Monday, March 31, 2008

Sacco And Vanzetti (Documentary)

SACCO AND VANZETTI is an 80-minute-long documentary that tells the story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrant anarchists who were accused of a murder in 1920, and executed in Boston in 1927 after a notoriously prejudiced trial. It is the first major documentary film about this landmark story.

The ordeal of Sacco and Vanzetti came to symbolize the bigotry and intolerance directed at immigrants and dissenters in America, and millions of people in the U.S. and around the world protested on their behalf. Nearly eighty years later, the story continues to have great resonance, as America once again grapples with issues of civil liberties and the rights of immigrants.

SACCO AND VANZETTI brings to life the personal, political, and legal aspects of this heartbreaking story. The powerful prison writings of Sacco and Vanzetti are read by actors John Turturro and Tony Shalhoub. A chorus of passionate commentators propels the narrative, including a number of older people with personal connections to the story. Artwork, music, poetry, and feature film clips about the case are interwoven into the storytelling.

Through the tragic story of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the inspiring images of those who keep their memories alive, audiences will experience a universal – and very timely – tale of official injustice and human resilience.


Sacco and Vanzetti

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Annie Hall [Full Film]

If I had to choose a favorite film, this would be it.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10


Keaton Allen B&W

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein

Language and Logic

The End of Philosophy

Two Retracted Propositions

Wittgenstein Contradicts Socrates


Fuzzy Photograph

Language Game



Friday, March 28, 2008

Recession, Suppression and the Class Question

Bread Lines copy

Like many Americans I'm experiencing Bush fatigue. I'm just sick of bitching about the guy. We all know he's a useless, malevolent douche-slinger, and nobody's positive why he, Cheney, Condi and the gang haven't been Saddam-ed themselves as their death toll places them amongst the elite mass killers of the modern era. There's already been a substantial amount of commentary written about him and his calamitous presidency, and one of the popular themes of this new genre is a range of comparisons to Presidents past. Nixon and Reagan seem to be the two major touchstones, however, I'd like to submit Hoover to the list.

Both executives appeared callous to the needs of the public. Both presided over economic hardship from an icy distance. Both administrations resulted in make-shift shanty towns and tent cities. Hoover used the military to attack homeless Veterans in Washington. Bush leaves veterans on the street to die or in hospital rooms to disintegrate. And I don't want to say Bush might be a transvestite but he was a cheerleader in high school. When failure becomes this ponderous the only response must be defiance.

On April 1, a small grassroots organization of around 1,000 truckers will be striking against the rising cost of diesel. As one driver stated: "Our federal government is subsidizing railroads, airlines, banks and farmers. Meanwhile, we’re being taxed to death." (source)

The strike is largely symbolic and is not expected to result in any significant dip in prices. Yet, it does display two exciting features: 1) it circumvents the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the truckers' trade union, who actually denounces the pending strike for legal reasons, and 2) the event was organized over the internet -- the future of resistance.

Now, I can't let it go unmentioned that this is an election year a time when the fetishized act of voting gets moved to the front of the national conversation. A lot of time and money goes into convincing us that all of our energy needs to be drained into voting, not conservation or community activism, demonstrating or tax resistance. We're supposed to elect someone to solve our problems with their charming, mega-watt smile. The dirtiest little secret of our age is synergic movements against both business and government, such as striking, trump the suggestion of action, like voting, every time.

With everyone treading water it's no wonder at least one other group, the West Coast Dockworkers, is planning to strike this summer. As more and more of us are pulled under we'll see a ground swell of activism. The spirit of resistance might be atrophied from lying coiled beneath the surface, but it won't take long for more workers to slowdown or stop all together. Like in the 1930s, people recognized their reliance on each other and fought against the police (in some cases, like the Flint, Michigan Sit-Down Strike of 1936, they actually won), launched general strikes which shut down large metropolises like Seattle and San Francisco, and came close to wresting power away from the ownership class until FDR introduced a series of reforms that placated many laborers. And we'll probably see the same type of actions under an Obama or Clinton presidency. Not that I'm a reformophobe. I want people to live better. But let's not lose our radical edge. Let's keep thrusting forward inch by inch, and not settle for what they give us.

Friday Flashback: Slade - "Cum on feel the noize"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jeff Buckley Documentary (BBC4)

Buckley Face

Why is the Left So Boring? - If I Can't Dance ....

By David Rovics
(View Original)

Last weekend I sang at an antiwar protest in downtown Portland, Oregon, on the fifth anniversary of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq. In both its good and bad aspects, the event downtown was not unusual. Hard-working, unpaid activists from various organizations and networks put in long hours organizing, doing publicity, and sitting through lots of contentious meetings in the weeks and months leading up to the event. On the day of the event, different groups set up tents to network with the public and talk about matters of life and death. There was a stage with talented musicians of various musical genres performing throughout the day, and a rally with speakers in the afternoon, followed by a march. Attendance was pathetically low. In large part I'm sure this was due to the general sense of discouragement most people in the US seem to feel about our ability to effect change under the Bush regime. It was raining especially hard by west coast standards, and that also didn't help.

The crowd grew to it's peak size during the rally and march, but was almost nonexistent before the 2 pm rally. There was only a trickle of people visiting the various tents prior to the rally, and the musicians on the stage were playing to a largely nonexistent audience. The musical program, scheduled to happen from 10 am to 6 pm, was being billed as the World War None Festival. The term "festival" was contentious, however, and Pdx Peace, the local peace coalition responsible for the rally, couldn't come to consensus on using the term "festival." In their publicity they referred to the festival as an "action camp." The vast majority of people have no idea what an "action camp" is, including me, and I've been actively involved in the progressive movement for my entire adult life. The local media, of course, also had no idea what an "action camp" was, and any publicity that could have been hoped for from them did not happen. Word did not spread about the event to any significant degree, at least in part because people didn't know what they were supposed to be spreading the word about. Everybody from all political, social, class and ethnic backgrounds knows what a festival is, but certain elements within Pdx Peace didn't want to use the term to describe what was quite obviously meant to be a festival (as well as a rally and march). Anybody above the age of three can tell you that when you have live music on a stage outdoors all day, that's called a festival. But not Pdx Peace.

Why? I wasn't at the meetings -- thankfully, I'm just a professional performer, not an organizer of anything other than my own concert tours, so I only know second-hand about what was said. There's no need to name the names of individuals or the smaller groups involved with the coalition in this case -- the patterns are so common and so well-established that the names just don't matter. Some people within the peace coalition were of the opinion that the war in Iraq was too serious a matter to have a festival connected to it. Because, I imagine, of some combination of factors including the nature of consensus decision-making, sectarianism on the part of a few, and muddled thinking on the part of some others, those who thought that a festival should happen -- and should be called a festival -- were overruled. My hat goes off to the World War None Festival organizers (a largely separate entity from Pdx Peace), and to those within Pdx Peace who tried and failed to call the festival what it was, and to organize a well-attended event.

As to those who succeeded in sabotaging the event, I ask, why is so much of the left in the US so attached to being so dreadfully boring? Why do so many people on the left apparently have no appreciation for the power and importance of culture? And when organizers, progressive media and others on the left do acknowledge culture, why is it usually kept on the sidelines? What are we trying to accomplish here?

It wasn't always this way. Going back a hundred years, before we had a significant middle class in this country, before we had a Social Security system, Worker's Compensation, Medicare, or anything approximating the actual (not just on paper) right to free speech, when most of the working class majority in this country were living in utter destitution and generally working (when they could find work) in extremely dangerous conditions for extremely long hours, often in jobs that required them to be itinerant, required them to forego the pleasure of having families that they might have a chance to see now and then, out of these conditions the Industrial Workers of the World was born.

The IWW at that time was a huge, militant union that could bring industrial production in the US to a halt, and on various regional levels, quite regularly did. It was a multi-ethnic union led by women and men of a wide variety of backgrounds, from all over the world. It's most well-known member to this day was a singer-songwriter named Joe Hill, and he was only one of many of the musician-organizers that constituted both the leadership and membership of the IWW. While starving, striking, or being attacked by police on the streets of Seattle, Boston and everywhere in between, the IWW sang. Their publications were filled with poems, lyrics and cartoons. Everybody knew the songs and sung them daily. Some of the songs were instructive, meant to educate workers in effective organizing techniques. Others were battle cries of resistance, and still others celebrated victories or lamented defeats. Their cause was nothing short of the physical survival and spiritual dignity of the working class. They put their bodies on the line and were often killed and maimed for it, but they transformed this society profoundly, and they sang the whole way through. Was their cause serious? As serious as serious can get. And to this day, multitudes around the world remember the songs of Joe Hill, Ralph Chaplin, and T-Bone Slim, long after their speeches and pamphlets have been forgotten. Like many other singer-songwriters throughout the history of the class war, Joe Hill was executed by a firing squad in 1916. Why? Exactly because he was so serious -- a serious threat to the robber barons who ruled this country.

