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Thursday, October 10, 2002

No New Posts Through Next Wednesday

I will be away in Nevada filming and participating in the Stop the Madness anti-nuclear protest. If you're within a few hundred miles, I heartily encourage you to be brave and ambitious, grab a coat and head on out!

See also Shundahai Network who is behind the event.

Also, for nuclear facts and education see the flash site www.endofexistence.org.

Posted by Richard
10/10/2002 09:26:15 PM | PermaLink

Cold War Bio-Weapon Tests Included California

Defense: Secret trials in six states, from '62 to '73, were to track dispersal patterns, officials say.

Again, as Bush squints his eyes and speaks solemnly about the threat of the evil-doers, I sit here wondering: when will the American public awaken to the threat posed to them by forces within their own government? Regardless of the realities dictated to us by people like Bin Laden or Hussein, our own military-industrial establishment -- the Bush(s)/Cheney/Rumsfeld unholy trinity who now represent the same complex decried by President and military general Eisenhower upon his retirement as out of control and posing a serious threat to democracy -- is at least as dangerous and evil. Now, here is another report of top-secret testing of toxic agents upon America during Cold War militarism.

Draw your own conclusions. For myself, I can only wonder how long until it becomes revealed that last year's Anthrax scare was not only from a domestic source but from a domestic order -- that it was a DOD test plan to monitor the nation's readiness and weaknesses against a possible terrorist attack? Should be declassified in 40 years. Gives a whole new meaning about the honor of dying for one's country...
----------------
Washington, D.C. -- The Pentagon sprayed biological and chemical agents off the coast of San Diego during the Cold War, part of a series of previously undisclosed tests in several states that exposed troops and perhaps thousands of civilians to the compounds, defense officials said Wednesday.

In all, 27 newly disclosed secret tests were conducted in California, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Utah, officials said. The tests, conducted from 1962 to 1973, were also carried out in Canada and the United Kingdom.
   
In February 1966, a Navy vessel in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego was sprayed with methylacetoacetate, or MA, a chemical that irritates the eyes, skin and respiratory tract but is not considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a second test in the summer of 1968, MA and Bacillus globigii, or BG, were released in the same waters. A bacterium related to anthrax, BG was later found to infect people with weak immune systems. No civilians are thought to have been exposed to harmful agents in those tests because they were carried out over the ocean.

It was the first time the Pentagon has acknowledged that it used the agents on U.S. soil and that civilians may have been exposed during the tests. The Defense Department previously revealed that 10 tests were carried out during the Cold War on U.S. ships to determine how they would perform under chemical or biological attack.

The Defense Department released the information at a House Veterans Affairs Committee meeting Wednesday; some elements were leaked to reporters Tuesday.

Military officials insisted that none of the agents used near civilians was thought at the time to be dangerous, although some—including E. coli bacteria—were later found to be harmful, even deadly.

In 21 tests on land and six newly reported tests at sea overseen by the Deseret Test Center at Ft. Douglas, Utah, live biological agents and lethal chemicals—including sarin and VX—were sprayed not only in the six states, but at or near military facilities in Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Marshall Islands, Baker Island and over international waters in the Pacific Ocean.

The 37 tests disclosed so far affected about 5,000 service members at sea and 500 on land from 1962 to 1973, defense officials said. The Pentagon has notified about 1,400 of those soldiers about the secret testing regimen, dubbed "Project 112."

The Deseret test center reported that four people were infected at the time and successfully treated. Veterans Affairs officials said they were studying the phenomenon; 53 veterans have filed health claims since the 1990s. The claims blame what they say was their exposure to the chemical or biological agents for a variety of ailments, including muscular, skeletal, digestive, hearing, skin and cardiovascular disorders.

Defense officials said the Pentagon has no process for notifying civilians who may have been exposed in the U.S., including those possibly numbering "into the thousands" on Oahu, Hawaii.

Pentagon officials believe local authorities were notified of the tests at the time, said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant Defense secretary for health affairs, but most citizens apparently were not. Veterans advocates said lower-level soldiers also were unaware, although defense officials insisted the soldiers were protected by chemical gear and masks.

"We're making this information available so that anyone who believes there may have been some ill effect could come forward," Winkenwerder said.

Civilians were not believed to have been affected in California because the four tests conducted there—including two first reported Wednesday—were all conducted off the San Diego coast in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Pentagon analysis.

Defense officials insisted that civilians were exposed only to live biological agents that simulated more deadly agents in the way they spread, but were themselves believed to be harmless. However, the simulated substances included E. coli and other agents that were later found to be harmful or fatal to young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Even soldiers and sailors exposed during the tests "may not have known all the details of these tests," Winkenwerder said.

"Most of these people didn't have a clue what they were part of," said Kirt Love, a veterans advocate with the Desert Storm Battle Registry who contended that in many cases only senior officers were aware of the tests. "These were not safe agents at the time."

After the report was released of the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, it was detailed at a Pentagon briefing. Defense officials said the tests were conducted for potential offensive use against U.S. enemies and for defense against the Cold War biological and chemical weapons arsenal amassed by the Soviet Union.

The Navy trials tested the ability of ships and sailors, clad in chemical defense gear, to perform under a chemical or biological attack at sea. The land-based tests were done to evaluate how the agents dispersed, officials said. Desert tests such as those in Utah helped the Pentagon amass much of the information the military has on how chemical and biological agents would perform in desert areas such as Iraq, said Anna Johnson-Winegar, the Pentagon's assistant secretary for chemical and biological defense.

"The purpose of these operational tests was to test equipment, procedures, military tactics, etc., and to learn more about biological and chemical agents," Winkenwerder said. "The tests were not conducted to evaluate the effects of dangerous agents on people."

The United States ended its biological weapons program in the 1960s and in 1997 signed a treaty agreeing to destroy all of its chemical weapons. Funding and disposal issues have delayed much of that process, leaving stores of lethal chemicals at several military sites throughout the nation.

Today, defense officials insist that the only testing of toxic and biological agents in the United States is given to chemical specialists among the armed services at a tightly contained testing facility at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. So-called stimulants still are used elsewhere.

The disclosures are unlikely to be the last from Project 112. The military had planned 134 tests; 46 were conducted, 62 were canceled and the status of the remainder is unclear. The newly disclosed tests used a variety of agents under various conditions.

Tests in the late 1960s in Porton Down, England, and Ralson, Canada, used tabun and soman, two deadly nerve agents.

In the 1965 Oahu test, BG was sprayed in a simulated attack called "Big Tom." Near Ft. Greely, Alaska, researchers tested how deadly sarin gas, the toxin members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult used in 1995 to kill commuters in the Tokyo subway, would disperse after being released from artillery shells and rockets in dense forests in a test dubbed "Devil Hole I" in 1965. A year later, VX agent, which lingers like motor oil in deadly pools, was released by artillery shells in "Devil Hole II."

By John Hendren, L.A. Times Staff Writer

Posted by Richard
10/10/2002 04:58:42 AM | PermaLink

Nerve Agents Tested Here, Fort Greely: In the Mid-1960s, Army Dropped Sarin, VX at Gerstle River

Washington -- The United States held open-air biological and chemical weapons tests in at least four states -- Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland and Florida -- during the 1960s in an effort to develop defenses against such weapons, according to Pentagon documents.

A series of tests in Alaska from 1965 to 1967 used artillery shells and bombs filled with the nerve agents sarin and VX, the records show.

The Defense Department planned to release summaries of 28 chemical and biological weapons tests at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing today. The Associated Press obtained the summaries Tuesday.

The documents did not say whether any civilians had been exposed to the poisons. Military personnel exposed to weapons agents would have worn protective gear, the Pentagon says.

The Pentagon previously acknowledged that it had conducted biological and chemical tests, but this was the first time it disclosed that some tests were conducted over land and not out at sea.

The tests were part of Project 112, a military program in the 1960s and 1970s to test chemical and biological weapons and defenses against them. Parts of the testing program done on Navy ships were called Project SHAD, or Shipboard Hazard and Defense.

The tests were directed from the Deseret Test Center, part of a biological and chemical weapons complex in the Utah desert.

Some of those involved in the tests say they now suffer health problems linked to their exposure to dangerous chemicals and germs. They are pressing the Veterans Affairs Department to compensate them and the Defense Department to release more information about the tests.

In response to pressure from veterans and Congress, the Pentagon began releasing details of the tests last year. Earlier this year, the Defense Department acknowledged for the first time that some of the 1960s tests used real chemical and biological weapons, not just benign stand-ins.

"The Cold War era experiments of Project SHAD, which we are now learning used live toxins and chemical poisons on American servicemen on American soil, must be aggressively investigated in as open and transparent a manner as possible," said the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. "Our focus must be on quickly identifying those veterans who were involved, assessing whether they suffered any negative health consequences and, if warranted, providing them with adequate health care and compensation for their service."

The Defense Department has identified nearly 3,000 soldiers involved in tests disclosed earlier, but the VA has sent letters to fewer than half of them. VA and Pentagon officials acknowledged at a July hearing that finding the soldiers has been difficult.

