Thursday, January 27, 2011

Howard Zinn, Pacifica, and the People's History of Today

by Alan Minsky

The other day I was talking with a friend who was dismayed over the departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC. She expressed a hunch that I think many progressives share: that Olbermann's exit foreshadows the inevitable transformation of the cable news outlet by its new owners Comcast into a less progressive, less "left", voice.

She then turned to me and said, "Air America's gone, MSNBC is doomed, you guys (Pacifica) are going to be the only game in town again, the only voice of sanity."

As Program Director at KPFK, Southern California's Pacifica station, it's a sentiment I've heard before -- in particular when the Air America Radio Network closed shop after five years of progressive advocacy and constant fiscal crisis.

From the point of view of Pacifica, it's not surprising that advertising revenue is in short supply for media outlets critiquing society from the progressive side; while, in turn, money is ever-abundant for conservative voices.

No matter how much a progressive programmer consistently advocates support for the centrist Democratic Party (which is what most MSNBC and Air America's programmers do, in effect), the very fact that these programmers need to attract an audience pushes them to take positions opposed by the Chamber of Commerce. As poll after poll reveal, the people who vote Democratic actually support policies well to the left of the Party. But, in contemporary America, you're going to have a hard time funding a daily commercial network without toeing the pro-business line.

So, Pacifica, with its model of reliance based solely on listener support, lumbers on. It's here to stay, with the full range of progressive voices it features on the airwaves every day.

I told my friend, "It's a shame about Olbermann and it would be if MSNBC loses its progressive angle; but let's face it, the real voices of social change don't make it onto the moderate-left outlets."

"Yeah," my friend said, "I was thinking about what Howard would write, if anything, about Olbermann and MSNBC. After all, folks like him are never on there."

My friend was very close to Howard Zinn. She was working with him on a project when he passed away in Southern California last year. Today is the anniversary of his death.

She hit the nail on the head. If you go through the People's History of the United Stateschapter by chapter; and ask the question: "if the movements that produced positive social change were active today, where would their voices be heard?" The answer is simple: it would be Pacifica, and only Pacifica among broadcast media outlets with a national scope, that would provide them coverage.

Sure, there may be a stray mention here or there on MSNBC about people fighting for immigrant rights in Arizona, but not extended segments like those found consistently on Pacifica. We need those lengthy conversations, not just soundbytes; real social commentary in order to change the dialogue about what to do in this country. And we need to hear from progressive social commentators that don't fit within the Democratic Party narrative -- which includes almost everyone on Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Alternet, Truthdig, Z Magazine and even The Nation, let alone the tens of thousands of grassroots activists across the nation -- that make up the segment of society presented magisterially in Zinn's work.

The socialists and organizers who fought for the eight hour day, the peaceful soldiers from the broad array of civil rights movements, the early nineteenth century abolitionists, the indigenous people who fought European colonialism, the farmers of Shay's Rebellion, WEB Dubois, and Emma Goldman - were they alive today, they'd be heard on Pacifica and virtually nowhere else in broadcast media.

The revitalization of the left in America, which this society so desperately needs -- the growth of a movement that unabashedly supports the interests of the vast majority of the population, and not the power elite -- can only come from today's analogue to the heroes in the People's History.

So yes, it's sad when the lights are turned off on someone like Olbermann. But there is a silver lining, if it returns more people to a media outlet such as Pacifica and others, where voices of real social change - the people Howard Zinn documented - are still front and center.

As has always been the case, we need those voices now more than ever.

Alan Minsky is the interim Program Director at KPFK Radio Los Angeles. Next week (Jan. 31 – Feb. 4) he will be producing a special radio series about revitalizing progressive and radical political movements entitled: “Building a Powerful Left in the United States.” He can be reached at

$15 billion disputed .

Friday, 28 January 2011 01:38 by Jennifer Naylor Gesick | Variety News Staff

Attorney Leevin Camacho, We Are Guahan member, yesterday disputed Governor Eddie Calvo’s claim that $15 billion is coming to Guam from the military buildup and that the entire buildup may stop because of the disagreement over Pagat.

Camacho made this statement when he addressed members of the Rotary Club of Guam yesterday.

Camacho said he does not know where the $15 billion figure is coming from, because according to documents the Department of Defense has released, the Government of Guam is only set to receive $1.78 billion to be spread out over 10 years, and even that figure has been overstated.

“No one has looked at how much the buildup is going to cost GovGuam,” he said. “In terms of net, the $1.78 billion is an overstatement, it’s generous, and it does not take into account any increasing costs,” said Camacho.

Camacho also stated that according to University of Guam professor and economist Dr. Claret M. Ruane, the $1.78 billion figure from the Department of Defense’s Environmental Impact Statement may be overestimated by 18 to 41 percent because information from Hawaii was used to prepare the figures.

Camacho asked: “If the Governor thinks the money coming for projects inside the fence will go to Guam, of the projects that were awarded how many were given to Guam companies?”

Camacho said We Are Guahan is concerned mostly about the ancient village of Pagat being turned into a series of firing ranges.
But the group is also worried about public education, housing, traffic and health care being negatively affected by the relocation of 8,400 U.S. Marines and their over 9,000 dependants from Okinawa to Guam.

“Are the benefits greater than the cost? I’m not sure,” he said.

Camacho also told Rotary Club of Guam members that Governor Calvo’s statements that the buildup may stop because of the dispute over Pagat “are untrue.”

