Sunday, February 27, 2011

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream

Empire - Running On Empty?

from AlJazeera 6/30/2010

The world is running out of oil.


Increasing global demand has outstripped supply.


The solution has been to search for oil in ever more remote regions of the world, requiring ever greater technological commitments, and risks.


But the catastrophic oil spill off the coast of the US has underlined just how vulnerable and expensive offshore oil drilling is.


The US cannot decide how to satisfy the increasing demand, and with China competing for this precious resource will the world turn once again to the Middle East to fulfill its need?


Already exhausted by oil wars, will this volatile region become the battlefield once again?


Or is there now a more global race for resources, with huge injections from Iraq to Sudan; from Iran to Nigeria; from Equatorial Guinea to Madagascar?


And who holds the power, big oil companies like Exxon Mobil and BP, or leaders like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and their nationalised industries?


And what happens when the oil really does run out? Who and what will be the dominant power in the 21st century? Nuclear, solar, wind, bio-fuels, algae?


Empire finds out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Workers of the World Unite!

Fuck You Judge Dewar

If you are a rape victim, you better hope you don't have "Justice" Robert Dewar presiding. He said, and I quote, "sex was in the air" that night in 2006 near Thompson, Manitoba when a woman was sexually assaulted. Dewar went on to point out that she and her friend were wearing tube tops, high heels and lots of makeup. The rapist was not given any jail time and is allowed to roam free in the community with a conditional sentence.

The bottom line is this, that a man is in control of his sexual urges and subsequent behavior, not the other way around. If he is not in control, then he could become a danger to others and cause them harm, as was the case here. This person needs to be taught how to respect the rights of individuals not to have harm inflicted upon them.

In the same way a person who decides to drink too much and get behind the wheel of an automobile is responsible when he causes injury or death to another, a man is responsible for raping a woman, regardless of how she is dressed or what may have happened earlier in the evening, when that woman expresses her desire for him to stop. Drunkenness or horniness is not a legitimate excuse for hurting another.

If a cop yells, "Stop" and you don't, he can shoot you. If a woman dressed provocatively is being raped and yells, "Stop" it would seem, according to Judge Dewar, she should just shut up and take it because she was asking for it.

It just goes to show you that whatever rights people may have struggled to gain in the past, they can easily be stripped away. This is a remarkable step backwards for a so called democratic society.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'll Walk That Picket Line With You

video
"...and understand this, if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain, when I'm in the White House I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I'll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America, because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner"
The people of Wisconsin are waiting Mr. President...what's the hold up? Is their a rock in your shoe?

The New Tithe


The New Tithe from Justin Wilson on Vimeo.
Mega-churches have used religion as a fundraising tool for too long. They shower their followers in sanctimonious platitudes, then clamor for their cash. This video encourages a new definition of tithing by giving to causes with accountability.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Amazing Meeting: Richard Dawkins - Paranormal or Perinormal

from 2005 in Las Vegas

Percy Schmeiser - David versus Monsanto






synopsis from percyschmeiser.com

Imagine that a storm blows across your garden - and that now, without your knowledge and without your consent, foreign and genetically-manipulated seeds are in your vegetable patch which you have nourished and maintained for many years. A few days later, representatives of a multi-national corporate group pay you a visit at home, demand that you surrender your vegetables and file a criminal complaint against you requesting a fine of $20,000 USD against you - for the illegal use of patented and genetically-manipulated seeds.

What's more: The court finds for the corporate group!
Yet, you fight back....

This short story is no utopia - rather, around the world, the bitter truth. It is also the true experience of the family of Percy and Louise Schmeiser in Canada, also winners of the Alternative Nobel Prize, who meanwhile have been fighting the chemicals and seed manufacturer Monsanto since 1996. Nowadays, nearly three-fourths of genetically-manipulated plants harvested worldwide originate from Monsanto's labs. Monsanto is a U.S. based corporate group which calls the dismal inventions such as DDT, PCB and Agent Orange its own. In its efforts to gain absolute hegemony over plants - from the field all the way to the consumer's plate - Monsanto knows no qualms. The farmers Tony Rush, David Runyon and Marc Loiselle also learned the hard way what it means to be confronted with Monsanto's methods of doing business, as did thousands of other farmers worldwide.

They and the Schmeisers are not just fighting against Monsanto - and with that, for the continuation of their livelihood as farmers - but also for the right to freedom of speech and the right to their property.

Yet above all, they are campaigning for the future of their children and grandchildren - so that they too, will have a chance to grow up in a world without genetically-manipulated food.

This film is reassuring...reassuring to all who fear that as an individual, no one would have any power to confront policy makers, large corporations or the business world. "David vs. Monsanto" proves the opposite.

Fucking Monsanto Bastards

from democracy now, democracynow.org the war and peace report 9/17/2010


AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held. The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 and has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech company Monsanto for years. In 1997, Percy and his wife Louise won the Right Livelihood Award for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights. I spoke with Percy Schmeiser yesterday in Bonn, but first I want to turn to Bertram Verhaag’s documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

NARRATOR: The pesticide Roundup produced by the multinational concern Monsanto is the most widely sold spray in the world. Monsanto made its canola resistant to Roundup. This means Roundup kills every plant without exception. Only Monsanto’s genetically modified canola remains alive.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It was introduced without really much testing being done. And I think, even at that time, when it was introduced in the middle of the '90s, that even the governments were taken in by what these corporations told what it would do, like increase yields and less chemicals and more nutritious. And I think the governments even believed the corporation.

NARRATOR: In 1996, the chemical giant Monsanto introduced its brand of canola into Canada, a brand resistant to the pesticide Roundup. In Schmeiser's region, three farmers agreed to plant Monsanto’s new GMO canola. Due to a heavy storm during the harvest, freshly cut GMO canola drifted into Percy Schmeiser’s fields. His work of fifty years of breeding was destroyed, because his harvest was contaminated by Monsanto’s seed.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It came like a—like a time bomb, like a shock to me, that my seed was ruined through cross-pollination or direct seed drift by a substance, by a seed I didn’t want in my land. And so, it was very disgusting and hard to take that I had lost something that I worked fifty years on.

NARRATOR: Contamination and destruction of his own breed was irrevocably damaging to Percy Schmeiser. But on top of that, Monsanto turned him, the victim, into a culprit.


AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

Well, I met Percy Schmeiser yesterday here in Bonn and asked him to talk about this epic struggle he has with the biotech giant Monsanto. It’s one of the largest biotech companies in the world.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It started in 1998, when Monsanto laid what they call a patent infringement lawsuit against my wife and myself, and they charged us that we were growing their genetic altered, or GMO, canola, as we call it in Canada. And that was the beginning of it. And as GMOs were introduced in North America in 1996, so this was two years after the introduction.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what a GMO is.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Genetic modified organisms. And what that really means is that they took a gene from another life form, put it into canola, which made it resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what canola is.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Canola is—well, here—in most parts of the world, we call it rapeseed. But canola is an oil-based crop, and primarily it is used for making cooking oil. And the meal from it, after it’s pressed, is good animal feed, both for cattle and for pigs.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain how it ended up on your property.