A very different, much more rigidly ideological organization that rose to prominence during the declining years of the IWW was the Communist Party. This is an organization whose early years are within the living memory of close friends of mine, such as my dear friend Bob Steck, who died last year at the age of 95, and spent most of his life fighting for humanity. I spent hundreds of hours over the course of many years interrogating Bob about his life and times (at least ten hours of which are recorded for posterity on cassettes somewhere). The Communist Party was very different from the IWW in many ways, but in it's heyday it was also a huge, grassroots movement, whose leadership and membership took many cards from the IWW's deck, including their emphasis on the vital importance of culture.

When Bob talked about the CP's orientation with regards to organizing the revolution in the USA, he said there were three primary components: the unions, the streets, and the theater. Fighting for the welfare of the working class by organizing for the eight-hour day and decent wages (largely through the communist-led Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO), organizing the starving millions in the streets into the unions of the unemployed, and -- just as importantly -- fighting for the hearts and minds of the people through music, theater, and art. Among the musical vanguard of the communist movement of the 1930's were people who are still household names today for millions of people in the US and around the world -- Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, to name a few. Traveling theater companies brought the work of Clifford Odetts and Bertoldt Brecht to the people, educating and inspiring militant action throughout the US. I remember Bob describing the audience reaction to one of the early performances of Waiting for Lefty in New York City, the gasps of excitement and possibility in the packed theater when the actors on stage shouted those last lines of the play -- "Strike! Strike! Strike!" Ten curtain calls later, everyone in the theater was ready to take to the streets, and did.

Bob and his comrades organized and sang in New York, just as they sang going into battle in Spain in the first fight against fascism, the one in which the US was on the side of the fascists. Nothing unusual about that -- soldiers on every side in every war sing as they go into battle, whether the cause is just or unjust. They and their leadership, whether fascist or democrat, socialist or anarchist, know that the songs are just as powerful as the guns (regardless of what Tom Lehrer said). You can't fire if you're running away, and if you want to stand and fight you have to sing. Talk to anybody involved with the Civil Rights movement and they'll tell you, if we weren't singing, we surely would have lost heart and ran in the face of those hate-filled, racist police and their dogs, guns, and water cannon. Talk to anyone who lived through the 60's -- who remembers any but the most eloquent of the speeches by the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Mario Savio? But millions remember the songs. Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Brown, Aretha Franklin were the soundtrack to the struggle. Open any magazine or newspaper in this country to this day and you will find somewhere in the pages an unaccredited reference to a line in a Bob Dylan song. (Try it, it's fun.)

Around the world it's the same. Dedicated leftists may sit through the speeches of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, but transcendent poetry of Pablo Neruda and the enchanting melodies of Silvio Rodriguez cross all political and class lines. You will have to try hard to find a Spanish-speaking person anywhere in the Americas who does not love the work of that Cuban communist, Silvio. You'll have to search hard to find a Latino who does not have a warm place in their heart for that murdered Chilean singer-songwriter, Victor Jara.

Talk to any Arab of any background, no matter how despondent they may be about the state of the Arab world, try to find one whose eyes do not light up when you merely mention the names Mahmoud Darwish, Marcel Khalife, Feyrouz, Um Khultum. Try to find anyone in Ireland but the most die-hard Loyalist who doesn't tear up when listening to the music of Christy Moore, whatever they think of the IRA. And ask progressives on the streets of the US today how they came to hold their political views that led them to take the actions they are now taking, and as often as not you will hear answers like, "I discovered punk rock, the Clash changed my life," or "I went to a concert of Public Enemy, and that was it."

Music -- and art, poetry, theater -- is powerful (if it's good). The powers that be know this well. Joe Hill and Victor Jara are only a small fraction of the musicians killed by the ruling classes for doing what they do. By the same token, those who run this country (and so many other countries) know the power of music and art to serve their purposes -- virtually every product on the shelf in every store in the US has a jingle to go along with it, and often brilliant artistic imagery to go along with the jingle, shouting at us from every billboard and TV commercial. (The ranks of Madison Avenue are filled with brilliant minds who would rather be doing something more fulfilling with their creative energy.)

Enter 2008. Knowing the essential power of music, the very industry that sells us music mass-produced in Nashville and LA has done their best to kill music. For decades, the few multi-billion-dollar corporations that control the music business and the commercial airwaves have done their best to teach us all that music is something to have in the background to comfort you as you try to get through another mind-numbing day of meaningless labor in some office building or department store. It's something to help you seduce someone perhaps, or to help you get over a breakup. It is not something to inspire thought, action, or feelings of compassion for humanity (other than for your girlfriend or boyfriend).

There are always exceptions to prove the rule, but by and large, the writers and performers in Nashville and LA know what they're being paid to do, and what they're being paid not to do -- if it ever occurred to them to do anything else in the first place. But even more potently, all those millions of musicians aspiring to become stars, or at least to make a living at their craft, know either consciously or implicitly that any hope of success rides on imitating the garbage that comes out of these music factories. Of course, there are the many others who write and sing songs (and create art, plays, screenplays, etc.) out of a need to express themselves or even out of a desire to make a difference in the world, but they are systematically kept off of the airwaves, out of the record deals, relegated largely to the internet, very lucky if they might manage to make a living at their craft. Fundamentally, though, they are made to feel marginal, and are looked at by much of society as marginal, novelties, exotic. Although they are actually the mainstream of the (non-classical) musical tradition in the US and around the world, although the kind of music they create has been and is still loved by billions around the world for centuries, in the current climate, especially in present-day US society, they are a marginal few.

And no matter how enlightened we would like to think we are, the progressive movement is part of this society, for good and for ill. Most of us have swallowed this shallow understanding of what music is. The evidence is overwhelming. There are, of course, exceptions. Folks like the organizers of the annual protests outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia -- School of the Americas Watch -- are well aware of the potency of culture, and use music and art to great effect, inspiring and educating tens of thousands of participants every November.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ideologically-driven people who have turned hatred of culture into a sort of art. I have to smile when I think of the small minority of Islamist wackos who tried to storm the stage at one rally I sang at in DC in 2002, shouting, "No music! No music!" Security for the stage was being provided by the Nation of Islam, who faced off with this group of Islamists, who ultimately decided that throwing down with the Jewels of Islam behind the stage that day wasn't in their best interests, apparently.

But much more prevalent, and therefore much scarier, are groups like the ANSWER "Coalition." (I put "coalition" in quotes because I have yet to meet a member of a group that theoretically makes up the "coalition" that has had any say in what goes on at their rallies, although the leadership of ANSWER is of course happy to receive the bus-loads of people that their "coalition" members bring to their rallies, which seems to be the only thing that makes ANSWER a "coalition.") ANSWER, last I heard, is run by the ultra-left sectarian group known as the Worker's World Party, which I strongly suspect is working for the FBI. (Although as Ward Churchill says, you don't need to be a cop to do a cop's job.)

Millions of people in the US who regularly go to antiwar protests are unaware of who is organizing them. They just want to go to an antiwar protest. ANSWER has become almost synonymous with "antiwar protest," to the extent that many people on the periphery of the left (such as most people who go to their protests) refer to antiwar protests as "ANSWER protests," as in "I went to an ANSWER protest," whether or not the protest was actually organized by ANSWER. (Just as many people say "I was listening to NPR" when they were actually listening to a community radio station that has nothing to do with NPR, broadcasting programs such as Democracy Now!, which the vast majority of NPR stations still will not touch with a ten foot pole.)

I always find it unnerving and intriguing that ANSWER protests always seem to be mentioned on NPR and broadcast on CSPAN, whereas rallies organized by the bigger and actual coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), almost never manage to make it onto CSPAN or get covered by the corporate media. ANSWER always seems to get the permits, whereas UFPJ seems to be systematically denied them. Anyway, I digress (a little). I tend to avoid anything having to do with ANSWER or the little-known, shadowy Worker's World Party, but a few years ago I was driving across Tennessee listening to CSPAN on my satellite radio, and they broadcast the full four hours of an ANSWER protest in DC. I sat through it because I wanted to hear it from beginning to end, for research purposes, and Tennessee is a long state to drive through from west to east, had to do something during that drive. There was one song in the four-hour rally. Although I've been an active member of the left for twenty years, I recognized almost none of the names of the people who spoke at the rally. Every speech was full of boring, tired rhetoric, as if they were out of a screenplay written by a rightwing screenwriter who was trying to make a mockery out of leftwing political rallies. Judging from the names of the organizations involved, very few of which I recognized either, they were mostly tiny little Worker's World Party front groups. And since the Worker's World Party apparently doesn't have any musicians in their pocket, there was no music to speak of. (Or, quite probably I suspect, they don't want music at their rallies because they don't want their rallies to be interesting.)

