Welcome to the March 12, 2007 edition of the Satya Center newsletter. Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.
Snow is melting here in the mid-Hudson Valley, patches of brown grass are appearing in a sea of white, and we have gone from below-zero nights to sunny fifty degree days this week. Neighboring farmers have begun greenhouse operations to prepare seedlings for spring planting.
It is a time of transition in our little world, and a time of transition for the world at large. The reality of global warming and the imminent end of the hydro-carbon economy have finally begun to penetrate the dense collective thought-forms that structure our mass media mediated consciousness, which supports and maintains the self-destructive status quo.
Over the next couple of years, you’ll be seeing a stream of mainstream Hollywood movies in which human civilization stars as the black-hearted, slow-witted villain out to destroy Mother Nature. Big-budget movies already in the production queue include M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”, “The Simpsons Movie”, “The Transformers” and James Cameron’s “Avatar”, offering viewers variations on the theme of humanity’s impending total self-destruction.
The good news is that most average people around the world understand the gravity of the situation, despite the best efforts of Fox News and the rest of the mainstream Anglo-Saxon media to misinform the global public.
There is no sign that political leaders in the US or UK have any clue about the urgency of the situation, however. If the history of the environmental movement gives us any indication, we can expect that it will take either a global financial crisis or an outpouring of popular rebellion, and millions of protesters in the streets, to capture politicians’ attention and focus their minds on solving the problem.
China is set to surpass the US in the emission of atmospheric CO2, and despite the announced good intentions of Chinese leadership, there is no indication they are able to deal with the crisis. Last year was "the most grim year for China's environmental situation", Pan Yue, deputy head of the Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), said in a statement in early January 2007. "The goals set out by the cabinet at the start of the year have (2006) absolutely not been achieved."
Meanwhile, the US war in Iraq is unraveling while Bush prepares for a nuclear strike in Iran, and sectarian violence threatens to engulf the entire Muslim world.
According to recent reports in "The New Yorker" and elsewhere, Bush and company originally saw the underdog Shiite Moslems in Iraq as their allies against the Sunni Moslem Baathites and Al Qaeda types who constituted the backbone of the Iraqi insurgency. This was very strange from a historical perspective, which is almost never given in the mainstream media.
A bit of the history makes this clear. Saudi Arabia is the most powerful Sunni dominated state and Iran the most powerful Shiite state. Bush and company have close political and family ties to the Saudi regime and America has a long history of doing business with Sunni Moslem monarchs and dictators, but almost no experience in dealing with Shiite leaders and states. American Presidents since the mid twentieth century have considered Shiites as crazed fundamentalists with a martyr complex and the fact that Moslem Communist parties always recruited heavily among Shiite populations did nothing to endear the Shiites to Washington.
The Shiites have been oppressed in Iraq, and throughout the Moslem world, for 1400 years, and were delighted to see democracy brought to Baghdad, since Iraq and Iran are the two largest Shiite majority Moslem states. In most other Moslem countries, the Shiites are about 10% of the population, and are considered heretics and worse. The Shiites historically have always been advocates for the poor while the Sunnis represent 1500 years of feudal authoritarian status quo in the Moslem world.
As a Shiite dominated freely elected government was installed in Baghdad, the Saudis and other Sunni Moslem leaders began to see red, and Bush and company began to fear that Baghdad would ally itself with Iran.
It is Sunni Moslem insurgents, who are responsible for the vast majority of attacks on American troops. The Sunnis are also attacking Shiite Iraqis of all political varieties, and casting the Shiite led Iraqi government as tools of the Imperialist Americans.
The Sunni insurgency has been receiving large amounts of foreign aid and an influx of foreign troops from Sunni countries including Jordan and Saudi Arabia throughout what is rapidly becoming an Iraqi civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.
The Shiites have been very restrained overall in their response to the Sunni onslaught, because they know that nurturing a successful democracy in Iraq could lead to democratic inroads across the Moslem world, which would enable Shiites to elevate their status and break the stranglehold on power exercised by their Sunni overlords.
Over the last few months, however, partially in response to a diplomatic initiative by Saudi Royals, Bush and company have focused on the Iranian threat above all, despite their problems in Iraq.
America has moved several aircraft carriers and other military platforms into the area near Iran, in preparation for war, and announced the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran is nowhere near creating an atomic bomb.
More troubling, Bush and company have recently begun to assemble a Sunni-based anti-Iranian coalition of states including Saudi Arabia and Jordan to help “contain” Iran and the Shiite militias in the infant Shiite-led Iraqi democracy.
All this despite the fact that it was mainly Sunnis who blew up the World Trade Center, al-Qaeda is composed mainly of Sunnis, and Sunnis are the ones instigating the vast majority of terrorist and martyrdom actions in Iraq.
As part of this bizarre alliance, Bush and company have also delivered a few billion dollars to the Saudi Royals to use in bolstering the organizations of the most extreme Sunni Moslem guerrilla fighters, in the hope that they will be a counterweight to emerging regional Shiite power.
As a result, relations between nuclear-armed Sunni dominated and Saudi-allied military dictatorship Pakistan and Iran are at an all time low and the odds that the civil war in Iraq to become a regional Sunni-Shiite bloodbath extending from the Arabian peninsula into Pakistan and Central and South Asia increase every day.