PERCY SCHMEISER: My neighbor had grown it in 1997, and the following year it had true cross-pollination. But at that time, we believe it was primarily the contamination came from seeds blown in the wind, transportation by the farmer to the market, to his field, and from his field to his granaries.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you didn’t buy it and plant it, how could Monsanto sue you for using it?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, they said that it does not matter how it gets into any farmer’s field, and they specified just what I said before—cross-pollination, seed movement and so on. And because they have a patent on one gene that makes that plant resistant—canola plant resistant to a chemical, then they—that they own the ownership. So it doesn’t matter how it gets to your field, for patent law. They can take the whole total farmer’s crop from him or make him destroy it. And in our case, my wife and I were seed developers in canola, which we had been doing for over fifty years, research in the development of disease control and so on. Even we lost all that research when the court ordered, through patent law, they own it.

AMY GOODMAN: That Monsanto owned it.

PERCY SCHMEISER: That Monsanto owns it.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much did they fine you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, initially they wanted so-much-an-acre fine, but it ended up that they laid another lawsuit of $1 million against my wife and myself. And that also, we had to fight. And besides that, there was another lawsuit in the seven years before it went to the Supreme Court, where they tried to seize all our farmland. They tried to seize our whole—our farm equipment, so they could stop us, because we were using mortgages on our farmland to pay for our legal bills.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, then explain what happened. You appealed this right to the Canadian Supreme Court?

PERCY SCHMEISER: It went all the way. It went through the lower courts and the court of appeal and so on, and then it went all the way to Supreme Court of Canada. But there were other issues at the Supreme Court we could bring in that we could not bring in at the lower courts—first of all, farmers’ rights, farmers’ rights to use your own seed from year to year to develop them, and then also the whole issue that we said, in regards to patents, there should be no patents allowed on higher life forms—basically, anything that comes from a seed. So that was one of the main things. We said to the Supreme Court that life is sacred. No one, no individual, no corporation, should ever, ever control it.

You have to remember that in Canada, and I believe also in the United States, that there’s nothing in our patent acts of 1867 and 1869 that talks about genes, because it was unknown at that time. So even at the present time, all these decisions are only decisions of the court and of a judge. And I should also mention that in the Supreme Court, it was a split decision, five-four, where they ruled that Monsanto’s patent on the gene is valid.

AMY GOODMAN: So, they ruled against you or for you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Against me.

AMY GOODMAN: At the Supreme Court.

PERCY SCHMEISER: The Supreme Court of Canada. But they also said that the whole issue of the patents on life has to go back to the Parliament of Canada to bring in laws and regulations in regards to the patents of seeds, plants, farmers’ rights and so on. And that’s where it stands now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened to you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, actually, what was the real—it was actually a real victory for us, because the Supreme Court ruled we would not have to pay Monsanto no money. And the issue of the million-dollar lawsuit, the issue of trying to seize our land and our farm equipment, our house and so on, and the whole issue that they could not have punitive damage against us and so on, was a major victory.

But we thought it was over at that time. But little did we know, about two years later, in 2005, we noticed that one of our fields, or we felt one of our fields were contaminated again with Monsanto’s GMOs. And we notified Monsanto, and we did testing ourselves, and we were quite sure it was Monsanto’s GMO canola in our field again. We notified Monsanto, and they said they would come out and check it, which we were surprised. And indeed, two days later, they came. Several days later, they notified us, "Yes, it is our GMO, Monsanto’s rapeseed, in your field again." And they asked us what we wanted to have done with the contamination. We said to Monsanto, because we were starting to do research on mustard on the field, we wanted every rapeseed—GMO rapeseed plant of Monsanto’s pulled out by hand on this fifty-acre field. And they agreed to do that.

But here’s the unusual part of it, and they do this to farmers across North America. They said, first of all, we’d have to sign a release form. And in this release form, it said my wife, myself or any member of our family could never, ever take Monsanto to court again for the rest of our lives, no matter how much they contaminate us in the future on our land or on this farm. And we said there’s no way we will ever, ever do that.

And the other thing in the release form, they said that our freedom of speech would be taken away. In other words, we could never, ever talk what the terms of settlement were. I couldn’t even talk to you here this morning. So we said to them there’s no way we’re going to give up our freedom of speech. There’s too many people in our countries, United States and Canada, have given our lives for the freedom of speech, and we’ll never give it away to a corporation.

Monsanto said, "If you don’t sign the release, then we will not remove the offending plants," the GMO Monsanto plants. And we said to Monsanto, we, with the help of our neighbors, will remove the contamination. And then my wife received a very nasty email or a fax from Monsanto that said, "We wish to remind you that those GMO plants on your field, Monsanto’s GMO plants on your field, are not your property. They are Monsanto’s property through patent law. And you cannot do with them what you want." And we notified Monsanto, "We will do what we want with those plants. They’re on our land, our property. And we paid our taxes, and we own the land." And we did remove the plants.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, they were threatening you now not to remove the plants.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Not to remove them, because it was their property, and we could not do with them what we want, because they have a patent on it. They own it, even though it’s on our land. So, we removed the plants. And with the help of our neighbors—and this was very unusual. We paid our neighbors 640 Canadian dollars, and then we sent Monsanto the bill. And Monsanto refused to pay it. And eventually, after another year of letters going back and forth, Monsanto said they would pay the $640, plus a $20 cost, if we would sign that document. We refused to do that.

So, I’ll never forget March 19th, 2007—or '08, and it went—at the beginning of the court, the Monsanto's lawyer got up and said, "Your Honor, we will pay"—well, there was mediation and everything before that—"We will pay the $640 and the $20 cost." The whole issue was never the $640. The whole issue now became liability. If Monsanto owns the patent on a gene, and you cannot control it when you put it in the environment as a seed—in a seed or in a plant, then they should be responsible for the damages they do to organic farmers and conventional farmers. So that was a major victory, because now it has set a precedent that if a farmer is contaminated, he can seek relief in the courts that the damage—that the contamination damage is paid for or taken care of. So it’s worldwide. So we were very happy, after ten years of legal battle, that we finally had a corporation—first of all, like a corporation of Monsanto, to have a billion-dollar corporation plus in court on a $640 bill.


AMY GOODMAN: Canadian farmer and Right Livelihood laureate Percy Schmeiser describing his struggle with Monsanto. We’ll come back to his story in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We are here in Bonn for the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Award winners. About eighty of them have gathered here. Before we go back to our interview with the Right Livelihood Award-winner Percy Schmeiser, I want to turn back to an excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto, about Percy and his wife Louise, how they were repeatedly threatened after they took on Monsanto.

LOUISE SCHMEISER: It was scary at times. You just never know.

PERCY SCHMEISER: And the phone calls, you know, where there would be somebody on the line saying, "You better watch it. They’re going to get you." So it was pretty scary, and I was very concerned, when I was gone, that something would happen to her.

LOUISE SCHMEISER: And when they would watch us, especially in our own house here—they watched days on end every move we made, in our house and for our office, what we use for the land, I felt like I was a prisoner in my own home.

PERCY SCHMEISER: They did everything to bring us down financially and mentally. And that’s what they’re doing, is to mentally and financially break people. They are totally ruthless. They have no ethics. They have no morals. It’s the bottom line.


AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto. Here in Bonn, I asked Percy Schmeiser yesterday to talk about how things stand now between, well, he, Louise and Monsanto.