There are over 160 projects identified in the Programmatic Agreement, said Camacho. The Programmatic Agreement is an agreement that governs the handling of projects related to the buildup with respect to cultural and historic sites.

Camacho said that Pagat has taken centerstage, but in reality most of those projects are not disputed. But he said the military has taken an “all or nothing approach to the buildup.”

Pagat is the only ancient Chamorro village with public access, said Camacho. And it is still being used by indigenous healers and for cultural practices like fishing. All other villages are on DoD property and those without base access are usually unable to visit the sites, said Camacho.

He said that the military has disregarded all other options, including splitting up the series of five firing ranges and keeping them on property DoD currently controls, which is 28.5 percent of the island.

Camacho also said that DoD’s recent claims that they will be firing over Pagat and into the water, thus leaving the area open all the time for people to visit the site does not seem logical, and he can’t imagine anyone wanting to go down there while fifty caliber machine guns are going off.

The lawsuit filed over Pagat by the Guam Preservation Trust, We Are Guahan, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Hawaii has a scheduling hearing in the second week of February with a response from the defendants expected by Feb. 14.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Disappearance of Keith Olbermann

by Robert Parry

Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC should be another wake-up call to American progressives about the fragile foothold that liberal-oriented fare now has for only a few hours on one corporate cable network.

Though Olbermann hosted MSNBC’s top-rated news show, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” he disappeared from the network with only the briefest of good-byes. Certainly, the callous treatment of Olbermann by the MSNBC brass would never be replicated by Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing Fox News toward its media stars.

At Fox News, the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have far greater leeway to pitch right-wing ideas and even to organize pro-Republican political events. Last November, Olbermann was suspended for two days for making donations to three Democratic candidates, including Arizona’s Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.

Now, with Olbermann’s permanent departure on Friday, the remainder of MSNBC’s liberal evening line-up, which also includes Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell (who will fill Olbermann’s 8 p.m. slot), must face the reality that any sustained friction with management could mean the bum’s rush for them, too.

The liberal hosts also must remember that MSNBC experimented with liberal-oriented programming only after all other programming strategies, including trying to out-Fox Fox, had failed – and only after it became clear that President George W. Bush’s popularity was slipping.

In nearly eight years at “Countdown,” Olbermann was the brave soul who charted the course for other mainstream media types to be even mildly critical of Bush. Olbermann modeled his style after legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, who stood up to excesses by communist-hunting Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, even borrowing Murrow’s close: “Good night, good luck.”

But MSNBC’s parent company, General Electric, never seemed comfortable with Olbermann’s role as critic of the Bush administration, nor with the sniping between Olbermann and his Fox News rival, O’Reilly, who retaliated by attacking corporate GE on his widely watched show.

In 2009, the New York Times reported that GE responded to this pressure by having GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt strike a deal with Murdoch that sought to muzzle Olbermann’s criticism of O’Reilly, in exchange for O’Reilly muting his attacks on GE.

Olbermann later disputed that there ever was a truce and the back-and-forth soon resumed. But it was a reminder that GE, a charter member of the military-industrial complex and a major international conglomerate, had bigger corporate interests at play than the ratings for MSNBC’s evening programming.

So, too, will Comcast, the cable giant that is assuming a majority stake in NBC Universal, which controls MSNBC. The Washington Post reported on Saturday that sources at MSNBC quashed speculation that Olbermann’s departure was connected to the Comcast takeover, which was approved by federal regulators this week.

Media Orphans

The troubling message to progressives is that they remain essentially orphans when it comes to having their political interests addressed by any corporate news outlet. While the Right has built its own vast media infrastructure – reaching from newspapers, magazines and books to radio, TV and the Internet – the Left generally has treated media as a low priority.

Though some on the Left saw hope in the MSNBC evening line-up, the larger reality was that even inside the world of NBC News, the other content ranged from the pro-Establishment centrism of anchor Brian Williams to the center-right views of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to CNBC’s mix of free-market extremism and corporate boosterism.

While gratified to be given a few hours each night on MSNBC, the Left surely had nothing to compare with Murdoch’s News Corporation and its longstanding commitment to a right-wing perspective on Fox News and News Corp.'s many other print and electronic outlets.

As I wrote in an article last November, “Olbermann and the other liberal hosts are essentially on borrowed time, much the way Phil Donahue was before getting axed in the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, when MSNBC wanted to position itself as a ‘patriotic’ war booster.

“Unlike News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who stands solidly behind the right-wing propaganda on Fox News, the corporate owners of MSNBC have no similar commitment to the work of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz.

"For the suits at headquarters, it’s just a balancing act between the ratings that those shows get and the trouble they cause as Republicans reclaim control of Washington.”

Those corporate priorities also were underscored in the pre-Iraq invasion days when MSNBC dumped Donahue, then the network’s biggest draw. But Donahue had allowed on some guests critical of Bush’s planned war.

After the invasion in March 2003, MSNBC’s coverage was barely discernable from that of Fox News, with both networks superimposing American flags on scenes from Iraq and producing pro-war promotional segments showing heroic images of U.S. soldiers being welcomed by happy Iraqis (with no scenes of the war’s carnage). [See's "America's Matrix."]

The ongoing significance of America’s media imbalance is that it gives the Right enormous capabilities to control the national debate, not only during election campaigns but year-round. Republicans can deploy what intelligence operatives call “agit-propaganda,” stirring controversies that rile up the public and redound to the GOP’s advantage.