Once again, both parties in Washington are utterly disconnected from American public opinion, which demonstrated in the 2006 elections and in many opinion polls before and since, that a large majority of the American people want to disengage militarily in Iraq.
I believe most Americans want peace with Moslem countries, while continuing multi-national efforts to counter terrorism in all countries and work peacefully to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. That’s the good news.
The world is in crisis, but the crisis is precipitating an expansion of consciousness. The awakening of the vast majority of the world’s population is already well underway.
To avoid environmental devastation, to manage the challenges of the era of peak oil, to avoid widespread world war and nuclear annihilation, requires a complete restructuring of human society.
To achieve world peace and to achieve a new post-hydrocarbon global society based upon political democracy, sustainable economies, localized agricultural production and energy efficiency, requires a new set of social and political relations and a new group of world leaders.
To achieve peace among the world’s races and religions requires a new, more tolerant, ecumenical spirit and a total separation of religion and warfare. There can be no more widespread support for warrior religions if humanity is to survive.
Above all, there must be a healing of the wounded heart of the world. Right now, the vast majority of the world’s people are locked into issues related to the lower chakras – survival, sexual gratification and conquest, personal and collective will to power and conquest, and perpetuation of ancient patterns of dominance and submission.
The human heart is wounded by the war between the sexes, by the inability of the average human being to open his or her heart to love. This war has all but destroyed the basis for the human family.
The human heart is wounded by the constant human war to subdue Mother Nature – and that war is wrecking the world’s human-friendly ecology.
The human heart is wounded by the war of the priests, which has gone on for millennia, pitting one vision of God against another in bloody battles for the souls and wealth of entire peoples.
The human heart is wounded by the war of the rich against the poor, which has gone on for millennia, as those who have power use that power to exploit those whom they should be protecting and nurturing.
"Healing the Wounded Heart of the World"
Artwork by Jane Sherry
"Healing the Wounded Heart of the World"
Only by opening our hearts to the suffering of our fellow human beings in countries and religions currently opposed to our own will we be able to understand them, forgive them, and work together with them to establish peaceful relations.
Only by opening our hearts to the suffering of the billions of people living in poverty around the world will be able to create social and economic systems that provide the necessities of life for all human beings.
Only by opening our hearts to the suffering of the billions of people who will be adversely affected by global climate change can we find within ourselves the strength to change our addictive patterns of behavior, engrained in our daily lives by the global hydrocarbon economy.
Only by opening our hearts to our fellowship with all living creatures, on land, sea and air, and only by opening our hearts to the web of life that constitutes the living, breathing heart and mind of our planetary Mother will we become sensitive enough to fashion a new human society that can thrive in co-operation with that web of life rather than seeking to subdue, conquer and exploit every element of life on Earth.
The solution to all our problems on Earth can be found if we have the courage to open our hearts to love. Love is the answer. Love is the way, and love will find a way.
It is not fashionable to speak in this manner. Love died in our mainstream discourse some time ago. Love is something that only hippies believed to be real. Too many of those hippies grew up to become yuppies and now strive unceasingly to defend and uphold the increasingly unlovely, deadly and deadening status quo. That is an index of how far we have gone toward a society that is based on Thanatos – on Death. For on this blue-green planet, in our human society, based upon the duality of human sexuality, human experience manifests within the polarities of Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death. It is up to us to choose – Death or Love.
I have every confidence that humanity will choose Love, in its many forms and guises, for Love is the evolutionary goal of humanity. The manifestation of that goal is the development within humanity of a Higher Consciousness, which will operate in a state of ever-Self-conscious Unity with the web of life and also of Self-conscious Unity with Higher Worlds. This Higher Human Consciousness has a Divine Purpose. That Higher Purpose is to do the work of a world-transforming Divine Will. That Divine Will requires that humanity consciously infuse every particle of the web of life on Earth, every sentient and non-sentient being, with the energy of universal unity, healing, affirmation and co-operation known as unconditional Love.
This is what is meant by Teachers who speak of Universal Brotherhood, by Wise Ones who speak of the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. As a species, we are currently in a process of recognizing the limits of our egoistic consciousness, prior to surrendering to Higher Consciousness. That surrender takes place when we open our hearts to love, when we make a choice to serve Love, to experience Love, to seek Love out.
In the course of human history, poets, lovers, prophets and priestesses have pointed out the many paths to love. In celebration of the many paths to love, and to inspire us all to open our hearts, I offer you a new version of an ancient story about the healing and redeeming power of love.
It’s called “The Rishi, the Sadhu, the Fool and the Milkmaid”.
This parable, a love story for all times and places, reveals a path of enlightenment that depends upon the opening of the heart and the acceptance of joy in the midst of earthly suffering.
Top Satya Center Stories of the Week
In a new article, historian, social scientist and visionary author Andrew Bard Schmookler explores “The Challenge of Affluence: A Root of America’s Moral Crisis”.
“The rise of the dark and dangerous forces now ruling America cannot be understood in isolation,” Schmookler argues. “This Bushite regime should be seen, rather, as a symptom of a more general moral crisis in American society, of an erosion of the moral structures that historically have held American society together.”