PERCY SCHMEISER: I hope my battle with Monsanto is over. But I realize that as long as I bring awareness around the world about Monsanto’s patent—not only Monsanto’s patent, but Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont—what their patents do for the control of the future of our seed and our food supply, and that’s what it was all about. GMOs were never meant to feed a hungry or starving world. They were meant to get control of farmers’ seed supply. That gives them the control of the world food supply. And so, that’s where we stand at now, to bring that awareness around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, we’re sitting here in Bonn, Germany, and you’re traveling through Germany. In fact, there is a law here named for you, the Schmeiser law.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: People here are extremely interested in your case. What is the Schmeiser law?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Basically is that, here in Germany, that if a farmer is contaminated with Monsanto’s GMOs, Monsanto cannot come after that farmer to seize their crop, whatever it may be, or take them to court, if they are contaminated.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much of an issue is that here in Germany?

PERCY SCHMEISER: That’s a big issue, because that has become, I think also in North America, a big issue, the liability issue. And to give you an extent of that is that in North America, a farmer cannot—if he grows GMOs, he cannot get genetic insurance. So if—but I should go back, that at the last lawsuit with Monsanto in the courts, initially, before the final one, Monsanto said, first of all, the farmer is responsible for the contamination, because he knows if he grows GMOs, he will contaminate his neighbor by whatever means. When that did not go over in the courts, then Monsanto said the government is responsible for the contamination, because they gave us regulatory approval to sell it. And that did not go over. And so, in the end, Monsanto paid for the contamination cleanup.

So, that has become a very big issue around the world, that if you have a patent on a gene, doesn’t give you the right to release it into the environment, where it destroys biodiversity, where it destroys organic farmers and so on. And I think it has become a bigger issue in Europe now, it’s because the organic industry, I believe, is much stronger in European countries than it is in North America, although it’s growing very fast in both our countries, in the United States and Canada.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, you mentioned that you figured out that probably your property was contaminated, the second time, with GMO, with Monsanto GMO crops. How did you know that?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, what happened was that we were using this fifty-acre piece of land for, as I mentioned, for mustard research. And we did not grow any crop that year. And we had used a herbicide on it, and there were canola plants that did not die. And that field did not have canola in for at least ten years. Where did it come from? And so, we did testing then with—we, from our neighbor, got a little bit of Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, and we sprayed it on ten plants, and then those plants were marked. And then, when they did not die after about twelve days, we realized it had to have some sort of—some of Monsanto’s glyphosate in it, because Monsanto said, in the previous court trials, that if anything—any green thing is sprayed with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and it does not die, it’s their gene that’s in it. So that’s why we suspected immediately it was Monsanto’s gene, herbicide gene, Roundup gene, in it. And that’s why we asked Monsanto to come, because what they had said, that if a farmer thinks he’s contaminated, he should notify Monsanto. And that’s what we did, on what they had said in the courts before.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the Schmeiser’s principles of food and agriculture?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, first of all, that all humans—number one, all humans have a right to food or to produce it, and that, number two, is that natural systems must be protected so that they can produce healthy food. Humans have a right to safe and nutritious food. And no rules should prevent countries controlling food imports. And everyone has a right to information about how their food is produced. Regions should have the right to regulate their own agriculture. Local production and consumption should be encouraged. So, like we say, local consumption or local produce, then you save the energy and the fuel that it’s required to move it thousands of miles, which happens, although, to a lot of us in North America. And seeds are a common property resource. And that’s where we felt very strongly that no one should have the right to the future of seeds. And then, no forms—no life forms should be patented. And terminator seeds should be globally banned. And we have a strong opinion that terminator seeds should never, never, ever be introduced, because, to us, it’s the—I think the most serious assault on life we’ve ever seen on this planet. When they come out with—want to come out with a gene that terminates the future of the germination of that seed, so that would totally control the world seed supply.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by a terminator seed.

PERCY SCHMEISER: A terminator gene basically, quite simply, is a gene that’s put into a seed. And when the seed becomes a plant, all seeds from that plant are sterile. And so, it cannot be used the following year for seed. But the danger also of the terminator gene, it can cross-pollinate into indigenous crops, heirloom crops, and render those seeds from those plants also sterile. So it’s a termination of the future of life.

AMY GOODMAN: So it forces farmers to buy seeds every year, rather than to conserve seeds so that they can be used every year.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Exactly. And that’s why we say it’s the greatest assault of life we’ve ever seen on this planet, where you terminate the future of life. Farmers would be forced to buy the seed each year, whether you’re a gardener, a tree planter or a grain producer.

And then the—so, and then, another one, farmers—freedom to exchange seeds should be protected. And one of the reasons for that is that, in the seed industry, we say that one glove does not fit all. My wife and I were developing seeds and plants suitable for our local climatic and soil conditions. But if we probably would have went to Montana or to the next province or 200 miles away, climatic conditions are different, soil conditions are different, and that’s why the farmers should always have that right to develop seeds and plants suitable for their own conditions. And that should never, ever be taken away, because we would use the biodiversity of our seeds and plants. And then, farmers should have the right—the right for the land and to be free of genetic contamination.

AMY GOODMAN: And how far have you gotten with these principles? Do you feel like, in the world, independent farmers are losing ground or gaining? I mean, is Monsanto gaining strength or losing?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, to answer that, I think that on the four crops that were introduced in 1996, which was maize, or corn, soybeans, cotton, especially in Canada, canola, is that it would be very difficult to find a way—and scientists say they don’t know if it ever can be recalled back out of the environment. Have we been able to solve it? I would say yes, because there is more concern, because when they wanted to introduce GMO wheat, GMO rice, GMO alfalfa, there was a big uproar by people in both our countries that no more GMOs should be introduced, because we saw the damage of what the four have done. So that’s why it’s so important. What we do today will affect generations to come in the seed—control of the seed and food supply of this world.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you now travel around the world. I mean, you were the—a member of the Saskatchewan legislature, '67 to ’71. You were the mayor of your own hometown of Bruno in Saskatchewan. Were you traveling much then? And now, after these lawsuits against Monsanto, how much are you spreading word, like seeds, around the world?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, I could be probably traveling full times if I accepted all the invitations. But to give you an example, last year I probably was gone ten months from Saskatchewan, all over every continent, except Antarctica, to bring this information and awareness out. And at our age—we're in retirement age—we felt that’s the least we can do. And one of the other reasons that we look at it is the—as I mentioned before, the future generation. My wife and I have fifteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And then we look at what kind of a future are we going to leave for them. And another thing that we’re very concerned about is how much of the funding for our research in our university now comes from corporations? And that really scares me, because we know that if the funding is applied to these universities and the land-grant colleges in the United States, how much control will the companies then have over our universities? So, what kind of a future? My wife and I have six grandchildren in university right now. What kind of future will they have if their academic freedom is controlled? And we don’t want to see that. A scientist should be free to express and release the findings that he develops or finds.

AMY GOODMAN: Has Monsanto dared to take you on again?

PERCY SCHMEISER: They’ve threatened us many times.

AMY GOODMAN: How did they threaten you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: They, with—I’ll give you an example. My wife and I were speaking in the Parliament in Cape Town of South Africa, and coming out of the Assembly, one of Monsanto’s representatives from Johannesburg ran face-to-face into us. And he lost his cool, and he said to my wife and myself—and he shook his fist in our face and said, "Nobody stands up to Monsanto. We are going to get both of you, somehow, some day, and destroy you both." Phone calls my wife would receive: "You better watch it. We’re going to get you." They would come into our driveway and watch what my wife would be doing all day. They would use their vehicles and sit on the roads alongside of our farmland, watch us all day long, to try and intimidate us and to put fear into us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what keeps you going?

