Thursday, December 28, 2006

Polygamy in Kenya

“Make Polygamous Families Compulsory” Say Nairobi Polygamists

Our Nairobians.Com team was shocked to meet Nairobi men who feel very strongly about the decriminalisation and legalisation of polygamy in the country. A polygamous family typically involves one man and two or more ‘wives.’ The Kenyan legal system recognises only monogamous marriages – it is illegal for a person to be married to more than one person at the same time. You might think that a pro-polygamy Nairobi man has a pot belly and grey hairs, but these men are in their twenties and thirties, and many feel that it is only lack of money that prevents them from being polygamous.

Blaming ‘Nature’

Salim Nganga of Shauri Moyo believes that nature bears the answer to the question of polygamy, pointing out that women outnumber men: “Kenya kuna wanawake wengi zaidi ya wanaume. Kwanini wanawake wengine wasiwe na wanaume? Watajiokoa namna gani? Wanachukua wanaume wa watu, wanawanyanganya.” Even if women outnumber men, the fact that not everyone on the planet wants to get married means that people never lack spouses out of a shortage of the opposite sex; there are many spinsters in Nairobi who love being single and don’t care for marriage.

“Wakati wa Census ya 1989 ilikuwa inasema kwamba, ili wanawake watoshane wanaume, wanastahili kuoa wanawake watatu na nusu. Watatu na nusu haiwezekani. Inastahili kila mtu awe na wabibi watano, ili tuweze kutoshana,” continues Salim, “Sasa mimi nasema ikiwa hata ni lazima, ipitishwe kama law, kwamba kila mwanamume awe na wanawake watano.” But can people’s personal lives be governed by Census statistics?

Blaming Western Culture on outlawing of Polygamy

Evans Owiti of Kamukunji argued that polygamy was only outlawed when white people arrived in Kenya: “Mzungu anakuelezea ati hiyo ni bigamy lakini yeye anakuwa na mistress, huyo mtu mwenyewe ana bibi mwingine ni vile tu anamuita na jina lingine, then Kenya tunaambiwa kuwa bibi wengine ni dhambi. Kwanza kuwa na bibi wengi ni njia ya kupunguza HIV kwa njia haraka kabisa.” But how can polygamous marriages lead to reduced HIV infections, when polygamy involves multiple people – if one person strays and contracts the virus, everyone else will get it, including the children born. Worse still, they might not use condoms because they believe they are in a marriage.

Salim Nganga of Shauri Moyo also believes that: “Hii Government na hao watu ambao wanakudanganya kwamba ni lazima uwe na bibi mmoja. Ni nani kwa historia ambaye alikuwa na bibi mmoja? Tumepoteza utamaduni, tukadanganywa na mzungu, tunafuata mzungu kwa mambo ambayo tusiyoyajua. Mimi ni Mwafrika naona haja kuoa bibi wendi. Hata bibi mmoja ni hasara na ni haramu hata kwa Mwenyezi Mungu.”

But monogamy protects the rights of women in multiple ways, and it ensures that people cannot set up families willy nilly, without having the legal obligation to provide for them. A woman in a legally recognised marriage has protection from the law in the event of abandonment or neglect, in terms of child support and alimony, but without a legally recognised marriage she would be at the mercy of the man or his family, and she could be left with no wealth or child support entitlement.

Wealth and Polygamy

The fact that polygamy is illegal does not mean that people have stopped practicing it in Nairobi, and those men who practise it usually marry one wife in church (or in a civil ceremony), then they ‘marry’ the rest by giving dowry and proclaiming theirs a traditional marriage. But that situation often requires substantial wealth on the part of the man, to give dowry, to keep more than one home, and to ‘maintain’ more than one family. Bill of Huruma argued that poverty makes such traditions unworkable: “Mtu anawezaaje kuishi room moja, sijui mguu mbili kwa mguu mbili. Eh? Hata mtu analala, mguu unaonekana huko nje. Sasa, mko na bibi na watoto, hiyo story ya mila hauwezi kugaanda mila kama uko maskini.”

The lack of multiple houses appears to inhibit would-be polygamists. Salim Nganga confesses that he has only one wife: “Mimi namke mmoja. Lakini kwa mke mmoja ananifinya kwasababu pengine hata anaweza kunifanya niwe na stress kila wakati. Saa ingine sasa kama nakuta amekasirika, inanilazimu hata mimi pia nikasirike. Sasa kutoka kazini nikimsalimia, yeye mwenyewe hajibu kwa hasira. Kama ningekuwa na bibi wengi, mimi mwenyewe hatungeweza kujibiana, ningehama hapo kwake pole pole niende hiyo nyumba nyingine. Hasira yake ikiisha, nirudi, hatungekuwa na shida.” However, polygamy cannot be the answer to marital problems because leaving one wife’s house to go to the other’s does not mean that the problem with the first wife will solve itself.

The lack of land is also something that other would-be polygamists feel inhibits them. Maina of Githurai said: “Haswa, mzungu alifanya watu kuabudu pesa. Saa hii hata mimi naweza kupenda kuwa na bibi wengi, but angalia situation ya maisha, hakuna shamba, watu ni masquatters, hawana chakula.” Maina also felt that the lack of resources is a barrier to fulfilment of conjugal duties: “Kama mwanamume hakuli vizuri, na sasa unamwambia aoe bibi wengi, arudi kwa hizo mila, na hakuli vizuri na hiyo sex ni lazima anakula vizuri ili anapata hiyo joto kwa mwili, ataweza aje kuliisha hao bibi wengi? Lakini unaona hao viongozi wetu haswa wana bibi wengi juu wanaweza liisha hao mabibi. Lakini ukiambia mtu kama mimi ambaye nimezaliwa Mathare, wazazi wangu sikukuta wakiwa na hata ploti, hiyo mambo ya bibi wengi, nitailipia aje?”

Polygamists view women as commodities

It seems that polygamous men view women as commodities to be possessed, or looking to be possessed. Evans of Kamukunji believed that in ancient Africa every woman got the ‘chance’ to get married: “Kitambo wanawake ambao hawakuolewa walikuwa wangepata nafasi ya kuolewa kama ni bibi wa pili, tatu au nne.”

It’s true that Kenya is full of single women lamenting the absence of their Mr. Right, and fretting about being single and childless by the age of thirty or forty. What does that say about their desire to be possessed, and how does it challenge streotypes about women ‘needing’ to get married in order to find an ‘owner’? We don’t necessarily hear of Kenyan men frantically searching for a woman to marry, so perhaps women in Nairobi need to ask themselves whether they are perpetuating negative stereotypes about themselves.

Salim bizzarely believes that women can handle infidelity if they know the other woman: “Hata nifaida ukiwa na bibi wengi wanajuana na kila mmoja anajua huyo ni bibi mwenza, hakutakuwa na matatizo.” Women in polygamous situations are arguably in helpless positions – some may have been forced into the marriage by their families upon dowry exchange, they may have been lied to, or financial circumstances may make the woman feel that it’s preferable to poverty. In any case, an existing wife may not have the financial means to leave the situation with her children when a man says that he’s going to get a co-wife, so just because she stays does not mean that she accepts the polygamy.