The tests described in the latest Pentagon documents include:

Devil Hole I, designed to test how sarin gas would disperse after being released in artillery shells and rockets in aspen and spruce forests. The tests occurred in the summer of 1965 at the Gerstle River test site near Fort Greeley, the documents said. Sarin is a powerful nerve gas that causes a choking, thrashing death. It killed 12 people in a Tokyo subway attack in 1995 and the Bush administration says it is part of Iraq's chemical arsenal.

Devil Hole II, which tested how the nerve agent VX behaved when dispersed with artillery shells. The test at the Gerstle River site in Alaska also included mannequins in military uniforms and military trucks. VX is one of the deadliest nerve agents known and is persistent in the environment because it is a sticky liquid that evaporates slowly. Iraq has acknowledged making tons of VX.

Big Tom, a 1965 test that included spraying bacteria over the Hawaiian island of Oahu to simulate a biological attack on an island compound, and to develop tactics for such an attack. The test used Bacillus globigii, a bacterium believed at the time to be harmless. Researchers later discovered the bacteria could cause infections in people with weakened immune systems.

Descriptions of some of the tests: deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml

By Matt Kelley
The Associated Press

Posted by Richard
10/10/2002 04:40:19 AM | PermaLink

House Panel Approves Controversial Forest-Thinning Plan

Representative Greg Walden (R) is correct that there is something very "repugnant" going on with this plan which, like the plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, will not die no matter how much public support is garnered against what the Bush administration, industry lobbiests, and the compromising Congressional leaders propose. There's no doubt about it -- it's extremely distateful the amount of propaganda that is being levelled at the American public by what amounts to yet another corporate interest. However, Walden has it all wrong as to who is to blame here...fingering the Sierra Club and other environmentalists takes us back to round one all over again when the timber and logging industry attempted to rough-shod over watchdog groups like the SC with a hate-campaign sponsored by Republicans who were on the dole. So, it's not the environmentalists who are repugnant, Mr. Walden. As the children say on the playground: smelt it, dealt it.
------------
Washington, D.C. -- The House Resources Committee on Tuesday passed a compromise forest-thinning plan by a 23-14 vote over the objections of leading Democrats who helped craft the bill.

Among other things, the five-year plan would set aside new money to thin fire-prone forests and would attempt to force judges to rule quickly on legal challenges to thinning projects.

Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and George Miller, D-Calif., helped shape the plan and unveiled an outline last week. But the two withdrew their support because the legislative draft brought to committee didn't reflect all agreements made in negotiations with Republicans.

"It wasn't a finished product," DeFazio said.

However, Republicans laid the blame on environmental advocates who have targeted the bill and others like it for defeat. The groups unfairly criticized Democrats who tried to negotiate a compromise, they said.

"I'm very frustrated by the attacks that have been leveled against my colleagues," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who helped negotiate the plan with Miller, DeFazio and Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo. "It is so repugnant."

The committee rejected an alternate plan offered by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., in a 25-12 vote. Inslee said his plan would focus on protecting communities and would preserve citizens' rights to challenge federal actions in court.

The competing "forest health" plans come in response to a catastrophic wildfire season in which more than 6 million acres were consumed, much of that territory in the West.

Members of both parties, as well as President Bush, have agreed they want to expedite thinning of forests that have grown dense and diseased. A century-old policy of fire suppression has left millions of acres at high risk of stand-destroying fires.

Republicans generally have favored plans to allow timber companies to do the thinning under "goods for services" contracts allowing them to keep timber as part of their payment. They also have supported limits on judicial review of thinning projects.

Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to expand amounts spent on "fuel-reduction" programs and focus the federal effort on forests bordering towns and communities. Most have supported allowing judges to halt thinning projects through restraining orders.

The two sides bridged many of their differences, but Chairman James Hansen, R-Utah, brought the bill to a vote before the two sides could agree on several crucial details, DeFazio said. Among them was the legal definition of the "wildland-urban interface," the area where thinning would be concentrated.

During the committee's work session, DeFazio also decried groups that attacked the compromise, although he didn't name them. He compared them to hunters who take "sound shots" at what they think is the noise of a deer, but tragically end up shooting their hunting partners.

"They can't trust us, and they launched these attacks," DeFazio said at the work session.

Sean Cosgrove, a policy analyst with the Sierra Club, defended his group's strong stand against the plan, saying it contained loopholes such as allowing helicopter logging that could allow harvesting of large, marketable trees.

The next stop likely will be the House floor. Although little time remains in the legislative year, it's still possible that remaining issues could be resolved through amendments, Walden said.

By: Jim Barnet, Daily Oregonian

Posted by Richard
10/10/2002 04:35:30 AM | PermaLink

Choose Hope -- An Interview with David Krieger

In: Living Buddhism, Journal of Peace, Culture and Education
September, 2002

“Ordinary people can and must guide their leaders to create a future free from a nuclear menace.” This is the theme of Choose Hope, published this month by Middleway Press. It is a dialogue between Soka Gakkai International president, Daisaku Ikeda and Dr. David Krieger, founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

This dialogue reveals how the development of true peace can grow only when narrow national loyalties are surpassed by a shared global vision. Inspiring examples of individuals working for an end to the nuclear threat showcase the role everyday people can play in the quest for peace. Living Buddhism interviewed Dr. Krieger about the book, which is available at leading bookstores and online.

Living Buddhism: The title of your new book is Choose Hope. How do you define hope and what does it have to do with the seemingly intractable problems of war and the nuclear threat?

David Krieger: The title of the book reflects our belief that hope must be a conscious choice. It is possible also to choose hopelessness or, in other words, to believe that nothing or not much is possible in the way of positive change. This is a formula for giving up and withdrawing into complacency and apathy, which are pervasive malaises of our time.
I define hope as the belief that we can realize our dreams by our efforts. I don't see hope as being wildly detached from reality and certainly not detached from our own efforts. I don't think that hope is a magic wand that by itself can change the world, but it can certainly give direction and energy to one's intention.
Related to problems of war and nuclear threat, hope is a starting point for seeking change. War is our most destructive means of attempting to resolve human conflicts and, in fact, doesn't resolve them. When nuclear weapons are added into the mix, war could result in the annihilation of large populations, even of the human species. Of course, we should not give up hope that we can make a difference on issues of such importance. Without hope, we are, in a sense, giving up on humanity and we simply can't do this. We owe it to all previous generations and to all whom will follow us on Earth, to maintain our hope and to work for a world without nuclear weapons and without war.

LB: The book's subtitle is "Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age." Weapons policy, international relations and the nuclear threat seem very far removed from most people's daily life concerns. With all the problems ordinary people have to deal with, what role are you urging people to take on? Can these efforts truly effect change?

Krieger: It's true that problems of a global scope may appear removed from our daily lives, but, of course, they are not. Finding solutions to these great global problems may be the most significant challenge of our time. The future of humanity rides on how we deal with these problems. If citizens opt out, decisions on weapons and warfare will be made by leaders whose interests are not necessarily aligned with the best interests of humanity and of future generations. These problems are far too important to be left to political or military leaders. I'm urging ordinary citizens throughout the world to engage in issues of war and peace because their voices and their efforts are needed. We all need to engage as if our very lives depended upon it because they do.
I remember being with Jacques Cousteau, a man deeply committed to the welfare of future generations, when he said: "The time has come when speaking is not enough, applauding is not enough. We have to act." It is time to act. I'd like to see ordinary citizens become change makers for a world free of nuclear weapons. One concrete action they can take is to sign, circulate and spread the word about our Foundation's Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity and All Life, which they can find on our web site at www.wagingpeace.org. The principles in this Appeal can help guide their actions.
It is difficult to know if our efforts will bring about the change we desire. We can't be certain, but we must proceed as if they will bring about this change because the alternative of giving up hope and doing nothing is unacceptable.

LB: In the book, you and Mr. Ikeda advocate abolishing nuclear weapons. With the chance of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and so-called rogue states, wouldn't the United States be making itself vulnerable and weak if it gave up its nuclear stockpiles?

Krieger: We're not advocating that the US alone give up its nuclear arsenal. The elimination of these weapons would be done multilaterally and in phases and with verification and confidence-building measures to assure that all nuclear-armed nations were also eliminating their nuclear arsenals. In a world without nuclear weapons, the US would remain a very powerful nation. Giving up its nuclear arsenal would certainly not make the US vulnerable and weak.
Mr. Ikeda and I agree strongly on the need to abolish nuclear weapons. This is a position nearly uniformly supported by the people of Japan where they know first-hand the terrible effects of the use of nuclear weapons. The truth is that nuclear weapons make a country more vulnerable rather than less so. If you have nuclear weapons, you must rely upon nuclear deterrence, the threat of nuclear retaliation, for security. But deterrence cannot provide security against terrorists, who do not fear retaliation, or against accidental launches.
The more reliance there is by some states on nuclear weapons, the more likely it is that these weapons will proliferate to other countries and find their way into the hands of terrorists. That is why the United States, which now possesses overwhelming military force, should lead the way toward achieving the phased, verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons. That would require wisdom and compassion. Such leadership is unlikely to come from political leaders. It is far more likely to originate from the people; ordinary people like you and me.