PERCY SCHMEISER: I think that we feel that we have to stand up for the rights of farmers around the world. All my life I’ve been in agriculture and worked for agricultural policies and laws. And we feel that a farmer should never, ever lose the rights to his seeds or plants, because if we do, we’re going to be back to a serf system, we’re going to be back to a feudal system, that our forefathers, our grandfathers, left countries in Europe many years ago to get away from. Now, in less than—or 100 years, we’ve come full circle, where the control is not by kings or lords or barons, but now it’s corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning in the beautiful sunshine.


AMY GOODMAN: Right Livelihood laureate and Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A War on Women: Republican Bills Target Abortion and Reproductive Rights

from democracy now, democracynow.org, the war and peace report 2/16/11

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at what’s being described as "the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health" ever. Since taking power in January, the Republican-led House has introduced several major anti-choice bills that women’s rights activists say could place severe limitations on access to reproductive health services. This, despite a campaign pledge to focus on creating jobs. Republican House Speaker John Boehner hailed the proposed legislation.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land. The current law, particularly as enforced by this administration, does not reflect the will of the American people. Last year, we listened to the American people through America Speaking Out. They spoke on this issue loudly and clearly. So we have included it in our pledge, and today we’re making good on that commitment.
Congressman Chris Smith has introduced bipartisan legislation that codifies the Hyde Amendment and other similar policies by permanently applying a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal programs. This commonsense legislation reflects the will of the people and deserves the support of the House. It’s one of our highest legislative priorities, and as such, I’ve directed that it receive the designation of H.R. 3.
AMY GOODMAN: That was House Speaker John Boehner. As he noted, H.R. 3, called the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," would cut off public funds for abortions. A second bill, H.R. 358, called the "Protect Life Act," would prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services under the Affordable Care Act. A third bill, H.R. 217, called the "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act," would deny federal family planning funds to any organizations that perform abortions, regardless of whether or not the organization uses that federal money for abortions.
To discuss the legislation, we’re joined now by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. Through its affiliates, Planned Parenthood provides family planning, contraception and abortion services at more than 800 health clinics across the country, serving more than three million patients a year.
Cecile Richards, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., today, where you are lobbying Congress?
CECILE RICHARDS: Sure. Thanks, Amy. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be back.
The House leadership in Congress has basically just declared war on women, really from day one. And I know you had that clip there from Speaker Boehner, but it goes much further than that. They not only are now trying to—federal funding hasn’t been available for abortion for more than 30 years, but what they’re really doing is trying to overturn the legal right to abortion in any context. As well, though, it’s way beyond abortion. Now they’re basically trying to end family planning and access to birth control in America. The Republican budget that came out basically gets rid of the nation’s Family Planning Program. And as well, we expect in the next day or two, with the support of the Speaker, there will be an amendment to basically end all federal funds going to Planned Parenthood, including funds that are used for basic birth control, cancer screenings and preventive care for more than three million people every year.
AMY GOODMAN: In your 800 clinics of Planned Parenthood, how much of the work is around abortion? What is the array of services that you provide?
CECILE RICHARDS: Less than 10 percent of our services are related to abortion. In fact, 90 percent, more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s care is preventive care. We do—we provide birth control to about two-and-a-half million people every year. We do almost a million cancer screenings for breast exams, as well as cervical cancer screenings. We’re now one of the largest providers of STD testing and treatment in the country.
And for so many women who come to Planned Parenthood, like other family planning clinics, we are their only doctor. You know, the vast majority of women who come to Planned Parenthood, it will be the only doctor they see all year. And so, I think one of the most damaging things about what’s being proposed by the Republican leadership right now in Congress is it would basically take away healthcare for three million people who currently have it.
AMY GOODMAN: Does any federal funding go to abortion now?
CECILE RICHARDS: No, and it hasn’t since—it hasn’t for more than 30 years. So, I mean, I was really struck by the clip that you played from Speaker Boehner talking about the will of the people. I actually thought the will of the people, based on this last election, was to get the American economy back going and get people back to work. So it’s quite stunning to me that instead of focusing on jobs and really getting the economy going, they are spending all of their time talking about issues that I think the American people are settled. And the fact that they would, after this healthcare—you know, working over the last two years to finally expand healthcare access to folks in America, their very proposals would take away healthcare for more than five million women who currently have access to it through the nation’s Family Planning Program or through Planned Parenthood.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go through these three major bills right now before Congress.
CECILE RICHARDS: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: First, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which critics call the "Stupak on Steroids" bill.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, the Smith—the Chris Smith bill that Speaker Boehner was referring to is the most far-reaching bill we have ever seen. And not only does it codify the Hyde Amendment, which of course we disagree with, but—that is currently the law that federal funds can’t be used for abortion—but it even says, if you use your own money, a woman uses her own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion, she will have to pay higher taxes, because she can no longer get the tax benefits of having healthcare coverage that’s comprehensive. Same with small business owners. If you’re a business owner and you get a tax benefit from providing—from providing healthcare coverage, if that coverage also includes abortion coverage, you can no longer get that tax benefit. And it’s going to deny—essentially, the purpose of the Smith bill is to take away the right of women to have abortion coverage in insurance anywhere in America, even women with desperately needed terminations based on medical need.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the redefining of "rape" that’s included in H.R. 3, Cecile Richards.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, this is the most egregious thing and that absolutely has—I think defines the kind of attitude we’re seeing by the House leadership, which is it attempted to say there are only certain kinds of rape that now you would have the right to get an abortion, and that was forcible rape. They wanted to redefine what are good rapes and what are bad rapes. And it has created an enormous public outcry, and I think to the embarrassment of the leadership. But I think it’s just one indication of how far they are willing to go in taking away women’s access to healthcare in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, you have to explain that further. Good rapes and bad rapes?
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, yes, if it wasn’t considered forcible, if it was simply you were raped, if it was a date rape or other kind of rape that wasn’t considered forcible, where you could demonstrate—I guess it would be up to the rape victim to demonstrate that it was—how forcible it was, you could not have access to abortion coverage as a result of the rape.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting, because we just played in the headlines a group of women, and some men, who are suing around the issue of rape in Iraq, and a videotape—
CECILE RICHARDS: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN:—was made of one woman, and her commander saying, looking at the videotape that the men made who were raping her, he didn’t feel that she had fought back hard enough.
CECILE RICHARDS: Exactly. I just saw that, that you had played it. And I think it is incredible to me that at this time in the United States of America, we are talking about going so far back, basically repealing women’s rights in a way that is just unthinkable. And again, I think it’s—as you said earlier, it’s not simply about—it’s not simply about ending Roe v. Wade, which is really the purpose of Mr. Smith and Mr. Boehner, it’s literally taking away the access to birth control in America, which is unbelievable. How did we get here?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go on to the federal legislation—yes, there are more bills that are being weighed now in Congress.
CECILE RICHARDS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: The Congress is saying that they are focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs.
CECILE RICHARDS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And then I want to talk about the state level and talk about states like, oh, South Dakota. Is it possible that the killing of abortion providers could be considered justifiable homicide? This is what we’re going to take on, as we continue after the break with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Cecile Richards. She’s president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare and sex education and the country’s largest advocacy organization for women’s health and rights. Let’s talk about H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. What would that do, Cecile Richards?
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I’m sorry, tell me—the number doesn’t—
AMY GOODMAN: H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even when necessary to save a woman’s life.
CECILE RICHARDS: Right. I apologize, I didn’t remember the number. We have—as you know, there is a raft of bills that have now been introduced in Congress, really in the House. And the concern over this bill is what—is allowing hospitals to refuse treatment, even in the case of a woman’s life who needs an abortion. And, of course, this has been—there have been massive expansions of conscience clauses and legislation to allow hospitals and even, of course, pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. And this is a concern about this bill, that it would allow, if a woman—and as you know, in some communities, you don’t have a lot of hospitals to choose from. And this would—our concern about this bill is it would allow hospitals to refuse life-saving treatment, if a woman needed an abortion, based on conscience. And again, I think this is where the leadership of the House isn’t focusing on women’s health. They are focusing on an ideological agenda, and they don’t understand how this is going to affect real women’s lives. And that’s the story that we’re trying to tell to Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: H.R. 217, the measure which has 122 co-sponsors, called the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, that would ban federal funding for other services to organizations that perform abortions? How would that affect Planned Parenthood, and what does that mean?
CECILE RICHARDS: I know, there’s so many. So, essentially, the other—one of the big goals is to prevent healthcare providers who provide an array of healthcare services—if any of the services they provide include abortions or abortion referrals, they should not be—this bill says they should not be able to get any federal funds for family planning, which, on the face of it, is ridiculous. Right now, as an example, Planned Parenthood is the biggest reproductive healthcare provider in the country. We actually—under the Title X program, which is our nation’s Family Planning Program, we provide more than a third of the clients who come in through the Title X program, we provide them family planning. So this would essentially take Planned Parenthood completely out of that system, as well as any other family planning provider that provided abortion care.