These techniques have proved so effective that not even gifted political speakers, whether the savvy Bill Clinton or the eloquent Barack Obama, have had any consistent success in countering the angry cacophony that the Right can orchestrate.

One week, the Right's theme is “Obamacare’s death panels”; another week, it’s “the “Ground Zero Mosque.” The Democrats are left scrambling to respond – and their responses, in turn, become fodder for critical commentary, as too wimpy or too defensive or too something.

The mainstream media and progressives often join in this criticism, wondering why Obama let himself get blind-sided or why he wasn’t tougher or why he can’t control the message. For the Right and the Republicans, it’s a win-win-win, as the right-wing base is energized, more public doubts are raised about the President, and the Left is further demoralized.

Like Clinton before him, Obama has reacted to this political/media landscape by shifting rightward toward the “center,” further alienating his liberal base. Many on the Left respond by denouncing Obama as a sell-out and deciding to either sit out elections or vote for a third party.

This dynamic has been instrumental to the Right’s political victories over the past three decades even as those policies – from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush – have worsened the lives of middle- and working-class Americans.

The sudden disappearance of Keith Olbermann from television is another ominous omen that this dynamic will continue.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Haiti's Democracy in the Balance

'Baby Doc' Duvalier's return does not change the basic issue for Haiti: only an election re-run can thwart foreign interference

by Mark Weisbrot from

The return to Haiti – and now, possible arrest – of the infamous former dictator, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, after 25 years in exile in the south of France, has made the headlines this week. But behind the scenes, the US state department and the French foreign ministry have been ratcheting up the pressure on the impoverished, earthquake-wrecked and cholera-stricken country of Haiti. The pressure is not to prosecute the dictator for his atrocities, as human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have recommended. The pressure is to force the government of Haiti to accept the decision of the United States and France as to who should be allowed to compete in the second round of Haiti's presidential election.

It is worth looking at the details of this international subversion of the democratic process in Haiti – just to see just how outrageous it is. The first thing to notice is how unusual it is for any electoral authority to change the results of an election without a recount of the vote. Imagine that happening in Florida in 2000, or Mexico in 2006, or in any close, disputed election with irregularities. It just wouldn't happen. There could be a recount and a new result; the original result could stand; or the election could be redone. But the electoral authorities don't just change the result without a recount.

Now, add into the mix that the electoral body seeking to change the result of the election is the Organisation of American States (OAS). More accurately, it is Washington, which controls the bureaucracy of the OAS in these situations (unless there is a lot of pushback from South America, as happened after the Honduran coup in 2009).

In fact, six of the seven members of the OAS "expert verification mission" are from the United States, Canada and France. France! Not a member of the OAS but the former slave-holding colonial power that was still forcing Haiti to pay for its loss of property (that is, the slaves who liberated themselves) until the 1940s. Apparently, the OAS couldn't find any experts in all of Latin America (though they found one from Jamaica) to review Haiti's election.

This is not a matter of political correctness; rather, it indicates how much Washington wanted to control the result of this OAS mission. These are the three governments that led the effort to topple Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004. WikiLeaks cables released this week show that the United States also pressured Brazil to help keep Aristide out of Haiti after the coup. Since Aristide was, and remains to this day, the most popular politician in the country, the WikiLeaks cables show that Washington and its allies also worked to keep him from having any influence on the country from his forced exile in South Africa.

As it turns out, the OAS "experts" did a very poor job on their election analysis. They threw out 234 tally sheets, thus changing the election result. According to the OAS, the government candidate, Jude Celestin, was pushed into third place and, therefore, out of the runoff election. This leaves two rightwing candidates – former first lady Mirlande Manigat, and popular musician Michel Martelly – to compete in the runoff. The OAS has Martelly taking second place by just 3,200 votes, or 0.3% of the vote.

The first problem with the OAS mission's report is that there were more than 1,300 ballot sheets, representing about 156,000 votes, that went missing or were quarantined. This is about six times as many ballot sheets as the ones that the mission eliminated. Since these areas were more pro-Celestin than the rest of the country, he would very likely have come in second if the missing tally sheets had been included. The mission did not address this problem in its report.

The second problem is that the mission examined only 919 of the 11,181 tally sheets to find the 234 that they threw out. This would not be so strange if they had used statistical inference, as is commonly done in polling, to say something about the other 92% of ballot sheets, which they did not examine. However, this is not included in the leaked report.

Lacking the force of logic, the US and French governments are turning to the logic of force to get the result that they want. Journalism professor and author Amy Wilentz wrote this weekend in the LA Times:

"According to many sources, including the president himself, the international community has threatened Preval with immediate exile if he does not bow to their interpretation of election results."

These are not empty threats. Preval's predecessor, Aristide, was whisked out of the country on a US plane in 2004. And now the US ambassador to Haiti is making it clear, in mafia-godfather-style, that this is an offer he cannot refuse:

"US ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said in an interview that the US government supports the OAS report and its conclusions. 'The international community is entirely unified on this point. There is nothing to negotiate in the report,' Merten said."

The French weighed in on Friday, AFP reports:

"France warned Haiti's government on Friday to respect a report by OAS poll monitors that is thought to call for President Rene Preval's preferred successor to drop out of the election race …"

So far, Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) hasn't caved. But the pressure and threats are very intense. Some of it appears to come from hard-right Republicans, whose influence on foreign policy in the western hemisphere has remained strong under the Obama administration and has increased with their takeover of the House of Representatives. Rightwing activists such as Roger Noriega, who was involved in the 2004 Haitian coup as President Bush's assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, are among those fighting to control the runoff election in Haiti.