LB: Through dialogue with Mr. Ikeda and association with SGI, have you learned anything that helps you in your own work?

Krieger: I am very taken with Mr. Ikeda's focus on “human revolution.” I share his belief that each of us has the power to make a difference far beyond our imaginations. Mr. Ikeda himself is an example of a single individual who has made an enormous difference in our world. Through his vision and perseverance, he has created a wide array of noble institutions that educate young people and contribute to the common good. I am also impressed by Mr. Ikeda's tremendous commitment to dialogue and the open and flexible mind that he brings to solving problems. His annual peace proposals are among the most thoughtful and useful contributions to the global dialogue on bettering humanity's future.
I am also very appreciative of the positive spirit of the members of the SGI who I have met. As individuals and as an organization, there seems to be a deep concern in the SGI for embracing the world and all of its inhabitants. There is also a "can do" attitude, a willingness to roll up one's sleeves and work, which I appreciate very much.

LB: What are your long-term goals for this book?

Krieger: One of my goals for this book is to help awaken people to action to create a better world, a world in which people are valued for what they contribute of themselves, not what they possess. I would be very pleased if this book helped people to see that hope is indeed a conscious choice and a starting point for committed action. I'd be delighted if Choose Hope encouraged more young people to become involved in the great issues of our time, engaging with compassion, commitment and courage. I hope that the book will contribute to realizing the dream of a world free of nuclear weapons.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For further information, visit the Foundation’s website at www.wagingpeace.org.

Posted by Richard
10/10/2002 04:18:35 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Threats to Primates Escalating Rapidly: Up 63% Since 2000 Alone

Washington, D.C. (ENS) - One in every three of the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are now threatened with extinction, warns a new report by international conservation groups. The report notes that primate species and subspecies classified as endangered or critically endangered has jumped by almost 63 percent - from 120 to 195 - since the last version of the report was issued in January 2000.


The roloway guenon is one of the three most highly endangered monkeys of the Upper Guinea forest block, and is targeted by the bushmeat trade. (Photo by Lindsay Magnuson/Humboldt State University)

"The World's Top 25 Most Endangered Primates-2002," complied by Conservation International (CI) and the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union, was finalized during a recent gathering of the International Primatological Society, at its 19th Congress in Beijing, China.

Asia now accounts for almost 45 percent of the world's most endangered primates, the report shows, with 11 listed in the top 25, including six that are new additions. Africa has eight primates on the list, the Neotropics hosts three endangered primates, and Madagascar is home to the final three primates represented on the list.

"The latest information made available at the International Primatological Society Congress in Beijing highlighted the fact that Asia has now become the world leader in endangered primates," said Conservation International president Russ Mittermeier.


The buff-headed capuchin is the most endangered of the capuchin monkeys, restricted to southern Bahia, Brazil and threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for pets. (Photo by Russell A. Mittermeier, © Conservation International)

"Of particular concern is the situation in Vietnam and China," Mittermeier continued. "Indeed, with several primates now numbering only in the dozens or low hundreds of individuals, Vietnam is at risk of undergoing a major primate extinction spasm within the next few years if rapid action is not taken. Fully 20 percent of the top 25 primates are located in Vietnam, with another 16 percent from China and 12 percent from Indonesia."

Twenty-three of the 25 primates are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots: 25 regions identified by Conservation International which cover just 1.4 percent of Earth's land surface but harbor more than 60 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity.

According to the report, 48 of the 55 critically endangered primates - 87 percent - and 124 of the 140 endangered primates - 89 percent - are found only in the biodiversity hotspots. Six of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the world's most endangered primates, including Indo-Burma, Madagascar, Sundaland, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, and the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka.


The Natuna banded leaf monkey is found only on Indonesia's Natuna Islands where no protected forest areas exist. (Photo © Suroso/CBCS-UI)

"It's important to point out that the Top 25 list is just the tip of the iceberg and a call for more conservation action," said Bill Konstant of Conservation International and co-author of the report. "Essentially, for each primate on it, any one of several other equally threatened species might have been chosen instead. Changing conditions in any of the represented countries can lead to the rapid decline of any of the 195 species threatened with extinction."

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, timber extraction and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates according to the report. However, hunting has been an insidious and major threat, especially in Africa and Asia.

While hunting was once done mainly for subsistence purposes, it has now taken on a major commercial dimension. Live capture for the pet trade and export for biomedical research have become lesser concerns in recent decades, but still pose a threat to some species.


Considered a crop pest as recently as the 1950's, the white-naped mangabey is now very rare, with hunting the greatest threat to its survival. (Photo by Russell A. Mittermeier, © Conservation International)

As flagship species, primates are important to the health of their surrounding ecosystems. Through the dispersal of fruit seeds and other foods they consume, primates help support a wide range of plant and animal life that make up the earth's forests.

The loss of nonhuman primates is directly linked to the global extinction crisis, the report's authors warn.

"These 25 are facing a very serious risk of extinction due to the ongoing and rapid loss of their forests and, especially in Asia and Africa, their widespread and devastating exploitation for food and body parts, bizarre decoration, and charms or potions," noted Anthony Rylands of the species program at Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS). "The key factor is that all of the species listed as 'critically endangered' and 'endangered' are declining dramatically and require urgent measures for their protection."


The Tana River mangabey is found only in a 37 mile stretch of forest on both sides of the lower Tana River in Kenya. (Photo by Julie Wieczkowski/University of Georgia)

Although still highly endangered, a number of species have been removed from the list first issued in 2000. The golden lion tamarin and the black lion tamarin, for example, have benefited from the protection efforts of the Brazilian Government. Comprehensive conservation and management programs are in place for each - that for the black lion tamarin run by the NGO IPÊ-Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas in collaboration with the Wildlife Preservation Trust, Philadelphia, and that for the golden lion tamarin by the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) in collaboration with the National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution.

The top 25 most endangered primates, sorted by the regions where they are found, are:

Brazil
* Black-faced lion tamarin
* Buff-headed capuchin
* Northern muriqui


The Yunan snub-nosed monkey lives in the mountains of south central China. (Photo © John Mittermeier)

China
* White-headed langur
* Yunnan snub-nosed monkey
* Guizhou snub-nosed monkey

China and Vietnam
* Eastern black crested gibbon

Côte d'Ivoire
* Miss Waldron's red colobus (possibly already extinct)

Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana
* Roloway guenon
* White-naped mangabey

Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda
* Mountain gorilla

Indonesia
* Natuna banded leaf monkey
* Pig-tailed snub-nosed monkey or Simakobu
* Sumatran orangutan

Kenya
* Tana River mangabey
* Tana River red colobus


The greater bamboo lemur lives in the vanishing forests of Madagascar. (Photo by Ken Glander/Duke University)

Madagascar
* Greater bamboo lemur
* Perrier's sifaka
* Silky sifaka

Nigeria and Cameroon
* Cross River gorilla

Tanzania
* Sanje mangabey


The newly discovered gray-shanked douc exists only in Vietnam, and was not described until 1997. It is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. (Photo © Tilo Nadler)

Vietnam
* Delacour's langur
* Golden-headed langur
* Gray-shanked douc
* Tonkin snub-nosed monkey

To read the full report, click here.

By Cat Lazaroff

Posted by Richard
10/09/2002 08:03:56 AM | PermaLink

Extinction Threatens Species of Antelope, Camel, Water Mouse

Geneva -- The nomadic Saiga antelope could soon be taking its last leap, the wild Bactrian camel its last drink, and the Ethiopian water mouse its last dip. All are on the brink of extinction, conservationists said Tuesday.

The freshwater gastropod mollusk has already made its salty tearful goodbyes in the last two years, joining the long-departed Dodo bird among the ranks of vanished creatures.

There are 11,167 other plants and animals threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union's 2002 Red List of Threatened Species, an increase of 121 since 2000.

The Red List, produced by a network of some 7,000 species experts working in almost every country in the world, found that 811 species have disappeared over the last 500 years, some permanently, while others exist only in artificial settings, such as zoos.

Five species have been added to the Extinct List over the last two years, said the union, known as IUCN, which is based in Gland, Switzerland. Besides the mollusk they include two hippo species, last seen in 1500; the sea mink, unseen since 1860; and Reunion Island sheldgeese, last sighted around 1710.

"It can take so long because we need scientific proof and records that the species has gone extinct and that there are no subspecies alive," said IUCN spokeswoman Xenya Cherny. "That can take a long time."

The group has examined some 18,000 species and subspecies around the globe. But scientists admit that even a study of this magnitude only scratches the surface. Earth is home to an estimated 14 million species — and only 1.75 million have been documented. Many may become extinct before they are even identified, much less studied by scientists.