“The American ethic of self-indulgence born of our affluence enables people to saddle their descendants with their own debt, running up huge deficits in the national accounts,” Schmookler points out. “The habit of yielding to baser impulses makes it easier to support baser policies in the collective realm” -- like wars of imperial aggression around the world.
In this article, Schmookler analyzes the last fifty years of American history, discusses the culpability of both right wingers and liberals, dissects the current culture of anything-goes self-indulgence, and places a great deal of responsibility for our current dysfunctional political system at the feet of the advertising and marketing machine that shapes popular culture and mass consciousness.
Social activist, Wiccan priestess and “Newsweek” commentator Starhawk explores what it means “To Be a True Friend of the Jewish People”.
March 20, 2004 San Francisco Peace Rally
Photo by Jeff Paterson, Not in Our Name
March 20, 2004 San Francisco Peace Rally
In this article, Starhawk relates the lessons she’s learned from many years spent traveling to the Holy Land, working as a peace activist,and offers some suggestions that might help heal the wounds on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Wise woman healer and author Susun Weed advocates “Using Herbs Simply and Safely”.
“A simple is one herb,” Susun says. “For optimum safety, I prepare, buy, sell, teach about and use herbal simples, that is: preparations containing only one herb.”In this article Susun presents a set of simple guidelines for growing, buying and using herbal remedies that provide useful information and food for thought beneficial to novice herb lovers and experienced herbalists alike.
Poet James Bertolino offers a pair of exquisite poems that express the magical transition moment between winter’s end and spring’s ascent.
In “What Water Says” James’ reflections on water’s seasonal transformations guide the heart along the path to unity with nature, and through that unity, points a metaphorical finger at the ultimate goal -- self-realization.
In “Carrot", James gives voice to the humble root, offering an expectant vegetal viewpoint on the joys of an upcoming golden spring.
Top Spiritual Stories From Around the Web
Eternity, Life and Death, and Our Conscious Evolution on Earth Ending Fear and Suffering
by Robert Wilkinson
In the venerable "Magic of Space" the author states repeatedly that all is “composed” of the substance of Universal Mind, also called Eternal Consciousness. That is the source of the Ten Thousand Things, in the classic sense. It is well established and accepted in the Wisdom Tradition that Nothingness morphs into Limitlessness while not losing its essential nature, and the resulting emanation (the Synthetic principle in all creation, cosmic and human) results in Limitless Light. All is Limitless Light, you and me included.
Limitless Light is the great Maya from which all comes and to which all returns. Infinite Emptiness (Spaciousness) is Infinitely Spatial, and is Luminous in quality. That's why many who go into very deep meditational states experience a sense of "Spaciousness and Luminosity" where all collapses into one dimensional Light. Ultimately, Light is all there IS, and can be experienced as both wave forms and particles in infinitely varied manifestations.
In our world of constantly shifting forms, everything is Originated, then Created, Formed, and Expressed. This process occurs first on “invisible” levels, then on “visible” levels. It is how nothingness comes to manifest as all that is, and why everything is composed of Light particles, also known as Prana, Ruach, Pneuma, or Spirit. Darkness arises because the nature of light is to form shadows when it hits dense fields. That is the origination of all “darkness.” The light is still all that IS. The darkness shifts with the density and form of the field, thus demonstrating its inherent unreality.
. . .Fear is a pandemic that has never been adequately dealt with, though we have many examples of people who have overcome fear completely. We overcome individual and collective problems by getting our “spiritual immune system” in shape, which involves constant personal attunement, understanding growth is eternal yet always in the here and Now, perfection always down the Path, and the Eternal Beneficence always available.
Some say life on Earth is a realm in which limitation/darkness/fear is intrinsic, and that we've agreed to "balance" this realm with pathways of light/expansion/love. This admits the illusion is real, even though there is no intrinsic reality to darkness and fear. Actually, our life in human form is about us attuning to the Higher frequencies of consciousness, and ultimately leads us beyond being trapped in these into a constant remembrance to be that which we always are, i.e., Eternal Radiance whose nature is Love.
We’re not balancing as much as unlearning delusions, attachments, and aversions that have put us all within a larger illusion of suffering that seems more real than it is, individually and collectively. Once we recognize the means not to get stuck in places of darkness and fear, then we simply can be the Eternal Radiance that we are unencumbered by negative states.
It is not a vain imagining to say that we can experience a unified, Higher Consciousness any time we want. To doubt that gives the illusion of unawareness more power than it deserves. I promise you – any time you directly ask for a miracle, or a “divine revelation,” you WILL get one, usually pdq.
Swami Amar Jyoti
Swami Amar Jyoti
In the physical sense, Light comes into our eyes; that is why they are called “windows of the Soul.” But this is only a tiny manifestation of Light; the physical apparatus of the eyes can hold only so much light or they will become blind. The creation has to balance. The physical body can hold only so much wisdom, so much occultism. If the Prophets, Enlightened Beings and Sages would radiate more Divine Light than they do, the body could not hold it; it would just explode or disintegrate. Yogis know that they can only project so much at their will. Ordinary people, whom we call ignorant, by contrast generally use their will instinctively, which manifests as imbalance and disharmony to the point beyond which, if they push themselves, will cause nervous breakdowns or other difficulties.