It was very ironic that one polygamy fundamentalist cannot bear the thought of his woman straying, and he views polygamy as a way of keeping tabs on a woman: “Lakini ukiwa na bibi wa siri, inaweza kuwa hasara,” declared Salim Nganga of Shauri Moyo, “Hata huyo yule walala na yeye kule na anajificha inaweza kuwa hata yeye tunashare na jamaa kama Chalo, ama jamaa mwingine kama Mutiso ama Kolil. Lakini kama angekuwa wako nyumbani, huyu bibi hangeweza kuenda na Chalo, kwa sababu anajulikana ni wangu direct, hakungekuwa na matatizo.”

Maybe Kenyans need to rethink the system of dowry, since it perpetuates the falsehood that women are commodities to be purchased. If a groom’s family wants to give the bride’s family gifts as a symbol of their new union, that’s fine, but the bride’s family must also give the groom’s family gifts. Think about the last dowry negotiation that you attended or heard of, and think about the cold, hard bargaining or extortion that takes place, initiated by the bride’s family, as if they are selling something. By the time the groom and his family have finished taking out loans and selling things to pay for the dowry, they will be seething with resentment or feeling that they now own something new.

So can women marry multiple husbands?

What irony that polygamous men expect their women to be monogamous! Why don’t they call for women to have multiple husbands? In some African tribes that was and still is done. The problem with the polygamy argument is that it is all about the selfish wishes and desires of a roaming man, but if the tables were turned that man cannot handle a taste of his own medicine


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas in Kaliti Jail-Ethiopia

Merry Christmas in Kaliti Jail-Ethiopia
December 23, 2006 12:00 PM EST

Having the nerve to spend a few festive days, exchanging gifts and sharing moments of gullible if not guilty happiness is an outrage, when on this very planet, dozens of millions in a single country are stripped of their national homeland, hundreds of thousands are tyrannized under the boot of a shameful, totalitarian regime, and dozens of thousands are tortured in jails because of their political aspirations for Democracy and their national expectations for a Free Oromo Ethiopia.

End the Hell of Hells Abyssinia, the country that usurped the fair name of Ethiopia!

The world should listen to both parts, the oppressors and the oppressed, to get a final idea, before action is taken. This article, first of a series of authentic papers and texts written by both sides, brings to your wonderfully decorated house the testimony of a tortured young Oromo scholar, who after spending two years in the Gulag of Abyssinia, found peace in Djibouti as refugee. Throughout the text Finfinne, the real capital name of Ethiopia, stands for ‘Addis Ababa’. And never forget; as long as Amharas and Tigrays tyrannize the Christian, Muslim and Animist Oromos, Sidamas, Ogadenis, and Afars, the country should not be called ‘Ethiopia’, but Abyssinia.

Listen to the voice of Mr. Madda Walabu, Oromo Biologist, and try to find out what went wrong with our Humanity. Read his own text, and evaluate for yourselves to what extent you believe in a God of Love and Justice, either you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or believer of any other religion.

All ye that pass by, behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow.

My memories from the Kaliti Jail

By Walabu Madda – Oromo biologist, former Kaliti jail detainee, currently refugee in Djibouti

The Kaliti Jail resembles more to a concentration camp than to regular African prison. It is located in the south-eastern outskirts of Finfinne. Kaliti jail is actually one of the two most notorious prisons of conscience in Abyssinia. The other one is known as the Central Federal Jail.

Prisoners are usually transferred from other jails throughout Abyssinia to Kaliti jail as this jail is the ‘correct’ place for more intense torture and severe, inhuman punishment. The buildings are made of grey stone. Numerous rooms have been arranged for accommodating thousands of prisoners.

Welcome to a Kaliti jail room!

The room I was in was approximately 16x16m, and although it sounds improbable in its 256m2 were accommodated around 100 prisoners, literally squeezed as in a sardine conserve. The only space everyone gets is the space needed for one’s body. If at a moment you happen to turn around, you automatically touch the person next to you - or under you - or above you!

All prisoners sleep on concrete floor, and they are given small, thin mats. While sleeping or at the moment of awaking, the person who sleeps on the edge of your head extends his feet, subsequently hitting you as you are equally positioned to do the same to others. The hit is not deliberate but due to dramatic lack of space.

Abominable hygiene conditions

Perhaps worse than the torture, the low hygiene. Kaliti is worse than what I had imagined as hell, when I was a child. When the room is congested with hundreds of prisoners, it is so unbearably filthy that every minute looks as long as a century of misery. Under these circumstances, it is only normal that, if one has got flu, the next day everyone in the room has flu too. This is however the least, as prisoners are constantly exposed to a great number of contagious diseases, grave contaminations, and lethal sicknesses.

Amhara – Tigray anti-Oromo racism best expressed in Health

Sick Oromo prisoners are never taken to clinics. Actually, no one cares about a prisoner's health. When a prisoner is stricken by a disease, this is rather viewed by the inhuman jail authorities as a most welcome form of torture, something to be added to the conventional torture that is constantly perpetrated by prison officials.

No toiletry for Oromos!

The time prisoners are allowed to spend in the toilet is restricted to a few minutes twice a day, in the morning and the evening. The time in-between prisoners are constrained to stay in their congested rooms; horribly enough, some prisoners who have runny stomach can't wait until the time officially fixed for toilet visit. They are therefore inhumanly forced to discharge their excrements in the very limited space reserved for themselves, next to so many others, making therefore the whole room stink unbearably and appallingly.

All sorts of insects, rats, etc.

As second type of severe hygiene problem is caused by a great number of most disturbing and extremely perilous parasites that also dwell in the congested prisoner rooms. These rooms are the abode of lice, fleas, and their likes. At times, rats sneak into the rooms as they smell remnants of food cooked and brought by the prisoners’ relatives and friends.

Oromo prisoners constrained to starvation

A third category of hygiene problem is provoked by the food cooked in the jail’s disreputably soiled kitchens. The only food prisoners can expect to have in the horrible Kaliti jail is just a small roll of bread and stew called "Dokkee". Dokkee is prepared, believe it or not, in just 10 minutes, and thus undercooked, it is miserably served in a massive bowl for all prisoners.

I am sure if Lord Byron had had an idea of the Kaliti jail before composing his famous 'Devil's Drive', he would have said that "The Devil dined on an Abyssinian stew”....

Truly speaking, people are literarily starving in the Kaliti jail. It is the Amhara / Tigray policy to make Oromos, Sidamas, Ogadenis, Afars and other political prisoners starve to death.

Only in the weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays, parents, relatives and friends of the prisoners are allowed to visit, and doing so they deliver decent homemade food, as they know that the Kaliti jail food is closer to poisoning than to nutrition. However, few are the lucky ones!

Biyya Oromo (land) is a huge country, totaling more than half the Abyssinia’s surface, and taking into consideration the primitive transportation infrastructure and the local temperatures, no food has chance to be properly delivered, if the prisoner’s family or friends live at a distance of more than 30 km from the jail. With the country population being mostly rural and decentralized, less than 10% of the prisoners have the privilege of homemade food delivered by the loved ones. Those having relatives located faraway limit themselves to some cans and conserves, when their relatives come from faraway provinces, after spending two or three days for travel.

Jail: the typical Amhara / Tigray tyranny’s reward for Oromo students

The Oromo political prisoners are highly educated, as the percentage of Oromo literate population is far higher than that of the Amharas and the Tigrays.