Conservationists think the current extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than it should be under natural conditions. That means that in the first decades of the 21st century, many creatures may disappear. The primary reason: humans. Everything from expanding cities to deforestation, agriculture, and fishing pose a significant threat to the planet's biodiversity, IUCN says.

The Saiga antelope, which lives on the open dry steppe grasslands and semiarid deserts of Central Asia; the wild Bactrian camel, which generally inhabits China; the Ethiopian water mouse; and the Iberian lynx have all been upgraded to critically endangered, the closest to extinction, the report said.

Surprisingly, two species previously considered extinct have been rediscovered: the Lord Howe Island stick insect and the Bavarian pine vole. The stick insect was believed to have become extinct in 1920 but was seen again in 2001. No specimens of the Bavarian pine vole were recorded after 1962, but a small population of the rodents was found on the German-Austrian border in 2000.

The number of endangered primate species rose from 120 to 195 over the past two years. Nearly half are native to Asia. Five of the rarest species are found in Vietnam: Only some 100 individuals of the golden-headed langur live on the country's Cat Ba Island.

"Vietnam is at risk of undergoing a major primate extinction spasm within the next few years if rapid action is not taken," said Conservation International president Russ Mittermier, whose group contributed data to the Red List study.

The study found habitat loss and degradation affect 89 percent of all threatened birds, 83 percent of mammals, and 91 percent of threatened plants assessed. Lowland and mountain tropical forests were the habitats with the highest number of threatened mammals and birds.

The IUCN has collected data on endangered species for 37 years.

"On the Red List, all species are treated with equal importance: The humble Bavarian pine vole stands alongside the African rhino," said IUCN Director General Achim Steiner. "It provides the international benchmark to help guide effective biodiversity conservation."

By Erica Bulman, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
10/09/2002 07:45:43 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Students Refuse to Dissect Animals

More Students Are Balking at Classroom Animal Dissections, Requesting Computer Simulations

Increasing numbers of students are asking to opt out of the science class ritual of dissecting frogs or fetal pigs, branding the practice cruel and insisting they can learn as much from computer simulations.

A 16-year-old honor student in Baltimore was removed from her anatomy class last week after refusing to dissect a cat, then allowed back in with the option of computer alternatives after protesters picketed the high school.

In Las Vegas, the Clark County School Board voted earlier this year to let students opt out of dissections if they have parental support.

The new policy was adopted after a petition drive led by eighth-grader Laurie Wolff, an A student who received a C in a science class two years earlier after declining to cut up an earthworm.

Anti-dissection students also appealed for policy changes this year at a school board meeting in Little Chute, Wis., and last year before a state Senate committee in Vermont.

Little Chute student Amy Richards gave a practical reason for accommodating the dissenters. "They won't learn much with their eyes closed because they're disgusted," she said.

A student delegation from Woodstock Union High School in Vermont helped get a bill introduced to allow students to use computer models instead of participating in dissections. The bill died in the Senate Education Committee.

National teachers groups maintain that dissections are a better learning tool than simulations, but recommend that instructors be sensitive to student qualms.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, eight states have approved opt-out policies California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. A similar policy is pending in New Jersey's legislature.

The Baltimore case illustrates how quickly a teacher's classroom decision can become the focus of ideological controversy.

On Sept. 23, Jennifer Watson was taken out of her Kenwood High School honors anatomy class and placed in a general science class after she asked for an alternative to cat dissection. The next evening, Humane Society officials attended a school board meeting, requesting that dissection alternatives be provided districtwide.

The following day about 20 protesters picketed outside Kenwood High, and school officials announced Jennifer would be allowed back in her class. She will perform computer-simulated dissections, perhaps joined by some other students, while the rest of the class dissects cats.

"I've loved animals my whole life," said Jennifer, whose family has several cats. "I was standing up for what I believe in."

The Humane Society estimates that 6 million animals mostly frogs, fetal pigs and cats are dissected annually in American schools. The society distributes anti-dissection videos and loans computer software to schools interested in offering alternatives.

"Students and teachers come to us on a regular basis saying, 'I don't want to do this any more,'" said Lesley King, the Humane Society's director for education and animal welfare.

She said school districts can save money by purchasing reusable dissection software rather than buying dead animals that can only be dissected once.

The 9,000-member National Association of Biology Teachers is wary of the push for alternatives. Although it urges teachers to be sensitive to students' objections, its formal position says, "No alternative can substitute for the actual experience of dissection."

Wayne Carley, the association's executive director, said many who oppose dissection "act on emotion rather than intellect."

"This is an issue of academic freedom," he said. "A well-trained teacher has the knowledge and experience to know how best to use dissection."

The National Science Teachers Association, which claims 53,000 members, also defends dissection but advises teachers to be flexible.

"There were few suitable alternatives when I taught, but now there are some extremely sophisticated virtual technologies," said Wendell Mohling, a former biology teacher in Shawnee Mission, Kan., who is associate executive director of the science teachers group.

The pressure to cut back on dissections is even being felt in college and graduate programs. King says the Humane Society accepts the need for dissections in veterinary education, but urges schools to use only animals that have been euthanized because of illness or old age.

On the Net:

Humane Society of the United States: http://www.hsus.org
National Association of Biology Teachers: http://www.nabt.org

Posted by Richard
10/08/2002 08:54:20 AM | PermaLink

Research of Mercury Contamination Leaves Huge Gaps in Knowledge

Mercury is poison. And yet it is on dinner plates everywhere: in sea bass served in fancy restaurants, in tuna casserole ladled out at home.

Most of the time, there is so little, it goes unnoticed. But that doesn't mean the mercury in swordfish or shark, trout or snapper is harmless. Eat enough — or eat enough fish from especially polluted waters — and it can make you sick.

Too much mercury damages the nervous system, especially the brain. Too much in pregnant and breast-feeding women or those who may become pregnant, can hurt their babies, adversely affecting children's intelligence, coordination, and memory. Children under 7 are vulnerable, too, because their young brains are still forming.

But how much is too much? And are adults at risk, as well? Rising public concern about those questions, which have been in the background for years, is now prompting public health officials to look more seriously at mercury and at its effects.

After a four-year moratorium, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to decide later this month whether to resume measuring mercury in fish. The Environmental Protection Agency will host a conference beginning Oct. 20 in Burlington, Vt., to discuss cases in which people are believed to have been sickened by mercury in fish.

State and federal officials disagree over what constitutes a safe exposure level; their programs for monitoring mercury in fish are an on-again, off-again hodgepodge full of scientific holes. There are no long-term studies on Americans, and some of the studies that have been done are contradictory or involve people whose diets are far different from what Americans eat.

There are those who say mercury in seafood is a menace, perhaps the biggest threat to childhood development since scientists discovered that lead exposure lowers IQ. They say that emissions from oil- and coal-powered plants are spreading this poison to an alarming degree. There are others who say the threat is overblown, that fish, loaded with protein and heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, is so good for you it outweighs any concern. The fact is, no one knows.

"We're all looking for the truth. I don't think anybody knows what the truth is," said Dr. Spencer Garrett of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Suzie Piallat has a name for it: "fish fog." Piallat, of Tiburon, Calif., was tired and achy and she couldn't concentrate. Finally, she went to Dr. Jane Hightower, a San Francisco internist.

When Hightower asked Piallat if she ate a lot of fish, she said yes: eight meals a week. And when Hightower tested her blood, she found mercury levels of 76 parts per billion, 15 times the amount considered safe by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I'm a health nut, I've always done the healthy thing. I never heard any of the warnings," Piallat said. "I thought eating fish was good for me."

Piallat, who cut back on her fish consumption, and soon felt better, can't be faulted for missing those warnings. It is only recently that some doctors have reported that adult patients are being harmed by mercury in fish.

"I see people in my practice, sick from eating way too much commercial seafood, on a regular basis," said Hightower. Her peer-reviewed study of seafood consumption and high mercury levels in her patients, many of whom report symptoms such as aching joints and exhaustion, is slated for publication by the National Institutes of Health this fall.

There is no doubt that these patients feel sick, and no doubt that they have high levels of mercury in their blood. But as of yet, no study has proven the mercury caused their illness, though Hightower notes that many of her patients' symptoms are consistent with mercury poisoning.

There are skeptics, and there is much confusion about safe levels and whether they vary from person to person.

"It's not an absolute, like over this level everybody dies and below this level nobody gets sick," said Dr. Henry Anderson, medical officer at the Wisconsin Bureau of Public Health, who studied a family contaminated with mercury after eating Chilean sea bass and other fish meals three to four times a week. "It's like being on a highway, how many miles above the limit can you go without getting arrested? There are a lot of factors and some chance," Anderson said.

Dr. Michael Gochfeld, a clinical professor of environmental and community medicine at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said he sees two or three patients a year with elevated mercury levels from eating too much mercury-laden fish. "Ironically, these are usually health-conscious people who have shifted their diets away from red meat to fish," he said. "Some people eat 10 fish meals a week."