ANSWER is an extreme example, but a big one that most progressives are unfortunately familiar with, whether they know who ANSWER (or Worker's World) is or not. Inevitably, most people leave ANSWER protests feeling vaguely used and demoralized -- aside from those who manage to stay far enough away from the towers of speakers so they can avoid hearing all the mindless rhetoric pouring out of them. Contrast the mood with the protests at the gates of Fort Benning, where most people leave feeling hopeful and inspired.

I know I have no more hope of influencing the leadership of Worker's World with this essay than I have of influencing the behavior of the New York City police department with it. But neither of these organizations are my target audience. Those who I hope to reach are those who are genuinely trying to create rallies and other events in the hopes of influencing and inspiring public opinion, in the hopes of inspiring people to action, in the hopes of winning allies among the apolitical or even among conservatives. The people I hope to reach are those who have been unwittingly influenced by the corporate music industry's implicit definition of what music and culture is and is not.

And, here we go, I would count among this group most of the hard-working, loving and compassionate people who are organizing rallies, who are organizing actions, who are organizing unions, and who are creating progressive media on the radio, on community television and on the internet in the US today.

I'd like to pause for a moment to make a disclosure. I am a professional politically-oriented musician, what the corporate media (and many progressives) would call a "protest singer," though I reject the term. I'm not sure what, if anything, I have to gain personally by publishing these thoughts, but I think it behooves me to point out that I am one of the lucky ones who has performed at rallies and in progressive and mainstream media for hundreds of thousands of people on a fairly regular basis throughout the world, and I would like to hope that my words here will not be understood as Rovics whining that he's not famous enough. I speak here for culture generally, not for myself as an individual singer-songwriter.

My desire is to reach groups like Pdx Peace and their sister organizations throughout the country. These are genuinely democratic groups, real coalitions made up of real people, not sectarian, unaccountable groups like ANSWER. These are groups, in short, made up of my friends and comrades, but these are groups also made up of people who grew up in this society and therefore generally have a lot to learn about the power of culture to educate and inspire people. It is not good enough to have music on the stage as people are gathering to rally and as they are leaving to march. It's not good enough to have a song or two sandwiched in between another half hour of speeches -- no matter how many organizations want to have speakers representing them on stage, or whatever other very legitimate excuses organizers have for making their events, once again, long and boring (even if they're not as long or as boring as an ANSWER rally). It is not good enough for wonderful, influential radio/TV shows like Democracy Now! to have snippets of songs in between their interviews, when only two or three of those interviews each year are related to culture. It is a sorry state of affairs that NPR news shows do a better job of covering pop culture than Pacifica shows do in terms of covering leftwing culture.

The vast majority of the contemporary, very talented, dedicated musicians represented by, say, the "links" page on, have rarely or never been invited to sing at a local or national protest rally (even if some few of us have, many times). The vast majority of progressive conferences do not even include a concert, or if they do, it's background music during dinner on Saturday night. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard Democracy Now! or Free Speech Radio News mention that a great leftwing artist is doing a tour of the US. The number of fantastic musicians out there who have even been played during the station breaks on Democracy Now! is a tiny fraction of those that are out there -- of the dozens of musicians featured on my "links" page for example, only a small handful have even been played once. It is shameful that it's easier to get a national, mainstream radio show in the UK or Canada to plug a tour of such a musician than it is to get any national Pacifica program to do this.

Radical culture needs to be fostered and promoted, front and center, not sidelined as people are gathering, or when the radio stations are doing station ID's. Because if the point is to inspire people to action, a song is worth a hundred speeches. If the point is to educate people, a three-minute ballad is easily equal to any book. (They'll read the book after they hear the song, not the other way around.)

It is often said that we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this country. It is us versus CNN, NPR, Bush, Clinton, etc. In this battle, style matters, not just content. In this battle, it is absolutely imperative that we remember that it is not only the minds we need to win, but the hearts. At least in terms of the various forms of human communication, there is nothing on Earth more effective in winning hearts than music and art. We ignore or sideline music and art at our peril. It's time to listen to the music.

David Rovics is a musician. He can be reached at: drovics [at]

Bob Dylan - "Maggie's Farm" (Newport 1965)

The Clash - "Spanish Bombs"

Psychedelic Chemist Explores the Surreality of Inner Space

Alexander ShulginSelf-Experimenters: Psychedelic Chemist Explores the Surreality of Inner Space, One Drug at a Time

Alexander Shulgin endured a government crackdown and hallucinations of his bones melting in pursuit of new mind-bending compounds

By David Biello

(View Original)

Alexander Shulgin is the world’s foremost "psychonaut." The 82-year-old chemist has not only created more of the 300 known consciousness-altering (or psychoactive) compounds than anyone living or dead, he has, by his own account, sampled somewhere between 200 and 250 of them himself—most of them cooked up in the musty lab behind his home in the hills east of Berkeley, Calif., where he has shared many a chemical voyage with his wife of 26 years, Ann.

"I take them myself because I am interested in their activity in the human mind. How would you test that in a rat or mouse?" says Shulgin, known to friends as Sasha.

He has paid the price for his avocation. Some of his creations have induced uncontrollable vomiting, paralysis and the feeling that his bones were melting, among other terrors. And though some believe Shulgin has opened the doors of perception to a new class of potentially therapeutic mind-altering compounds, others argue that he bears responsibility for the damage that ongoing abuse of such now-illicit substances can cause.

As a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1950s, Shulgin’s gateway drug was mescaline, a naturally occurring psychedelic found in peyote and other groovy cacti. "It introduced me to new colors which I had never seen before," Shulgin says. "It allowed me to interpret whatever I was looking at with an entirely new vocabulary…. And yet, what a simple structure!"

In the 1960s, while working as a biochemist at The Dow Chemical Co. in San Francisco, he couldn’t resist tinkering with the potent mescaline molecule. He synthesized entirely new compounds that retained similar, trippy qualities. Some variations were less potent, but others were even more powerful or imparted their own unique twist.

Shulgin, who left Dow in 1965 to consult for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) among other pursuits, offered the best of his new chemical darlings to Ann, his second wife; the most promising of these were passed along to a close circle of 10 friends until the mid-1990s, when the DEA, no longer paying for his services, raided his lab and revoked his license to work with illegal drugs.

His personal favorite, which he describes as "extraordinarily comfortable and quite erotic," is known simply as 2C-B for its chemical makeup.

One by one, Shulgin has seen many of the compounds heMescaline invented or experimented with become illegal in the U.S., including some that have never been synthesized by anyone and some that he thought might prove therapeutic, such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), better known as ecstasy. "I was very sad to see MDMA achieve the status of a Schedule 1 drug," a designation that prohibits its manufacture or use in the U.S., he says. "I felt that it would inhibit research into its medical value and that’s the way it’s turned out."

Some researchers agree that the government’s response to psychoactive drugs has deprived them of a unique window into human consciousness. After all, rodents will happily ingest most intoxicants and narcotics —from marijuana to heroin—but not the headier psychedelics.

"Peculiarly, not only did we make them illegal, but we backed away from them scientifically," says neuroscientist Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the researchers who is restarting basic research into psychedelics. His lab has shown that psilocybin, the active ingredient in the variety of fungi known as magic mushrooms, can bring on lasting feelings of well-being. This may indicate that it could be harnessed to help clinically depressed or addicted patients.

Shulgin, who continues to study cacti for new chemical routes to altered states, predicts that by the year 2060, the number of different known psychedelics will have grown from 300 to 2,000. He intends to discover—and perhaps sample—as many of them as he can. "It is like opening a door to a hallway," he says, "that has unopened doors for its entire length, and behind every door is a world with which you are totally unfamiliar."