The Oromo prisoners are arrested either at their workplaces or in universities, vocational centers, and high schools. They are jailed because suspected as members of the Oromo Liberation Front and other resistance organizations. I spent two years of my life (2004-2005) in jail.

Torture Oromo students to maintain underdevelopment, illiteracy and obscurantism!

For the first two months of my stay in Kaliti jail, I was being beaten twice a week, more specifically on Tuesdays and Fridays. I was asked whether I was member of the Oromo Liberation Front, and irrespective of the answer, yes or no, I knew that I would be beaten, and I was mercilessly beaten every time.

We are more than 40 million people, Oromos, Sidamas and other southern peoples of Abyssinia, and we know very well that every one of us, who has got higher education and a (normal for every body in this world) feeling of patriotism, is viewed by the murderous Amhara – Tigray tyranny as a serious danger that must be eliminated. They know that if free, within a few years we will make of our Oromo Ethiopia Africa’s first nation in Development, Arts and Sciences. Some of the reasons they hate us are their illiteracy and obscurantism that they know but are unable to get rid of them.

Kangaroo court in 21st century African Gulag - ‘Ethiopia’

I was regularly taken to a kangaroo court*1 every two three months. As I as not charged with any crime, I was taken to Kaliti jail, where verything is done arbitrarily. People are imprisoned without court warrant and then they stay in prison for many years without trial. Among my friends, many have long been kept in isolated and underground darkrooms. They were forced sit on electric chair.

Torture practices

Constant practices involve the lacing of heavy objects, like a bar of metal or a stone, with the male prisoners’ genitals. A great variety of similar torture objects are available at the Kaliti jail.

Despicable insults in unknown language

Among the prison officials, they worse are Tigrigna speakers, who scoffed at me, insulting me in tyrant Meles Zenawi’s tongue that I did not know until I came to learn its worst part of vocabulary.

If jailed, better to be unmarried!

In the Kaliti jail there are many who happen to be husbands to wives and fathers to numerous children. On Sundays, their wives do their best to travel and visit them, bringing their beloved children with. A visit to the unjustly and inhumanly jailed father is for these children the most passionately expected moment.

One attests some of the most emotional expressions of distress, grief and agony. As they don’t know whether they are going to see their father alive next time, these children live many subsequent deaths of father, experiencing what is worse in one’s dwelling in the Hell of Hells.

There is a 1m wide bar separating the prisoner from the visitor, therefore prohibiting the direct contact. To contravene this inhuman arrangement of places, visitors have the children lifted up and passed on to their fathers over the bar. At the end of a brief visit, the most hated bell rings, and every prisoner is rushed back to the common room for the detainees.

The worst scene I saw in my life

At that moment, you see fathers and mothers crying, children refusing to depart from their fathers’ hands, babies horridly panicked and screaming, a most tumultuous and heart breaking scene of people who do not know whether that is their last moment in their lives they see their beloved father or husband or son. I thank God for having not been a father so far, otherwise my condition would have been far more painful.

Prison buildings turned to mortuaries

As more and more prisoners are brought in every day, the new cells are constructed to have only corrugated roof tins. Upon learning about manifestations taking place in Finfinne, the prisoners enthused overwhelmingly, and feeling that the ultimate collapse of the murderous Abyssinian tyranny is close, they started shouting in Oromo, welcoming the end of Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship. The Tigray prison guards immediately fired at, and killed, many among the shouting prisoners in their rooms. Inhumanly but commonly enough in the Cenotaph – Ethiopia, the injured prisoners were not taken to hospitals. They were rather left to bleed to death.

Liberate immediately the Oromo students of the Kaliti jail!

I was left to go, and currently live as refugee in Djibouti, but my mind is back there, the Kaliti Hell. I still remember that there were, along with me, about 40 third year students of the university at Finfinne. They must still be there, probably joined by freshly captured Oromo patriots. They have been jailed because of allegedly protesting against the dictatorial decision to remove Oromia province’s capital from Finfinne in 2004.

Let the Christian World celebrating Christmas and the Islamic World commemorating Eid el Adha at the end of the month, let all the Humans rejoicing for a happy New Year 2007 remember the Kaliti Hell of the Cenotaph Ethiopia and call for, demand, and ultimately impose the obliteration of both, the Kaliti Jail and Meles Zenawi’s fake-‘Ethiopia’.

Note:*1 For those who live far from the African Gulag – ‘Ethiopia’, from wikipedia: A kangaroo court is a 'judicial' proceeding that denies proper procedure in the name of expediency; a fraudulent or unjust trial where the decision has essentially been made in advance, usually for the purpose of providing a conviction, either going through the motions of manipulated procedure or allowing no defense at all.


Buddhism class starts in January

The Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara will be teaching a new class on Buddhism and Meditation for non-Buddhists starting in January 2007 to run through July 2008. The classes will be held on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Vihara, located at 3401 North 4th Street, Minneapolis.

The course is meant for anyone who doesn't know about Buddhism, and would like to learn in a friendly and non-imposing environment. Students may have different ambitions. Some are researching, others with to learn or investigate the faith and culture.

The school is now known as The Buddhist & Pali College (U.S.A), which is an affiliated college of the Buddhist & Pali University of Sri Lanka and its sole representative in the U.S.A. (Pali means language, as in the Buddha’s original language).

It was established in January 2006 by the Venerable Witiyala Seewalie the founding Principal of the College. The Buddhist & Pali College (USA) offers a one-year Diploma in Buddhism. It also prepares students for external degree and diploma examinations of the Buddhist & Pali University of Sri Lanka.

The course is meant for the beginner with or without any familiarity or previous exposure to Buddhism. “We don't want to convert people,” Seewali added. “But, the interesting thing about Buddhism is that we can teach to anyone who wants to learn.

The mission of the school is to achieve excellence in teaching Buddhism and the Pali language such that students aspire to the highest in virtue and knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma and to create conditions that foster and nourish Buddhism as a way of life in America.

“The Buddhist teaching is important for people to learn with the idea of practicing daily in life,” he said. “So, it is important to know that they can practice their own faith and at the same time practice the Buddhist teaching.”

The Vihara temple in Minneapolis opened on June 24, 2006 and its inaugural class of 15 Asian and mainstream community students will conclude in July 2007.

The volunteer faculty includes Rev. Seewali, who holds a B.A., Hons, MA, D. Litt. as president. The vice president is Rev.Maitipe Wimalasara Thero. Professor Ananda Guruge, will serve as Dean of Buddhist Studies and Professor K. Warnasuriya as Dean of Pali Studies.

Bhikkhuni (Nun) Satima, a Buddhist nun will serve as an assistant lecturer. The Board will be rounded out with Dr. Susantha Herath, registrar, and Ven. Bisho Kirti Majajan, will serves as an assistant instructor, treasurer and secretary.

The eventual goal will be to establish the first Buddhist and Pali College in the United States. There are such schools in Sri Lanka, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom. They now have a library and technology center to aid students in their studies.
“This is one step to try to use our temple facilities, and in the future we have the idea of (a Pali) university.