And if I could—you know, to remember, abortion is legal in this country. This is basically taking something that everyone is—that family planning clinics are providing that is a legal service and saying, "If you provide this service, you can no longer provide family planning." The most ridiculous part about it is that, for Congressman Pence and the others who are proposing these bills, Planned Parenthood does more to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion than any organization in America. So I don’t really know where they think the millions of women who come to us and other providers are going to go for family planning anymore and what the result will be.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the state level, Cecile, to what is happening in various states. With at least 29 anti-choice governors, the battleground has shifted to the state legislatures. First, talk about what’s happening right now in South Dakota.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, South Dakota is one example of a very egregious bill that speaks to the interference of anyone who was trying to terminate a pregnancy. And it’s a complicated bill, so I don’t want to get into all of the details, but it is a—what we’re seeing in South Dakota—I could list states across the country—are state legislatures who unfortunately are much in the mold now of the leadership of the House of Representatives, who, instead of focusing on the really hard and important issues of the day—about their budgets, their economy—they are using this as an opening, with the sort of the shift to the right in the leadership and in these legislatures to now try to repeal every single—every single right that women have to legal abortion. And they’re focusing, as well, on providers. And the goal is not only to make sure that women don’t have access, but to make sure that doctors are afraid to even provide legal abortions in this country. And that’s really what the South Dakota bill is about.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what is happening in Kansas, Cecile Richards.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, there are so many things happening in Kansas, I don’t even know—I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, we have obviously—in the state of Kansas, we’ve been dealing with very bad legislation for years, for decades. So, I mean, we could talk about these specific states, but I think the important thing, just to sort of bring it back overall, is that what we are seeing—but it’s not just at the state level. I agree with you that there are a lot of problems at the state level, but we are literally seeing the federal government, the U.S. House of Representatives, trying to end birth control access in America. So, I agree that the states are where some of the most egregious state bills are, but it’s much bigger than that. And I think this is—what we are seeing around the country is this unbelievable overreach by the leadership that was elected in November, not focusing on what the people want, but in fact focusing on issues about abortion access, taking away birth control, allowing hospitals to refuse treatment, allowing pharmacists to refuse birth control. This is not what the American people voted for, and I think there’s going to be an enormous political backlash, which we’re already beginning to see at Planned Parenthood, folks coming into our clinics and saying, "I cannot believe I’ve just heard that the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood."
AMY GOODMAN: Cecile Richards, the Republican attack on women’s reproductive rights coincides with the release of this series of undercover videos aimed at discrediting your organization, Planned Parenthood. The campaign has been compared to a similar attack on the community group ACORN in 2008 that relied on deceptively edited videos secretly recorded by James O’Keefe. One undercover recorded video was recorded in New York, appears to show a worker at Planned Parenthood counseling a male client and a young woman on how to get abortions for child prostitutes. It was released by the anti-choice group Live Action, which conducted a sting operation at 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in six states. Can you talk about what this whole video campaign, led by Lila Rose, is all about?
CECILE RICHARDS: Sure. Thanks for asking, Amy. This is—actually, for the past four years, this organization, Live Action, has been going undercover and using this sort of sting operation technique to try to entrap Planned Parenthood clinicians all across the country, then using fake and doctored tapes to try to ruin or damage our reputation. And you’re exactly right. The same folks who trained these people are the ones who trained the folks that were arrested trying to tap the phones of Senator Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who trained the folks who went in and entrapped ACORN. It’s exactly the same playbook that we’ve seen on the right. And, you know, it is a very deceptive organization. Their tapes cannot be trusted. And they have no interest or any concern about the welfare of young women or women in general. Their whole stated goal is to end legal abortion in America, to overturn Roe, and to put Planned Parenthood out of business. And that’s really—that is really their purpose.
As soon as we saw that there were folks posing as these people, as pimps, as prostitutes, claiming that they were underage, sex-trafficking rings, we reported not only to the local authorities, but we went to the U.S. Attorney General, to General Holder, and said, "A crime may be being committed. We don’t know who these people are, but you need to investigate." And they’ve been very helpful in doing so.
AMY GOODMAN: While the veracity of the Live Action videos is in serious dispute—I mean, it’s interesting, Cecile, at the same time, this week, the headline of Shirley Sherrod, who’s suing Andrew Breitbart, because the sequence is very clear. First the videos are made—
CECILE RICHARDS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN:—heavily edited. They go on Andrew Breitbart’s website. Fox picks them up. And then a huge campaign is launched by Republicans in Congress. That’s what happened with ACORN, and they succeeded in completely destroying the ACORN organization, even though afterwards the General Accountability Office said that—vindicated ACORN totally, saying that no federal funding was used—
CECILE RICHARDS: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN:—for anything that was nefarious or illegal.
CECILE RICHARDS: You’re absolutely right. This is the same playbook. They’re trying to use it against Planned Parenthood. And it’s not going to work. But it is really unbelievable that an organization that’s been so discredited, like Live Action, that uses fake and doctored tapes, does get the media play that they do. I think that one of the—and it’s clearly being timed at the same time that Congress is dealing—the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to end access to family planning and trying to end access by Planned Parenthood to federal funds for the programs that we run. So this is all clearly all coordinated. I think the—
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play—
CECILE RICHARDS: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of Congressman Mike Pence, who has used the videos as ammunition to build support for H.R. 217, the bill that would deny federal family planning funds to any organization that performs abortions, including Planned Parenthood.
CECILE RICHARDS: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: Pence spoke about the videos last week on the floor of the House.
REP. MIKE PENCE: It’s a surprise to most Americans to learn that the largest abortion provider in America is also the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X. And it’s heartbreaking news this morning that Planned Parenthood of America has now been the subject of one more undercover video showing someone posing as a pimp being facilitated by employees at Planned Parenthood in how to secure secret abortions, STD testing and contraception for child prostitutes. You know, as a father of two teenage daughters, I see the video that came out this morning, I see the video that came out last week, and it’s an outrage to me. That employees of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are facilitating the abuse of minor girls in this country should be a scandal to every American. The time has come to deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America. I’ve authored the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. And Congress must act, and act now, to move this important legislation.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Gentleman, time has expired.
REP. MIKE PENCE: Pro-life Americans and all Americans should not be forced to subsidize America’s largest abortion provider or to continue to provide—
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: His time has expired.
REP. MIKE PENCE:—federal taxpayer dollars to Title X clinics that engage in this abhorrent behavior.
AMY GOODMAN: Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, your response?
CECILE RICHARDS: Congressman Pence has been trying to end legal abortion in this country, I think, ever since he got into office. Every single year he introduces a bill to try to end funding for Planned Parenthood. He’s simply using—working in cahoots with this discredited organization, Live Action, with faked-up tapes, to try to give fuel to the fire here. And I think the incredible thing—it’s interesting that he refers to his children. I have, of course, three children myself, and I have two daughters. And my concern is about, what about my daughters and the millions of women who currently count on Planned Parenthood, three million patients who come to us every single year for basic family planning and preventive care? Mr. Pence’s interest is not in any of the things he says; he simply wants to end access to women for reproductive healthcare. And I think he should just be straight up about what his purpose is. That’s what this is all about.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I think one of the reasons ACORN went down was because of the lack of support expressed around the country when it happened, a kind of very fast swift-boating of them. What is happening in terms of support around the country? What are you doing, Planned Parenthood Federation of America? I know you held a news conference yesterday. What kind of support are you getting from other groups, even non-family-planning groups?
CECILE RICHARDS: Right. No, it’s a great question. And I have to say, we have been flooded with not only former patients of Planned Parenthood, the current patients, but many organizations, more than 125 national organizations, who have come to our support, both in letters, in press releases. And then, of course, on the Hill yesterday, we had a press conference with members of the House of Representatives. I think we’ll be doing one with the Senate, as well. Because the fact of the matter is, people in this country have a very high opinion of Planned Parenthood. Again, one in five women have been to Planned Parenthood at some point in their lifetime. We are a community institution. And so, we’ve been very encouraged, not only Democratic support, Republican support, all across the country. And I think that also folks in the progressive community saw what happened to ACORN and are really—have taken notice and said, "We will not let this happen to another institution that is so vital to the healthcare of women in America." So we’ve been very, very encouraged. And I think the truth will out here on Live Action. I think these kinds of deceptive tactics, these kind of faked-up videos, they only work for so long. And I will put our healthcare record up against any organization in America for providing high-quality, affordable care to millions of women who need us.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the very horrifying news out of Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Corbett said on Tuesday a number of state workers have been fired and the state’s abortion clinics will come under greater oversight, following a probe into a Philadelphia clinic where a woman and seven newborn babies were killed. Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested last month along with his wife and eight unlicensed employees, a grand jury report accusing Gosnell of regularly and illegally delivering live viable babies in the third trimester, then murdering the newborns by severing their spinal cords. It’s a horrific story.
CECILE RICHARDS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Gosnell and his staff are also accused of killing a pregnant mother by providing her with too much anesthesia. The report singling out Pennsylvania’s health and medical regulators for ignoring complaints against the clinic dating back to 1993. Can you talk about your response to this, Cecile Richards?
CECILE RICHARDS: Look, it’s a horrific story, Amy. And I think that what is—in some ways, to me, it really underscores the danger of what’s happening in Congress, which is, what we’re seeing is this attempt to move a legal medical procedure that many women need—abortion—and putting it in the back alley again and putting it—putting folks like Planned Parenthood, who are responsible medical providers—we have the highest-quality staff. We have medical doctors from the most prestigious medical schools. Our doors are open to anyone to come and visit and see exactly what we do. It’s so important that we have providers who will provide women with excellent care who need it. And I think the case in Pennsylvania is just a case in point. My fear is that if the House of Representatives is successful and they put Planned Parenthood completely out of business, which is their goal, we are going to see more stories like this, because we are going to see women who will be desperate to terminate a pregnancy, and they will go anywhere to do it. We cannot go back to those days in America. I think this is a very cautionary tale. My heart breaks for the women in Pennsylvania that were victims in this situation. And that is why we need providers who are reputable, who are first-class providers, who are well known, so that women can go to get the healthcare they need from someone that they can trust.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Cecile Richards, for joining us, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare and sex education and the country’s largest advocacy organization for women’s health and rights. Thanks so much for being with us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No More War