Joe Rogan Talks about DMT

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Shape of US Populism (pt. 2)

Populist Dorothy


Long-term effects of the Civil War
By Henry C K Liu

(Part 1: A rich free-market legacy - for some)

The long-term effect of the Civil War on the US economy was to accelerate the development of big business manufacturing in the North initiated by the demands of war production. The shortage of labor created by the war pushed industrialization in the Northeast and the spread of mechanized farming in the Middle West and the opening of new farms and mines in the West, with post-war decommissioned soldiers facing unemployment.

Inflation reached 117% during the war years but wages rose only 43% in the name of patriotic sacrifice, yielding high war-profit margins for corporations. War speculation fueled the rise of the finance sector, causing sharp disparity of income and wealth between financiers and workers hitherto unknown in the US economy.

Protectionism and corporatism
The Republican Party before Lincoln raised tariffs with the Morrill Tariff Act to 47% to protect domestic industries from foreign competition, and after Lincoln to provide revenue to help finance war costs. In 1862, keeping the promise made by the Republican platform of the 1860 election, the Homestead Act had become law. It granted all US residents, citizens or aliens who had declared an intention to become naturalized the right to receive ownership title to 160 acres of free public land after he had lived and worked on it for five years.

From the inception of the United States, there had been a clamor for ever-increasing liberalism in the disposition of public lands. From 1830 onward, free distribution of public lands became a demand of the Free-Soil Party, which saw such distribution as a means of stopping the spread of slavery into the new territories, and the policy was subsequently adopted by the Republican Party in its 1860 platform. The Southern states had been the most vociferous opponents of the homesteading policy, and their ill-fated secession cleared the way for its adoption by the victorious North.

In the arid region west of the Rocky Mountains, 160 acres was generally too little land for a viable farm or range. In these areas, homesteads were instead used for strategic control of scarce resources, especially water, by big business. Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270 million acres of public land were privatized between 1862 and 1964, a total of 10% of all lands in the United States. Much of this land ended up controlled by big business.

The Federal Land Policy Act of 1976 ended homesteading with the recognition that the best use of public lands can only be achieved under government control. The only exception to this new policy was in Alaska, for which the law allowed homesteading until 1986.

In 1862, Congress further promoted agricultural development by passing the Morrill Land-Grant Act to set aside public land in every state for the support of colleges to provide scientific training in agriculture. While this was a populist program, much of the research aided the development of large-scale agribusiness.

The year 1862 also saw the passage of the legislation for government subsidy for building a transcontinental railroad starting from the west in California and the east at Nebraska, which linked up in Utah in 1869. Railroad lines were given public land up to 40 square miles for every mile constructed, to be located in alternative sections on each side of the track. The total federal acreage awarded to railroads exceeded 100 million plus another 50 million acres from the states, adding to an area as large as the state of Texas falling into private hands. The 30 years following the Civil War have been called the railroad age, with a five-fold increase in mileage. There is another meaning for the phrase "the railroad age". It described an era when the government was controlled by the railroads.

Government becomes a ward of big business
The sale of war bonds pushed the passage of the National Bank Act of 1863, which allowed banks of a certain capital minimum to qualify for a Federal charter if they used at least one third of their capital in the purchase of war bonds. In return, the Treasury would give them national bank notes up to the value of 90% of their bond holdings.

The measure was profitable to the banks, which could collect interest on their capital form the treasury and simultaneously lend out the bank notes at higher interest rates. Since the quantity of bank notes in circulation was limited by the war bond purchases, the effect was a stable paper currency. The influence of banks on government policy increased to change the dynamics of national politics.

Final defeat of Southern agrarianism
Civil War era legislative commitments laid the groundwork for rapid economic expansion of the US economy via the private sector in the later decades of the 19th century. By attempting to secede from the Union to preserve its agrarian economy, the agricultural South brought about the final defeat of the agrarian principles she sought to protect and assured the final victory of industrialism based on the centralized ideals of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) and the economic nationalism of Henry Clay (1777-1853), reigning triumphant over the popular democracy of Thomas Jefferson (president 1801-09) and the populist politics of Andrew Jackson (president 1829-37).

The post-war South came under the rule of the "Bourbons", the mercantile elite of the Confederacy who shared more affinity with Northern moneyed interests than with the plantation aristocracy of the old South. The pejorative term was analogous to the restored bourgeois French monarchists after the fall of Napoleon. The Southern Bourbons adopted a laissez faire economic policy, reduce taxes and cut public spending on education and social welfare. Their ill-considered policies revived the collapsed Southern economy minimally in the short term but condemned the South to the fate of an underdeveloped region for more than a century.

After the war, with the abolition of slavery, cotton production in the South increased dramatically, doubling the size of the pre-war crop and doubling again by 1914. This historical fact is often ignored by neo-liberal economists who insist that high wages depress growth. New plantations worked by small tenant farmers were established in Arkansas and Texas while the worn-out soil from single crop planting in Georgia and South Carolina was revived with fertilizers. The average white tenant farm had 84 acres while the average newly-freed former slave tenant farm was less than half in size.

Still, the expansion of cotton growing did not bring prosperity to the small tenant growers, black or white, as they were perpetually in debt to cotton merchants in the North, who would charge interest at rates up to 40%. The merchants in turn were exploited by large wholesale houses linked to British capital. The debt economy not only drained wealth from the South to the North, it also prevented the development of a diversified agriculture in the South. Creditors in the North insisted on cotton as the only exportable cash crop and the surplus of low-wage Southern labor prevented any market incentive for industrialization.

Many Southerners realized the need to develop industry but the South had to depend for capital on the North, which preferred to keep industry up there and to use the South as a source of raw material. As a result, even the profit from industrialization of raw material production did not stay in the South.

Moreover, typical of conditions of the early phases of industrialization, wages stayed low, working hours were long and working conditions were unbearable in both the South and the North. Workers, often all members of a family, including women and children, were required to routinely work 75-hour weeks at below living wages. Children under 16 constituted over 30% of the work force. Even though corporate profit remained consistently high, wages and benefits stayed low and working condition inhumane, justified by the need to compete with more advanced foreign factories. Nothing was done to correct the situation until the Great Depression, which brought into being progressive New Deal legislation of the 1930s.

By the late 1880s, the small farmers of the South and the West began to resist the oppression of the landlords, the industrialists and the financiers. They wanted increased government spending on education, infrastructure and social welfare.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class

Narrated by Ed Asner

Based on the forthcoming book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow working class representations from American television's beginnings to today's sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk shows.

Featuring interviews with media analysts and cultural historians, this documentary examines the patterns inherent in TV's disturbing depictions of working class people as either clowns or social deviants -- stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy.

Class Dismissed breaks important new ground in exploring the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect with class, offering a more complex reading of television's often one-dimensional representations. The video also links television portrayals to negative cultural attitudes and public policies that directly affect the lives of working class people.

Featuring interviews with Stanley Aronowitz, (City University of New York); Nickel and Dimed author, Barbara Ehrenreich; Herman Gray (University of California-Santa Cruz); Robin Kelley (Columbia University); Pepi Leistyna (University of Massachusetts-Boston) and Michael Zweig (State University of New York-Stony Brook). Also with Arlene Davila, Susan Douglas, Bambi Haggins, Lisa Henderson, and Andrea Press.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bill Moyers Journal: Body of War: Donahue & Spiro (videos)

In my mind Bill Moyers and Keith Olbermann are the only real journalists on television today. If you only see one hour of T.V. this week this must be it.

Thanks: Lo

Bill Moyers Journal
March 21, 2008

Bill Moyers interviews former talk show host Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro on the true cost of war and their documentary, BODY OF WAR, depicting the moving story of one veteran dealing with the aftermath of war. With extensive excerpts from the film, the filmmakers talk about Iraq war veteran Tomas Young who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, BODY OF WAR tells the poignant tale of the young man’s journey from joining the service after 9/11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.

Video link & transcript Part 1

from posted with vodpod


Phil Donahue
Co-Director/ Executive Producer, BODY OF WAR

If you’re going to send young men and women to fight for this nation, tell the truth. That’s one of the biggest reasons for the First Amendment. And we haven’t been. And so I thought I will tell the story, the real story of the harm in harm’s way.

Phil Donahue and the DONAHUE show have been honored with 20 Daytime Emmy Awards, including nine for Outstanding Host and a George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Journalism Award.

Video link & transcript Part 2

from posted with vodpod


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lottery (1969)

Watch it to the end. It's worth it.