The first three months will be basic Buddhist background and an introduction to the philosophy of meditation. Then they move on to more theory about Buddhist teaching.
The program is free and all donations greatly appreciated. For more information visit online at or call Rev. Witiyala Seewalie at 763-786-1811 or email

Meet the staff at the Vihara when it holds a New Year Blessing Ceremony on January 1, 2007 at 6:00 p.m.

Concern for toddler on vegetarian diet

Ask Dr. H

By Mitchell Hecht

Question: I am concerned about my 21/2-year-old grandson, who is being raised as a vegetarian. Should he be taking iron drops? He also drinks very little milk (although he does eat cheese), but I know how important calcium is to him. Any suggestions?

A: A toddler vegetarian diet isn't necessarily deficient in iron or calcium. Eggs, dried beans, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits like raisins, and iron-fortified cereals and bread are sufficient sources of iron. Dairy products like cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, soy and rice drinks, and fortified cereals are all good sources of calcium.

Protein doesn't have to come from meat. Dairy products, tofu, egg whites, and dried beans are all good sources of protein. Peanut butter is also a great source of protein, but due to its allergy potential, some pediatricians advise withholding it until a child is 3 years of age.

The real issue is not whether there are adequate vegetarian substitutions, but whether a picky toddler will consume enough vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates for healthy growth and development. It's also important for parents to make sure a vegetarian diet is providing enough calories. A multivitamin like PolyViSol or a children's chewable may be useful to fill in certain vitamin/mineral gaps.


The Cure for Terrorism by Ed Felien

There is no cure for terrorism, just like there’s no cure for cancer.

By the time cancer has started, those cells are gone. They won’t come back. You can cut them out, blast them out with chemotherapy, burn them out with radiation, but cells that have become cancerous cannot once again become healthy cells.

Illustration by Mark Livere=RoninsonThere is no cure for terrorism, just like there’s no cure for cancer.

By the time cancer has started, those cells are gone. They won’t come back. You can cut them out, blast them out with chemotherapy, burn them out with radiation, but cells that have become cancerous cannot once again become healthy cells.

The only real cure for cancer is to treat the causes of cancer. Cancer is caused by the body’s reaction to something in the air, something in the food, something in the water. The body takes in a substance that is harmful. It damages the DNA and reproduces and attacks a vital organ. In the case of cigarette smoke it’s the lungs. With drinking water it’s generally the kidneys or liver. With pesticides in food it could start with the stomach. The body takes in air, water and food every day and makes new cells out of the raw material it is fed. If the raw materials are contaminated, then the body may develop cancer as a reaction to that contamination.

Does this analogy hold true for terrorism?

From the point of view of U.S. foreign policy there are just a few terrorist cells operating independently, and the Bush administration believes these terrorist cells can be cut out, or blasted out, or burned out. They are treating terrorists the same way doctors have traditionally treated cancer. But these operations are clearly not working. We’re creating more terrorists with each new military action.

It might be useful to think for a moment how we are seen by the Arab world. The Iraqis do not want us in Iraq. The Afghanis prefer the Taliban to the U.S. sponsored regime of Hamid Karzai. The Palestinians believe we do not treat them fairly. They believe we always support the Israelis. In Lebanon we have been able to do what we could not do in Iraq: we have united the Sunni and Shiite factions, but they are united in opposition to the U.S.-supported Christian Falangist (fascist) government. Syria and Jordan have large anti-American constituencies. We’ve been able to buy the silent acquiescence of Egypt ever since the Camp David agreement when Sadat sold out his allegiance to the Arab cause. The treaty was poorly understood by the American public, but everyone in the Middle East knew what had happened. That’s why no one over there was surprised when Sadat was assassinated by religious fanatics or, when Mubarak continued taking (what many Egyptians consider) bribe money or, when Mubarak had to engineer crooked elections to stay in power. Most Egyptians know it is the U.S. that is pulling the strings of their puppet government. The people of Iran are still angry with the U.S. for overthrowing the democratically elected government of Mossedegh after World War II and installing the Shah’s brutal dictatorship. The Saudis are our best friends in the area because we have made them rich by buying their oil, and we protect their feudal monarchy with the largest military base in the region. But there have been some protests in even this tightly controlled society, and religious militants have assassinated some American personnel. Some of the bases have had to be moved to neighboring Kuwait, which has always been unashamed of being a U.S. puppet.

So, what is the picture that emerges from this mosaic?

It would be reasonable to conclude that most people in the Middle East consider the U.S. a military terrorist state that supports dictatorships, steals natural resources and abuses their cultural and religious traditions.

The shelling of Fallujah will no doubt be remembered by Middle Eastern scholars in the same way we remember the bombing of civilian populations in Lidice and Guernica by the Nazis or the firebombing of Dresden or the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were horrible crimes against unarmed civilians. The Iraqis must certainly see the occupation of their country as a terrorist campaign. The midnight raids, the roadblocks, the cruel acts of murder, rape and torture must seem the actions of a terrorist state.

Fatma An-Najar, the 64-year-old grandmother who blew herself upThey must see us as the cancer that is trying to destroy them.

What do the Arab terrorists want? They want the same things that most people in the Middle East want. They want the U.S. to withdraw its bases from Saudi Arabia. To have military bases around the holy sites of Mecca and Medina is like having Muslim warriors standing guard around the Vatican and Lourdes. That military presence would, no doubt, be offensive to Catholics. In the same way, our actions are offensive to Muslims.
They want an end to the U.S. corruption of governments in the Middle East. Almost every country in the region has been overthrown by the CIA (Lebanon, Iran and Iraq—Saddam Hussein was encouraged by the CIA to murder the President and take power), or bribed or intimidated by the U.S.

And they want a just settlement of the Israel/Palestine problem. Israel must return to the 1967 borders and recognize the nation of Palestine. As long as Israel occupies Arab land, violates their territorial integrity and entombs them in a walled ghetto, then the Palestinians will continue suicide bombings inside Israel, and the rest of the Arab states will support the Palestinian resistance.

Historical comparisons of the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis are not flattering and probably not useful. But certainly the taking of the land and racial hatred of the Palestinians by the Ashkenazi Jews reminds one of the settling of the West in America, and the high wall and checkpoints around Gaza cannot help but remind one of the Warsaw Ghetto.

The situation is much more complex than that, however. Sephardic Jews lived in Palestine for over 1,200 years without much trouble. These were the Jews that had lived in the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years. When the European, or Ashkenazi, Jews moved to Israel in the 20th century, they brought with them Western notions of property and Western cultural prejudices. They bought land from Arabs who had no idea they were giving up the land forever. They created a European-style nation state with strong links to Europe and the U.S.

They also quickly adopted U.S. military tactics and weaponry. Today, they have probably the strongest military in the Middle East—the most disciplined and the best equipped. Their recent incursions into Lebanon and Gaza, though, show the limitations of advanced weaponry. Ostensibly, the reason for the invasions was to rescue captured Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of deaths later a spent invasion force had to retreat on both fronts. The Israelis were forced to terminate the invasions without achieving their primary objectives. Before ending the hostilities, however, they dropped anti-personnel bombs on civilian populations in Lebanon. This action shocked a world that thought it could no longer be shocked by the brutalities and horrors of violence in the Middle East. Certainly, state-sponsored terrorism, dropping bombs from 10,000 feet or firing artillery shells from 20 miles away that are designed to maim and kill unarmed men, women and children is as terrifying and as cruel as a misguided religious zealot blowing himself up in the middle of a crowd. But, once a state institutes terrorism as an instrument of policy, it indicts the entire nation as accomplices, whereas, the actions of individual terrorists, though they might be the policy of a group or religious sect, cannot be used to indict a people or a nation.

