day, and someone asked, How do you know if
                                              Message 22 of 28 , Jan 1, 2004
                                                THE MEANING OF MARXISM
                                                Proving Marxist ideas into practice

                                                By Paul D'Amato

                                                I WAS at a meeting on Marxism the other day, and someone asked, "How do you
                                                know if your ideas are correct?" Good question. What, indeed, is there to
                                                recommend Marxism over any other view of society and how to change it?

                                                For Marx and Engels, the question of whether this or that view of the world
                                                was correct or not was something that had to be tested against experience.
                                                "The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking,"
                                                Marx wrote, "is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man
                                                must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-worldliness of
                                                his thinking in practice."

                                                Debating the truth or non-truth of any idea without reference to the real
                                                world "is purely a scholastic question." Just as in the "hard" sciences, the
                                                truth of this or that scientific theory is tested successfully or
                                                unsuccessfully in experiments, so theories of society must also be tested.

                                                We can sit for hours debating whether or not socialism--the collective
                                                ownership of the means of production by the associated producers--can be
                                                achieved through the ballot box. But the answer has already been provided by
                                                a number of practical experiments in which socialist parties succeeded in
                                                getting elected only to find that they themselves were changed by the system
                                                rather than changing it. The compromising role played by left candidates,
                                                moreover, is itself clear proof of the Marxist analysis that the state is
                                                not a neutral body, standing over society, but rather the instrument for the
                                                maintenance of the rule of one class over another.

                                                Marxism is therefore very different from religion, which asks that its
                                                followers accept its ideas on faith, or from utopians, who simply
                                                counterpose what exists to what ought to exist. "Communism is for us," wrote
                                                Marx and Engels, "not...an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust
                                                itself. It is "the real movement which abolishes the present state of

                                                Marxism was based on the idea that capitalism�s own social and class
                                                contradictions--marked by recurring economic crisis in spite of the
                                                tremendous development of social wealth, and by a working class whose
                                                struggles are of necessity collective and social rather than
                                                individual--created the conditions for a new society. The starting point of
                                                Marx and Engels, therefore, was not "what men say, imagined, conceived, in
                                                order to arrive at men in the flesh."

                                                They "set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real-life
                                                process demonstrating the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes
                                                of this life-process." Our ideas are social, rather than individual,

                                                The point was not that it was impossible to have ideas about freedom before
                                                the conditions for their realization existed, or that there was a mechanical
                                                one-to-one relationship between people�s ideas and their material conditions
                                                of life. However, "one cannot be liberated," if one is "unable to obtain
                                                food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity."

                                                "Liberation," they argued, "is a historical and not a mental act."

                                                It�s true, someone might argue, that reformism has never worked. But your
                                                method--collective revolution--also failed. Just look at Russia. But the
                                                truth is that a materialist analysis of the failure of the Russian
                                                revolution explains clearly why it failed.

                                                Socialism must be based on abundance. But the conditions for abundance in
                                                1917 existed only on a world scale--not within the confines of an isolated
                                                Russia. Revolution could begin in Russia, but it had to be finished
                                                elsewhere in order to be consummated, because on a national scale the
                                                material conditions for the achievement of socialism did not exist in

                                                As Marx wrote in the German Ideology, anticipating this problem: "This
                                                development of the productive forces...is an absolutely necessary practical
                                                premise, because without it privation, want is merely made general, and with
                                                want the struggle for necessities would begin again, and all the old filthy
                                                business would necessarily be restored."

                                              • Jaydeep Sharma
                                                THE MEANING OF MARXISM Can individuals change history? By Paul D Amato MOST HISTORY books treat historical change as the accomplishment of great men (and an
                                                Message 23 of 28 , Jan 1, 2004
                                                  THE MEANING OF MARXISM
                                                  Can individuals change history?

                                                  By Paul D'Amato

                                                  MOST HISTORY books treat historical change as the accomplishment of great
                                                  men (and an occasional woman). According to this view, the movers and
                                                  shakers in history are the Napoleons, Lincolns and FDRs of the world.

                                                  This view is also applied to revolutions. George Washington, Robespierre,
                                                  Lenin--these men shaped history, and the actions of the masses of people in
                                                  these revolutions were merely events scripted by their leaders.

                                                  The only difference between the treatment of Washington and Lenin as great
                                                  men is that Washington, as a leader of the American Revolution, gets a plus
                                                  sign in front of his name, whereas Lenin, a leader of a working-class
                                                  revolution, gets a minus sign.

                                                  The opposite, though less popular, view is that history follows a path which
                                                  no individual can influence--"great men" are merely agents for its
                                                  realization. According to this view, individuals and their actions are
                                                  purely products of historical conditions.

                                                  Had there been no Napoleon Bonaparte, another figure would have played the
                                                  same role, because historical conditions in the period of the early 18th
                                                  century demanded a "Napoleon." "We cannot make history," wrote Bismarck,
                                                  taking this to its extreme. "We must wait while it is being made."

                                                  The first view serves as an ideological justification for the rule by a
                                                  minority--"great" kings, presidents and leaders have special qualities that
                                                  give them the ability to rule whereas the rest of the "herd" must follow.
                                                  But the second view can also serve as a means to justify brutal exploitation
                                                  and suffering. How can you fault a ruler whose actions are historically
                                                  determined and therefore beyond his control?

                                                  Both of these ideas are mistaken, though they contain elements of truth.
                                                  There are, for example, a few cases where different scientists working
                                                  independently of each other made the same discovery--historical conditions
                                                  were ripe for it.

                                                  Individuals do indeed make history. But they cannot influence society or
                                                  history in any direction they so choose. Individuals cannot exert their will
                                                  independently of the social conditions in which they find themselves.
                                                  "Individuals can influence the fate of society," wrote the Russian Marxist
                                                  George Plekhanov, "by virtue of definite traits in their nature. Their
                                                  influence is sometimes very considerable, but the possibility of its being
                                                  exercised and its extent are determined by society�s organization and the
                                                  alignment of its forces.

                                                  "An individual�s character is a �factor� in social development," concludes
                                                  Plekhanov, "only where, when and to the extent that social relations permit
                                                  it to be."

                                                  Many examples come to mind. It may, for example, have been possible for a
                                                  philosopher in ancient Greece to dream of circumnavigating the globe, but
                                                  the technology and knowledge for such a voyage did not exist until the 15th

                                                  An early Christian may have dreamed of a society free of exploitation where
                                                  wealth is shared, but only with the development of modern capitalism have
                                                  the material conditions been created which make such a world possible.

                                                  For ideas expressed by groups or individuals to become a material force that
                                                  can affect the outcome of history, therefore, there must be both the
                                                  objective conditions and the subjective conditions. To put it crudely: if
                                                  there is not enough food to go around, then my dream of feeding everyone is
                                                  not realizable. But if there is enough food to go around--and capitalist
                                                  production has now made that a reality--there still must be the subjective
                                                  conditions to make a world free of hunger possible.

                                                  There must be a level of consciousness and organization among a sufficient
                                                  number of people to transform social relations and create a new system of
                                                  production and distribution. In this scenario, the role of individuals can
                                                  be decisive at certain key moments--but only if they are a link in a chain
                                                  of other factors. I�ll come back to this in my next article.

                                                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.