Part 1

Part 2

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Flashback: Steely Dan - "Black Friday"

Mass Action and Autonomous Action

Urban Guerilla

Demonstrating Resistance:

Mass Action and Autonomous Action
in the Election Year

An analysis of the successes and failures
of recent militant demonstrations

Talking Tactics:
The Mass Action Model versus the Autonomous Action Model

In the past six years, the North American anarchist movement has gone through all the stages of a turbulent love affair with mass actions, including messy breakups and attempted reconciliations. In the process, some anarchists have taken up with other approaches to demonstration activism—including, most notably, an emphasis on more autonomous, decentralized actions. In this review of the past year’s demonstrations, we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, and analyze how these have played out in the streets.

In considering how to evaluate both mass and autonomous actions, we should begin by establishing what it is fair to expect of them. Most anarchists thoughtlessly describe them as direct action, but, technically speaking, demonstrations—even confrontational, militant ones, in which police are forced out of neighborhoods, corporate property is set afire, and bureaucratic summits are shut down—are not direct action. Making love, growing or stealing food, providing free child care—these are concrete actions that directly accomplish their goals. Militant demonstration tactics, on the other hand, may qualify as direct action to the extent to which they circumvent liberal or police control to make a point or create an atmosphere outside the dictates of the powers that be, but most anarchists who participate in them would argue that their primary purpose is to bring closer the abolition of the hierarchies and institutions against which they are staged, and viewed in this light they are generally more symbolic than direct.


Barack Obama’s pastor Wright’s Sermon in Context

The point of Pastor Wright's sermon is that America has been and remains a deeply racist country. Instead of seeing an impassioned African American leader whose message is, well, farily accurate the MSM only sees an angry black man screaming "goddamn America". I think they just proved him right.

Thanks: Lo

Jeremiah A. Wright. No more half truths, see the whole context. Available on ITunes. Added: March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years After Iraq Invasion Soldiers Testify at Winter Soldier Hearings

Half a Decade of War: Five Years After Iraq Invasion, Soldiers Testify at Winter Soldier Hearings

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Five years ago tonight, on March 19, 2003, the US launched the invasion of Iraq. Half a decade later, as the occupation continues with no end in sight, some of the most powerful voices against the war have been the men and women who have fought in it. For four days this past weekend, soldiers convened at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland for Winter Soldier, an eyewitness account of the war and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We broadcast their voices.

Camilo Mejia, former staff sergeant who served six months in Iraq in 2003 with the Florida National Guard. After a brief leave, he refused to return. He was court-martialed and served nearly a year in prison. He is now the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Mike Totten, Former US Army specialist who served with the 716th MP Battalion in the 101st Airborne and was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 until April 2004.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey, their son, Marine Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, served five months in Iraq with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion. Almost a year later, he committed suicide, in June 2004. He was twenty-three years old.

Tanya Austin, Arab linguist in Military Intelligence.

Jeffrey Smith, served in Iraq in May 2003 and was honorably discharged in January 2004.

AMY GOODMAN: Five years ago tonight, on March 19th, 2003, the US began bombing Baghdad. The invasion was on. Six weeks later, President Bush stood under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" and declared an end to major military combat operations in Iraq. Now, half a decade later, the war continues with no end in sight.

In a speech today to mark the fifth anniversary, the President, who leaves office in less than eleven months, will again give an upbeat assessment of the war. According to released excerpts of his address, Bush will insist the so-called troop surge in Iraq has opened the door to a "major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

But by most accounts, the war has been an unmitigated disaster. Up to one million Iraqis have been killed, with no estimates on the number of those wounded. Up to 2.5 million people are estimated to be displaced inside Iraq, and more than two million have fled to neighboring countries. Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 US soldiers have been killed and tens of thousands more wounded. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the overall cost of this war will be $3 trillion.

To mark this fifth anniversary of the invasion, hundreds of marches, sit-ins and other protests are planned around the country. In Washington, D.C., demonstrators plan to block the entrance to the Internal Revenue Service and to disrupt the offices of K Street lobbyists who represent military contractors and oil companies profiting from the war. In New York, protesters from the Granny Peace Brigade will hold a "knit-in" at the Times Square military recruitment center. In Chicago, a large rally and protest march is planned, while in Louisville, Kentucky, protesters will read aloud the names of some of the US troops killed in the war. And college students from New Jersey to North Dakota are planning walkouts across their campuses.

But perhaps some of the most powerful voices against the Iraq war have been the soldiers who have fought it. For four days this past weekend, soldiers convened at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland for Winter Soldier, eyewitness accounts of the war and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The corporate media largely ignored the story. For the past few days, we’ve been broadcasting their voices. Today, we continue with former Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia.

    CAMILO MEJIA: My name is Camilo Mejia. I joined the military in 1995 as an infantryman, and I deployed to the Middle East in March of ’03, first to Jordan and then to Iraq in April of that same year.

    The first mission that we had when we got to Iraq was at this place called Al Assad, and our job there was basically to run a prisoner of war camp. And at this prisoner of war camp, our job was basically to keep prisoners who had been deemed enemy combatants sleep-deprived for periods of up to seventy-two hours in order to, quote-unquote, "soften them up for interrogation." And the way we did that was by yelling at them.

    So my first question to the people who were training us on how to do this was, you know, "How do they understand? I mean, they don’t speak English." And he said, "Well, they’re just like animals. They’re just like dogs. If you keep yelling at them, it doesn’t matter what language you’re yelling at them in, they’re going to get the point. If you yell at them, ’Get up!’ enough times, you know, just like a dog gets up, they’ll get up. If you tell them to move left, eventually they’ll get it and they’ll move left. And they said, "But that’s not going to always work, because they’re so tired." By the way, they were hooded with sandbags, and they were tied with plastic restraints, barefoot, and circled around with concertina wire. So they were not only being deprived of sleep, but also of light and sense of space.

    And so, the next thing that we did was to hit the wall next to them with a sledgehammer to create this explosion-like sound to scare them. And when that didn’t work, the next step was to put a gun to their heads and to charge it as if to execute them. Basically we were performing mock executions to scare these men. And every now and then that wouldn’t work, so you would grab the person who was not obeying and put him in a chamber and hit the wall next to this person to basically drive him insane and get them to obey.

    Another time I remember, we were at a traffic control point, and we had received reports of ambulances being used to deliver explosives. So we were really close to the only—we were actually blocking the only road that led to the hospital, to the local hospital, and this ambulance came upon our traffic control point. And they told us that we could not let the ambulance through. There was a pregnant woman who needed to get to the hospital, but they said we don’t know if that’s a pregnant woman or if this is, you know, a van full of explosives and it’s going to explode. So we basically turned it back. And I remember at the time I felt bad, and I wanted to send a team to basically—to search the van and to establish whether it was—there really was a pregnant woman, but I kept thinking of the images of the ambulance exploding in the perimeter and killing a bunch of our people, so I basically made the decision not to search the van and to just turn it away.

    Another time, we were again at the traffic control point, and we were attacked. And we were in the middle of a firefight, and then they stopped shooting at us. And we began to assess damage and to, you know, collect our wounded. And there were a lot of Iraqi civilians who were killed. And from this car came a voice that was calling me: "Mister! Mister!" And I approached the car. And again, we had this Intel report saying that at traffic control points, you know, people will call you and say, you know, "Help me!" Help me!" and then they’ll shoot you or they’ll—the vehicle will blow up. So when I’m approaching this car right after this firefight—and then after this happened, then they began shooting at us again. But as I approached this car, I saw that there was this man, this young man at the driver’s seat, and that there were two older gentlemen who were also wounded, one pretty badly, and who were saying, you know, "Help me! Help me!" And at the time, I could—all I could think about was that Intel report saying, you know, these people are trying to kill you. So I basically had my rifle aimed at them and was about to shoot them until somebody came and said, "Sergeant, Sergeant, you know, they’re wounded. Don’t shoot at them."

    But I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really—it’s almost impossible to act upon your morality in a situation like that when you have been fed all this information that, you know, these people are out there to kill you. And what you do is you basically remove the humanity from them to make it easier to oppress them, to brutalize them, to beat them. And in doing so, you remove the humanity from yourself, because you cannot act as a human being and do all of these things.

    And one last incident that I want to talk about was the first time that I opened fire on a human being, and this happened right after a protest. They were throwing grenades at us, and they said, you know, if anybody throws a grenade, you know, open fire on them. So we saw this coming, and I saw this young man basically—you know, his arm was swinging, and he had a black object in his hand, which was indeed a grenade. And I remember seeing all of this through the rear aperture of my M16 rifle sight, and I remember when we opened fire on him. And then I remember when two men came from the crowd and basically dragged him by his shoulders back into the crowd after we killed him. And after that incident, I remember going into a room by myself and counting the rounds that I had left in my magazine, and I had nineteen rounds left, which meant that I had fired eleven rounds at this person. And—but yet, I had no recollection of hitting him or him going down, him dropping, him dying.