One head of an Israeli Defense Force rocket unit admitted his group fired over 1.2 million anti-personnel bombs and white phosphorous shells into Lebanon: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.” (Information Clearing House) The U.N. estimates Israel fired over 4 million cluster bombs into Lebanon. Many of them did not explode. These duds now act as landmines. They will explode randomly or when some small child picks them up. In a feeble attempt to match the Israeli terror campaign, Hezbollah fired 131 cluster bombs into Israel.

Most retaliation by the Palestinians or Hezbollah is done by suicide bombers who strap explosives to their body, walk into a group of Israelis and blow themselves up. We don’t get a clear picture of what these suicide bombers think. They generally make a statement or give a video interview before they undertake their mission, but the Western press does not present this side of the story. An exception to this rule happened last week when a 64-year-old grandmother blew herself up and wounded two Israeli soldiers. According to Sarah El Deeb’s account in the Associated Press: “At the compound where her extended family lives near the Jebaliya refugee camp, her oldest daughter, Fatheya, explained the bomber’s motives: ‘They [Israelis] destroyed her house, they killed her grandson—my son. Another grandson is in a wheelchair with an amputated leg,’ she said.”

So, why did this 64-year-old grandmother become a terrorist suicide bomber? Was she talked into it by religious fanatics? Or, was she sick to death from a cancerous diet of Israeli state terrorism, depressed at the loss of her grandchildren and frustrated to the point of desperate action? Once Israel destroyed her home, killed her one grandson and maimed the other, they had created a terrorist.

But, she was not a very good terrorist. The picture of her shows her holding the rifle with the fragile care you would hold a flower. There is a sad look of vulnerability in her eyes. When she went out on her mission she telegraphed her intent to an Israeli patrol and they threw a stun grenade at her. She detonated way too early and only wounded two soldiers. In the end, she didn’t have the determination to grab the rifle like she was going to use it. She didn’t look into the camera with fanatical ferocity. She was probably more motivated by love than by hatred, and, in her last moments, she probably saw the young Israelis as not that different from her own grandchildren.

Israel depends on the U.S. for its existence. It receives $4 billion a year in military and economic assistance from the U.S. In return it is a loyal client state and a safe instrument of U.S. policy in the region. But this is a doomed relationship. There is ultimately no hope for the future of Israel as a minor partner in U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. The only hope for Israel is to make peace with her neighbors and recognize that her interests lie in a strong Middle East independent of U.S. influence.
Of course, the continuation of the current policies for the U.S. in the Middle East are doomed as well. Most people in the world are not fooled by U.S. propaganda. They know the wars, the violence, the bribes, the CIA plots, all of that is for one reason: to get control of the oil. It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. public figures it out as well.

George W. Bush is a perfect President for that moment of discovery by an awakened public. His great grandfather was chair of the War Industries Board during World War I. He made valuable contacts with other war profiteers like Dupont and Remington. His grandfather made huge profits re-arming Germany before World War II and managing Silesian mines using concentration camp labor. He purchased Dresser Company and managed it. His father, George H. W. Bush, helped engineer the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, headed up the CIA, made great friends with the Saudi royal family, became Vice President, helped organize the Contra war against the government of Nicaragua, became President, and merged Dresser with Halliburton when his old pal Dick Cheney was CEO.

George W. Bush is not only President of the United States and Commander In Chief of the Armed Services, but, more importantly, as head of the Bush family, he is responsible for insuring the profitability of Halliburton, the family business. He’s had the good fortune during the Iraq war to be able to award multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton to provide support staff to the military and to give Halliburton exclusive rights to oil exploration and development.

Mussolini, the founder of fascism, defined fascism as the perfect union of corporate power and government. Three other elements are also generally present in a perfect fascist regime: permanent war, the use of terror as an instrument of state policy and the suppression of civil liberties. George W. Bush has managed to score 100 percent on all counts and has exceeded Mussolini’s wildest aspirations.

The Iraq Study Group has just made 79 recommendations to President Bush. They acknowledge that the war is a failure and that “staying the course” is not an option. So, what do they recommend? They recommend staying the course for another year or so, until the Iraqis are ready to take over. The presentation by the group just after the midterm elections has to be seen for what it is: a cheap public relations stunt to make it seem Bush is listening to the American people’s cry for peace. He will no doubt say this is a good report. We’re going to study it carefully. And we’re going to do those things we can.

One recommendation that Bush would certainly like to follow would be the privatization of Iraqi oil, opening the ownership up to foreign investors. It is no accident that James Baker, the head of the group, is a lawyer from a firm that represents Halliburton.

So, a new comic opera will begin in a few weeks. Congress and the American people will be demanding that George W. Bush adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Bush will stall and finally agree to work on achieving some of those objectives, and he will push for Halliburton to take over the Iraqi oil fields, and he will justify this naked theft by saying he is following the wishes of the American people.

And, will any of the corporate conglomerate press call him on this deception?

Last week, in a fit of anger, upset that the American press had ignored the murder of dozens of strikers in Oaxaca, I called the local corporate monopoly press “lapdogs of fascism.” I apologize. I was wrong. I was too mild. With their obsession with trivia and sensationalism, and with their refusal to talk about the connection between Halliburton and Bush, they are not just lapdogs of fascism, they are scum-sucking lapdogs of fascism. ||

Monday, December 25, 2006

Human Brain development - Jay Giedd

photo of jay giedd, m.d.interview: jay giedd

What has surprised you about looking at the adolescent brain?

The most surprising thing has been how much the teen brain is changing. By age six, the brain is already 95 percent of its adult size. But the gray matter, or thinking part of the brain, continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain cells get extra connections, much like a tree growing extra branches, twigs and roots. In the frontal part of the brain, the part of the brain involved in judgment, organization, planning, strategizing -- those very skills that teens get better and better at -- this process of thickening of the gray matter peaks at about age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, roughly about the same time as puberty.

After that peak, the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned. So much of our research is focusing on trying to understand what influences or guides the building-up stage when the gray matter is growing extra branches and connections and what guides the thinning or pruning phase when the excess connections are eliminated.

And what do you think this might mean, this exuberant growth of those early adolescent years?

I think the exuberant growth during the pre-puberty years gives the brain enormous potential. The capacity to be skilled in many different areas is building up during those times. What the influences are of parenting or teachers, society, nutrition, bacterial and viral infections -- all these factors -- on this building-up phase, we're just beginning to try to understand. But the pruning-down phase is perhaps even more interesting, because our leading hypothesis for that is the "Use it or lose it" principle. Those cells and connections that are used will survive and flourish. Those cells and connections that are not used will wither and die.

So if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hard-wired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going [to] survive.

Giedd is a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health. Recently, he spearheaded research showing for the first time that there is a wave of growth and change in the adolescent brain. He believes that what teens do during their adolescent years -- whether it's playing sports or playing video games -- can affect how their brains develop.