WE ARE FULL OF LIGHT. Our bodies cannot express the full impact of this, our bones and flesh and blood simply cannot hold it. When darkness increases in our bodies we become heavy, depressed, miserable, diseased; when Light becomes too much, our bodies also shatter. For this reason there is a self-contained mechanism within us to hold on to that part of the Light by which the body is sustained. When the body is not sustained, the Light is fading; in Yogic terms we say the pranas have become weak. Then the senses begin to lose their sense gratification, the blood does not course back youthfully, the nervous system becomes weakened. In Sanskrit this is called Shitheel, when the Light fades.
In ancient Vedic times the Aryans, which in Sanskrit means “noble or civilized ones,” were worshippers of fire. Long before other Devas and Devis1 were recognized, the Fire Deva was considered the giver of prana or life. Prana is a higher Light than even the sun or moon, which fade before the Light of prana, jivan shakti. Prana gives us Light—to our eyes, our ears, our entire body. By that Light we live; with that Light we see the darkness, we speak, we exist. When prana becomes weak, it wants to be “fed” by further enkindling of that Light. Prana comes from Spirit, the nucleus of Light, which is beyond what we can see or feel. That inherent, intrinsic, fundamental, basic Light is the Substance; it is not objective or tangible. You can only indicate that Light—Jyotish, Jyotish Bhava—or merge into It and be fully Enlightened.
. . .Within you is the nucleus from which everything emerges, and that is where Light is. This nucleus of Light has been termed by yogis the antara guha.2 When you merge with That, you become Light—immortal, eternal, infinite, pervading. It not only liberates you, you no longer exist. You are Light. Light merges into Light, from which all other forms are born.
When your chakras are awakened and illumined, you will see dazzling Light—beyond words. Even though it is not physical, when that Ultimate Light flashes within you, you will glow. The Upanishad says, Lord, lead us from darkness to Light. That longing for Light is self-extinguishing love, like a moth mad after the flame. Compared to that attraction, charm and beauty, nothing else attracts. For those who are mad after God, it is not only the beauty or radiance that attracts them. They know: This is my True Self.
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Top News Stories From Around the Web
The New Yorker
Annals of National Security
Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?
by Seymour M. Hersh March 5, 2007
Efforts to curb Iran’s influence have involved the United States in worsening Sunni-Shiite tensions.
A STRATEGIC SHIFT
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Published on Thursday, March 8, 2007 by WorkingForChange.com
Dems' Big Middle Finger to the American Voter
by David Sirota
One of my idiosyncratic little hobbies of late is to keep a tally on statements by Washington politicians and pundits that are express an open hatred for democracy. This hobby is a subset of a bigger collection of quotes I collect that show how Washington politicians are entirely divorced from the political reality they purport to be experts on - a classic example is Sen. Chuck Schumer's hilariously moronic declaration to New York Magazine that strengthening the Patriot Act is politically good for red state Democrats . . . Today, we get a beauty from South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D).
In the Washington Post's solid writeup of the debate over Iraq in the House, a faction of Democrats continues to attack the very Election 2006 mandate they were vaulted into office on: opposition to the war. Justifying her opposition to bills that would stop President Bush's military escalation, we get this gem from South Dakota's lone House member:
"I don't think we should be overreacting to public opinion polls."
. . .Herseth, of course, is following the tried and true path of fellow politicians and pundits insulated comfortably in the Washington bubble. It was Cheney who said in November that the war "may not be popular with the public - it doesn't matter." It was David Brooks who said a few months ago that "voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics." There was the Bush administration in August of 2006 telling the New York Times "that they are considering alternatives other than democracy" in Iraq - after repackaging the war as an exercise in pro-democracy nation building. The Times itself just recently said that Democrats pushing antiwar legislation strongly supported by the public are "fringe." And let's not forget The New Republic's Peter Beinart who trumpeted groups that - in an oxymoronic backflip - believe "the less beholden politicians are to grassroots activists, the better they will represent voters."
The message from Washington, D.C. to all of us out here in the heartland is very clear: Our government is the exclusive gated community of Big Money interests, their appointed pawns in Congress, and a select group of self-declared "experts" in the media and at think tanks (which are, of course, funded by many of those same Big Money interests). Inside this gated community, actually listening to or shaping policy on behalf of the vast majority of Americans is considered either laughably outdated or disgustingly unsavory.
This is why we have a House lawmaker running to reporters attacking efforts to end the war as "overreacting to public opinion." This is why we have a Vice President who goes on national television declaring that what the public wants "doesn't matter." This is why the largest newspaper in America continues to publish a columnist who says voters shouldn't decide elections. This is why, months after being elected to the majority on an antiwar mandate, we have a congressional Democratic Party that still refuses to do anything to end - or even slow down - the war. Because underneath all the platitudes and rhetoric, Washington, D.C. is a place that hates democracy.
A CounterPunch Special Investigation
High-Fivers and Art Student Spies
What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?
By CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, March 7, 2007
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, an FBI bulletin known as a BOLO - "be on lookout" -- was issued with regard to three suspicious men who that morning were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first plane hit World Trade Center 1. Law enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area were warned in the radio dispatch to watch for a "vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack":
White, 2000 Chevrolet van with 'Urban Moving Systems' sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.