It is quite possible that the hard right was responsible for the leaking of the draft OAS mission report. On Monday, OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza – embarrassed and angered by the leak, and probably also by Washington and France's gross disregard for Haiti's sovereignty and democratic rights– sought to downplay the mission's report:

"The report, Insulza said, is based on "calculations" and not results. "It's not in our power to give results," he told the Miami Herald. "We are not publishing any kind of results."

Of course, the obvious solution would be to re-run the election, since nearly three-quarters of registered voters didn't vote in the first round, reflecting the fact that the country's largest political party – not coincidentally, the party of Aristide – was arbitrarily excluded. But Washington and its allies don't want to take any chances that they could end up with a free and fair election in Haiti, which hasn't led to their preferred outcome in the very few times that it has been allowed.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Calvo: Holiday's cost justified


Guam's connection to the beliefs and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. is so strong it warrants a GovGuam holiday, despite the financial burden on a cash-strapped GovGuam, Gov. Eddie Calvo said yesterday.

Yesterday was the second year in a row the island has celebrated King's legacy with a GovGuam holiday.

"I think the symbolism for civil rights is so appropriate in Guam -- especially as we deal with this impending military buildup, especially as we deal with our political status as a territory -- so that is why I believe it is (appropriate,)" Calvo said.

According to Pacific Daily News files, each GovGuam holiday costs at least $450,000 of taxpayer money, plus additional spending by autonomous agencies.

Since becoming governor two weeks ago, Calvo has worked to steady a cash-strapped GovGuam, which he has said is running deep in the red and will shut down without severe cuts.

Calvo said the government's financial struggles haven't tempered his passion for the holiday and the message behind it.

"As far as I am concerned, it's apropos that this holiday be observed in Guam, especially in light of our social-political condition. We are an unincorporated territory, and we do not have the rights that Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for," Calvo said.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a GovGuam holiday until 2002, when lawmakers cut six holidays to save dwindling government funds. It was re-instated in 2008. Five other holidays -- Presidents Day, Discovery Day, Good Friday, Columbus Day and Election Day -- have remained revoked.

Sen. Judith Guthertz first introduced the bill to reinstate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January 2007. It took lawmakers more than a year to pass it. It was then vetoed by former Gov. Felix Camacho. The veto was then overridden by 11 senators.

Calvo and Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, both of whom were senators at the time, supported the bill and the override.

Cost Concern

Former Sen. James Espaldon was one of the few lawmakers who voted against the reinstatement of the holiday, and if he had to do it again, he said he would do the same.

Espaldon said the decision in 2008 was "tough," but there are simply too many other places where the government needs the money.

In fact, King's movement could be better remembered during a workday, Espaldon said, when students could learn lessons about the civil rights movement and employees could reflect on equality.

"I know on days off like this, we don't always reflect on the purpose," Espaldon said. "Sometimes we just look at it as a day off, to work around the house or watch football. ... It's not a commemoration."

In his veto letter to the Legislature, Camacho also argued the holiday was too expensive. Guam could celebrate civil rights without a holiday, the former governor wrote.

"While I admire and applaud the sacrifices and strides that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished in the struggle for equality, Bill No. 25 was passed by the Guam Legislature with no additional appropriation to cover the increased cost this government would incur," Camacho wrote in his veto message.


During a holiday celebration yesterday, Guthertz said Camacho was wrong to think the holiday was too expensive when it was clearly so important to many ethnic groups in the region.

"When I grew up on Guam, it was almost impossible for anyone on Guam to go to law school," Guthertz said. "It was impossible for anyone on Guam to go to medical school, or dental school, or architectural school, or even become an officer in the United States military. The sacrifices of Dr. King ... changed lives on Guam for the better, and that's why we are recognizing him today."

Guthertz spoke at an AmeriCorps event at the Agana Shopping Center yesterday, which united community service groups from around the island to celebrate King's teachings.

More than a hundred volunteers from the groups, mostly consisting of young people, packed into the center's plaza for speeches and Chamorro cultural presentations. Informational booths, sponsored by each of the different AmeriCorps branches, encircled the event, spreading messages of selfless service, equality and empathy.

At the beginning of the event, AmeriCorps Director George Salas asked the volunteers to stand up so they could be congratulated for their willingness to help others.

Their compassion could change the community, he said, and inspire others to do the same.

"These are the people that will make things happen," Salas said.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A partial win for Makua, but struggle far from over

January 14, 2011 by kyle from

Yesterday, the Army announced that it will end live fire training in Makua valley. This is a win for those who have struggled for many years to save Makua from the destructive and contaminating activities of the U.S. military.

However, it is only a partial victory.

The Army continues to hold Makua hostage and plans to use the valley for other kinds of training. Furthermore, the Army is shifting the bulk of its training to Schofield in Lihu’e, O’ahu and Pohakuloa on Hawai’i island. This is consistent with the recent announcement of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for expanding or renovating training facilities at Pohakuloa.

This was never a “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” movement. Trading one ‘aina for another is not acceptable. Furthermore, it leaves unchallenged the very premise that the training is needed. Training for what purpose? To invade and occupy other countries? Inflict death and destruction in the name of Pax Americana?

The movement to protect Makua moves into a challenging phase as we now push for the cleanup and return of the land. The Army is hoping that non-live fire training will be less likely to inflame community anger. By removing a major flashpoint, the Army hopes to deflate the momentum of the movement. It is more difficult to sustain high levels of energy around the technical and tedious clean up and restoration of a site. So we must be inspired by our vision of the alternative we hope to grow in Makua.