    I just—there was this blank space in my memory, which is a blank space that I have for other experiences, like this time when this child was basically riding in the passenger seat with his father, and we decapitated his father with a machinegun. And when we went down to the low ground to search for enemy wounded, I remember seeing this young person standing next to this body that was decapitated. And when I think about it, I cannot remember the expression on the child’s face. I cannot remember that he was a child. I only know this because people told me later on that was the man’s son, the man’s young son, who was standing next to the body.

    And it’s because not only—it’s not enough to—to dehumanize the enemy by means of your military background or training or the indoctrination or the heat and the fatigue and the intensity of the environment, but there are times when it is so hard to deal with these experiences that I suppose your own body, your own psyche, in order to protect you from these memories and in order to protect you from losing your humanity, erases certain memories that are too painful to deal with, that are too overwhelming to deal with. And whether it is to punish the men in your squad or the men in your unit or to erase the face of a child whose father was decapitated next to him in a car at a traffic control point, or whether it is to pose next to a dead civilian or Iraqi or whoever, it is necessary to become dehumanized, because war is dehumanizing.

    And we have a whole new generation—we have over a million Iraqi dead. We have over five million Iraqis displaced. We have close to 4,000 dead. We have close to 60,000 injured, both by combat injuries and non- combat injuries, coming back from this war. That’s not even counting the post-traumatic stress disorder and all the other psychological and emotional scars that our generation is bringing home with them. So all that just to say that war is dehumanizing a whole new generation of this country and destroying the people in the country of Iraq. In order for us to reclaim our humanity as a military and as a country, we demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, care and benefits for all veterans, and reparations for the Iraqi people so they can rebuild their country on their terms.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia served six months in Iraq in 2003 with the Florida Army National Guard. After a brief leave, he refused to return. He was court-martialed and served nearly a year in prison. He’s now the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the organization that sponsored the Winter Soldier hearings.


AMY GOODMAN: We return, on this fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan eyewitness accounts of the wars and occupations.

    MIKE TOTTEN: […] Mike Totten, I served with the 716th MP Battalion in the 101st Airborne. I was deployed to Iraq in April of 2003 and returned home in April of 2004. For the first six months of my deployment, I served as a driver for a security vehicle for my command sergeant major and my lieutenant colonel. And for the last six months I served, I was put back in a line platoon with the 194th MP Company. Our mission was in part to run a jail in Karbala, not for enemy prisoners of war, but just for the general population prison. These prisoners would be brought into the—by the Iraqi police, and then we were to show them through the processing and how we do things in America.

    We weren’t in charge necessarily of any prisoners of war, but on the night of October 17th in 2003, six people were brought in by the Iraqi police, who claimed that these six were participants in the actions the night prior, therefore they were enemy prisoners of war due to coalition standards. When these people were brought in, they were—appeared to be beaten already badly. They were lined up on the concrete wall, and they interlaced—they were—we were told—we told them to interlace their fingers, which is a form of control, because you can grab your middle finger and your index finger and squeeze them together, and it’s quite painful—interlace their fingers, place their foreheads on the concrete wall, cross your ankles, put your hands on top of your head, so we can search you and process you in. They were tagged, they were searched, and they were also beaten, not just by Americans, but by Bulgarian soldiers and by Polish soldiers, by Iraqi policemen and by me.

    I grabbed a man by the jaw, and I looked him in the eye, and I slammed his head up against the wall. And I looked him again in the eye and said, "You must have been the one that killed Grilley." And then he fell. I kicked him. An Iraqi policeman, probably the size of the biggest security man here, with hands to match the size of a Kodiak, hit a guy in the side of the head about six times, and I thought to myself—I’m looking at him, and I laughed—I’m like, yeah, these guys are getting what they deserve. I never found out whether or not—this all took place also in the presence of a lieutenant, my lieutenant, within earshot of many NCOs—I never found out what happened to these people, these six prisoners. I don’t know whether they—where they went. I don’t know anything about that. And I’m up here today to speak on behalf of all the people who haven’t returned home, who can’t speak. This isn’t just some isolated incident. This happened in the presence of NCOs, commissioned officers and coalition forces, not only as participants, but also as witnesses.

    From the night before October 16th—or October 17th, the night of October 16th, my lieutenant colonel was also killed that night. My being up here displays my anger, both by—on multiple levels: by the Americans’ behavior overseas, by our presidents continuous rhetoric about Iraq being a success, about this country’s citizens—an apathy to this occupation. And this is why I’m here today, as well. These events happen in our name, and each and every single one of you are responsible for this, as well. I am very sorry for my actions, and I can’t take back what I did. I ask the forgiveness of the people of Iraq and of my country, and I will not enable this any further.

    General Petraeus, you may not remember me, but you once led me. You’re no longer a leader of men. You’ve exploited your troops for your own gain and have become just another cheerleader for this occupation policy that is destroying America. General Petraeus, you pinned this on me in Babylon in 2003 following the October 16th incident. I will no longer be a puppet for your personal gain and for your political career.

AMY GOODMAN: Former US Army Specialist Mike Totten ripping up the medal General Petraeus had pinned on him in Iraq. He served with the 716th MP Battalion in the 101st Airborne and was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 ’til April 2004. As we turn now to the Luceys, a mother and father who lost their son, not in Iraq, but after he returned home.

    JOYCE LUCEY: My name is Joyce Lucey, and I’m the mom of Corporal Jeffrey Michael Lucey. The last month of his life, he had this flashlight by his bedside, and he was looking for the camel spiders that he could hear running around the room. And when he went over to Iraq, he asked me to hold this coin for him every day, so he’d come home safely. I had no idea that it was after he came home that I should have been holding this coin.

    Jeffrey’s death should never have happened. The young man, who in January of 2003 was sent to Kuwait to participate in an invasion in which he did not agree, was not the same young man that stepped off the bus in July. Our Marine physically returned to us, but his spirit died somewhere in Iraq. As we celebrated his homecoming, Jeff masked the anger, the guilt, the confusion, pain and darkness that are part of the hidden wounds of war behind his smile.

    Jeff was in Kuwait with the 6th Motor Transportation Battalion. He was a convoy driver. On the 20th of March, he entered in his journal, which I have here, "At 10:30 p.m., a scud landed in our vicinity. We were just falling asleep when a shockwave rattled through our tent. The noise was just short of blowing out your eardrums. Everyone’s heart truly skipped a beat, and the reality of where we are and what’s happening hit home." The last entry is, "We now just had a gas alert, and it’s past midnight. We will not sleep. Nerves are on edge." The invasion had begun, and Jeff never had time to put another entry in.

    Several months after his return, he said that he would like to complete it. We never knew that he did not—he would never get the time to do that. Our fear the whole time he was over there was that he would be physically harmed. We never imagined that an emotional wound could and would be just as lethal.

    The letters we received from him were brief and sanitized. But to his girlfriend of six years, he said in April of 2003 he felt he had done immoral things and that he wanted to erase the last month of his life. "There are things I wouldn’t want to tell you or my parents, because I don’t want you to be worried. Even if I did tell you, you’d probably think I was just exaggerating. I would never want to fight in a war again. I’ve seen and done enough horrible things to last me a lifetime." This is the baggage that my son carried with him when he stepped off that bus that sunny July day at Fort Nathan Hale, New Haven, Connecticut.

    Over the next several months, we missed the signs that Jeffrey was in trouble. We had no way of knowing that during his post-deployment briefing at Camp Pendleton he was told to watch the direction that he was going in his survey, or else he’d be kept there another two to four months. He was careful from then on.

    In July, he went to the Cape with his girlfriend, and she found him rather distant. He didn’t want to walk the beach. He later told a friend at college that he had seen enough sand to last him a lifetime. At his sister’s wedding in August, he told his grandmother, "You could be in a room full of people, but you could feel so alone." He resumed college in 2003. That fall, we found out that Jeff had been vomiting just about every day since his return, and that kind of kept up right until the day he died.

    On Christmas Eve, his sister came home early to see how he was doing. He had been drinking. He was standing by the refrigerator, and he grabbed his dog tags and he tossed them to her, and he called himself a murderer. We were to find out that these dog tags included two Iraqi soldiers that he feels—or he knows he’s personally responsible for their deaths. His private therapist, who saw him the last seven weeks of his life, said he didn’t wear them as a trophy, but he wore them to honor these men. He had a nightmare in February. He told me he was having a dream that they were coming after him in an alleyway. After his death, we kind of checked the VA records, and he had talked to them also about having nightmares in which he was running from alleyway to alleyway.