At 3:56 p.m., twenty-five minutes after the issuance of the FBI BOLO, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department stopped the commercial moving van through a trace on the plates. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approached the stopped van, demanding that the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, 23-year-old Sivan Kurzberg, refused and "was asked several more times [but] appeared to be fumbling with a black leather fanny pouch type of bag". With guns drawn, the police then "physically removed" Kurzberg, while four other men - two more men had apparently joined the group since the morning - were also removed from the van, handcuffed, placed on the grass median and read their Miranda rights.
They had not been told the reasons for their arrest. Yet, according to DeCarlo's report, "this officer was told without question by the driver [Sivan Kurzberg],'We are Israeli. We are not your problem.Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.'" Another of the five Israelis, again without prompting, told Officer DeCarlo - falsely - that "we were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident". From inside the vehicle the officers, who were quickly joined by agents from the FBI, retrieved multiple passports and $4,700 in cash stuffed in a sock. According to New Jersey's Bergen Record, which on September 12 reported the arrest of the five Israelis, an investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy stated that officers had also discovered in the vehicle "maps of the city with certain places highlighted. It looked like they're hooked in with this", the source told the Record, referring to the 9/11 attacks. "It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park."
. . . Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the CIA, told 20/20 that some of the names of the five men appeared as hits in searches of an FBI national intelligence database. Cannistraro told me that the question that most troubled FBI agents in the weeks and months after 9/11 was whether the Israelis had arrived at the site of their "celebration" with foreknowledge of the attack to come. From the beginning, "the FBI investigation operated on the premise that the Israelis had foreknowledge", according to Cannistraro.
Published on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
Ghawar Is Dead!
The Wide-Spread Use of Advanced Extraction Techniques is Killing the Mother of All Oil Fields
by Matthew S. Miller
I’ve watched in shock and awe in recent days, shaking my head and wringing my hands. Yet another unremarkable narrative of celebrity intrigue entered the echo chamber of the mainstream media system and its 24/7-positive-feedback-amplification-loop to emerge as biggest news event - no, the earth-shaking cultural event of the year. This time it is…Anna Nicole is dead!
Her mournful supplicants conduct vigils in her memory and quietly reflect upon her iconic life, wishing her soul Godspeed. Meanwhile, we are left to ponder the paternity of her unfortunate offspring and the symbolic meaning of her celebrity status for posterity. All the while we wait with bated breath as Wikipedia straightens out the facts of her untimely demise.
Hers was the quintessentially American tale of the technological metamorphosis of East Texas trailer trash into the bearer of the trophy titties for an oil tycoon. Her bare breasts in the pages of Playboy reaffirmed the greatness of our country! She pulled her self up by her bra-straps and made her way in the world. We imagine that the indelible image of her “candle in the wind” life will never be extinguished because she really lived the collective dream. Sometimes it’s funny how fake-life makes contact with real-life.
It was also announced recently, without the same media feeding frenzy, that another queen of mass-culture is dead too. Few of us even know her name. Rather than being the personification of the contemporary zeitgeist, she is one of the cornerstones of what Marx called global capitalism’s base. She was an integral part of the concrete material conditions that make our peculiar form of social organization possible. Her name is Ghawar, and she is the mother-of-all oil fields. She was once a veritable sea of light sweet crude 174 miles long and 12 miles wide, under the sands of the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and now she is dead.
Ghawar is by far the largest conventional oil field ever discovered. Since first tapped in 1948, Ghawar has produced some 60 billion barrels of oil and accounted for 60-65% of Saudi production from 1948-2005. While actual field by field production numbers remain a SaudiState secret, Ghawar is estimated to produce more than five million barrels per day or 6.5% of the planet’s daily production total of 84 million barrels.
Ghawar’s obituary has already been written, but the Saudis have thus far prevented the appropriate authorities from entering the house to inspect the body.
New Heaven New Earth
THE PROPHET OF GARBAGE: Startech's 'Plasma-Gasification Plant'
By Michael Behar
It sounds as if someone just dropped a tricycle into a meat grinder. I’m sitting inside a narrow conference room at a research facility in Bristol, Connecticut, chatting with Joseph Longo, the founder and CEO of Startech Environmental Corporation. As we munch on takeout Subway sandwiches, a plate-glass window is the only thing separating us from the adjacent lab, which contains a glowing caldera of “plasma” three times as hot as the surface of the sun. Every few minutes there’s a horrific clanking noise—grinding followed by a thunderous voomp, like the sound a gas barbecue makes when it first ignites.
“Is it supposed to do that?” I ask Longo nervously. “Yup,” he says. “That’s normal.”