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. ~ Hermann Goering, in an interview from his jail cell with American psychologist Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
War becomes perpetual when it’s used as a rationale for peace. ~ Norman Solomon, writer and media critic 
video
from War Made Easy (2007)
A time comes when silence is betrayal, and that time has come for us...Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war...and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government...What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe...Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness...we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now...The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve...This way of settling differences is not just...A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death...Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now...I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., excerpts from Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Conservative Government of Canada is an Embarrassment to the World

In November of 2010, the Conservative government of Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper killed Bill C-311, which sought to bring greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. That meant going into Cancun for the climate change conference later that same month, Canada had nothing of any significance to offer in the way of reducing carbon emissions and pollution.

In addition, this government, in lockstep with the Tories of Alberta, continues to deny the harmful impact of the tar sands near Fort McMurray on the wildlife and the people living near its toxic spewing. They also have the support of the Edmonton Sun newspaper who proudly announce that anyone who speaks out against the tar sands is "anti-Albertan". I guess pro-Albertan means to allow rich multi-billion dollar oil companies to destroy the environment, steal from the native communities and spread carcinogenic effluvium for miles around.

Today, this same Canadian government wants the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a "formal dispute resolution panel" to review the European ban on Canadian seal products to see if it "complies with WTO rules".

Fisheries minister Gail Shea said this challenge was "a matter of principle". Well it certainly isn't a matter of ethics. She claims that she is on the side of "the thousands of Canadians in coastal and northern communities who depend on the seal harvest to provide a livelihood for their families".

The good people at Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics also depend on the millions of dollars in U.S. aid that Egypt receives under President Hosni Mubarak to come back to them so they can build tanks, missiles and machine guns to make a profit selling death, while at the same time "providing a livelihood for their families". Would she say that a dictator like Mubarak should remain in power so that a few people in North America could keep their jobs?

If your job is responsible for causing the suffering and death of others, then you deserve to be unemployed when people stand up and say, "No, I will not support your harmful profession".

It's high time that whatever government is elected in this country, they focus less on running it like a profit making business, making as much money as possible irrespective of how much pollution is caused or how many must die to serve their greedy ends, and concentrate more on a clean environment, preserving the natural beauty of this country, protecting its wildlife, and providing its citizens with adequate health services and the best in affordable education.