The latest FDA guidelines recommend that pregnant women and small children eat no more than two meals of fish each week. The recommendation is based on a study conducted in the Faroe Islands, a remote archipelago situated in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland.

The Faroes researchers, from Boston University, found that children whose mothers' diets featured whale meat or blubber during pregnancy had lower scores on a battery of tests designed to measure intelligence, coordination, memory, and similar skills. Children exposed to the most mercury in utero were especially impaired in language, memory, and attention. But even children exposed to relatively low levels, comparable to the upper end of the range found in the U.S. population, had some impairment.

There are some problems with the Faroes study:

· It focuses on exposure of fetuses and embryos to mercury, while the Food and Drug Administration uses it to gauge safety limits for adults.

Still, it may be better than the research the Environmental Protection Agency used until recently to set its standards: a 1971 study of people in Iraq who mistakenly ate mercury-contaminated grain. A one-time poisonous dose of mercury — 459 people died in that incident — is not the same as long-term exposure to slightly elevated levels.

(The most notorious incident of mercury seafood poisoning occurred in Japan. Beginning in the 1950s, more than 1,400 people died and thousands of others were sickened or crippled from eating fish tainted by mercury in Minamata Bay.)

· The FDA guidelines use the Faroes study to establish the number of fish meals any one person could safely eat. In calculating that figure, the agency did not take into account that fish from some waters have far more mercury in them than the average serving of commercial seafood.

Freshwater fish sampled by states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, for example, average 3.5 times as much mercury as the average for commercial seafood, according to a computer-assisted analysis by the Associated Press.

Also, the Faroes results are based on people who eat whale, a mammal rather than a fish.

· A second study, conducted in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean off Africa, found no ill effects from elevated exposure to mercury in fish during fetal development.

Since its publication in 1998, the University of Rochester scientists who conducted the Seychelles study have struggled to explain why their results are so different from those of the Boston researchers. Maybe the Faroes results were skewed because of PCBs in whale blubber. (The researchers deny it.) Maybe it was because of differences in the ways the two studies measured children's development.

It is also possible that high fish consumption in the Seychelles, while exposing children to relatively high levels of mercury, also improves brain development. In other words, the nutritional value of the fish itself could actually overwhelm any negative effect of mercury.

That would resonate with the arguments of many in the fish industry. "Fish is good for you," said Randy Ray of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association of Mercer Island, Wash. "Pretty much most of the ocean is really, really safe. You've got some local water bodies which are an issue and some fish at the top of the food chain that are an issue, but by and large, chow down on the shrimp."

What is beyond dispute is this: Mercury warnings for U.S. lakes, rivers, and coastal regions increased 115 percent from 1993 to 2001. There are almost 2,000 mercury-in-fish warnings on various water bodies in 44 states.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth's crust and sometimes exposed by volcanic eruptions, mining, and other disturbances. More commonly, it makes its way into the environment when oil- and coal-fired power plants burn those fossil fuels, separating the mercury from the carbon and spewing the mercury into the atmosphere.

Rain washes the metal from the air onto land and into waterways, where it settles and is eaten by microorganisms that turn it into methylmercury. Small fish then eat the organisms, absorb the methylmercury, and are eaten by larger fish. The methylmercury accumulates, making its way up the food chain in ever-increasing concentrations until people consume it.

If there is a consensus among scientists, it is that the most vulnerable population by far is the very young, especially still-developing fetuses. Like lead, mercury can wreak havoc on the rapidly multiplying cells of a growing brain, leading later in life to decreased intelligence, lowered coordination, and impaired hearing.

"It's the chemical that can push the child over the edge," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Mount Sinai medical school's Department of Community and Preventative Medicine.

According to a National Academy of Sciences report issued in 2000, 60,000 babies born each year might be at risk of neurological damage because of mercury, and that is likely to mean more kids who struggle in school and need remedial classes or special education.

Findings like these have led British authorities to recommend that pregnant women abstain from eating any fish at all. In Japan, where per-capita fish consumption far outpaces that in the United States, researchers are just beginning to investigate the effects of chronic, low-level mercury exposure. Studies have repeatedly shown elevated mercury levels among the Japanese as well as medical problems in some people. However, a Health Ministry spokesman said the Japanese government does not issue any consumption guidelines for specific foods.

In the United States, the FDA held a three-day conference in July and suggested pregnant women limit the canned tuna they eat to two, six-ounce cans a week — if that is the only source of fish in their diets — and to only one can if they eat other fish. The agency zeroed in on canned tuna because it is by far the most popular seafood Americans eat. There is no evidence it is potentially any worse than many other fish. Canned tuna has more mercury than scallops or catfish, for example, but less than fresh tuna or lobster, according to a May 2001 FDA report.

The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat any swordfish, shark, king mackerel, or tilefish (also known as golden or white snapper), the species known to contain the highest levels of mercury.

But this is not enough for some doctors and activists, who say that because of gaps in our knowledge about mercury, the standards are little more than educated guesses. They lament that the FDA stopped monitoring mercury in fish four years ago — "so that it could look at all the data that had accumulated," said spokesman Mike Herndon. Herndon did say why monitoring stopped during the evaluation.

"Without an adequate mercury monitoring program for seafood, it is virtually impossible for pregnant women and women of reproductive age to make informed dietary choices," said Dr. Ted Schettler of Physicians for Social Responsibility. U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has also been among those pressing for a stronger FDA effort.

The Centers for Disease Control says one in 10 women have potentially dangerous levels of mercury in their blood. Wendy Moro was one of them.

Moro, 40, of Burlingame, Calif., wanted to get healthy, so she ate fish: tuna for lunch, crab salad for a snack, Sushi for dinner. But the more fish she ate, the sicker she felt. For years, she visited doctors, neurologists, endocrinologists, general practitioners, even a psychologist who assured her she wasn't crazy. Just sick.

Finally Moro visited Hightower, the San Francisco internist who tested, among dozens of other items, the mercury levels in Moro's blood. What she found was three times the medically safe levels spelled out by the CDC. "I was shocked," said Moro. "We're told to eat fish, we're told it's great for you."

And that, to experts like Dr. Jae Hong Lee, former senior medical policy analyst at the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families, is the crux of the problem. Not enough has been done to determine the effects of mercury or the amount of mercury in fish — or to publicize the fact that there is reason for concern.

"The public knows about the many health benefits of eating fish," Lee said, "but few know about the risk of eating too much."

By Sharon L. Crenson, Associated Press
(Matt Crenson contributed to this report.)

Posted by Richard
10/08/2002 08:46:43 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, October 07, 2002

War Protests Happening in Historic Fashion

This past weekend protests were staged in major and minor cities all around the United States by the group Not in Our Name, with tremendous turn out. But it is hard to get a picture of this from the media, who present a haphazard vision of the movement at best.

Reuters did carry a story on the protests in New York Central Park, which they listed as having 10,000 people -- though pictures and people on the ground indicate that the group was at least 20,000 and perhaps as high as 50,000. But despite covering the success of the protests in New York, Reuters ignored the tens of thousands of people in other regions. The New York Times did cover what happened in Central Park, leading in to the story with the statement that those in the know said it was larger than protests in the Vietnam era (people I spoke with in Los Angeles said the same thing here), but the story was relegated to the New York Regional section, failed to mention the protests in other major cities across America, and ended with a statement by a protester de-claiming the amount of people present and wishing that it would have been more. The title claims only "thousands" protest -- significantly under-counting even the Reuters undercount of 10,000.

The AP was much stronger on covering the protests across America and on the west coast -- though again it tended to under-count the actual turn-out. Further, its own coverage of New York was weak. Major outlets like ABC news and CNN ran parts of the AP stories, but with no single article documenting the massive amounts of country-wide protest over the weekend, the picture presented was of a couple-thousand people staging a p.5 demonstration.

Of course, with President Bush set to announce his war plans this evening on television, such widely successful protest makes it difficult for the editors of corporations like the New York Times to honor the facts without dis-arming their constituents. But the fact of the matter is that the American people are turning out for public demonstration against this war in a way that has not occurred since Vietnam. This is page one material and the fact that the New York Times would choose to run a piece on Laura Bush's literary room over and above the protests only goes to show that the Chomsky/Herman propaganda model remains in effect and that big media is not to be trusted as a major source on important political issues.

Posted by Richard
10/07/2002 08:31:49 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, October 06, 2002

The Farley Article Debate (Continued)

In taking a moment to reread not only the article calling for blacks to join the fledging Green party as a radical third-party alternative that mixes the issues of environment with a commitment to radical social justice but Debbie's rebuke of the piece as yet another leftist mis-apprehension of the Israeli situation, I feel compelled to arbitrate the matter and weigh-in with an opinion (and defense) wholly my own.