. . .To put me at ease, Longo calls in David Lynch, who manages the demonstration facility. “There’s no flame or fire inside. It’s just electricity,” Lynch assures me of the multimillion-dollar system that took Longo almost two decades to design and build. Then the two usher me into the lab, where the gleaming 15-foot-tall machine they’ve named the Plasma Converter stands in the center of the room. The entire thing takes up about as much space as a two-car garage, surprisingly compact for a machine that can consume nearly any type of waste -- from dirty diapers to chemical weapons -- by annihilating toxic materials in a process as old as the universe itself. Called plasma gasification, it works a little like the big bang, only backward (you get nothing from something). Inside a sealed vessel made of stainless steel and filled with a stable gas -- either pure nitrogen or, as in this case, ordinary air -- a 650-volt current passing between two electrodes rips electrons from the air, converting the gas into plasma. Current flows continuously through this newly formed plasma, creating a field of extremely intense energy very much like lightning. The radiant energy of the plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds. The system is capable of breaking down pretty much anything except nuclear waste, the isotopes of which are indestructible. The only by-products are an obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications, including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt, and a synthesis gas, or “syngas” -- a mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the process is that it’s self-sustaining. Just like your toaster, Startech’s Plasma Converter draws its power from the electrical grid to get started. The initial voltage is about equal to the zap from a police stun gun. But once the cycle is under way, the 2,200˚F syngas is fed into a cooling system, generating steam that drives turbines to produce electricity. About two thirds of the power is siphoned off to run the converter; the rest can be used on-site for heating or electricity, or sold back to the utility grid. “Even a blackout would not stop the operation of the facility,” Longo says.
It all sounds far too good to be true. But the technology works. Over the past decade, half a dozen companies have been developing plasma technology to turn garbage into energy.
World View of US Role Goes From Bad to Worse
The global view of the United States’ role in world affairs has significantly deteriorated over the last year according to a BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people across 25 different countries.
As the United States government prepares to send a further 21,500 troops to Iraq, the survey reveals that three in four (73%) disapprove of how the US government has dealt with Iraq.
The poll shows that in the 18 countries that were previously polled, the average percentage saying that the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world has dropped seven points from a year ago--from 36 percent to 29 percent—after having already dropped four points the year before. Across all 25 countries polled, one citizen in two (49%) now says the US is playing a mainly negative role in the world.
Over two-thirds (68%) believe the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents and only 17 percent believes US troops there are a stabilizing force.
The poll shows that world citizens disapprove of the way the US government has handled all six of the foreign policy areas explored. After the Iraq war (73% disapproval), majorities across the 25 countries also disapprove of US handling of Guantanamo detainees (67%), the Israeli-Hezbollah war (65%), Iran’s nuclear program (60%), global warming (56%), and North Korea’s nuclear program (54%).
Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes comments, “According to world public opinion, these days the US government hardly seems to be able to do anything right.”
Published on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
Libbygate: Now Let's Get to the Real Story
by Dave Lindorff
So Scooter Libby has taken the fall.
Three and a half years and a long bloody war after he and a gang of war-mongers in the White House and Blair House, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney, set out to undermine and trash the reputation of an Iraq war critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Libby has been found guilty of perjury, lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice by a Washington jury.
Now maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and what passes for journalists in the mainstream media can get down to the real business of finding out just why the entire White House smear operation was unleashed upon a minor state department official and why they went so far as to violate federal law and expose his CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame, in the process destroying her entire network of contacts for monitoring the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Because that's what this whole Libby story is really about.
The whole focus of the media in this case has been on the narrow, inside-the-Beltway question of who leaked information about Plame to the media.
Entirely forgotten or ignored has been what this leak was all about to begin with.
For that, you have to go back and look at what Wilson did in the first place that so enraged or frightened the Vice President and the President.
And that was to go to Niger, one of the poorest nations in Africa, to prove conclusively that there was no truth to a set of forged notes on the letterhead of the Niger embassy in Rome, purporting to be receipts for 400 tons of Niger uranium ore allegedly being sought by Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Wilson knew those documents were cheap forgeries--the name of the mines official on the papers was someone who hadn't been in office for years--but he went to Niger anyhow, just to make doubly certain that no such purchase attempt had been made.
So the real question then is, who is behind those forged documents?
There is an interesting story here--and an important mystery to be solved.
As it happens, way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationary and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationary from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?
Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.
We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iran almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.
They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.
But according to some dedicated investigative reporters at the respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they resurfaced before long at a very suspicious meeting. This meeting occurred in December 2001 in Rome, and included Michael Ledeen, an associate of Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith and a key figure in the White House's war-propaganda program, Larry Franklin, a top Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to two employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), convicted Iraqi bank swindler Ahmed Chalabi, then head of the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress, and Harold Rhode of the sinister Defense Department Office of Special Plans, that office set up by the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under Feith's direction to manufacture "evidence" to justify a war on Iraq. Also at this peculiar meeting were the heads of the Italian Defense Department and of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency.
According to La Repubblica, it was at that meeting that a plan was hatched to resurrect the forged Niger documents, and to give them credibility by recycling them through British intelligence.
And that is what Bush was referring to when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he famously frightened a nation by declaring, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Bush lyingly implied that this was new information, when in fact he knew--had to know--that the "evidence" in British hands was the same set of documents he had been offered by Berlusconi almost a year and a half earlier, which had been declared to be bogus.
. . .Perhaps now that Libby has gone down for his part in this grotesque crime, some editor will ask the obvious question: Why did the White House and the Office of Vice President go to such extraordinary lengths to attack Wilson and his wife? And more importantly, who was behind those Niger embassy burglaries and the forged uranium ore sale documents? And what was OSP doing meeting in Rome in December 2001 with the head of Italian intelligence?