If they cannot, or will not do that, then the onus is on the Canadian people to organize themselves and force the government to comply or force them to say goodbye.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

George W. Bush Could Now Face a Lawsuit Wherever He Travels Outside the United States

from Democracy Now, democracynow.org, the war and peace report 2/10/2011


JUAN GONZALEZ: Former president George W. Bush was scheduled to be heading to Switzerland this weekend for his first trip to Europe since leaving office. He was set to speak on Saturday at a dinner in Geneva in honor of United Israel Appeal. But Bush canceled the trip after human rights attorneys threatened to take legal action against him for sanctioning the use of torture.
One of the key pieces of evidence against the former president has been his own words. In an interview last November with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Bush openly admitted authorizing the use of torture on prisoners.
MATT LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Because the lawyers said it was legal, said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I’m not a lawyer. And—but you got to trust the judgment of people around you. And I do.
MATT LAUER: You say it’s legal, and the lawyers told me.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah.
MATT LAUER: Critics say that you got the Justice Department to give you the legal guidance and the legal memos that you wanted.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well—
MATT LAUER: Tom Kean, who was the former Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, said they got legal opinions they wanted from their own people.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, he obviously doesn’t know. I hope Mr. Kean reads the book. That’s why I’ve written the book. He can—they can draw whatever conclusion they want.
MATT LAUER: If it’s legal, President Bush, then if an American is taken into custody in a foreign country, not necessarily a uniformed American—
GEORGE W. BUSH: Look, I’m not going to debate the issue, Matt. I really—
MATT LAUER: I’m just asking. Would it be OK for a foreign country to waterboard an American citizen?
GEORGE W. BUSH: It’s—all I ask is that people read the book. And they can reach the same conclusion if they would have made the same decision I made or not.
MATT LAUER: You’d make the same decision again today?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, I would.
AMY GOODMAN: That was former president George W. Bush speaking with NBC’s Matt Lauer.
Well, on Monday, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights issued a 42-page document they call a preliminary indictment against Bush. Human rights lawyers say Bush could now face a lawsuit wherever he travels outside the United States.
We’re joined by Bill Quigley, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Were you disappointed by the cancellation of Bush’s trip?
BILL QUIGLEY: Well, yes and no. I mean, we really hoped that we could persuade Swiss prosecutors to actually charge him with criminal acts and to issue an arrest warrant. At the same time, everybody knew all along that one of the ways that people who are facing criminal charges in a certain jurisdiction, one of the ways they react is by not going to that place. And so, it was disappointing that we’re not able to actually prosecute him, but I think it has shown worldwide, really, that even though he was the president of the United States, if you engage in torture, which is universally felt to be illegal and unjust and immoral, that there are consequences for that.
So, we filed, along with 60 human rights organizations from around the world, this complaint and backed it up with 2,500 pages of documentation that shows his participation in torture, not to mention his own admission of it in his own book about that. And so, I think it is a big step forward in terms of human rights accountability for torture. As you know, CCR and other groups have been pursuing Bush and a number of the top lawyers in Spain, we’ve tried in Germany, tried in France. And this is really about the closest that we’ve gotten so far. So, he can run, and if he stays at the Super Bowl or whatever, you know, he may not face problems in Texas, but if he goes outside the United States, there are people all over the world that want to try to hold him accountable.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I was going to ask you about that. How many countries effectively now are off-limits to not only Bush, but some of the other former members of his administration, in terms of where the potential for these kinds of prosecutions actually being taken up are?
BILL QUIGLEY: Well, there’s quite a number of places in Europe where there are groups that have already started, some with our participation, some on their own. There’s even a group in Canada. You know, Bush is supposed to go to Canada later this year, and a group that is going to try to engage that there. I think the world is shrinking for him, as it has shrunk in the past for Kissinger and other people who have engaged in what the world understands as human rights violations. And so, it’s exciting, because human rights work is—it’s a growing thing, and it depends on the understanding of people, depends on the approval of other countries. Here, we had two Nobel laureates joined us. We had the previous special rapporteur on torture, had the current rapporteur—U.N. rapporteur on torture saying, "It doesn’t make any difference if he’s the president of a country or not. Nobody has impunity when this happens. People are responsible, and they’re going to have to face the consequences."
AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks has been very significant in letting you know what the U.S. government is doing behind the scenes, as in Spain, the—I think his name was [Eduardo] Aguirre, the Cuban American banker who was appointed by President Bush to be the ambassador to Spain, intervening at every level of the government to try to stop these lawsuits from moving forward in Spain against Rumsfeld and Gonzales, when he was attorney general, etc.
BILL QUIGLEY: Right. WikiLeaks has been a tremendous new spotlight for those of us who are fighting for human rights, a tremendous addition, I think, to democracy and human rights. And it showed that in Spain, in exact opposite to what both the United States and the Spanish government has said, the United States consistently intervening into that case to try to stop it, to remove an activist judge who was one of the overseers of those proceedings.
AMY GOODMAN: If 147 countries have signed the Convention Against Torture, does that make President Bush subject to prosecution in all of those countries?
BILL QUIGLEY: We would say yes. I mean, every country has their own sort of decision about how they’re going to prosecute people from other countries. Switzerland has one: if there is somebody who is a human rights abuser on your soil, then you can bring an action against him. So, that was the action that was being taken in Geneva.

Where Does U.S. Aid to Egypt Go?

from Democracy Now, democracynow.org, the war and peace report 1/31/2011

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the uprising in Egypt that continues to swell, with more than a million people expected out tomorrow. Joining us here in New York, Bill Hartung. He is director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, has closely examined how the United States has propped up the flagging Mubarak regime, largely with military aid. William Hartung is author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
Can you lay out for us—when we say tens of billions of dollars has been given to the regime, one of the highest recipients of foreign aid in the world, behind Israel, actually that money doesn’t necessarily go to Egypt, right? It goes to U.S. military contractors.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: It’s a form of corporate welfare for companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, because it goes to Egypt, then it comes back for F-16 aircraft, for M1 tanks, for aircraft engines, for all kinds of missiles, for guns, for tear gas canisters, as was discussed, a company called Combined Systems International, which actually has its name on the side of the canisters that have been found on the streets there. So these companies—for example, Lockheed Martin has been the leader in deals worth $3.8 billion over that period of the last 10 years; General Dynamics, $2.5 billion for tanks; Boeing, $1.7 billion for missiles, for helicopters; Raytheon for all manner of missiles for the armed forces. So, basically, this is a key element in propping up the regime, but a lot of the money, as you said and Juan Cole mentioned on this program, is basically recycled. Taxpayers could just as easily be giving it directly to Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the U.S. has tremendous power, wields tremendous power here, right? And I want to also put this question to Professor Shehata, and that is the issue of U.S. law. I mean, I remember well, in covering the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, that the issue for Indonesia, when they invaded—this, one of the worst genocides of the 20th century—was to get the approval of the United States, because otherwise the U.S. would cut off aid. You can’t use U.S. weapons for offensive acts—at least, that’s the law. And they illegally invaded East Timor. What about the Mubarak regime using these weapons on the people who are rebelling?
SAMER SHEHATA: Right. I mean, it’s a very important and timely question. I should just add that those planes that were flying over Tahrir Square, flying low over the thousands of peaceful protesters in the center of Cairo yesterday, appeared to be F-16s made in the United States of America. And the tanks on the streets in Egypt, in Cairo, in Alexandria and other cities, are either Abrams tanks or tanks that are American tanks but made in Egypt. There’s an agreement that that can take place. And so, this is very much a serious issue, and the United States does have tremendous influence over President Mubarak.
It doesn’t seem like he’s listening to the calibrated change in statements coming out of Washington, because it seems now, in the diplomatic language that’s been used, that the United States is saying it wants a peaceful transition. They haven’t said explicitly—and governments don’t say this—"Mubarak has to leave right now," but I think that’s the implication. I certainly don’t think it’s gone far enough, but right now it doesn’t seem like Mr. Mubarak is really listening or understands the severity of the situation or is just incredibly stubborn and wants to hold on until the last minute.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the military weapons that are going, Bill Hartung, the support that goes to U.S. corporations, they won’t be pleased with cutting off aid to Egypt, because it’s actually going to them.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly, because they don’t know what a new regime will want to do. Will they want to maintain that huge armed forces that was made in the U.S.A.? How might they use those in defense of the country? So it’s unlikely, if you had a new regime, that they would come in for big multi-billion-dollar deals for a bloated military when there’s needs for their own people.
AMY GOODMAN: According to lists of arms sales notifications compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Assistance Agency, in the last decade alone, the Department of Defense has brokered over $11 billion in U.S. arms offers to the Egyptian regime on behalf of weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon and General Electric.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: And that’s just the last little while. In fact, Mubarak has been getting $1.3 billion per year, like clockwork, since the beginning of his regime. So that’s about $40 billion, that a lot of which has gone to these companies. So they, of course—you know, they’ve met with lobbyists. They’ve met with Egypt over the years. They’ve tried to keep the United States on good terms with Egypt, because they profit from this relationship.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Bill Hartung, for joining us, Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Samer Shehata, who is assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"I'm Vegan" Arizona License Plate