Every gain we make in Makua owes to the thousands in Hawai’i and around the world who have come forward to malama ‘aina, speak out, protest, pray and grow the peaceful and blessed community we wish to see in the world. The Makua movement must not forget its kuleana to the many people who have stood in solidarity with us, as we continue to stand and speak out in solidarity with others.

Army ends live-fire training at Makua

After decades of opposition to bombing the valley, real ordnance will be used only at Schofield and Pohakuloa

By William Cole

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 13, 2011

The last company of soldiers may have stormed the hills of Makua Valley with M-4 rifles blazing, artillery whistling overhead, mortars pounding mock enemy positions and helicopters firing from above.

After battling environmentalists and Hawaiian cultural practitioners since at least the late 1980s, the Army said this week it is acceding to community concerns and no longer will use the heavy firepower in Makua that started multiple fires in the 4,190-acre Waianae Coast valley and fueled a number of lawsuits.

In place of the company Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercises, known as CALFEXes, the Army said it is moving ahead with a plan to turn Makua into a “world class” roadside-bomb and counterinsurgency training center with convoys along hillside roads, simulated explosions and multiple “villages” to replicate Afghanistan.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The American Fast Food Syndrome

* The people of Guam are in love with their fast food.

By Kristin Wartman from

Working with people as a nutritionist, I’m often met with resistance. I try to explain making healthful food choices without using trigger words like organic, sustainable, or even local. “When I hear the word organic I think of Birkenstock-wearing hippies in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Berkeley, California,” one of my clients told me recently. Other clients have referred to whole, organic foods as “yuppie food.” There’s no doubt that food choice and diet is an indicator of class and culture, but what perplexes me is this notion that eating a diet of processed, sugary junk foods is what the “real” Americans eat.

According to food historian Felipe Fernandez-Arsmesto, food has always been a marker of class and rank in any particular society. He writes that, “Food became a social differentiator at a remote, undocumented moment when some people started to command more food resources than others.” He goes on to write that, “Class differentiation starts with the crudities of basic economics. People eat the best food they can afford: the preferred food of the rich therefore becomes a signifier of social aspirations.”

But this isn’t true in modern day America. The preferred food of the rich is now considered elitist and scoffed at by many Americans. In fact, there is data to suggest that even though many Americans can afford higher quality foods, they chose to eat cheaper and less nutritious foods. Jane Black and Brent Cunningham recently wrote about this in the Washington Post: “Many in this country who have access to good food and can afford it simply don’t think it’s important. To them, food has become a front in America’s culture wars, and the crusade against fast and processed food is an obsession of ‘elites,’ not ‘real Americans.’”

I would argue that the advertising agencies that work hand-in-hand with the big players of industrial food should take much of the blame for this change. Within the span of three short generations, Americans have come to accept industrial food as their mainstay—not only have they accepted it, they defend it like they’d defend the American flag as a symbol of their patriotism and allegiance with “real” America.

But there’s some perverse logic at work here and it strikes me as vaguely similar to the Stockholm syndrome—a paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express adulation and positive feelings towards their captors. While Americans are not experiencing a physical captivity, they are deeply mired in a psychological condition in which they’re captive to industrial food products and the corresponding ideologies that are ultimately harming them. Call it the American Fast Food Syndrome.

Part of the problem is that most Americans lack the knowledge that industrial food is a recent development in the history of agriculture. While human beings have been cultivating food for more than 10,000 years, industrial agriculture, as we know it today, has only been around for about 60 years. To many Americans, industrial food is simply food and they assume this is the way it has always been—Americans have all but forgotten that food might be the product of a farm and not a factory. I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached peak indoctrination: two out of three Americans is obese or overweight and one out of five 4-year-olds is obese. This is more than just a coincidence as we embrace our American industrial food diet wholeheartedly.

The fact that food advertising is a completely unregulated force doesn’t help. Advertisers spend billions of dollars on campaigns to make us want to buy their products. In her book Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna Lappé writes of a sly technique advertisers often use, “The food industry…is skilled at inoculation messaging, and part of its success comes from the ‘we’re one of you’ pitch.” She adds later, “The message, whether from Perdue, Nestle, or Cargill, is that these companies are like us; they care about the same things we do. It’s a message that forms another strand of the inoculation strategy.”

This “we’re one of you” ideology coupled with the food product’s corresponding affordability is slick marketing at its best.

You may remember a similar strategy used by Sarah Palin and John McCain in their 2008 Presidential campaign. Palin’s constant invocation of Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, and soccer moms was the same “we’re one of you” rhetoric. Palin worked this angle again recently when she came running to the defense of the “real” Americans as she personally gave out cookies to elementary school students in her effort to stop the food police from depriving children of their god-given right to eat sugar-laden, processed foods.

These messages, from advertisers and politicians alike, are drowning out a sensible approach to healthy eating and improved quality of life for many Americans. I know that when people stop eating processed foods and start cooking whole foods, it’s nothing short of a revelation. My clients experience a transformation when they cut out junk foods—they lose weight, improve chronic health conditions, and feel better than they ever have before. Unfortunately, many Americans who really need guidance on healthy eating and cooking don’t have it. What they do have is a constant barrage of advertising for cheap industrial foods paired with the all-American rhetoric of Sarah Palin and her ilk.