Make no mistake: this whole story has the odor of a "black op" designed to target the American people.
If so it was an act of high treason.
It is not just Libby who should go to jail for this crime. It is the president and vice president.
At this point, whether or not the mainstream media decide to do their job, one has to hope that Fitzgerald, with Libby in the bag, will take the next step and hold the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence recommendation over the convict¹s head in order to try and win from him a promise of cooperation with the prosecution.
Because Libby knows who was behind all of this.
And that’s the real story that needs to be told.
Mar 6, 2007
Rocking the subprime house of cards
By Julian Delasantellis
Some stories, such as corpse custody battles between sleazy lawyers and semi-literate Texas trailer trash et al, the US news media handle really well. On others, such as goings-on in the world's financial markets, they don't have a clue.
Thus the media saw the big February 27 decline in the Chinese stock market followed by a big decline in the US and in other world financial markets that same day, and decided that being coincident equaling being causative was a concept that the US public could get its mind around pretty easily. Suddenly it's all China's fault.
Mind you, the US media know they will always do well by blaming foreigners, especially non-Western foreigners, for problems of essentially domestic origin; had he not died in 1991, you would have half-expected to see Khigh Alx Dheigh, the actor who played the nefarious Chinese communist operative Wo Fat in the 1970s US television crime drama Hawaii Five-O, displaying his trademark evil smirk while taking credit for the whole thing on Fox News.
People who make their living trying to ride and tame the living creatures that are traded in financial markets approach the issue of causation, of "why" something happens in the markets, with no small measure of trepidation. Sometimes determining cause is easy; if you see that a pharmaceutical firm's stock is down sharply, and then you see a report that the company's new chemotherapy drug kills more than it cures, well, in that case, putting one and one together is fairly reasonable. In other cases, and especially regarding the market as a whole rather than just an individual stock, "why" can be a fairly tricky question to answer. As then-US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said in congressional testimony regarding the panic selling of the 1987 US stock-market crash, "Why were stocks going down? Because people were selling. Why were people selling? Because stocks were going down."
For those who make their living in markets, the logic is impeccable.
This time, was it China? For one to believe that it was would require that Chinese stock prices and values, and by extension the Chinese stock market in general, were so large and important as to occupy an absolutely central position in the world economy.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange, China's equity-trading benchmark, is divided into two sections. The A-shares, which took the big hit on February 27, consist of 825 listed share companies. Foreigners are mostly forbidden to hold or trade A-shares, which certainly makes it a bit harder to swallow the idea of a worldwide equity meltdown spreading out of the A-share market resultant from foreign investors selling equities on a global scale to cover their Chinese losses. The part of the market open to foreigners, the B-shares, is much smaller, comprising about 55 listed companies.
So a 9% one-day decline in a market that had doubled in the past year, taking prices back to where they were less than two months ago - a market that is in essence closed to foreign participation -caused a global stock market rout that, in the United States at least, wiped out US$630 billion of stock equity value just in one day?
Possible? Sure, anything's possible. But it's damned unlikely.
A 9% loss is bad, but you could always make it up. Markets do recover from losses. What's a lot worse is a 100% loss on your investments. Total wipeout - you don't recover from that. A lot of investors who thought they were making canny and sharp investments over the past few years are now facing this prospect, and the possibility of a cascading stream of successive defaults and bankruptcies is hanging over the financial markets like a specter.
In the US, it's called "subprime lending".
New Orleans Times-Picayune
LAST CHANCE: In New Orleans the fight to save a disappearing coast may already be lost
By Bob Marshall
Sunday, March 04, 2007
It took the Mississippi River 6,000 years to build the La. coast. It took man 75 years to wash away a third of it. Experts agree we have 10 years or less to act before the loss becomes irreversible.
The satellite map in Kerry St. Pe's office shows the great sweep of marshes protecting New Orleans from the Gulf in bright red, a warning they will vanish by the year 2040, putting the sea at the city’s doorstep.
Coastal scientists produced the map three years ago.
They now know they got it wrong.
"People think we still have 20, 30, 40 years left to get this done. They're not even close," said St. Pe, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, which seeks to save one of the coast's most threatened and strategically vital zones. “Ten years is how much time we have left -- if that."
That new time frame for when the Gulf could reach New Orleans' suburbs sharply reduces projections that have stood for more than three decades. Unless the state rapidly reverses the land loss, coastal scientists say, by the middle of the next decade the cost of repair likely will be too daunting for Congress to accept - and take far too long to implement under the current approval process.
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Since 1989, Louisiana has spent $600 million to stabilize 95 square miles of vanishing coastline barely making a dent in the 2,000 sq. miles lost in the past 70 years
Monday, March 05, 2007
By Bob Marshall and Mark Schleifstein
Second in a series
In 1989, after almost two decades of inaction, Louisiana finally began to address what had become the mortal threat of coastal land loss.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment that set aside oil revenue to rebuild wetlands, and the Legislature reconfigured state agencies for the task. The Gulf of Mexico had consumed about a third of the state's coastal wetlands since the 1930s -- more than 2,000 square miles -- but the tide would soon turn, experts and politicians said.