For the record: the piece I posted by Dr. Farley was in no way meant to imply a wholesale approval of his terms. Posts to this blog are meant to be timely and important media pieces that are worthy for public debate, period. This is not a personal sounding board for my own authoritarian politics -- I am not running for office and I do not claim to provide the only worthwhile opinion on the matters that this blog is concerned with. If it comes across this way, I would argue that it is only because the technology is young and the themes emergent, preventing a wide-range of people from choosing to debate these issues here...my only hope is that they take this information back into their home and business lives and discuss it elsewhere. That being said, whenever anyone has written in with a scathing opinion of any post here, I have been quick to publish it and answer it as thoughtfully as possible. Again, this is always the goal...we are trying to use the new technology to increase the numbers of perspectives around a shared body of information and form democratic networks of progressive values that emerge from the very act of forming a community based on this information sharing.

I think the Farley piece is timely and important. It is election time and it is war time. We see that while there are significant differences between Republican and Democrat, there are also important similarities in terms of ownership of the power structure, and we are looking to new political parties to create the necessary unity and alliances between dissenting citizens such that a real alternative is produced capable of shaking the tree of power proper. Many see the emerging Greens as exactly the party of choice -- and for the moment, I agree. Farley is correct that no other party meaningfully speaks to the necessary correlation of planetary devestation with social oppression, and he is also right that no other party can hope to claim the 5% voting public necessary for Federal matching funds at this time. Yet, a real failing of the Greens traditionally -- and of the ecological movement as a whole -- has been its ties to the same white power structure that radical social justice minorities decry...a hippie from Beverly Hills or Scarsdale being still another example of white benefit. The Farley piece was interesting to me, then, because it was from a serious and radical black Southern candidate who felt that he had real reason to run and vote Green, not that he had no other option.

As to his particular platform, it seems to me that Debbie has provided one avenue for debate as to where Black and Green implosions need further clarification. Surely, she is correct that there is indeed a great deal of Israel bashing in the current manifestation of the left and that a good deal of this is so overly-simplified and romanticized as to run the risk of producing both anti-semitism and a superficial account of Zionism. While she only alludes to it, I think Debbie points to a much more fruitful terrain for alliance by pointing out the long history of alliance between blacks and jews, from New York and Alabama to Egypt and Israel itself. In fact, while there are also real divisions between the two communities that need to be addressed and healed, there are significant histories of oppression and integration that should ultimately allow each side to recognize their implicit solidarity with the other.

I do not read Farley's article as anti-semitic, however, and so I think Debbie is mistaken in this assertion. She quotes Farley as approvingly quoting Fulani's strategic alliance with anti-semitism, but he never did this. Instead, his point was that Blacks DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS -- they can vote Green and avoid anti-semites like Buchanan.

The Green party is committed to non-violence and if Debbie is against Farley speaking for that then she will not be voting Green in the future. Farley was incorrect for not taking pains to point out in his little bit on the middle east that, as a Green, he is as committed to condemning acts of Palestinian violence and terror against Israeli citizens and soldiers as he is critical of violence committed by the Israeli military upon citizens and soldiers of the Palestinian people. This is an important point that can not be overly emphasized -- the Green party is the party of PEACE, simply. We do not advocate violence even by militaries upon military subjects. The Green party calls for the complete de-escalation of war totally -- and so the rebuke is of both Bush and Gore, Sharon and Hamas. Debbie makes the case for Israel's right to defend itself which I will not take up now except to point out that this is not Green. It is a major principle of the party that military violence is not justifiable under any conditions.

So, finally, I clearly disagree with Debbie's comment that the Farley piece has nothing to do with ecology, environment or ethics. His piece thoughtfully relates why and how the Greens take up environmental issues alongside a radical commitment to social justice as part of an understanding of human ecology. He outlines some of the Green environmental platforms that differ from both republican and democratic concerns. And he stands for a political commitment to a party capable of real social change (not just ideals) but one which does not sell out ideals so as to make alliance with crooks or vote-baiters...what I take to be an ethical commitment on his part. The Farley piece, therefore, meets all the criteria necessary for its inclusion on this blog and if its betraying anything, it certainly isn't the principles of what Get Vegan is involved in.

In closing, I'll underscore again that this does not mean that the Farley piece is beyond reproach or not deserving of vigorous debate. If we are to have anything even remotely resembling the type of radical democratic politics that Greens like Farley himself would hope for, then anything less than an informed political discussion on the party and the platform proper amounts to just another white utopia.

Posted by Richard
10/06/2002 11:11:42 PM | PermaLink

Did the Farley Article Betray the Blog?

My initial response to reading the Jonathan David Farley article posted below was to admonish my husband for being irresponsible in attaching my name, my logo and my website with rhetoric that I find offensive. As is sometimes the case between individuals, Richard & I hold differing opinions on certain issues – chiefly, our respective feelings towards Israel. Since I was not consulted before Farley’s piece was posted to our blog, I feel it imperative that I address certain statements with which I take umbrage.

“After all, we got affirmative action because, in the Sixties, organizations like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam were demanding reparations, even a separate nation.”

I believe that there have been many Jewish voices active in the Civil Rights movement. In 1965, Abraham Joshua Heschel went to Selma, Alabama, and marched arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King. My religion teaches me the importance of remembering that I was once a slave in a foreign land; it is incumbent upon me to treat all living beings with dignity and respect.

Farley seems to have a problem with “Lieberman’s recent resolution supporting Israel’s military attacks in Jenin, and Al Gore’s own statement, during the second presidential debate, that without question, ‘we stand with Israel.’”

I find that all too frequently the left seems to adopt an a-historical misunderstanding of tensions in the Middle East. I do not advocate violence. I lend my personal energies towards peace and tolerance. Still, I cannot fathom the criticism of Israeli policy as regards its right and obligation to protect its citizens from random acts of terror. I feel it is important for Americans to have an accurate perspective of the situation, even if it’s just an understanding of the numbers (I will leave the history lesson for another day). While looking for statistics on current population estimates, I learned that there are approximately 2 billion Christians, 1.3 billion Muslims, and 14 million Jews in the world today. Fewer than 4.5 million of those Jews live in Israel. Israel’s neighbors in Bahrain, Comoros, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Mayotte, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, and Yemen are almost entirely Muslim (About 99.5% or more of the native populations, and nearly all of the foreign workers, are Muslim. Additionally, There are over 170 million Muslims in Indonesia, 136 million in Pakistan, 106 million in Bangladesh, 103 million in India, 62 million in Turkey, 60 million in Iran, 53 million in Egypt, and 47 million in Nigeria. (Statistical information found on Adherents.com) Israel is a country that is 20,330 sq km in size (slightly smaller in area than New Jersey), and is surrounded by people who are hostile to its inhabitants because of religion. I am a first-generation American, born to survivors of Nazi occupied Poland. I am empathetic to the plights of all groups that have been mistreated and have had basic human rights denied them because of fear, ignorance and hatred. I am not empathetic to the cause or the campaign of Jonathan David Farley who spews more of the same venom that breeds mistrust among people sharing the planet.

Farley quotes Dr. Lenora Fulani as saying, “We have to assimilate, merge with whites, even if they are anti-Semites like Pat Buchanan.” He then says, “The good doctor is partly right.” I voted Green in the 2000 Presidential election, but if Farley speaks for any faction of the Green party, I assure you that I am not too yellow to cast my vote elsewhere. The non-committal donkey party beats the braying ass party any day.

The GetVegan website’s purpose is ecological, environmental, and ethical education. Since Jonathan David Farley’s article meets none of those criteria, I am disappointed and puzzled by the choice of its inclusion. Perhaps this was my wake-up call; a reminder that I need to step out from behind-the-scenes and make my presence known as well. As ever, I am thankful for today and hopeful for tomorrow…

Posted by Debbie
10/06/2002 09:26:54 PM | PermaLink

Did the Green Party Betray Black America?

by Jonathan David Farley, D.Phil.

Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress from Tennessee’s 5th district ( http://www.votefarley2002.org ), is a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar at Oxford University and assistant professor of mathematics at Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He graduated summa cum laude with an A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard University in 1991. He received his doctorate in Mathematics from Oxford University in 1995. In 1994 he was awarded Oxford University's Senior Mathematical Prize and Johnson Prize for his research (Oxford's highest mathematics awards). From 1995 to 1997, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California.
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I was at a house party in Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville, a town known primarily for being the home of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.  It was just before the presidential elections, but I had nothing on my mind except having fun. 

I was the only African-American in the house, and I figured that, since everyone there was a liberal, I wouldn’t hear anything shocking.  I was dead wrong.  This is what I heard—and when I did hear it, I had to sit up and take notice:  

“The Green Party,” someone said, in another conversation, “is the first party since the Black Panthers to support reparations for slavery.”  

I was floored.  Immediately I was energized, excited, and determined to do what I could to build the Green Party.  I had missed the Sixties (by five months); but this was the organization, the Movement, that I had been waiting for.  

Nevertheless, given the disaster that has been the Bush presidency—given his rejection of the Kyoto accords, his flouting of the UN Conference on Racism, his catastrophic war against Afghanistan, his saber-rattling with China, his threat of a renewed arms race with Star Wars, his shredding of the Constitution and the subordination of the people’s interests to those of the oil lobby—how could any rational being support the Green Party?  Didn’t the Green Party, by tipping the balance in favor of Bush, hand the Republicans a noose to put around our necks?