Until all Americans see industrial food for what it really is, educating on healthier food options will remain a cultural battle. We can blame specific ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fats indefinitely, but for a large portion of Americans their cultural identity is tied up in Big Macs, fries, and Cokes. As long as the food industry continues to succeed at imbuing their products with a particular sense of American authenticity, and as long as Americans continue to buy this image, while rejecting the organic, sustainable, and local food movement as part of some liberal agenda, we will remain a country in the midst of a dire health and food crisis.

Kristin Wartman is a food writer living in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and is a Certified Nutrition Educator. She is interested in the intersections of food, health, politics, and culture. You can read more of her writing at

Friday, January 14, 2011

Erosion eating away at Nimitz Beach Park

by Nick Delgado from

Guam - The shoreline in Agat is literally sinking, and officials are scrambling to find a solution. It's an eyesore for those who stop by Nimitz Beach in Agat - the shoreline is being eaten away and officials are concerned that it could eventually wipe the park off the map.

"The area is eroding," said village mayor Carol Tayama. "We need to do something." She's working with the Department of Public Works, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Parks & Recreation on the matter. The problem is obvious as you can see the public shower is half way tilted into the ocean, picnic tables and benches in the water and the sidewalk chipping away.

"We need to do something now residents are complaining that pretty soon they wont be able to do their walks in the morning or in the evenings because it's eating in to the sidewalks," the mayor added.

Parks & Rec director Pete Calvo says he will have to barricade these hazardous areas. Calvo toured the site Thursday with the Agat mayor and Senator Mana Silva Taijeron hoping to get a clear picture of what needs to be done. He said they even had to shut down a public restroom, as there was proof that the erosion was working its way underneath the structure.

"We don't want to have the public in that predicament where they are unknowingly going in to use the restroom and perhaps just their weight alone may have shifted the building and cause a collapse or something to that effect," Calvo noted.

And what's worse - Calvo admits is that the erosion problem may not just be isolated to the Nimitz Beach area. "It may not be feasible for us to only protect Nimitz Beach," he explained. "We may have to go down the line and protect all the beaches down the line. What we don't want to do is drive the problem into another person's backyard...the concerns are similar to the erosion problems over at the Inarajan and Talofofo Bay area, and officials are hoping to expedite the process to prevent anymore of this land from eroding into the ocean."

Parks & Rec oversight chair Senator Tina Muna Barnes says fixing the erosion problem depends on how fast GovGuam can get the funding. "It's important to look and see if there is some emergency funding that we can receive from some federal grants in stopping and protecting that erosion from continuing to come on in," she said.

Calvo meanwhile says they are waiting for mitigation recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers before they can begin any effort to stop the erosion. He does plan on planting more trees as a temporary fix. In the meantime, he cautions residents who use the park, saying, "When they use the beach they go to be mindful that the erosion of the shoreline also signifies the possible tidal movements in the water itself and so they got to be careful."

Don't Tone It Down, Tone It Up: Make Debate "Worthy of Those We Have Lost"

Published on Thursday, January 13, 2011 by The Nation

by John Nichols

Toward the end of the remarkable speech he delivered to the mourning citizens of Tucson Wednesday night, President Obama recalled that a photo of the youngest victim of Saturday's shooting rampage -- nine year-old Christina Taylor Green -- was featured in a book about children born on September 11, 2001. Next to the photo were "simple wishes for a child's life," one of which read: "I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart."

[President Barack Obama pauses during the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" event held to support and remember the victims of Saturday's mass shooting, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, January 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Jim Young) ]President Barack Obama pauses during the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" event held to support and remember the victims of Saturday's mass shooting, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, January 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
The crowd of 14,000 that had gathered to celebrate the lives of the six people who died Saturday and to pray with Obama for the recovery of those who were wounded -- including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford -- cheered the reference to a simpler, more innocent and more humane patriotism that stood in such stark contrast to the vitriol of contemporary politics.

It has been said that Obama strives for a post-partisan balance. But this was Obama speaking as a pre-partisan, as an idealist recalling a more innocent America -- and imagining that some of that innocence might be renewed as shocked and heartbroken citizens seek to heal not just a community but a nation that is too harsh, too cruel, too divided.

"If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle," Obama told a crowd that included members of Congress from both parties, including the Republican he defeated in the 2008 presidential contest, Arizona Senator John McCain (but not McCain's controversial running-mate, Sarah Palin).

Cautioning against a politics that seeks "to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do," and he suggested that the way to do this is by recognizing it's the value of "talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

"If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle," declared Obama, in language that recalled the most idealistic appeals not just of his own political journey but of past presidents -- Lincoln, FDR, Reagan and Clinton -- when they sought to heal a torn or traumatized nation.

"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations," Obama explained.

"I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here - they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us," the president continued.

"That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

"I want us to live up to her expectations," Obama concluded. "I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

The president chose in Tucson to present an almost absurdly idealistic appeal to a "one nation" Americanism that only the most hopeful of our leaders -- and the most hopeful of our citizens -- have dared imagine. Obama took a risk in expressing it. His critics will, as is their wont, accuse him not just of naïveté but of cynicism.

So be it. We are a better nation when we are undimmed by cynicism and vitriol. And for a few minutes on Wednesday night, we dared with our president to answer cynicism with idealism, to answer tragedy with hope, to answer division as one nation, indivisible.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pay hikes suspended


* Calvo warns of GovGuam shutdown

Governor Eddie Calvo addressed the people of Guam last night, announcing that because of the government of Guam’s critical cash position, the salary adjustments called for by the Hay Study have been suspended.