Right around the time of puberty and on into the adult years is a particularly critical time for the brain sculpting to take place. Much like Michelangelo's David, you start out with a huge block of granite at the peak at the puberty years. Then the art is created by removing pieces of the granite, and that is the way the brain also sculpts itself. Bigger isn't necessarily better, or else the peak in brain function would occur at age 11 or 12. ... The advances come from actually taking away and pruning down of certain connections themselves.

[It's] not that the teens are stupid or incapable of [things]. It's sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision making before their brain is finished being built.

The frontal lobe is often called the CEO, or the executive of the brain. It's involved in things like planning and strategizing and organizing, initiating attention and stopping and starting and shifting attention. It's a part of the brain that most separates man from beast, if you will. That is the part of the brain that has changed most in our human evolution, and a part of the brain that allows us to conduct philosophy and to think about thinking and to think about our place in the universe. ...

I think that [in the teen years, this] part of the brain that is helping organization, planning and strategizing is not done being built yet ... [It's] not that the teens are stupid or incapable of [things]. It's sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision making before their brain is finished being built. ...

It's also a particularly cruel irony of nature, I think, that right at this time when the brain is most vulnerable is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes when I'm working with teens, I actually show them these brain development curves, how they peak at puberty and then prune down and try to reason with them that if they're doing drugs or alcohol that evening, it may not just be affecting their brains for that night or even for that weekend, but for the next 80 years of their life. ...

Tell me a little bit about how the brain develops.

How does the brain -- arguably the most complicated three-pound mass of matter in the known universe -- how does the brain become the brain? It does so through two simple but powerful processes.

The first one is over-production. The brain produces way more cells and connections than can possibly survive. There's only so many nutrients, there's only so many growth factors, there's only so much room in the skull. After this vast over-production, there is a fierce, competitive elimination, in which the brain cells and connections fight it out for survival. Only a small percentage of the cells and connections make it.

This is a process that we knew happened in the womb, maybe even the first 18 months of life. But it was only when we started following the same children by scanning their brains at two-year intervals that we detected a second wave of over-production. This second wave of over-production is manifest by an actual thickening in the gray matter, or the thinking part, in the front part of the brain.

As this second wave of over-production is occurring, it prepares the adolescent brain for the challenges of entering the next stage of life, the adult years. There's enormous potential at that time. People can take many different life directions. But about around that time of puberty, people start specializing, so to speak. They start deciding, "This is what I'm going to be good at, whether it be sports or academics or art or music." All the life choices, even though they are still there, start getting whittled away, and we have to start sort of focusing in on what makes us unique and special. ...

Do you have particular concerns about that period, too, though?

Yes. It's a time of enormous opportunity and of enormous risk. And how the teens spend their time seems to be particularly crucial. If the "Lose it or use it" principle holds true, then the activities of the teen may help guide the hard-wiring, actual physical connections in their brain. ...

Can you describe to me what people used to believe about the brain, actually, very recently?

One of the most exciting discoveries from recent neuroscience research is how incredibly plastic the human brain is. For a long time, we used to think that the brain, because it's already 95 percent of adult size by age six, things were largely set in place early in life. ... [There was the] saying. "Give me your child, and by the age of five, I can make him a priest or a thief or a scholar."

[There was] this notion that things were largely set at fairly early ages. And now we realize that isn't true; that even throughout childhood and even the teen years, there's enormous capacity for change. We think that this capacity for change is very empowering for teens. ...

This is an area of neuroscience that's receiving a great deal of attention ... the forces that can guide this plasticity. How do we optimize the brain's ability to learn? Are schools doing a good job? Are we as parents doing a good job? And the challenge now is to ... bridging the gap between neuroscience and practical advice for parents, teachers and society. We're not there yet, but we're closer than ever, and it's really an exciting time in neuroscience. ... The next step will be, what can you do about it, what can we do to help people? What can we do to help the teen optimize the development of their own brain? ...

There has been a great deal of attention on the early years, and particularly on stimulating the early brain. What do you think of that work and that popularization of that brain science?

There's been a great deal of emphasis in the 1990s on the critical importance of the first three years. I certainly applaud those efforts. But what happens sometimes when an area is emphasized so much, is other areas are forgotten. And even though the first 3 years are important, so are the next 16. And the ages between 3 and 16, there's still enormous dynamic activity happening in brain biology. I think that that might have been somewhat overlooked with the emphasis on the early years. ...

Not so long ago, people were emphasizing teaching little children through flashcards, through particular kinds of mobiles with black-and-white checks on them, playing Mozart. In fact, some states have sent CDs back with new mothers. What do you think of that? Has that been a misinterpretation of brain science?

... We all want to do the best for our children. And what I fear is happening is that we're leaping too far from the neuroscience to such things. I don't think there is any established videotape or CD or computer program or type of music to play that we've shown with any scientific backing to actually help our children.

The more technical and more advanced the science becomes, often the more it leads us back to some very basic tenets of spending loving, quality time with our children. The brain is largely wired for social interaction and for bonding with caretakers. And sometimes it's even disappointing to people that, with all the science and all the advances the best advice we can give is things that our grandmother could have told us generations ago: to spend loving, quality time with our children. ... I think [it] probably does more harm than good for parents to be confronted with so many of these conflicting reports in the media without any scientific basis. ...

What directions is the research taking to explore how we can optimize brain development?

Now that we've been able to detect the developmental path of different parts of the brain, the next phase of our research is to try to understand what influences these brain development paths. Is it nutrient or parenting or video games or the activity of the [child]? Or is it genes? By studying twins, we can begin to address some of these very basic nature/nurture-type of questions.

For instance, when twins are in the first grade, their parents often dress them in the same clothes. They get the same haircut. It's sort of cute how alike they are. But that's not as cool in high school anymore. And so a lot of the twins as teens in high school start doing different things. The one who was a little bit better in sports may become an athlete. The one who was a little bit better at academics may become a scholar. Or one may turn to music and one to art. But they often have different daily activities.

So we can scan the brains when the twins are young and doing everything very much alike; then we can scan them as teenagers, when they start having different daily activities. This gives us a sense of which parts of the brain are influenced by behavior and which parts by the genes themselves.

We've already got some interesting early data on this. One part of the brain is called the corpus callosum. It's a thick cable of nerves that connects that two halves of the brain and is involved in creativity and higher type of thinking. It's very popular for imaging studies because it leaps out of the picture. It's very easy to measure and quantify.

It's also interesting because it changes a lot throughout childhood and adolescence. It's been reported to be different in size and shape in many different illnesses that happen during childhood ... many higher cognitive thought [processes] like creativity and ability to solve problems. So it's been of great interest, especially to child psychiatrists. And what we find is that the size and shape of the corpus callosum is remarkably similar amongst twins ... and [so] seems to be surprisingly under the control of the genes.

But another part of the brain -- the cerebellum, in the back of the brain -- is not very genetically controlled. Identical twins' cerebellum are no more alike than non-identical twins. So we think this part of the brain is very susceptible to the environment. And interestingly, it's a part of the brain that changes most during the teen years. This part of the brain has not finished growing well into the early 20s, even. The cerebellum used to be thought to be involved in the coordination of our muscles. So if your cerebellum is working well, you were graceful, a good dancer, a good athlete.