Reparations Now!

Before the party in Nashville, I had already been drifting Greenward for a couple of weeks.  I decided not to vote for Gore after I learned of his running mate’s hostility towards affirmative action, and I gave the Green Party a look when I learned that Dr. Ray Winbush, director of the prestigious Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, had attended the Green Party convention.  

Still, I didn’t think much of the Greens.  They seemed to be just another group of alienated white hippies primarily concerned with the environment, but ignorant (perhaps willfully so) of the issues that affected black people specifically.  

I remembered the lesson of black communists and socialists in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties.  Eminent scholars like W.E.B. DuBois realized that white socialists, though in principle opposed to racism, remained embedded in America’s racial matrix.  By playing down the importance of race in history, the white socialists were essentially relegating black political issues to the back of the bus.  

When I heard Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader speak in Nashville, he only confirmed my views, dismissing a question about police brutality with the glib response, “Not all policemen are bad.”   

That was before the party in Nashville.  

Historically, many black political movements have demanded reparations, of course, but they have always been small, and too radical even for most African-Americans.  The Green Party—yes, to a large extent because it is white—may succeed where these fringe parties have failed: It has a larger base of support, international connections, and, as its presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, a universally respected champion of consumer rights, occupational safety, and the environment.  (The Green candidate for Senate in Tennessee was Tom Burrell, an African-American.)  

The Green Party platform reads: “We recognize that people of color have legitimate claims in this country to reparations in the form of monetary compensation for these centuries of discrimination.  We also uphold the right of the descendants of the African slaves to self-determination.”  

What other issues do Greens and blacks support? 

1.       The removal of the Confederate flag from all public spaces.

2.       A reappraisal of Third World debt.

3.       Community control of the police.

4.       An end to the war on drugs, Three Strikes, and the prison-industrial complex (which has left over a million blacks in prison).

5.       Abolition of the death penalty.

6.       Statehood for the District of Columbia (so blacks can get in the Senate—crack addicts who have been caught on film need not apply). 

7.       Free public education through college or vocational school. 

8.       Universal health insurance. 

9.       A living wage (so minimum wage workers can afford to raise a family). 

10.   The granting of new trials to political prisoners like Native American activist Leonard Peltier and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. 

11.   An end to corporate welfare and the surrender of our government to big business.

12.   Electoral reform, including making Election Day a holiday, and the abolition of the Electoral College.  

The list goes on.  The full platform can be found at http://www.gp.org.  (Readers beware: there is a tiny organization masquerading as “the Green Party” which also has a web site, leading to endless confusion.)  

When people ask me why I support the Green Party, I say that I will support a party that supports me, that supports us, that supports reparations.  This is not mere idealism.  We are taking the struggle for reparations to another level, that of electoral politics.  

Yes, a Bush administration and Supreme Court may repeal our hard-won freedoms, but we must remember that the Supreme Court did not grant us those freedoms: the people, united and organized, demanded and won them.  We must stop wishing that a white-led administration—Democratic or Republican—will throw us a few crumbs, such as affirmative action.  After all, we got affirmative action because, in the Sixties, organizations like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam were demanding reparations, even a separate nation.  We got affirmative action because they were strident, uncompromising, and organized.  In the Eighties we stopped demanding and started petitioning.  And that’s when the Right, sensing weakness, began to turn the clock back.  

We’ve gotten too used to the warm bed of straw that the Democrats have laid out for us in the barn.  So afraid are we of the cold night air, that we are unwilling to leave them—when in fact, the Big House and all that’s inside it belong to us by right.  The owners will not yield it to us willingly.  They won’t give it up even if we ask with sugar on top.  A thousand disparate voices, dispersed among a thousand fledgling organizations, won’t make them surrender.  But they will run for the hills if we shout with one voice.

One of Our Candidates Is Missing

A major concern African-Americans had in the last election was this: a vote for the Greens seemed to be a vote for Bush.  

Unfortunately, the flip side is that a vote for Al Gore was a vote for Al Gore.  Since the Democrats lost the race anyhow, it was, ironically, Gore supporters who wasted their votes.  

Let’s set the record straight: No one in the Green Party expected Ralph Nader to win.  What we were hoping for—and, yes, it was a gamble—was 5% of the vote.  Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the millions of “yellow Greens” who chickened out at the last minute and voted Democratic, the Green Party might have gotten its 5%, and hence might have become eligible for federal election matching funds, which we need to win the battle for democracy.  This would bring with it publicity, with which we could pressure the media to cover real issues.  Green issues—not tissue issues (like whether rap CDs should have warning labels)—would begin to occupy their rightful place on the center stage of political debate.  The fact that (it seems) we lost the gamble does not mean we were wrong to make it.  

Liberal Democrats often charge Ralph Nader with saying that “there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.”  I personally have never heard him say that.  I believe there is a marked difference between Al Gore and George Bush, as the last 15 months have proven: Al Gore grew a beard, and George Bush didn’t.  

But seriously, don’t be fooled by the rhetoric.  We have little reason to believe that the Democrats, long-term, would have been any better than they have been in the past.  Don’t take it from me: take it from Bev, a woman I corresponded with.  Bev was angry.  

Those Democrats take our vote for granted, she complained: They come around begging for our votes once every four years, and then they ignore us until the next election.  

But what’s a girl to do?  Vote for the Republicans, who, aside from sprinkling Spanish into speeches here and there and showcasing four-star generals, are openly hostile to minorities?  Heck, no.  So the Democrats keep us in their corner, expecting us to help them win the prizefight, but giving us nothing in return but their sweaty towels.  

Take Bill Clinton, hailed by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as “the first black president.”  When Clinton was choking on cigar smoke at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, his greatest defenders were the members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  But this is the Clinton who, in 1992, dissed Jesse Jackson (the Democratic Party’s election-year “minority whip” and whipping boy) in front of the entire country.  This is the Clinton who, his first week in office, blockaded Haiti to keep black political refugees from coming to America.  

This is the Clinton who got my vote, twice.  

Take Montgomery, Alabama.  The white Democratic mayor, elected by a narrow margin thanks to the black vote, showed his gratitude by refusing to discipline police officers who bullishly beat a black man.  

So what’s a people to do?  

African-American political leaders have failed to put into practice a saying everybody else understands: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.  Or, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  Instead, we seem to think the saying goes: I’ll scratch your back, you shovel *** in my face, and I’ll scratch your back again, with a smile!  

Dr. Lenora Fulani, one-time leader of the now-fratricidal Reform Party, says we need a third party.  But it can’t be a party that focuses on black interests, she argues, because we’re only 12% of the population.  We have to assimilate, merge with whites, even if they are anti-Semites like Pat Buchanan.  

The good doctor is partly right.  We do need a third party.  But she’s also partly wrong.  A Black Bloc Party (call it what you will) is viable.  In Europe, minority parties, such as the Ulster Unionists in Britain, do have influence precisely because the major parties are almost evenly balanced.  They let the major parties know what it will take to garner their support; and the major parties had better deliver.  

But, one might argue, wouldn’t such a third party only hurt the Democrats?  You bet it would.  They would have to make a choice: Continue the slide towards the right, or address our issues.  They might call our bluff, or decide that they would rather lose the White House than lose white votes, but it’s all good: At least we’d finally see that the “liberals” we’ve trusted for decades are, at the end of the day, nothing but a bunch of good ol’ boys in white sheets.  

For too long, African-Americans have been living off the Democratic Party the way a lamprey lives off a shark; and we all know that the Replutocrats are no alternative.  What we need is a Black Bloc Party—because the roof is on fire.   I believe the Greens can be the vehicle we need to reach that party.  We need candidates who will represent us, and not merely black skins in white masks who will sell us out.  The Green Party and the black agenda are going in the same direction.  So let’s join.

Election 2000, Ground Zero

Don’t get me wrong: I felt unwell the morning after the presidential elections.  I live in Nashville, Tennessee—Gore Country, Ground Zero of the campaign.   I had woken up at 3 a.m. on November 8 to turn on the TV and see who won, only to learn that it was “too close to call.”   

And when I learned how close—500 votes in Florida—I became positively sick. The Green Party had won more than enough votes there—90,000—to put Al Gore over the top, even if just 0.5% of those Nader supporters had voted for Gore instead.  

“Ralph Nader is at the bottom of the moral scale,” angry Democrats told me.  “I’ll never vote for him, ever!”   

But I felt better when I realized who was really to blame for Gore’s (apparent) defeat: Gore himself.  

The way politics works is, if you want my vote, you have to do something for it.  Gore had months to court the Green vote; but even two weeks before the election, he explicitly said he would not.   

Of course, if Gore had catered to the Greens, and instead conservative Democrats had defected from the party and voted for Bush, no one would be blaming the conservatives.  Instead, they would be asking themselves how they could win those voters back.  This is not speculation—it is what actually happened in 1984 and 1988.  That’s why Gore helped found the Democratic Leadership Council.  