The governor said that necessary steps had to be taken immediately because the government, within the next nine months, will run out of cash. This will cause a government-wide shutdown and payless paydays.

“My fellow Guamanians, I don’t have very good news about your government tonight. I’ve made some decisions so that the public schools can stay open this year, the hospital can have medicine, and so that those most in need do not have to suffer more than they already are,” Calvo said.

“…As of today, the Hay Study is suspended. I cannot speak to the reasons our predecessors decided to implement the Hay plan based on the financial information we have before us today. All I know is that it was an empty promise, the government can’t afford it, and now our hard-working government employees will have to shoulder the burden of that empty promise,” said the governor.

Calvo promised that he will restore the Hay Study “as soon as we can afford it.”

The Hay Study was enacted into law in the 30th Guam Legislature and $13.3 million was appropriated to cover over 5,000 classified employees. The Unified Pay Structure for government employees has not been increased since 1991. The study evaluated the job classification, job evaluation and compensation of 9,500 GovGuam employees and recommended to the government that salaries needed to be updated.

Calvo said the suspension of the Hay Study is not the only cost-cutting measure he will be implementing. The Governor’s Office reduced personnel costs by 20 percent and has consolidated positions, he said.

“We’re also reducing costs in every other way we can: paper reduction, printing, postage, power and water,” he said.

Governor Calvo said his administration is exploring innovative ideas in containing the government’s spending which also includes “the health insurance liability.”

“We expect further containment of spending through innovative ideas. This includes the health insurance liability. We are looking at ways to reduce the cost of health insurance. There are legal issues we must address first… we need to determine whether, legally, this can be affected,” said the governor.

Governor Calvo issued cost-containment directives to all government departments.

“We are directing all agencies to reduce the cost of electricity by at least 10 percent. Paper reduction through greater use of digital communication, double-sided printing and recycling will be mandatory. We will authorize audits of fuel expenses and the use of 24-hour vehicles. We will be investigating the consolidation of office space to save on rentals.”

Calvo said he and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio will lead by example. He announced that his staff “will adopt a public school to clean regularly to reduce the budget burden on public schools and the mayors.”

For his part, Lt. Governor Tenorio will be leading volunteer service projects.

“His Comps for Kids program will bring computers to classrooms. He is calling on the private sector to join his Beautification Task Force to alleviate funding strains on Public Works, Parks and Recreation and the mayors,” said Calvo.

Calvo said that if the cash gap is not closed, “those in need will suffer the most. It will negatively affect Mental Health, COLA, the hospital, and non-profit organizations like Catholic Social Services and Sanctuary. This is money to feed the homeless, shelter abused children, help victims of domestic violence, assist the elderly pay for their medication, and to aid families struggling with disabilities. We can’t leave these people behind. We can’t turn a blind eye and watch them suffer as the money runs out. And we also can’t keep holding your tax refunds.”

Calvo appealed to all government of Guam employees to understand why he had to suspend the Hay Study.

“I’m asking you to understand why this must be done. We need to make sure that our neighbors and friends most in need of help do not suffer the most. I will restore the Hay Study as soon as we can afford it. I know that with the other cost containment and restructuring initiatives we will undertake, we can get this government on track.”

“We had to act today, because I refuse to shut down the government or to have a mass layoff of teachers, police officers, doctors and other professionals of the government,” he said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Military Town Residents Take Ottawa to Court in $200 Million Suit

by Andrew Chung
Published on Monday, January 10, 2011 by The Toronto Star

MONTREAL—Marie-Paule Spieser won’t drink water from a tap. Any tap. Anywhere.

Such is the psychological legacy of learning 10 years ago that the well from which she and her young children were drawing their drinking water was laced with a toxic chemical, trichloroethylene, at levels considered unsafe by public health authorities.

She watched a best friend die of a rare liver cancer. She saw so many others in their small military town stricken with various forms of the disease. Among them was a couple, each diagnosed with intestinal cancer, improbably the same kind as the previous owner of their house.

Spieser thinks about her kids, who were just 3 and 5 years old when they moved into their house in Shannon, a town next to CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City. They drank the well water. They bathed in it. They’re now 23 and 25.

“I’m scared mostly for them,” she said. “I’m scared for this entire generation. It’s like making a 2-year-old child smoke.”
On Monday, those worries will be laid bare in Quebec’s Superior Court, as the trial in a huge class-action lawsuit against the federal government and two private companies finally begins.

Scheduled to last up to six months, the trial pits Spieser, on behalf of the hundreds of current and former residents of Shannon, against the Attorney General of Canada, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Inc. (GD-OTS) and Société immobilière Valcartier.

The latter, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, owns the land where plants pumped out munitions during World War II. SNC-Lavalin purchased the factories in the 1980s and grouped them in a division called SNC-TEC. That was later acquired by General Dynamics.

The class-action suit is asking $200 million in punitive damages for the roughly 2,000 people who have so far registered to take part, in addition to individual financial damages.

The suit alleges the government and these companies were negligent in handling and disposing of trichlorethylene (TCE) and in informing the public of the dangers once they were known.

It claims the TCE migrated into their drinking water and that many cancers and other health problems found in Shannon — at rates much higher than in the normal population, according to their medical experts — are the result of exposure to TCE. The allegations haven’t been proven in court.

The government intends to show the suit has “no basis.”