But we now know it's also involved in coordination of our cognitive processes, our thinking processes. Just like one can be physically clumsy, one can be kind of mentally clumsy. And this ability to smooth out all the different intellectual processes to navigate the complicated social life of the teen and to get through these things smoothly and gracefully instead of lurching ... seems to be a function of the cerebellum.

And so we think it's intriguing that we see all these dynamic changes in the cerebellum taking place during the teen years, along with the changes in the behaviors that the cerebellum sub-serves.

What would influence the development of the cerebellum?

Traditionally it was thought that physical activity would most influence the cerebellum, and that's still one of the leading thoughts. It actually raises thoughts about, as a society, we're less active than we ever have been in the history of humanity. We're good with our thumbs and video games and such. But as far as actual physical activity, running, jumping, playing, children are doing less and less of that, and we wonder, long term, whether that may have an effect on the development of the cerebellum.

The recess and play seems to be the first thing that is cut out of school curriculums in tight times. But those actually may be as important, or maybe even more important, than some of the academic subjects that the children are doing. ... We think that the "Use it or lose it" principle holds for the cerebellum as well. If the cerebellum is exercised and used, both for physical activity but also for cognitive activities, that it will enhance its development.

... One analogy that computer people use is that [the cerebellum is] like a math co-processor. It's not essential for any activity. People can get by quite well without large chunks of it. But it makes many activities better. The more complicated the activity, the more we call upon the cerebellum to help us solve the problem. And so almost anything that one can think of as higher thought -- mathematics, music, philosophy, decision making, social skills -- seems to draw upon the cerebellum. ...

The relationship between the findings that we have in the cerebellum and sort of practical advice or the links between behavior are not well worked out yet. That's going to be one of the great challenges of neuroscience -- to go from these neuroscience facts to useful information for parents, for teachers or for society. But it's just so recently that we've been able to capture the cerebellum that no work has yet been done on the forces that will shape the cerebellum or the link between the cerebellum shape or size and function.

When you look at the recent work that you've done in terms of the frontal cortex, do you see a difference between girls and boys?

Yes. One of the things that we're particularly interested in as child psychiatrists is the difference between boys' brains and girls' brains, because nearly everything that we look at as child psychiatrists is different between boys and girls -- different ages of onset, different symptoms, different prevalences and outcomes. Almost everything in childhood is more common in boys -- autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome -- are all more common in boys. Only anorexia nervosa is more common in girls. So we wonder if the differences between boys' and girls' brains might help explain some of these clinical differences.

The male brain is about 10 percent larger than the female brain across all the stages of ... 3 to 20; not to imply that the increased size implies any sort of advantage, because it doesn't. The IQs are very similar. But there are differences between the boy and girl brains, both in the size of certain structures and in their developmental path. The basal ganglia which are a part of the brain that help the frontal lobe do executive functioning are larger in females, and this is a part of the brain that is often smaller in the childhood illnesses. I mentioned, such as ADD and Tourette's syndrome.

So girls, by virtue of having larger basal ganglia, may be afforded some protection against these illnesses. But in the general trend for brain maturation, it's that girls' brains mature earlier than boys' brains. ...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Corn Bread

1C -- cornmeal
½C -- whole wheat flour
½C -- all purpose flour
1Tbs -- baking soda
1/4C -- oil
1C -- soymilk
⅓C - molasses or maple syrup ( Minnesotan preferrably)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix ingredients together in a bowl.

Pour batter into lightly oiled 8-inch pan.

Bake for 20 minutes ( times may vary)

Serves 6.

By Debra Wasserman

Dennis Kucinich -- a can’t lose campaign

Progressives now have a candidate for president in 2008 in Dennis Kucinich.

The corporate media made him their enemy during his 2004 run, when they either ignored him or attacked him. But despite opposition by the powers that be, progressives can only win by his running.

The corporate media have made their choice clear, as in this Associated Press statement on the day Kucinich announced, “New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is considered the party's front-runner, closely followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.” Considered by whom?

Ahh, there’s the rub. Considered by the transnational corporations and their Democratic Leadership Council filter on behalf of transnational investors who don’t give a damn about this country or its people, other than what they can steal from both. Hillary and Obama are going to be buried in cash and favorable media coverage as the backup plan, in case the transnational investors can’t cram another Republican down the throats of the electorate.

The corporate media have convinced the American public that candidates such as Kucinich are “out of the mainstream,” which is an outright lie. Their own polling shows the views of Kucinich are indeed mainstream. He wants universal health care, as do the majority of citizens. He wants to cut defense spending, as do the majority. He wants to clean up the environment, as do the overwhelming majority. He wants to bring the troops home from Iraq, as do the majority. You couldn’t be much more mainstream than Dennis Kucinich.

But the mass media have little to do with the mainstream. They represent their owners, board members and advertisers. These are connected to those making billions from war, billions from pollution, and billions from the cruel “health care” system whose primary function is to produce profit, not care.

The corporate media see Kucinich as their enemy and will savage him if he should get decent polling numbers, otherwise they can be expected to try to destroy him with silence, not covering anything he does from fear that he might become a blip on the electoral radar if a profile is raised.

Howard Dean showed that in the Internet age, it is possible to get financing without kneeling before the Big Boys and kissing Big Boy butt. It scared the establishment so much they echoed “the Dean scream” for days throughout corporate media in belittling him in an attempt to destroy his credibility. They won as Dean sizzled to toast from their flames.

It wasn’t that they disagreed with Dean on much outside of the war. It was more the fact that he hadn’t taken their money and they weren’t sure they completely owned his soul. How could such a man be trusted to hold the White House for them?

Now we have a wonderful choice with Kucinich. Old leftists like me, knocked down and knocked out so many times I’m sure there are those who think we must be punch drunk to keep trying for an outbreak of democracy, are urging people to get behind Kucinich in a Can’t Lose Campaign.

Already liberal friends are braying at me that Kucinich doesn’t have a chance. Corporate media echo this suggestion every four years in keeping the sheep in the fold. Stray from the corporate-backed candidates and the world may come to an end. The lesser of evils is the way to go, my man, vote evil -- let me assure you that evil is the way to go.

But Kucinich is not endangering the sacred “two-party system,” staying within the lesser-of-evil shuffle, so at least we don’t have to listen to the whimpering, “If you vote for a Green, the Republicans will win” (so vote for an evil Democrat, who will then stick bamboo shoots under your fingernails, but only nine fingers, unlike his greater evil opponent, who will go for all 10).

I believe Kucinich can actually win the primary if only two things happen. First, he has to raise big bucks on the Internet as Dean did. And second, a massive campaign of education must take place, much like what I do daily at Liberty Underground, informing liberals and leftists of the news beyond the corporate crap which passes for news in the Land of the Free, often framing it within the historical context ignored by the corporate media.

An informed voter must learn early about what will come from the corporate media to savage Kucinich: that he will be accused of being out of the mainstream, a lunatic, a man who will bring down the republic, cause economic doom and despair.

And they will have to learn about the lies told by the corporate media about his opponents. That, for example, Barack Obama is a “peace candidate” who wants out of the war in Iraq. The magnificent black writer Glen Ford pretty much popped that balloon with his recent article.