Despite African-Americans’ record turnout at the polls, Gore even ran from blacks, up until the last few weeks: He chose an anti-affirmative action running mate.  He refused to speak at Fisk University, despite repeated invitations (until the last week, when the race was close).  Even when it could have won him the White House, Gore did not back up Jesse Jackson and the NAACP in their investigations of voter intimidation in Florida.

Gore's campaign staff was incompetent. He could have crushed Bush in a landslide. Gore lost because his supporters lacked the fire of the Republicans.

Gore lost because of Gore.

Unipolar Disorder: The World after September 11

While I agree that there is a significant difference between Al Bush and George Gore, we can’t blame Greens for what happened post-September 11: the emergence of the United States as a global behemoth, a bull in a china shop, unencumbered by treaties, diplomacy, or human rights.  After all, no Greens are in Congress, and it’s Congress that has surrendered completely to the madness of King George.  

And let’s not paint too rosy a picture about America under President Gore:  One girl I met claimed that we had to support Gore for president, because then-Governor Bush was executing so many people.  She seemed to forget that Bush, Cheney, Lieberman and Gore all support the death penalty.  

A white man I met claimed that Gore would have pursued a radically different course in the Middle East than Bush has.  He ignored Lieberman’s recent resolution supporting Israel’s military attacks in Jenin, and Al Gore’s own statement, during the second presidential debate, that without question, “we stand with Israel.”  

Bush is proceeding madly towards drilling in Alaska, but Occidental Oil, a company closely linked with the Gore family, was, until recently, determined to drill in Colombia, despite the fact that the U’wa people (whose ancestral lands would have been desecrated by the drilling) were determined to commit mass suicide rather than allow that to happen.  Incidentally, it was the Clinton-Gore administration that approved $1.3 billion in military aid for the Colombian government, with Clinton even demanding that the aid not be dependent on Colombia’s improving its human rights record.  As is well known, the Colombian military works closely with paramilitary death squads, who together kill about 80% of the 3,000 people who are massacred each year in Colombia’s civil war.  

And most importantly, we must recall that, despite Bush’s horrific record, all the media pundits claimed that the winner of the election would be the loser, a four-year lame duck president, facing gridlock at every juncture.  That it did not turn out this way should shame the pundits, the papers, the political scientists, and, most of all, the party of Gore.  

This is not to say that a Gore presidency would have been isomorphic to Bush’s; it is merely acknowledging reality: To call Albert a prince is to believe in fairy tales.  It is the Greens, not the Democrats and certainly not Al Gore, who are the opposition in America today.   

The Color Blind Spot  

One objection many African-Americans have to the Green Party is that it is a white party.  To which I respond:  

“Oh, and the Democratic Party isn’t?”  

Indeed, of the three main presidential candidates in 2000, Ralph Nader is the only one who could be considered non-white.  (His parents are from Lebanon.)  His 2000 running mate, Winona LaDuke, is a Native American.  

So when I hear people say that the Green Party consists almost entirely of white hippie tree-huggers, I always laugh.  To be honest, the Green Party does consist almost entirely of white hippie tree-huggers, but I laugh anyway.  While the Green Party, despite its name, has very little color in it, it is still the most pro-black of the three main parties.  

Nonetheless, Grady, a student at Fisk University, told me that he believed Nader and Bush were conspiring together to undermine blacks.  Other blacks have told me that the Green Party only takes the positions it does to “trick” blacks into voting for them.

So basically, these blacks are saying that they won’t support a party that claims it supports reparations; they will only support a party (like the Democrats) that has proven that it won’t.  Someone please explain the logic here?  

As to the Green Party’s secret agenda to undermine Black America: I only wish the Green Party were that well organized.  But the fact is, the Green Party was not trying to trick blacks into supporting them by adopting its amazing pro-reparations platform.  I know this—because the Green Party made no effort whatsoever to recruit people of color!  

Colorlines Magazine accused Nader of having a “racial blind spot.”  But as Nader himself has pointed out, when we fight big polluters, when we fight for a living wage and better schools, it’s people of color who benefit.  But if that’s not a convincing defense, let me add that the Green Party is not your average bear (or elephant or donkey):  It is not a top-down party, led by Ralph Nader.  It is a grass-roots party.  The Green Party of the United States does not tell the Green Party of Tennessee what to do; the Green Party of Tennessee calls the shots in Tennessee.  

This is why blacks who want to start chapters of the Green Party need not be concerned that their party will be co-opted or taken over by whites.  What they (the blacks) say, goes.  This makes the Green Party more democratic than a lot of black organizations, the church and the NAACP included.  

This bottom-up structure is a strength and a weakness.  Many local Green Party chapters are not ready for prime time.  In Nashville, for instance, when Ralph Nader came to speak, the local Green Party did not even have a literature table set up at his talk, so that people who wanted to join the party could find out more.  Despite the Green Party’s lack of organization, I want to be a part of it.  It is African-Americans who can help build it.  

Of course, we must remember the lesson of DuBois and still be wary of majority white parties: Soon after I started campaigning for the Greens, instructing party officials that they would bring thousands of blacks into their ranks by publicizing the reparations issue, I got this message from a Green activist:  

“Dear Professor: Reparations on slavery?  Get over it, it’s time to move on!”  (This man soon stepped down from his position after other Greens chastised him.)  

When I decided to run for US Congress as a Green, despite my getting the endorsement of the Green Party, some of the officers of the Green Party of Tennessee conspired to keep information about my campaign off the party website.   Their fear was that reparations would be “destructive to the Green Party and its relations with both the black and white communities.”  This is classic white liberal paternalism: they know better than we do about what we should ask for, and when.  

Having said this, the Green Party of the United States is progressive—at the national level.  The national co-chairs “get it,” people like Anita Rios (a Latina) and Ben Manski (a—well, a white guy).  It is just some local chapters that need to be brought in line.  And I am proud to be in the same party as people like Donna Jo Warren of California (who has been investigating the crack-CIA connection), candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  So when people ask me if I am still running under the Green banner, I reply, “Yes!”  I will not let the reactionaries chase me out of the party.  Instead, I will rout them.  

To the Spoiler Goes the Victory?  

An NAACP official said recently that he won’t work with Greens because “Greens aren’t winners.”  But Greens can win.  We’re part of the government in France and Germany.  And in Nashville, where I am running for Congress, we’ve even gotten international publicity.  The congressional elections will see a conservative Democrat (old, white, male) and an almost identical conservative Republican (old, white, male) split the vote.  Given that Nashville is 25% black and our agenda is 100% black, we might just slip into office with 34%.  I’m working on my professional wrestling moves even as I write.  

More is true.  The Green Party can shift the terms of debate—without a major electoral victory—so that the Democrats adopt our main platform issues.  Already, former president Jimmy Carter is suggesting an Election Day holiday.  Municipalities and universities across the country are adopting the living wage.  Rapprochement with Cuba is around the corner.  And of course, the degradation of our rivers, woods and air is a problem that won’t go away.   

The Green Party is not just an environmental party.  While it does support the traditional environmental issues—the abolition of nuclear weapons, the search for renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, the labeling of genetically engineered “Frankenfood” in supermarkets—it also has a social justice agenda that can’t be matched by the Demopublicans.  This agenda is so radical that the Greens won’t ever be a majority party; but they can become the party of color.  

Towards a Politics of the Future  

My vote for the Green Party was not a protest vote.  I did not vote Green because I am a naïve idealist: It was a pragmatic choice.  While I am cognizant of the dangers of a Bush Supreme Court, I know that, every election, we will be presented with the same choice between a conservative Democrat and a Republican bogeyman.  That cycle must be broken.  

The Green Party is not perfect, but, as one former Black Panther recently told me, it’s all we have.  The whiteness of the Green Party does not prevent it from having the most pro-black platform of the three major parties; and the best way to keep the Greens from betraying us is to join them.  

African-Americans must start thinking about long-term political objectives, about building a true opposition.  Green should be in the middle of our rainbow coalition.  If blacks join the Green Party en masse, it will become our party.  And, with that base, we can begin to build the nation that Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X only dreamed about.  After all, black and Green make gold—the colors of African liberation.  

The Democrats and Republicans are like Siamese twins, joined at the wallet.  At some point, we must break the stranglehold they have on electoral politics.  Someone once said that, if we’d begun building a third party in 1980, we would have had a viable alternative by now.  With two parties, we only have two choices.  With three parties, we have only one.  

Everything—nations, movements, universes—must have a beginning.  For us to have a future worth having, there must be a change in the political order.  The world is relying on us to effect that change—we, who live in the belly of the beast.  So let us take up our tools, makeshift as they are; let us assemble our armies, and sail to meet the foe.  The beach is before us, our ships eager to reach it.  There are enemy cannons there, exploding with thunder and light.  Many fall away.  But this we know: the freedom or servitude of an entire continent, of future generations, is in our hands.  We alight…

Posted by Richard
10/06/2002 05:40:58 AM | PermaLink