I found this picture of a novelty "IM VEGAN" Arizona license plate today and just had to include it on my blog. Man, I would love to have this.

Here is a picture of my current Arizona plate
To the point, but it lacks the ethical message.

One of the reasons I love Arizona so much, besides the grand canyon and saguaros, is because Tucson is home to my favorite vegan restaurant, Lovin' Spoonfuls.
Now I really got a hankerin' for some Old Country Lasagna...Mushrooms, spinach and mock Italian sausage baked with ribbed noodles, vegan ricotta and soy cheeses in a chunky tomato sauce and served with garlic bread...mmm, that's some good eatin'!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Who Owns the Land?

In the United States, 60% of the land is privately owned, 28% is owned by the federal government and 9% is owned by state and local governments. 2% is Indian trust land.

In Canada, 89% of the land is owned by the federal (41%) or provincial (48%) government. The remaining 11% is privately owned.

It's really hard to be free when wherever you're standing, the ground is owned by someone. And if you happen to "own" that land, then chances are you're going to feel threatened if someone should want to occupy it or take it from you. This could even lead to bloodshed.

the causes of social inequality are three in number:

1. Gratuitous appropriation of collective wealth;
2. Inequality in exchange;
3. The right of profit or increase.

And since this threefold method of extortion is the very essence of the domain of property, I denied the legitimacy of property, and proclaimed its identity with robbery.
~ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What Is Property
This Earth was here long before any humans ever arrived on the scene and will continue to exist long after the last human has breathed his terminal breath. There have been, and are today, countless creatures occupying its surface. This whole fallacious notion of ownership of the land and of living beings is due in no small part to the Bible, specifically Gen 1:26
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
We may believe we own. We may believe God created us and all the animals and plants on this planet and deny the reality of evolution. Our beliefs are immaterial. For regardless of what we believe, the truth about nature exists whether we know it or not. (To believe means to have a fairly good grasp of how or why something is the way it is based upon the evidence available to us. To believe something simply because you are told to, or out of tradition, is not a belief...it is merely being obedient)

The land, air and water belongs to all the creatures who reside on this planet. We ought not be so selfish in thinking and acting as though only we, as a group or as an individual, have a right to it. This land is your land, this land is my land and together we can share with all the other lifeforms here and call it...Our Land.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Dirty Oil - A Documentary on The Alberta Tar Sands

Dirty Oil - A Documentary on The Alberta Tar Sands, was recently taken off youtube because of a copyright claim by dogwoof . I guess money is more important to them than having this movie shown to as many people as possible. It would seem that enlightening people on the health dangers and unprecedented man-made environmental devastation of the tar sands takes a back seat to making a buck.

Ironically, even the Alberta government chipped in nearly $55,000 toward the total cost of $288,000 spent on production for the movie in the province. Being from Alberta, I helped pay for this movie with my tax dollars. The way I see it, that makes me part owner.

A film written and directed by Leslie Iwerks. This documentary from 2009 exposes the dishonesty and greed of the Canadian and Alberta governments as well as the oil companies, who make huge profits at the expense of the environment, the wildlife, and the native communities who live near the tar sands of northern Alberta.

here is an excerpt from, tar sands - dirty oil and the future of a continent, by andrew nikiforuk:

pollution from the tar sands has now created an acid rain problem in saskatchewan and manitoba.

with much help from 150,000 tonnes of acid-making air-borne pollution from the tar sands and local upgraders, alberta now produces one-quarter of canada's sulfur dioxide emissions and one-third of it's nitrogen oxide emissions.

in 2008, environment canada reported a first for the blue skies of the west: 'some areas of western canada in the vicinity of large so2 sources may in fact be in exceedance' of damaging pollution. according to the canadian council of ministers of the environment, 12 per cent of forest soils in the athabasca and cold lake regions are already acidifying.

rain as acidic as black coffee is now falling in the la loche region just west of fort mcmurray. a 2007 saskatchewan study looking at hundreds of lakes within a 186-mile radius of acid rain pollution from 'oil/tar sands mining and upgrading operations' found that the majority of these water bodies couldn't buffer much acidity. as a consequence, bitumen pollution could eventually kill all life in hundreds of saskatchewan lakes. yet, to save money, alberta has recently reduced its acid rain monitoring.

but the alberta government can manage to fund a public relations propaganda ad campaign, to the tune of $25 million, in an effort to convince people that the tar sands isn't that bad. shameful and despicable!

tell that joke of an environment minister in alberta, the (dis)honorable rob renner, to get on the stick and see to it that the tar sands stop polluting our land, air and water now; stop destroying the boreal forest and the wildlife that call it home; stop poisoning and killing the people who live downstream of this putrid project:

Hon. Rob Renner Minister of Environment
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Fax: (780) 422-6259
Email: env.infocent@gov.ab.ca

(the new environment minister for alberta is Diana McQueen. the contact information is still the same. the official title has changed however. it's now Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. that's rich, as if destroying the atmosphere, polluting the land and toxifying rivers and lakes with oil & gas exploration, extraction and combustion is sustainable).

please watch this series of talks by dr. kevin timoney, ecologist with treeline ecological research, on how the tar sands is responsible for pollutants found downstream in the athabasca river



and a paper he co-wrote with peter lee, Does the Alberta Tar Sands Industry Pollute? The Scientific Evidence

"bacteria that live within the tailings pond have changed recently. they are now producing very large volumes of methane, due to their metabolizing the hydrocarbons. it amounts to, in the case of syncrude's mildred lake facility, the equivalent methane production of 500,000 cattle...from just this one tailings pond." ~ Ecologist Kevin Timoney

(and there are about a dozen tailings ponds at the tar sands encompassing an area of more than 170 square kms, nearly 1.5 times the size of san francisco...and that's just the surface area, they average about 80 meters deep)

Stop Toxic Fuels Expansion Support the Beaver Lake Cree Nation vs the Tar Sands

stop the keystone xl pipeline join the peaceful protest in washington dc from august 20 - september 3, 2011
if you are canadian and cannot make it to washington, form a demonstration at your provincial/territorial legislature

One thing that may play a role in halting this massive assault on water quality and quantity, wildlife, the environment, and public health, is a class action lawsuit against the Alberta and Canadian governments and the companies responsible for bringing about this end of nature, by anyone and everyone who has suffered the consequences.