    Spring break 2004 began, three months in which our family watched the son and brother we knew fall apart. He was depressed and drinking. When college classes resumed, he found attending classes very difficult. He had panic attacks, feeling that the other students were staring at him, even though he realized they weren’t. He was placed on Klonopin and Prozac to see if it could keep him in class. Jeff’s problems just worsened. He was having trouble sleeping, nightmares, poor appetite, isolating himself in his room. He was unable to focus on studies, so he could take his—so he could not take his finals. An excellent athlete, his balance was badly compromised by the mixture of Klonopin and alcohol.

    He confided in his younger sister that he had a rope and a tree picked out near the brook behind our home, but told her, "Don’t worry. I’d never do that. I wouldn’t hurt Mom and Dad." He was adamant that the Marines not be told, fearing a Section 8 and not wanting the stigma that is connected to PTSD to follow him throughout his life.

    He finally went to the VA, after being assured that they were not part of the military and would not relay any information without Jeff’s permission. His dad called and explained what was happening with our son, and they said it was classic PTSD and that he should come in as soon as possible. The problem was getting Jeffrey to actually go in. It was—he kind of—every day it was "Tomorrow. I’ll go in tomorrow. I’m tired." He just didn’t have the energy to get up. The day he went in, he blew up .328, and it was decided he needed to stay. As it was decided he needed to stay, it took six employees to take Jeffrey down. He had gotten out the door and ran out into the parking area.

    Involuntarily committed for four days, the stay did nothing but make him feel like he was being warehoused. After seeing an admitting psychiatrist, he would not see another one until the day of his discharge. After answering in the affirmative that he was thinking of harming himself and revealing the three methods—overdose, suffocation or hanging—he was released on June 1st, 2003, a Tuesday. We found out later that he told them on Friday, the day that he was admitted, that he had a hose to choke himself. None of this was ever relayed to us.

    They told us while he was there that he would not be assessed for PTSD until he was alcohol-free. But Jeffrey was using this alcohol as self-medication, and he had told us often that’s the only way he could sleep at night. That we might—and the VA said that we might have to consider kicking him out of the house so he would hit rock bottom and then realize he needed his help. That wasn’t an option for us.

    On his discharge interview, Jeff said there were three phone calls that the psychiatrist took, one of them being just before he was going to tell her about the bumps in the road, the children they were told not to stop their vehicles for and just not to look back. He decided not to, after she took the call, feeling she wasn’t really interested.

    On June 3rd, on a Dunkin’ Donut run—and this was two days after he was released from the hospital—he totaled our car. Was it a suicide attempt? We’re never going to know. No drinking was involved. I was terrified I was losing my little boy. I asked him where he was. He touched his chest, and he said, "Right here, Mom."

    On the 5th, he arrived at HCC, Holyoke Community College, where he was a student. But because of not taking the finals, he would not be graduating. But he arrived there to watch the graduation of his sister. This was supposed to be his graduation also. How he drove his car there, we’ll never know. He was so impaired. We managed to get him home, but his behavior got worse. He was very depressed.

    My parents, who saw their grandson often, never saw him like this. His sisters and brother-in-law and my dad took him back to the VA. He did not want my husband to go, because he felt he was going to be involuntarily committed again. They were waiting for him, but he refused to go in the building. He was intelligent, didn’t want to get committed again like the weekend before. They decided, without consulting someone with the authority to commit him involuntarily, that he was neither suicidal or homicidal, there was nothing they could do. Our daughters called home in a panic saying it didn’t look like they were going to keep their brother. In their records, they say the grandfather pleaded for someone to help his grandson. Neither our veterans nor their families should ever have to beg for the care they should be entitled to.

    My father lost his only brother in World War II. He was twenty-two years old. He was now watching his only grandson self-destructing at twenty-three because of another war.

    Kevin and I went through the rooms when we knew Jeff was coming back. We took his knives, bottles, anything we felt he could harm himself with, a dog leash. I took a stepstool, anything that I thought could trigger something in his mind. His car was disabled not only to protect himself, but to protect others from Jeffrey. Kevin called the civilian authorities. They said they can’t—"We can’t touch him. He’s drinking." My child was struggling to survive, and we didn’t know who to turn to. There was no follow-up call from the VA, no outreach, though they knew he was in crisis. We had no guidance—what to say to him, how to handle his situation. You hear a lot about supporting our troops, but I’ll tell you: we felt isolated, abandoned and alone.

    While the rest of the country lived on, going to Disney World, shopping, living their daily lives, our days consisted of constant fear, apprehension, helplessness, while we watched this young man being consumed by this cancer that ravaged his soul. I sat on the deck with this person who was impersonating my son and listened to him while he recounted bits and pieces of his time in Iraq. Then he would grind his fist into his hand, and he’d say, "You could never understand."

    On Friday, June 11th, around midnight, my daughter got a call from a girl down the street. She asked me, "Where’s your son?" And I said, "Debs, he’s in his room. He’s sleeping." Well, apparently not. He had climbed out the window and gotten into this girl’s car. He wanted some beer. She was—this girl who had known Jeffrey all her life was a little bit scared of him. When I saw him get out of the car, I froze. Jeff was in—dressed in his cammies with two k-bars, a modified pellet gun, which the police wouldn’t know, and carrying a six-pack. He had just wanted that beer. There was a sad smile on his face like a lost soul. When I told him how concerned I was about him, he said, "Don’t worry, Mom. No matter what I do, I always come back."

    KEVIN LUCEY: So later that evening, we had decided that we were going to try to go out, because he had become reclusive in the house. We were going to try to go out for a steak dinner the following night. At about 11:30, quarter to 12:00, Jeffrey asked me, for the second time within the past ten days, if he could just sit in my lap and I could rock him for about—well, for a while. And we did. We sat there for about forty-five minutes, and I was rocking Jeff, and we were in total silence. As his private therapist that we had hired said, it was his last harbor and his last place of refuge.

    The next day, I came home. It was about quarter after 7:00. I held Jeff one last time, as I lowered his body from the rafters and took the hose from around his neck.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin and Joyce Lucey, their son, Marine Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, served five months in Iraq in 2003 with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion. Almost a year later, he committed suicide, June 22nd, 2004. He was twenty-three years old. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: On this fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we return to the testimony of soldiers this past weekend speaking about the horrors of war. This is Winter Soldier.

    TANYA AUSTIN: […] Tanya Austin, and I am a US Army veteran, but I am not here speaking on—about my own story today. I am actually here to give a story of an incredibly strong and brave individual. This is a story of a female in the Coast Guard who was raped and then discharged and punished for being raped. I’m—I’ve been lucky enough to meet this young woman and see the amazing things she has done to bring not only her story out, but the story of men and women who have been raped in the military.

    If you guys could throw up the website, please? What we have up here is—or dot-org, sorry. And what’s really cool about this website is it was this individual’s way of telling her story and trying to make progress, because the military didn’t do anything to help her. So, finally, she decided, well, if the military won’t help me, I’m going to help me and everyone like me.

    As you see there on the homepage, these are some really frightening statistics. 25 percent of women will be sexually assaulted on college campuses. 12 percent of women will be raped while in college. 28 to 66 percent of women in the military report sexual assault. The reason the number varies so much is military reports versus VA reports. It’s a lot easier to tell someone at the VA that you’ve been sexually assaulted than it is to tell your own command, which is not right. And 27 percent of women are reported raped. And what’s interesting about this statistic is if you report that you’ve been raped and no charges are brought against your rapist, you haven’t been raped. You’re not part of that statistic. And, unfortunately, for our military, this is something that happens way too often, is the cover-up of sexual assault, of rape of individuals experiencing the worst from their comrades.

    So here is what they’re currently doing about it. According to the Department of Defense’s own statistics, 74 to 85 percent of soldiers convicted of rape or sexual assault leave the military with an honorable discharge, meaning rape conviction does not appear in their records anywhere. Only two to three percent of soldiers accused of rape are ever court-martialed. And only five to six percent of soldiers accused of domestic abuse are ever court-martialed. In fact, several multiple homicides have recently taken place on military bases that have not even been criminally prosecuted. The Department of Defense’s definition of morale booster for male soldiers: female soldiers—take as needed, dispose when finished and continue serving with honor. Please remember that many suffer in silent shame and never forget what’s going on.

    Now I’d like to tell this individual’s particular story. And having experienced sexual harassment in the military myself, this is kind of difficult, as it is for everyone on this panel up here. But our stories need to be told.