The plaintiffs, for instance, must prove that any health problems were recognized scientifically as being linked to TCE.

“We intend to demonstrate to the court that this is not the case,” justice department spokeswoman Francine Robichaud indicated.

TCE is a man-made substance whose use has diminished since the 1970s. It was used as an industrial degreaser and in military equipment maintenance.

The class-action suit names witnesses who suggest the TCE was buried or dumped into garbage pits and lagoons for years.

One report on tests of an aquifer that supplied water to the factories showed levels of TCE up to 71 milligrams per litre – about 1,500 times higher than the recommended safe level for drinking. The factories didn’t close until 1991.

However, it wasn’t until December, 2000 that public health authorities, alerted to tests being done by SNC-Lavalin itself on wells in the area, informed residents of the problem.

In a 2008 report cited by the plaintiffs, Quebec City toxicologist Raymond Van Coillie says there were five times more cancers in 55 residences exposed to TCE in Shannon compared to 55 residences not exposed.

Spieser’s 25-metre well was pronounced safe and clean when it was dug. Yet nearly from the outset she began suffering gastric problems, nausea and fatigue. Over the years doctors thought it was an ulcer. She thought it was her diet.

It wasn’t until she took a vacation outside the region in 1998 that she felt better. She thereafter switched to bottled water and her health problems dissipated, she claims.

The plaintiffs also suggest they have, through a lab in the U.S., been able to trace cancers in Shannon to use of the industrial solvents.

But others think the links aren’t so obvious. Health Canada’s own website states: “An association between any specific type of cancer and exposure to trichloroethylene has not been consistently observed (in studies).” Nor is there consistent evidence of effects on human development.

The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Charles Veilleux, argues this is like the tobacco companies denying any link between smoking and cancer.

“The fact that those companies still claim that is irrelevant,” Veilleux said, “because people know (the truth).”

“The fact that for years TCE was dumped into the environment and was percolating to reach underground water, it’s a disaster.”

GD-OTS didn’t respond to a request for comment. SNC-Lavalin has forwarded all questions to the government.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Extension may be sought for buildup agreement


Local officials may seek an extension to get necessary signatures on the programmatic agreement to help ensure Guam has a voice in the military buildup.

Pete Calvo, Department of Parks and Recreation director, said federal officials made clear the programmatic agreement doesn't require Guam to sign off on it.

"If we do sign the agreement, however, it'll allow us to participate in discussions related to the buildup and its impact on our environment and our cultural and historical sites," he said.

The option of an extension was considered after local officials received a Dec. 30, 2010 letter from Department of Navy giving local officials a Jan. 14 deadline to sign the agreement.

To be valid, the island's programmatic agreement must be signed by the military, the advisory council and the Guam State Program Office.

An agreement hasn't been signed for buildup projects yet because the local Department of Agriculture, which oversees the State Historic Program Office, has been reluctant to do so.

Local historians and cultural groups were up in arms because the Department of Defense wants to use a portion of Pågat as a shooting range. The area is near a historic Chamorro village and a popular area for hikers.

Caroline Hall, a representative of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, has said the military buildup can move forward whether or not the agreement for a historic preservation process on buildup projects is signed, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The agreement could help streamline the historic preservation process on buildup projects and require the military to fund mitigation projects, such as construction of a cultural center. If the document isn't signed, the military would no longer be required to make the same mitigation offers.

No base stories of Korea

An informative site about the movement against bases in South Korea.

"It is mostly about stories on the Korean people’s struggles against the U. S. bases in Korea. Hope many of you find some clues and sources here. Please just be kind and fair to the source.많은 분들께서 여기에서 단서들과 자료들을 찾길 바랍니다. 다만 단서와 자료의 기원에 대해 친절하고 공정하게 표기해 주시면 감사하겠읍니다."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rota may face shortage of supply again


THERE could be a scarcity of commodities on Rota like what happened in Feb. 2010 if there is no shipment of goods due to the current weather condition.

Mayor Melchor Mendiola said the shipment didn’t arrive on Rota as scheduled on Saturday.

“It did not happen due to an increase in wave activity,” the mayor said in an email.

According to the National Weather Service on Guam yesterday, “a trade-wind disturbance in combination with a shear line will bring scattered showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms to portions of the Marianas through Monday.”

Currently, MV Super Shuttle and MV Tug Chamorro are the only vessels servicing Rota.

“This is one major reason Rota must provide an accessible sea port,” Mendiola said. “The health of the community must not be compromised. This is a priority among other priorities.”

‘Panic buying’

One of the advisers of the Rota mayor, Tomy Mendiola, told Variety that whenever there are no shipments of goods, “people worry.”

He said “panic buying” is inevitable and usually occurs every time there’s a weather disturbance.

“People tend to buy more than what they need,” he added.

Tomy Mendiola said the mayor already submitted a proposed development plan for the port of Rota.

He said Rota is seeking financial assistance from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The administration of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial supports the development of Rota’s port, he added.

“The administration has been pushing for this project because the governor knows the situation and the needs of the people of Rota,” he said.

Mayor Mendiola said an accessible seaport will contribute to the development of Rota and will mean more economic activities there.

“I cry to our leaders not to wipe my people’s tears but to dry them with greater vision,” the mayor said.

He said the seaport project will also address the concerns regarding the high costs of commodities on Rota.

In Feb. 2010, the island experienced a shortage of food and other basic commodities after a 55-day delay in the shipment of goods due to bad weather conditions.