Obama is for leaving when the Iraqis are trained to be more obedient, like the Bush plan, but we don’t call Bush a man of peace for some reason (could be those hundreds of thousands of innocent dead who kind of stink up that kind of propaganda, or corporate media would go for it). The Bush/Obama plan ends when we have a replacement for Saddam in power, responding to “fetch boy, now roll over, now turn on the oil spigot -- good boy, here’s a biscuit.”

The Kucinich plan is to cut off funding for the war, except for enough to finance bringing our troops home. Now, as a combat vet, that’s what I call supporting the troops!

“Peace candidate” Obama has stated he would bomb Iran or even Pakistan under the right conditions. "Indeed,” he said, “given the depletion of our forces after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will probably need a somewhat higher budget in the intermediate future just to restore readiness and replace equipment." Citizens are not getting defense cuts from Obama.

Senator Hillary Clinton of the leadership of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, the DLC, we are told by corporate media columnists, wants socialized medicine! Wouldn’t that be wonderful, except again, the corporate media are lying. The then First Lady’s program was to roll up managed care insurance companies into giant Wal-Marts of medical care for efficiency. The efficiency might not have resulted in any additional medical care, but it certainly would have created increased profit for the big insurance companies. Which is why, when she announced it in New York, representatives of the big medical insurance companies gave her a standing ovation.

Dennis Kucinich is pushing for an actual single-payer system like Canada’s, in which even the poorest workers have a shot at getting their broken arm set without having to wonder if they’ll lose their lodging in the deal.

The corporate media are hyping Obama insanely because he drew crowds of hundreds in New Hampshire. Shouldn’t a Democrat draw hundreds of Democrats in local city meetings, let alone meetings hyped nationally by all the major TV networks? You would think he had accomplished another Woodstock phenomenon from the coverage he got for this.

Although Obama is not a member of the Democratic Leadership Council like Hillary, Lee Sustar recently wrote, “In fact, Obama's book explicitly endorses Bill Clinton's "Third Way" - -the attempt to shed the Democrats' supposed leftist excesses and borrow pro-business policies from the Republicans.”

The corporate media know Obama, like Hillary, will sell out the American people on behalf of the owners, who keep these two as their backup plan. Sure, they want a Republican if they can get one. Republicans have shown themselves to be better lackeys, more savage and cruel. But Hillary and Obama heel well on command, and have proven their service by backing the transnational investors who run the planet and finance the political campaigns, often through their “American” corporations.

Dennis Kucinich cannot lose, and every progressive should put their weight behind him now. At the very least, a message will get out that Obama, Hillary and the Republicans will most of the time be on the opposite side of, a message citizens should be allowed to hear. The only way progressives lose is by not backing this dark horse, thusly allowing a field of butt-kissing sycophants to run unchallenged.

Jack Balkwill does Liberty Underground of Virginia (LUV) and authored "An Attack on the National Security State" about Plowshares activists. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pancake Recipe by Brandy Kyllonen

4C --Flour
2¾T--Baking powder
1 tsp--Salt
5 -- eggs
1tsp -- pure vanilla extract
½C -- melted butter

Mix dry with dry.
Mix wet with wet.
Fry on hot griddle.
"This will knock your socks off!" - Chef Brandy Kyllonen

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Green Party: A Short Half-Life in Minnesota Politics

In our continuing study of the decline of third parties in the state of Minnesota, today Smart Politics examines the weakening of the state’s Green Party. Like the Independence Party, the Green Party experienced a significant downturn in public support in 2006 for almost all statewide and district races from the previous election cycle.

The growth of the Green Party in the late 1990s was in great measure a result of its drawing support from the disaffected far-left wing of the Democratic Party. The Greens received a boost in Minnesota when its endorsed candidate for President, Ralph Nader, received an impressive 5.2 percent of the vote in the Gopher State. While this showing temporarily increased the Party’s statewide profile, the Party was perhaps ultimately a victim of Nader’s success. Many people voted Green in 2000 because they were under the impression there was little difference between the candidacies of Al Gore and George W. Bush. The combination of the closeness of the Gore-Bush race, combined with what many liberals viewed to be Bush falling short of his “compassionate conservative” and “uniter not a divider” pledges, demonstrated to the 'new Greens' that there were indeed still some clear differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. As a result, many Greens flocked back to the Democratic Party in 2004, an election in which Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb received only 0.2 percent of the vote in Minnesota.

Green Party support in statewide races also largely peaked in 2002: support for Green candidates declined from 2002 to 2006 in races for Governor (2.3 to 0.5 percent), Secretary of State (3.1 percent to no candidate), and State Auditor (3.7 to 2.3 percent). Support for Green Party candidates in US Senate races remained the same in 2002 and 2006 (0.5 percent). The only positive news for the Minnesota Green Party in 2006 is that it fielded its first candidate for Attorney General (who received 1.9 percent of the vote).

The story is equally bleak in Minnesota district races. In US House elections, the Greens fielded 3 candidates in 2002, averaging 4.9 percent of the vote. In 2004 the Greens had 2 candidates on the ballot, averaging 4.2 percent of the vote. In 2006 the Green Party only managed to field one candidate. This candidate, Jay Pond in MN-05, received only 2.0 percent of the vote, a noticeable dip from the 5.7 percent he received in 2004.

In State Senate races, the Green Party fielded 8 candidates in 2002, and just 1 in 2006. The number of Greens on the ballot in State House races has fallen drastically from 17 candidates in 2002, to 7 candidates in 2004, to just 1 in 2006.

Will the Green Party be around in Minnesota in 2008? And, if so, how can it be an effective player on the political scene? A lot may depend on what Democrats do with their newfound legislative power both in Washington, D.C. and in St. Paul where they now control both legislative chambers.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Decline of the Independence Party

The Independence Party of Minnesota has experienced a noticeable decline in support across Minnesota - as evidenced in its performance last month. This decline is revealed across a number of dimensions and offices, including a decreased ability to field candidates in state legislative races since 2000 (the year it disassociated itself from the national Reform Party).

Support for IP candidates in statewide races declined in 4 of 5 offices from 2002 to 2006: Governor (declining 16.2 to 6.4 percent), Secretary of State (4.5 to 3.0 percent), Attorney General (4.4 to 4.1 percent), and State Auditor (4.8 to 4.6 percent). The Independence Party candidate for US Senator did increase from 2.0 to 3.2 percent, although this was lower than the 5.8 percent the IP received for that race in 2000).

In State House races the number of Independence Party candidates has dropped from 27 in 2000, to 26 in 2002, to 20 in 2004, to just 9 in 2006. These candidates also received the lowest level of support per district in which they ran in 2006 (5.7%), down from 7.4% in 2004, 10.3% in 2002, and 9.9% in 2000.

In the State Senate only 7 Independence Party candidates were on the ballot in 2006 averaging 6.9 percent of the vote per district, less than twice the number of candidates in 2002 (16), in which candidates averaged 12.4 percent of the vote per district.

One bright spot for the Independence Party was its performance in US House races. The IP fielded 3 candidates,
equaling the number on the ballots in 2004 and 2000. Tammy Lee (MN-5) recorded the highest level of voter support for the Party in a US House this decade (21.0 percent).

The Independence Party will retain its major party status in 2008, thanks to Peter Hutchinson's performance in the race for governor, but the party is facing an increased difficulty in distinguishing itself from the DFL, who appears to be drawing support away from IP candidates.

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