    We are often asked how we get started with Stop Military Rape, Military Rape Crisis Center. I’m a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and a survivor of military sexual trauma. I was raped in May of 2006 by a fellow shipmate. I followed all the necessary steps, including reporting the assault and providing evidence: a confession letter written by my rapist. In August of 2006, I was informed that I will be discharged. According to the Coast Guard Academy psychologist, surviving rape makes deployment—makes one ineligible for worldwide deployment, and as a result, I can no longer serve in the Coast Guard. What follows was a nine-month battle between the Coast Guard and myself, while I tried to keep my job and change the Coast Guard’s unofficial policy that rape survivors shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the Coast Guard.

    I was a female in my early twenties, brand new to the Coast Guard. I admit it: I did not know every Coast Guard policy or try to know something beyond my E3 rank. All I know is that what was happening to me was not—was just not right. I felt powerless. I didn’t know how to fight the military. I was taught how to fight with them, for them. But how could I fight for my rights to stay with them?

    Out of the need to vent and needing an outlet to express the horror I was experiencing as a result of being raped, I started an online blog on MySpace. I was not expecting much of it. I just wanted to let out all the pain in me and share with the public. I almost immediately started receiving emails from active-duty military members and veterans alike, each wanting to share their story. Everybody’s story was so different, yet so similar. I received one email from an eighteen-year-old female who was raped two hours prior by a member of her command and was scared and had no one else to turn to. I received an email from a Coast Guard veteran who was raped ten-plus years ago while serving, and I was the first person he ever told.

    I started doing research online about military rape. I learned about Tailhook and read the brave story of Army Specialist Suzanne Swift. What was happening to me in the Coast Guard was very common and had been going on for a long time. I knew that I was in for the biggest battle of my life. I could not abandon my fellow men and women in uniform. Something’s got to change.

    Stop Military Rape and the Military Rape Crisis Center was formed. We are the nation’s largest support group for the survivors of military sexual trauma. In 2007, we assisted over 12,000 men and women of military sexual trauma and their families. We are starting to work with Congress to change the military policy of sexual assault. Every man and woman that volunteer to serve their country should have the right to serve without the fear of being sexually assaulted, harassed and/or raped. In addition, no one should be reprimanded or punished for reporting a crime that was done to them.

    May 30th is International Stop Military Rape Awareness Day. Write to your representatives, contact the media, do what we’re doing now, and let them know that military rape is something we just can’t stand for.

    This young woman is remarkable, her story, powerful. And unfortunately, because of time, we can’t tell her whole story. But every person up here has a story to tell. Every veteran out there, every active-duty member that’s sitting in this audience knows someone that has either been assaulted or raped or harassed. And that has got to change.

AMY GOODMAN: Tanya Austin was an Arab linguist in Military Intelligence, testifying at Winter Soldier in Silver Spring this weekend. It’s the largest gathering of active-duty and Iraq and Afghanistan war vets. We continue with Winter Soldier.

    JEFFREY SMITH: My name is Jeffrey Smith. I enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in September 1997. I served three years active-duty in the 3rd Infantry Division and then enlisted for six further years in the Florida National Guard. I was a grenadier with Bravo Company, 2nd of the 124th Infantry, and was deployed to Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq, in early May 2003. I was honorably discharged in January 2004.

    I reside in Orlando, Florida, and was raised as a military brat. My father served two tours in Vietnam and is currently rated 100 percent disabled by the Veterans Administration due to PTSD and Agent Orange exposure.

    Upon deployment to Balad, my unit was primarily tasked with gate and perimeter security at Camp Anaconda, the largest of the enduring presence bases in Iraq. Providing security at the front gate, one of the daily rituals we were tasked with was clearing Iraqi nationals who came to work on a daily basis on post, doing such jobs as filling sandbags, clearing rubble and trash, etc. These Iraqi nationals were paid a dollar a day and were given an MRE for lunch. They worked under extreme conditions of heat and dust, oftentimes 130-degree temperature, and were always escorted by armed guards.

    One of the other missions that we were occasionally tasked with was raiding houses in the local area, especially when we first arrived in country. One of the houses that we first raided was supposedly the home of a former Baath official. It was the middle of the day when we raided this house. When we arrived in the neighborhood, we were told that we were going to try to force the front gate open to the house, but apparently the armored cavalry unit that was with us had other plans in mind. They rolled over the front wall of the house, destroyed the vehicle that was inside, and upon entry to the house, I was second in the stack of a formation of troops that went through the gate. There was an older female who was in the courtyard by this time, and she was screaming something unintelligible in Arabic. I didn’t see her as a threat, so I continued on past her into the building itself. One of the soldiers behind me apparently thought that she was a threat, butt-stroked her in the face, knocked her to the ground, and someone after him apparently zip-tied her and took her out into the front yard.

    Then we proceeded to ransack this house. I was in the master bedroom. There was dressers and wardrobes. Wardrobes were locked. We pulled the doors off. We turned everything in the room upside-down. We went through everything. Personnel in my unit that were in the kitchen turned the refrigerator upside-down, pulled the stove—actually broke the stove, pulled it out of the wall, broke the line to it.

    After we searched through the house and we had everyone, including the children, zip-tied on the front lawn, apparently someone in my chain of command realized that we had the wrong home, we were on the wrong street, that the home we were supposed to have raided was actually behind this house on another street. So we went over to that home and raided that house. Actually, going through that gate of that home, I actually almost fired on a person that I believe was mentally disabled. He apparently—he didn’t understand what was going on. He was standing in a window directly in front of us, and in the initial first few seconds of going through the wall, I actually thought that he was a threat, almost fired, and then realized that there was something wrong with him and he just didn’t realize what was happening.

    We searched through that home, detained the person that we were supposed to detain. And, you know, upon searching the home, we started coming across all this paperwork in his office and in his bedroom, and it looked to me like he was an algebra instructor, maybe at the local high school, maybe at a local university, because there was just reams of stuff that was math problems. This guy is supposed to be a former Baath official.

    We took him, put a sandbag over his head, loaded him on a truck, and we started back towards Camp Anaconda. He was actually on my vehicle with my squad, and on the way back to Camp Anaconda—it was about a forty-five-minute drive—my squad leader thought that it would be funny to pose for a picture next to this guy, and he asked me to take a photo of him and this detainee. And I refused to do so. I didn’t believe that that was the right thing to do. And upon arrival back at our quarters, I was disciplined for quite some time for this, including physical punishment, because I had disobeyed him in front of the rest of the squad.

    Really, the turning point for me on my experience in Iraq was an incident that occurred when I was off duty at night. There was a platoon in my company who were—how shall I put this? They were the hardcore platoon. You know, every unit has one platoon that is more extreme than the rest. This platoon happened to have a squad that was on—well, they called it an ambush, but really what it was is they were hiding out in the farms in the surrounding area outside the perimeter, and they were trying to detain and stop people who were out past curfew. So they were out there one night, and apparently a farmer was on his property—I think it was about 3:00 in the morning—and, you know, electricity was intermittent, and he was out there, I think, trying to work on his farm, work on a pump or something. They told him to halt and stop. He panicked and ran. They opened fire, and they killed this individual.

    The next day, Civil Affairs came and spoke with us and said—as a company—and said, "We are not going to pay any benefit to this family." They also informed us that his brother was a close ally of us, who was work-–had up until this time had been working with us and was a respected leader of the local community and that this individual that we killed also had fourteen children. The Civil Affairs officer suggested that we take up a collection and donate a dollar or two apiece to the family, and that he thought that that would go a long way in helping to ease the family’s suffering. There’s 125 members of a rifle company, roughly, so you’re talking about anywhere probably between $125 and $150. In reality, I don’t think anyone donated any money.

    And finally, just to wrap things up, I want to take this time to apologize to the Iraqi people for the things that, you know, I helped to do, and the actions that people in my unit and myself did while I was there. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Smith, an infantryman for six years, served in Iraq in May 2003, honorably discharged January 2004, testifying at Winter Soldier in Silver Spring, an echo of an earlier gathering in Detroit, Michigan in 1971, when Vietnam vets spoke about their experiences there. 200 years earlier, in the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of [their] country; but he that stands [by] it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Referencing Thomas Paine, the soldiers testifying about the horrors of war two centuries later called themselves "Winter Soldier." Today, five years after the invasion began, nearly 160,000 troops remain stationed in Iraq, close to 4,000 have died. The number of Iraqis dead is still unknown. It could be more than a million.