It never did.
Almost two decades and more than $1 billion later, the Gulf has eaten at least an additional 456 square miles of the state's coast, an area almost as large as Los Angeles. Meanwhile, meager restoration efforts have reclaimed or stabilized only about 95 square miles of wetlands.
Louisiana and the nation have known since the 1960s that the state's coastal estuaries -- the largest and most productive fishing grounds in the continental United States -- were turning into open water. And they knew the core causes: the taming of the Mississippi River for flood control and shipping and the dredging of canals for oil and gas.
The government built levees to protect communities from Mississippi River floods. It built jetties at the river's mouth to prevent sandbars from forming and blocking shipping traffic. Those projects worked, but they also accelerated land loss by cutting off sediment flow to the wetlands that once kept pace with subsidence, the natural sinking of soft marsh soils.
Still, the Louisiana coast might have survived another 1,000 years or more, Louisiana State University scientists said. But the discovery of oil and gas compressed its destruction into a half-century.
By the 1980s, the petroleum industry and the corps had dredged more than 20,000 miles of canals and new navigation channels from the coast inland across the wetlands. The new web of waterways, like a circulatory system pumping poison, injected saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico into salt-sensitive freshwater wetlands. Fueled by the advance of big business on the coast, the Gulf's slow march northward accelerated into a sprint.
People’s Weekly World
U.S. ranks at bottom for child welfare
March 3, 2007
Author: Rosita Johnson and Teresa Albano
It’s hard to be a child, but harder if you grow up in the United States, according to a recent United Nations report.
Despite claims by “free market” braggarts that unfettered capitalism is the pinnacle of human achievement, children’s quality of life in the U.S. and Britain ranked at the bottom of the 21 wealthiest countries, according to the UNICEF survey.
Jonathan Bradshaw, one of the study’s researchers, said the low ranking of the U.S. and Britain, in spite of their high levels of national wealth, was due to their greater wealth gap and poor levels of support for families. Bradshaw, a professor at the University of York in Britain, cited poor health coverage for children as an example.
The U.S. ranked 21st in the health and safety category because of its higher infant mortality, lower immunization rates, higher numbers of deaths from accidents and injuries before age 19, and more children reporting fighting in the past year or being bullied in the previous two months.
The research covered six areas: material well-being, health and safety, education, family and peer relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people’s own sense of well-being. The U.S. and Britain were at the bottom in five of six categories. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were at the top.
Published on Thursday, March 8, 2007 by the Guardian / UK
No, Capitalism is Not the Only Way to Order Human Affairs
by Andrew Murray
For nearly two decades, the Thatcherite dictum that "there is no alternative" has been used to stifle serious challenge to the way the world is run, and right now there seems to be an increasingly urgent insistence that there is only one possible social and economic future for us all. It isn't just the hard men of the moneyed right asserting that capitalism is the only way to order human affairs. Liberals are also now unshakeably convinced that there can be no alternative to capitalism - unless perhaps it is a collapse into some variety of barbarism.
. . .That is certainly true of many intellectuals - though, judging by opinion polls, less so of the wider public - but perhaps they have buried left and right and embraced the new world order too soon. As in most of the rest of the world, the gap between rich and poor in Britain has grown under a Labour government. Privatised industries have turned out to be ramshackle rip-offs. Women are still paid far less than men, Britain's children are the most deprived in the western world, fascists are winning council seats and workers can get sacked in a canteen by megaphone. And that's before we get on to the neo-colonialism which is making a catastrophic comeback, amid bloodshed and racism.
. . .Of course, the movie can't be rewound. Twenty-first century socialism in Britain or elsewhere cannot look east for inspiration, nor will it be the work of coal-miners and shipyard workers. But what could it offer?
For a start, socialism makes possible the re-establishment of democracy whether at national, multinational or global level. Capitalist globalisation has become synonymous with democratic powerlessness as all important decisions are taken further away from the people affected and concentrated in the hands of ever fewer corporate bosses, private equity and publicly traded alike, for whom the common weal cannot be their priority. It also raises the prospect of a more peaceful world. The idea that unchallenged capitalism meant universal peace - quite popular in the early 1990s - hardly takes much debunking now. A system that replaced fighting for scarce resources with the global management of them offers the chance both of sparing lives and of the decisive action necessary to save the planet.
And there is social justice. There is little sign of gender or race inequality within countries, or between the rich world and the poor, being eroded, much less eliminated, despite recent global growth. Rather the opposite. If you think greater inequality is fine, then you'd better get back to your hedge fund desk. But there are far more people in trade unions and the anti-war movement than there are selling guns to despots or trading oil futures. And of course there is an alternative.
Meditation Moment: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov
Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov
In reality, you are never alone. To complain of being lonely means that you lack love. But you lack love because you yourself do not love.
So many men and women are content merely to dream of love!
They are waiting for the prince or princess of A Thousand and One Nights, and this is why they feel lonely: because they wait for love instead of looking for it in themselves.
The love you are waiting for will never come, and you must not wait for it. It is inside you, so let it come out, express itself and shine forth.
This is the only way you will find it." -- Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov