Thursday, May 01, 2008


Happy May Day

Bandiera Rossa

Music: Trad Lyrics: Tuzzi

Avanti popolo a la rescosa
Bandiera rosa, bandiera rosa
Avanti popolo a la rescosa
Bandiera rosa, bandiera rosa

Bandiera rosa la trionfera
Bandiera rosa la trionfera
Bandiera rosa la trionfera
Y viva la Socialiste, la bella liberta

The people’s on the march,
This road they’re treading
It leads to freedom
It leads to freedom
The people’s on the march,
This road they’re treading
It leads to freedom and liberty

From farm and factory,
From school and college
With force of suffering
And source of knowledge
Our leaders leading, our banners waving
Victory proceeding, towards liberty

We’ll wave the scarlet banner triumphantly
We’ll raise the scarlet banner triumphantly
We’ll wave the scarlet banner triumphantly
Y viva la Socialiste, la bella liberta

ILWU-called May Day Labor Antiwar Demo
Meet at 10:30 a.m. at Mason & Beach (Fisherman's Wharf)
March at 11:00 a.m.
Rally at Noon at Justin Herman Plaza
Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman, Co-Chairs
Phone: 510.333.4301 * Fax: 510.215.2800





We All Hate that 98!

[The catch is, that while it's true that the landlord can increase rents to whatever he or she wants once a property becomes vacant, the current rent-control law now ensures that the new tenants are still under rent-control for their, albeit higher, rent. Under the new law, there simply will be no rent control when the new tenant moves in so their much higher rent-rate can increase as much as the landlord chooses each year from then on!!! So, no more rent-control at all!!! Tricky, huh?...BW]

Prop 98, a statewide measure on the June 3 ballot will end rent control and just cause eviction protections for renters. San Francisco will see massive displacement and the city will change forever if 98 passes.



Stop fumigation of citizens without their consent in California
Target: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Assemblymember John Laird, Senator Abel Maldonado
Sponsored by: John Russo

Additional information is available at


Rock for Justice-Rock for Palestine
FREE outdoor festival
May 10th, 2008
Civic Center, San Francisco

Please make your tax-deductible donation, payable to 'Palestine Right to Return Coalition' or 'PRRC/Palestine Solidarity Concert'

Mail to:

Local Nakba Committee (LNC)
PO Box #668
2425 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

For more information about, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition, see:

For regular concert updates see our website at:

You can donate online at the Facebook Cause 'Nakba-60, Palestine Solidarity Concert' at:

List of confirmed artists:

Dam, featuring Abeer, aka 'Sabreena da Witch'–Palestinian Hip-Hop crew from Lid (1948, Palestine).

Dead Prez

Fred Wreck–DJ/Producer, for artists Snoop Dogg, Hilary Duff,
Brittany Spears and other celebs.

Ras Ceylon –Sri Lankan Revolution Hip Hop

Arab Summit:
Narcicyst - with Iraqi-Canadian Hip Hop group Euphrates
Excentrik- Palestinian Producer/Composer/MC
Omar Offendun- with Syrian/Sudani Hip Hop group The N.o.m.a.d.s
Ragtop- with Palestinian/Filipino group The Philistines
Scribe Project – Palestinian/Mexican Hip Hop/Soul Band

Additional artists still pending confirmation.

Points of Unity for Concert Sponsorship

An end to all US political, military and economic aid to Israel.

The divestment of all public and private entities from all Israeli corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within Israel.

An end to the investment of Labor Union members' pension funds in Israel.
The boycott of all Israeli products.

The right to return for all Palestinian refugees to their original towns, villages and lands with compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives.

The right for all Palestinian refugees to full restitution of all confiscated and destroyed property.

The formation of an independent, democratic state for its citizens in all of Palestine.


For Immediate Release
Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard,
Garden Grove, California, 92840
May 16-18, 2008

The 6th Annual International Al-Awda Convention will mark a devastating event in the long history of the Palestinian people. We call it our Nakba.

Confirmed speakers include Bishop Atallah Hanna, Supreme Justice Dr. Sheikh Taiseer Al Tamimi, Dr. Adel Samara, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Dr. As'ad Abu Khalil, Dr. Saree Makdisi, and Ramzy Baroud. Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Salim El Hos and Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar have also been invited.

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
E-mail: info@al-awda. org
WWW: http://al-awda. org

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights. We are a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible.


Discussion of an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference to take place in Cleveland on June 28-29 to Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
Saturday, May 17 at 2 pm in
San Francisco at the ILWU Local 6 hall at 255 Ninth Street.

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Crown Plaza Hotel
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:

List of Endorsers:

Endorse the conference:

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:


Help Save Troy Davis

Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. Two weeks later the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear his extraordinary motion for a new trial. On Monday, March 17, 2008 the court denied Mr. Davis’ appeal. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

The message:

"I welcomed your decision to stay the execution of Troy Anthony Davis in July 2007, and thank you for taking the time to consider evidence of his innocence. When you issued this decision, you stated that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." Because the Georgia Supreme Court denied Troy Davis a hearing, doubts of his guilt will always remain. I appeal to you to be true to your words and commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.

"This case has generated widespread attention, which reflects serious concerns in Georgia and throughout the United States about the potential for executing an innocent man. The power of clemency exists as a safety net to prevent such an irreversible error. As you know, Mr. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of a police officer he maintains that he did not commit. Davis' conviction was not based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.

"Despite mounting evidence that Davis may in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons. Instead, the prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police coercion, and most of whom have since recanted their testimony. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would…go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.

"It is deeply troubling to me that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that 127 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States due to wrongful conviction. We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered by fallible human beings. I respectfully urge the Board of Pardons and Paroles to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.

Thank you for your kind consideration."

Messages will be sent to:

Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909

Telephone: (404) 657-9350
Fax: (404) 651-8502

Please take a moment to help Troy Davis. On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis' death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who well may be innocent.



For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace
and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime
everyone knows they didn't commit.

Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3",
spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former
plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up
and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an
uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who
assert their humanity.

We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for
the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by
forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on
with to demand an investigation into this clear case
of unequal justice. Will you join us?

When spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more
than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena. It was about
standing up against a system of unequal justice that deals an uneven
hand based on the color of one's skin. That broken system is at work
again and is joining The Innocence Project and
Amnesty International to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.

"Angola", sits on 18,000 acres of former plantation land in Louisiana
and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United
States. Angola's history is telling: once considered one of the most
violent, racially segregated prison in America, almost a prisoner a
day was stabbed, shot or raped. Prisoners were often put in inhumane
extreme punishment camps for small infractions. The Angola 3 -
Herman, Albert and Robert - organized hunger and work strikes within
the prison in the 70's to protest continued segregation, corruption
and horrific abuse facing the largely Black prisoner population.

Shortly after they spoke out, the Angola 3 were convicted of murdering
a prison guard by an all-white jury. It is now clear that these men
were framed to silence their peaceful revolt against inhumane
treatment. Since then, they have spent every day for 35 years in 6x9
foot cells for a crime they didn't commit.

Herman and Albert are not saints. They are the first to admit they've
committed crimes. But, everyone agrees that their debts to society
for various robbery convictions were paid long ago.

NBC News/Dateline just aired a piece this week about the plight of the
Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and
Albert. For far too long, court officials have stalled and refused to
review their cases. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and
constitutional violations have not swayed them.

It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the United States
Congress, which provides the funding for federal prisons like Angola,
to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in calling for
Governor Bobby Jindal and your Congressperson to initiate an immediate
and full investigation into the case of the Angola 3.



~ Please circulate this urgent update widely ~

The ANSWER Coalition is vigorously supporting the campaign launched by the Partnership for Civil Justice to defend free speech rights on the National Mall. We thank all the ANSWER Coalition supporters who have joined this campaign and we urge everyone to do so. What follows is an urgent message from the Partnership for Civil Justice about the campaign.

1) The Partnership for Civil Justice has set up an easy-to-use mechanism that will allow you to send a message directly to the National Park Service about their National Mall Plan. Click this link to send your message.

2) Sign the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall.

3) If you have already signed this statement, click this link right now to let us know if we can publicize you as a signer of this important statement.

4) If you are unsure whether you have already signed, you can sign the statement again, and all duplicate names will be eliminated.


Mara Verheyden-Hillard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of Partnership
for Civil Justice

Background on the NPS initiative to restrict protesting on the National Mall

Washington Post article: The Battle to Remold the Mall

Alternet article: National Mall Redesign Could Seriously Restrict Free Speech

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311


Can you guess which organization this is?

36 have been accused of spousal abuse
7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad checks
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault
71, repeat 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
8 have been arrested for shoplifting
21 currently are defendants in lawsuits, and
84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year

Give up yet? . . Scroll down,

Neither, it's the 435 members of the United States Congress
The same group of Idiots that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Psalm 1:1

Director of Pastors Against Injustice
Pastor Wayne M. Jones I
To report a complaint of police misconduct:




1) Legislators End Toronto Transit Strike
April 28, 2008

2) Verdict in Sean Bell Case Draws a Peaceful Protest, but Some Demand More
April 28, 2008

3) The Court Fumbles on Voting Rights
April 29, 2008

4) New Look at Death Sentences and Race
April 29, 2008

5) Chinese Students in U.S. Fight View of Their Home
"No matter what China does, these students say, it cannot win in the arena of world opinion. 'When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet./ When we tried limiting our numbers, you said it is human rights abuse,' reads a poem posted on the Internet by 'a silent, silent Chinese' and cited by some students as an accurate expression of their feelings. 'When we were poor, you thought we were dogs./ When we loan you cash, you blame us for your debts./ When we build our industries, you called us polluters./ When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.'”
April 29, 2008

6) Ex-Prosecutor Tells of Push by Pentagon on Detainees
April 29, 2008

7) Shell and BP Report Record First-Quarter Profits
April 29, 2008

8) Study Warns Job Losses Will Strain Government Health Programs
April 29, 2008

9) Reverend Wright at the National Press Club
April 28, 2008

10) Soaring Food Prices Imperil Meals for Poor in Cambodia
April 30, 2008

11) Backgrounder: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. Economy
February 4, 2008

12) The Costs of Containing Iran
From the January/February 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs.

13) On Arrests, Demographics, and Marijuana April 30, 2008
About New York
April 30, 2008

14) House Democrats work on huge Iraq money bill
Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Monday, April 28, 2008

15) Even Less Help in Hard Times
May 1, 2008

16) Low Spending Is Taking Toll on Economy
May 1, 2008


1) Legislators End Toronto Transit Strike
April 28, 2008

OTTAWA — Ontario’s legislature swiftly passed a bill on Sunday ordering 8,900 striking transit workers in Toronto back to work immediately.

The workers walked off the job without warning early Saturday after rejecting a tentative contract that had been endorsed by their union leadership.

The bill approved at Sunday’s special legislative session provides fines of 2,000 Canadian dollars (about the same in United States dollars) a day for union members who do not return to work.

An arbitrator is to be appointed to draw up a new contract for the transit workers.The transit system began to show signs of life on Sunday afternoon, and subway, streetcar and bus service was expected to be running at full strength at the Monday morning rush hour, according to The Canadian Press.


2) Verdict in Sean Bell Case Draws a Peaceful Protest, but Some Demand More
April 28, 2008

The circle of people was thin but spread wide, looping an intersection in the heart of Harlem on Sunday and blocking long lines of cars and buses in four directions. In the middle of the circle stood a cluster of angry people, and in that cluster stood a young man with a bullhorn and a question.

“Why isn’t everyone else out here with us?” the man, Robert Cuffy, 22, asked. The circle of people, roughly 150 strong, stared back. It was two days after a judge acquitted three New York City detectives in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died on the morning of his wedding day 17 months ago after the detectives fired a total of 50 bullets at his car.

Unlike some previous verdicts in police shootings, the acquittals in the Bell case have so far been largely met with a muted response. Thousands of protesters did not fill the streets, no unrest ensued. Still, on Sunday, some protesters and advocates around the city demanded federal investigations into the case and greater oversight of the police, while others puzzled over why the verdict had not yielded a stronger response.

At a news conference at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Mr. Sharpton and other activists, politicians and community leaders praised the overall peaceful response that followed the verdict, and vowed to fight the judge’s decision in strategic rather than bellicose ways.

“Some in the media seemed disappointed, they wanted us to play into the hoodlum, thug stereotypes,” Mr. Sharpton said. “We can be angry without being mad.” And while many onlookers shouted their support, others admitted restlessness and a yearning for something more.

“People are hungry for leadership that’s not there,” said Calvin B. Hunt Jr., who listened to the news conference and joined the protest that followed, marching down Malcolm X Boulevard and blocking the intersection at 125th Street. He spoke longingly of prominent black activists in the 1960s and 1970s, among them Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Huey Newton. “After the Amadou Diallo verdict, we marched till we had corns on our feet, and nothing changed,” he said. “In this verdict, there was no justice. So why should there be peace?”

His sentiments were shared by some others in the crowd. A poet who gave his name as Thug Love said gang members from the Bloods and Crips should unite to “police and protect their own community” the way the Black Panthers did decades ago. A concert promoter, who goes by the name Goddess Isis, said that the news conference sounded to her like “politics as usual,” and that the community needed grass-roots leaders with concrete solutions to ongoing problems, like police harassment.

“We are on our own here,” she said.

But Nkrumah Pierre, a banker who lives on Long Island and who marched in the protest on Sunday, said: “We’ve progressed to the point where we don’t need to act out in violence. This is an intelligent protest, and a strategic protest.”

Still, others on Sunday called for changes within the system, in particular the ways in which the city’s police are monitored.

At a news conference outside Police Department headquarters in Lower Manhattan, civil rights advocates and lawmakers — including Norman Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union; State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn; and Marq Claxton of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care — called for the appointment of a permanent statewide special prosecutor, to supersede district attorneys in cases of police shootings or alleged police brutality.

Too often, the advocates said, district attorneys have close relationships with the police, muddying prosecutorial independence. The advocates also said the timing of the proposal was influenced by the ascension of David A. Paterson to governor.

“For the first time we realistically have someone in the governor’s seat that understands the need for these reforms,” Mr. Siegel said.

The proposal, Mr. Siegel said, was loosely patterned on the former Office of the Special State Prosecutor for Corruption, created under Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in the early 1970s on the recommendation of the Knapp Commission, which uncovered corruption in the Police Department. That office was disbanded in 1990.

Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Mr. Paterson, said the governor would review the recommendation. “Like all New Yorkers, the governor takes the issue of police wrongdoing very seriously, but he also believes that the overwhelming majority of police officers perform their duties honorably and conscientiously,” Ms. Heller said.

In Harlem, one of the protesters, Melanie Brown, who is 29 and lives near the street in Queens where Mr. Bell was killed and two of his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were wounded, said she believed that every response, no matter how seemingly small, helped.

“What happens next happens,” she said, as protesters chanted and hoisted aloft Pan-African flags, striped in red, black and green. “Right now this is a unity thing.”


3) The Court Fumbles on Voting Rights
April 29, 2008

Democracy was the big loser in the Supreme Court on Monday. The court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law, which solves a nearly nonexistent problem by putting major barriers between voters — particularly minorities — and the ballot box. Worse, the court set out a standard that clears the way for other states to adopt rules that discourage disadvantaged groups from voting. It is a sad reversal for a court that once saw itself as a champion of voting rights.

In 2005, Indiana passed one of the nation’s toughest voter ID laws. It requires voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polls. Private college IDs, employee ID cards and utility bills are unacceptable. For people without a driver’s license — who are disproportionately poor and minority — the burden is considerable. To get acceptable ID, many people would be forced to pay fees for underlying documents, such as birth certificates.

This should not have been a hard case. The court has long recognized that the right to vote is so fundamental that a state cannot restrict it unless it can show that the harm it is seeking to prevent outweighs the harm it imposes on voters.

The Indiana law does not meet this test. The harm it imposes on voters, some of whom will no doubt be discouraged from casting ballots, is considerable. The state’s interest in the law, on the other hand, is minimal. It was supposedly passed to prevent people from impersonating others at the polls, but there is no evidence that this has ever happened in Indiana. It seems far more likely that the goal of the law’s Republican sponsors was to disenfranchise groups that lean Democratic.

Unfortunately, only three justices voted to hold the law unconstitutional. The other six fell into two groups. Three — Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts — signed a lead opinion that set a disturbingly low bar for what sort of interference with voting the Constitution permits. A second opinion, signed by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, was worse. It argued for upholding all but the most severe and unjustified burdens on voting. Richard Hasen, a Loyola Law School professor, notes that if the court had taken this opinion’s approach in 1966, it is not clear it would have overturned the poll tax.

Hovering over Monday’s decision was a case that was not mentioned: Bush v. Gore. In 2000, the Supreme Court took seriously the claims of one individual — George W. Bush — that his equal protection rights were being denied by a state election system, and the court had no hestitation about telling the state what to do.

On “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Justice Scalia yet again told the public to “get over” that ruling. There are many good reasons to remember Bush v. Gore, and Monday’s ruling was a reminder of one of them. Seven years after it invoked the Constitution to vindicate what it saw as Mr. Bush’s right to fair election procedures, we are still waiting for the court to extend this guarantee with equal vigilance to every American.


4) New Look at Death Sentences and Race
April 29, 2008

About 1,100 people have been executed in the United States in the last three decades. Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston, accounts for more than 100 of those executions. Indeed, Harris County has sent more people to the death chamber than any state but Texas itself.

Yet Harris County’s capital justice system has not been the subject of intensive research — until now. A new study to be published in The Houston Law Review this fall has found two sorts of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty there, one commonplace and one surprising.

The unexceptional finding is that defendants who kill whites are more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks. More than 20 studies around the nation have come to similar conclusions.

But the new study also detected a more straightforward disparity. It found that the race of the defendant by itself plays a major role in explaining who is sentenced to death.

It has never been conclusively proven that, all else being equal, blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death than whites in the three decades since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Many experts, including some opposed to the death penalty, have said that evidence of that sort of direct discrimination is spotty and equivocal.

But the author of the new study, Scott Phillips, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver, found a robust relationship between race and the likelihood of being sentenced to death even after the race of the victim and other factors were held constant.

His statistics have profound implications. For every 100 black defendants and 100 white defendants indicted for capital murder in Harris County, Professor Phillips found that an average of 12 white defendants and 17 black ones would be sent to death row. In other words, Professor Phillips wrote, “five black defendants would be sentenced to the ultimate sanction because of race.”

Scott Durfee, the general counsel for the Harris County district attorney’s office, rejected Professor Phillips’s conclusions and said that district attorneys there had long taken steps to insulate themselves from knowing the race of defendants and victims as they decided whether to seek the death penalty.

“To the extent Professor Phillips indicates otherwise, all we can say is that you would have to look at each individual case,” Mr. Durfee said. “If you do that, I’m fairly sure that you would see that the decision was rational and reasonable.”

Indeed, the raw numbers support Mr. Durfee.

John B. Holmes Jr., the district attorney in the years Professor Phillips studied, 1992 to 1999, asked for the death sentence against 27 percent of the white defendants, 25 percent of the Hispanic defendants and 25 percent of the black defendants. (Professor Phillips studied 504 defendants indicted for the murders of 614 people. About half of the defendants were black; a quarter each were white and Hispanic.)

Mr. Holmes was, Professor Phillips said, selective but effective: he asked for the death sentence against 129 defendants and obtained 98.)

But Professor Phillips said that the numbers suggesting evenhandedness in seeking the death penalty did not tell the whole story. Once the kinds of murders committed by black defendants were taken into consideration — terrible, to be sure, but on average less heinous, less apt to involve vulnerable victims and brutality, and less often committed by an adult — “the bar appears to have been set lower for pursuing death against black defendants,” Professor Phillips concluded.

Professor Phillips wrote about percentages and not particular cases, but his data suggest that black defendants were overrepresented in cases involving shootings during robberies, while white defendants were more likely to have committed murders during rapes and kidnappings and to have beaten, stabbed or choked their victims.

When the nature of the crime is taken into account, Professor Phillips wrote, “the odds of a death trial are 1.75 times higher against black defendants than white defendants.” Harris County juries corrected for that disparity to an extent, so that the odds of a death sentence for black defendants after trial dropped to 1.49.

Jon Sorensen, a professor of justice studies at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, said he was suspicious of Professor Phillips’s methodology.

“It’s bizarre,” Professor Sorensen said. “It starts out with no evidence of racism. Then he controls for stuff.”

Moreover, Professor Sorensen said, Professor Phillips failed to take account of other significant factors, including the socioeconomic status of the victims.

Professor Sorensen said he remained convinced that racial disparities, if they exist at all, “are victim-based only,” as earlier studies have found.

This discussion, at least where the courts are concerned, is entirely academic. Twenty-one years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that even solid statistical evidence of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty did not offend the Constitution. The vote was 5 to 4, and the case was McCleskey v. Kemp.

That ruling closed off what had seemed to opponents of the death penalty a promising line of attack, and they are still furious about it, comparing it to the court’s infamous 1857 decision that blacks slaves were property and not citizens.

“McCleskey is the Dred Scott decision of our time,” Anthony G. Amsterdam, a law professor at New York University, said in speech last year at Columbia.

“It is a decision for which our children’s children will reproach our generation and abhor the legal legacy we leave them,” said Professor Amsterdam, who worked on the McCleskey case and many other capital punishment landmarks.

The majority opinion in McCleskey was written by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. After he retired, his biographer asked Justice Powell whether, given the chance, he would change his vote in any case.

“Yes,” Justice Powell said. “McCleskey v. Kemp.”


5) Chinese Students in U.S. Fight View of Their Home
"No matter what China does, these students say, it cannot win in the arena of world opinion. 'When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet./ When we tried limiting our numbers, you said it is human rights abuse,' reads a poem posted on the Internet by 'a silent, silent Chinese' and cited by some students as an accurate expression of their feelings. 'When we were poor, you thought we were dogs./ When we loan you cash, you blame us for your debts./ When we build our industries, you called us polluters./ When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.'”
April 29, 2008

LOS ANGELES — When the time came for the smiling Tibetan monk at the front of the University of Southern California lecture hall to answer questions, the Chinese students who packed the audience for the talk last Tuesday had plenty to lob at their guest:

If Tibet was not part of China, why had the Chinese emperor been the one to give the Dalai Lama his title? How did the tenets of Buddhism jibe with the “slavery system” in Tibet before China’s modernization efforts? What about the Dalai Lama’s connection to Hitler?

As the monk tried to rebut the students, they grew more hostile. They brandished photographs and statistics to support their claims. “Stop lying! Stop lying!” one young man said. A plastic bottle of water hit the wall behind the monk, and campus police officers hustled the person who threw it out of the room.

Scenes like this, ranging from civil to aggressive, have played out at colleges across the country over the past month, as Chinese students in the United States have been forced to confront an image of their homeland that they neither recognize nor appreciate. Since the riots last month in Tibet, the disrupted Olympic torch relays and calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing, Chinese students, traditionally silent on political issues, have begun to lash out at what they perceive as a pervasive anti-Chinese bias.

Last year, there were more than 42,000 students from mainland China studying in the United States, an increase from fewer than 20,000 in 2003, according to the State Department.

Campuses including Cornell, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California, Irvine, have seen a wave of counterdemonstrations using tactics that seem jarring in the American academic context. At the University of Washington, students fought to limit the Dalai Lama’s address to nonpolitical topics. At Duke, pro-China students surrounded and drowned out a pro-Tibet vigil; a Chinese freshman who tried to mediate received death threats, and her family was forced into hiding.

And last Saturday, students from as far as Florida and Tennessee traveled to Atlanta to picket CNN after a commentator, Jack Cafferty, referred to the Chinese as “goons and thugs.” (CNN said he was referring to the government, not the people.)

The student anger, stoked through e-mail messages sent to large campus mailing lists, stems not so much from satisfaction with the Chinese government but from shock at the portrayal of its actions, as well as frustration over the West’s long-standing love affair with Tibet — a love these students see as willfully blind.

By and large, they do not acknowledge the cultural and religious crackdown in Tibet, insisting that ordinary Tibetans have prospered under China’s economic development, and that only a small minority are unhappy.

“Before I came here, I’m very liberal,” said Minna Jia, a graduate student in political science at U.S.C. who encouraged fellow students to attend the monk’s lecture. “But after I come here, my professor told me that I’m nationalist.”

“I believe in democracy,” Ms. Jia added, “but I can’t stand for someone to criticize my country using biased ways. You are wearing Chinese clothes and you are using Chinese goods.”

Students interviewed for this article deplored the more extreme expressions of anger, like death threats against the Duke freshman and the tossing of the water bottle, and pointed out that Chinese students had little experience in the art of protest. But, they said, they could also understand them.

“We’ve been smothered for too long time,” said Jasmine Dong, another graduate student who attended the U.S.C. lecture.

By that, Ms. Dong did not mean that Chinese students had been repressed or censored by their own government. She meant that the Western news media had not acknowledged the strides China had made or the voices of overseas Chinese. “We are still neglected or misunderstood as either brainwashed or manipulated by the government,” she said.

No matter what China does, these students say, it cannot win in the arena of world opinion. “When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet./ When we tried limiting our numbers, you said it is human rights abuse,” reads a poem posted on the Internet by “a silent, silent Chinese” and cited by some students as an accurate expression of their feelings. “When we were poor, you thought we were dogs./ When we loan you cash, you blame us for your debts./ When we build our industries, you called us polluters./ When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.”

Rather than blend in to the prevailing campus ethos of free debate, the more strident Chinese students seem to replicate the authoritarian framework of their homeland, photographing demonstration participants and sometimes drowning out dissent.

A Tibetan student who declined to be identified for fear of harassment said he decided not to attend a vigil for Tibet on his campus, which he also did not want identified because there are so few Tibetans there. “It’s not that I didn’t want to, I really did want to go — it’s our cause,” he said. “At the same time, I have to consider that my family’s back there, and I’m going back there in May.”

Another factor fueling the zeal of many Chinese demonstrators could be that they, too, intend to return home; the Chinese government is widely believed to be monitoring large e-mail lists.

Universities have often tried to accommodate the anger of their Chinese students. Before the Dalai Lama’s visit to the University of Washington, the campus Chinese Students and Scholars Association wrote to the university president expressing hopes that the visit would focus only on nonpolitical issues and not arouse anti-China sentiments. According to a posting on the group’s Web site, the university president, Mark A. Emmert, told them in a meeting that no political questions would be raised at the Dalai Lama’s speech. A spokesman said the university, which opened an office in Beijing last fall, had prescreened student questions before the Chinese students voiced their concerns.

Some experts say that colleges feel constrained from reining in the more extreme protests through a combination of concerns about cultural sensitivity and a desire to expand their own ties with China.

“I think there tends to be a great deal of self-censorship,” said Peter Gries, director of the Institute for U.S.-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma, “and not just among American China scholars but among the whole web of people who do business with China, including school administrators.”

At the U.S.C. lecture, the Chinese students arrived early to distribute handouts on Tibet and China that contained a jumble of abbreviated history, slogans and maps with little context. A chart showing that infant mortality in Tibet had plummeted since 1951, when the Communist Chinese government asserted control, did not provide any means for comparison with mortality rates in China or other countries.

One photograph showed the Dalai Lama with Heinrich Harrer, author of “Seven Years in Tibet” and a one-time member of the Nazi Party — hence the question about the Dalai Lama’s connection to Hitler, who died when the Dalai Lama was nine. The question about slavery referred to the feudal system in place in Tibet until the mid-20th century. Another photograph purported to show a Tibetan drum that, according to the caption, was covered with “a virgin girl’s skin.”

The students said they were frustrated by a sense that many accounts of the recent riots did not reflect the violence and destruction by the Tibetan protesters, who vandalized shops owned by Han Chinese (the ethnic majority in China). According to official Chinese news sources, 22 died in the rioting.

Much of the anger has the tenor of disillusionment. During the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the Western news media was seen as a source of otherwise elusive truth.

“We thought Western media is very objective,” said Chou Wu, a 28-year-old working on his doctorate in material science, “and what it turned out is that Western media is even more biased than Chinese media. They’re no better, and even more, they’re against us.”

Students argue that China has spent billions on Tibet, building schools, roads and other infrastructure. Asked if the Tibetans wanted such development, they looked blankly incredulous. “They don’t ask that question,” said Lionel Jensen, a China scholar at Notre Dame. “They’ve accepted the basic premise of aggressive modernization.”

That may be, some experts suggest, because the students whose families can afford to send them abroad are the ones who have benefited the most from China’s economic liberalization.

Spring Zheng, 27, another graduate student at U.S.C., dismissed the notion that her patriotism stemmed from the government’s efforts to use the schools to instill national pride, particularly after Tiananmen Square.

Rather, Ms. Zheng said, “We have witnessed with our own eyes about the rapid change of China. China is developing fast, and Chinese people’s lives” are “becoming better and better, fast.”

As the U.S.C. session wound to a close, the organizer, Lisa Leeman, a documentary film instructor, pleaded for a change in tone. “My hope for this event, which I don’t totally see happening here, is for people on both, quote, sides to really hear each other and maybe learn from each other,” Ms. Leeman said. “Are there any genuine questions that don’t stem from a political point of view, that are really not here to be on a soap box?”

At that moment, the bottle hit the wall.

Michael Anti contributed reporting from Cambridge, Mass.


6) Ex-Prosecutor Tells of Push by Pentagon on Detainees
April 29, 2008

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The former chief prosecutor here took the witness stand on Monday on behalf of a detainee and testified that top Pentagon officials had pressured him in deciding which cases to prosecute and what evidence to use.

The prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force, testified that Pentagon officials had interfered with his work for political reasons and told him that charges against well-known detainees “could have real strategic political value” and that there could be no acquittals.

His testimony completed one of the more unusual transformations in the contentious history of Guantánamo. Colonel Davis, who is on active duty as a senior Air Force official and was one of the Pentagon’s most vocal advocates of the Guantánamo military commissions, has become one of the most visible critics of the system.

Testifying about his assertions for the first time, Colonel Davis said a senior Pentagon official who oversaw the military commissions, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann of the Air Force Reserve, reversed a decision he had made and insisted that prosecutors proceed with evidence derived through waterboarding of detainees and other aggressive interrogation methods that critics call torture.

Called to the stand by a Navy defense lawyer and testifying before a military judge, Colonel Davis said General Hartmann directed him last year to push war crimes cases here quickly. He said the general was trying to give the system legitimacy before a new president took office. He testified that General Hartmann referred to the long difficulties the Pentagon had had in operating the military commissions and said, “If we don’t get some cases going before the election, this thing’s going to implode.”

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and General Hartmann declined to comment on Monday, saying that the questioning was continuing before the military judge. In the past, they have said that they disagreed with some of Colonel Davis’s assertions.

The extraordinary testimony featured Colonel Davis, in uniform and perspiring slightly in an air-conditioned courtroom, being cross-examined by his successor, Col. Lawrence J. Morris of the Army. The two uniformed officers faced each other with natural military politeness, giving way occasionally to a brisk question or stiff response.

The awkward moment of one military officer’s taking on another occurred because lawyers for a detainee facing war crimes charges called Colonel Davis to the stand after he had given news interviews criticizing General Hartmann and the running of the military commissions.

The defense lawyers for the detainee, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, once a driver for Osama bin Laden, said Colonel Davis’s contentions amounted to unlawful influence over the prosecution.

In his cross-examination, Colonel Morris did not attack Colonel Davis wholesale. But he had Colonel Davis acknowledge that he had filed the charges against Mr. Hamdan himself and that he never had concerns about any of the charges or the way the evidence was obtained.

In his time as chief prosecutor, Colonel Morris asked, had not Colonel Davis endorsed every specification of every charge against the man prosecutors say helped Mr. bin Laden elude capture after the Sept. 11 attacks?

“I never had any doubts,” Colonel Davis said, “about Mr. Hamdan’s guilt.”.

Although Colonel Davis completed his testimony, the hearing is to continue on Tuesday.

Mr. Hamdan sat quietly as the small drama unfolded Monday afternoon, listening to a Yemeni translation through earphones.

But in the morning, he briefly brought the proceedings to a halt. He appeared in court looking disheveled and obtained permission to address the judge.

His lawyers have said that he is suffering depression and is so warped by years in what they call solitary confinement here that he cannot focus on his case.

“My question is,” Mr. Hamdan said, “the animal has rights or not? But the human being doesn’t have rights?”

For a moment, Mr. Hamdan said he was dismissing his lawyers and rose to leave the courtroom.

The Navy military judge, Keith Allred, said he knew Mr. Hamdan was upset about the conditions of his confinement and reminded him that his lawyers had scheduled a legal challenge on that question that might be heard before the trial is scheduled to begin in late May.


7) Shell and BP Report Record First-Quarter Profits
April 29, 2008

LONDON — Higher oil and gas prices helped Royal Dutch Shell and BP report record first-quarter profits on Tuesday, beating analysts’ expectations and prompting a rise in stock prices across the industry.

Europe’s two biggest oil companies more than offset declining refining margins as crude oil nears $120 a barrel. Investors seeking rescue from a declining dollar by investing in commodities and continued attacks by militants in Nigeria curbing output pushed crude to a record $119.93 on Monday in New York.

“Good operating performance, combined with increased oil and gas prices, offset the impact of downstream conditions,” Jeroen van der Veer, who is scheduled to retire as Shell’s chief executive officer next year, said in a statement.

Shell’s net income in the first three months of the year rose 25 percent to $9.08 billion and BP reported its profit increased 63 percent to $7.62 billion. Shares of Shell and BP trading in London rose more on Monday than they have in at least two years. At BP, oil and gas production was unchanged at 3.9 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, the company said. Shell’s output remained unchanged at 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, though several recent events had disrupted production.

This month, five police guarding an oil and gas terminal in Nigeria were killed, and BP closed a pipeline system in Scotland after a strike over pension payments at a refinery cut power supplies. Some investors are particularly worried about supplies from Nigeria, which produces the higher quality crude needed in the United States to meet the demand that is expected to increase during the upcoming summer driving season. Both oil companies have also complained about fierce competition from government-run rivals, which they say have an advantage when negotiating energy projects.

Tony Hayward, who succeeded John Browne as BP’s chief executive last year, has been reducing layers of management to improve efficiency and accountability following a number of fatal accidents at refineries. Hayward is also focusing on increasing output by restoring production capacity and finding new projects.

BP began oil production at the Deep Water Gunashli field in the Caspian Sea earlier this month and expects its Thunder Horse production platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which cost more than $1 billion to build, to start production later this year following a three-year delay. The company also completed some repairs at its Whiting, Indiana, plant and the Texas City refinery, where an explosion killed 15 people in 2005.

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, is set to report figures on May 1, followed the next day by Chevron. ConocoPhillips said on April 24 that first-quarter profit rose 17 percent to $4.14 billion.


8) Study Warns Job Losses Will Strain Government Health Programs
April 29, 2008

Leading health researchers projected Monday that each percentage-point rise in unemployment during the economic downturn would swell the uninsured by 1.1 million, stoking demand for government health coverage just as states face pressure to cut benefits.

While governments at all levels have faced a similar situation in past recessions, the researchers warned that the impact of this downturn might be worsened by its proximity to the last recession, in 2001, and by the cumulative effect of rising health costs.

“You could have more people at the tipping point, so we could be underestimating things a little bit,” said John F. Holahan, director of health policy for the Urban Institute, which conducted the study for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The number of uninsured Americans has grown relentlessly in good times and bad this decade, and now stands at 47 million, or 16 percent of the population. Mr. Holahan said the increase projected by his team would be in addition to the growth normally expected from rising insurance costs and the erosion of employer-sponsored coverage.

The unemployment rate has increased by seven-tenths of 1 percent since March 2007. But Mr. Holahan said job losses often accelerated late in a recessionary cycle. “The heaviest hit is still likely to come,” he said.

The study projected that each rise in unemployment of one percentage point would also add 600,000 children and 400,000 adults to the two primary state and federal health insurance programs for the low-income uninsured. That would require an additional $3.4 billion for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, with $1.4 billion of it from the states.

The money will not be easy to find. A percentage point increase in unemployment typically translates into a drop in state general fund revenues of 3 percent to 4 percent, the Urban Institute said. A survey found that 27 states and the District of Columbia were forecasting budget deficits for the coming year, collectively exceeding $39 billion. Cuts to Medicaid or the children’s health program have been proposed in 13 states. “Because of state balanced-budget requirements, Medicaid and other assistance is most likely to be cut when state residents have the greatest need for help,” the study concluded.

The downturn is already having an impact on the economics of health care. The Kaiser foundation found in a poll this month that nearly 3 in 10 of those surveyed said they or their families had a serious problem paying for health care because of the economy. The frustration was evident at all levels, with 28 percent of middle-income respondents saying health costs had become a serious problem.

In the poll of 2,003 adults, which had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 42 percent of respondents said that in the past year they or a household member had forgone some kind of medical care because of cost. Twenty-four percent said they had skipped a recommended test or treatment, up from 17 percent in 2005.

“This is emerging as a pocketbook issue, and not just as an issue of moral principle or access to care,” said Drew E. Altman, the foundation’s president.

The poll found that nearly a quarter of respondents said they or a family member had either taken a new job or declined to do so in the past year primarily because of health benefits. And 7 percent said that in the past year they or someone in their household had decided to marry mainly to gain coverage for a spouse.


9) Reverend Wright at the National Press Club
April 28, 2008

Following is the transcript of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s remarks to the National Press Club, as provided by CQ Transcriptions.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Over the next few days, prominent scholars of the African-American religious tradition from several different disciplines -- theologians, church historians, ethicists, professors of the Hebrew bible, homiletics, hermeneutics, and historians of religions -- those scholars will join in with sociologists, political analysts, local church pastors, and denominational officials to examine the African-American religious experience and its historical, theological and political context.

The workshops, the panel discussions, and the symposium will go into much more intricate detail about this unknown phenomenon of the black church...


... than I have time to go into in the few moments that we have to share together. And I would invite you to spend the next two days getting to know just a little bit about a religious tradition that is as old as and, in some instances, older than this country.

And this is a country which houses this religious tradition that we all love and a country that some of us have served. It is a tradition that is, in some ways, like Ralph Ellison's the "Invisible Man."

It has been right here in our midst and on our shoulders since the 1600s, but it was, has been, and, in far too many instances, still is invisible to the dominant culture, in terms of its rich history, its incredible legacy, and its multiple meanings.

The black religious experience is a tradition that, at one point in American history, was actually called the "invisible institution," as it was forced underground by the Black Codes.

The Black Codes prohibited the gathering of more than two black people without a white person being present to monitor the conversation, the content, and the mood of any discourse between persons of African descent in this country.

Africans did not stop worshipping because of the Black Codes. Africans did not stop gathering for inspiration and information and for encouragement and for hope in the midst of discouraging and seemingly hopeless circumstances. They just gathered out of the eyesight and the earshot of those who defined them as less than human.

They became, in other words, invisible in and invisible to the eyes of the dominant culture. They gathered to worship in brush arbors, sometimes called hush arbors, where the slaveholders, slave patrols, and Uncle Toms couldn't hear nobody pray.

From the 1700s in North America, with the founding of the first legally recognized independent black congregations, through the end of the Civil War, and the passing of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, the black religious experience was informed by, enriched by, expanded by, challenged by, shaped by, and influenced by the influx of Africans from the other two Americas and the Africans brought in to this country from the Caribbean, plus the Africans who were called "fresh blacks" by the slave-traders, those Africans who had not been through the seasoning process of the middle passage in the Caribbean colonies, those Africans on the sea coast islands off of Georgia and South Carolina, the Gullah -- we say in English "Gullah," those of us in the black community say "Geechee" -- those people brought into the black religious experience a flavor that other seasoned Africans could not bring.

It is those various streams of the black religious experience which will be addressed in summary form over the next two days, streams which require full courses at the university and graduate- school level, and cannot be fully addressed in a two-day symposium, and streams which tragically remain invisible in a dominant culture which knows nothing about those whom Langston Hughes calls "the darker brother and sister."

It is all of those streams that make up this multilayered and rich tapestry of the black religious experience. And I stand before you to open up this two-day symposium with the hope that this most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church.


As the vice president told you, that applause comes from not the working press.


The most recent attack on the black church, it is our hope that this just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.

Maybe now, as an honest dialogue about race in this country begins, a dialogue called for by Senator Obama and a dialogue to begin in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations in just a few weeks, maybe now, as that dialogue begins, the religious tradition that has kept hope alive for people struggling to survive in countless hopeless situation, maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o'clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America.

We have known since 1787 that it is the most segregated hour. Maybe now we can begin to understand why it is the most segregated hour.

And maybe now we can begin to take steps to move the black religious tradition from the status of invisible to the status of invaluable, not just for some black people in this country, but for all the people in this country.

Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.

That is my hope, as I open up this two-day symposium. And I open it as a pastor and a professor who comes from a long tradition of what I call the prophetic theology of the black church.

Now, in the 1960s, the term "liberation theology" began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors, priests, and professors from Latin America. Their theology was done from the underside.

Their viewpoint was not from the top down or from a set of teachings which undergirded imperialism. Their viewpoints, rather, were from the bottom up, the thoughts and understandings of God, the faith, religion and the Bible from those whose lives were ground, under, mangled and destroyed by the ruling classes or the oppressors.

Liberation theology started in and started from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed.

In the late 1960s, when Dr. James Cone's powerful books burst onto the scene, the term "black liberation theology" began to be used. I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable and incomparable contributions that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology. Jim, incidentally, is a personal friend of mine.

I call our faith tradition, however, the prophetic tradition of the black church, because I take its origins back past Jim Cone, past the sermons and songs of Africans in bondage in the transatlantic slave trade. I take it back past the problem of Western ideology and notions of white supremacy.

I take and trace the theology of the black church back to the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and to its last prophet, in my tradition, the one we call Jesus of Nazareth.

The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.

It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.

The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel.

The prophetic theology of the black church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the separate-but-equal fantasy was a theology of liberation.

It was preached to set African-Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship, which was the law of the land. And it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin. The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient.

Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European and European music. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it's different.


Those of you who can't see on C-SPAN, we had one or two working press clap along with the non-working press.


Black learning styles are different from European and European- American learning styles. They are not deficient; they are just different.

This principle of "different does not mean deficient" is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. It is a theology of liberation.

The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation, which is also rooted in Isaiah 61, the text from which Jesus preached in his inaugural message, as recorded by Luke.

When you read the entire passage from either Isaiah 61 or Luke 4 and do not try to understand the passage or the content of the passage in the context of a sound bite, what you see is God's desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.

God's desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

God's desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.

This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the black religious experience from the days of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen, Jarena Lee, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, and Sojourner Truth, through the days of Adam Clayton Powell, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Cornell West, and Fanny Lou Hamer.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the United Church of Christ since its predecessor denomination, the Congregational Church of New England, came to the moral defense and paid for the legal defense of the Mende people aboard the slave ship Amistad, since the days when the United Church of Christ fought against slavery, played an active role in the underground railroad, and set up over 500 schools for the Africans who were freed from slavery in 1865.

And these two foci remain at the core of the teachings of the United Church of Christ, as it has fought against apartheid in South Africa and racism in the United States of America ever since the union which formed the United Church of Christ in 1957.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have also been at the very core and the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ since it was founded in 1961. And these foci have been the bedrock of our preaching and practice for the past 36 years.

Our congregation, as you heard in the introduction, took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.


Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.

Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years.

Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.


Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter's unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending...

(APPLAUSE) ... while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.


Our congregation has had an HIV-AIDS ministry for over two decades. Our congregation has awarded over $1 million to graduating high school seniors going into college and an additional $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and the six HBCUs related to the United Church of Christ, while advocating for health care for the uninsured, workers' rights for those forbidden to form unions, and fighting the unjust sentencing system which has sent black men and women to prison for longer terms for possession of crack cocaine than white men and women have to serve for the possession of powder cocaine.

Our congregation has had a prison ministry for 30 years, a drug and alcohol recovery ministry for 20 years, a full service program for senior citizens, and 22 different ministries for the youth of our church, from pre-school through high school, all proceeding from the starting point of liberation and transformation, a prophetic theology which presumes God's desire for changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, changed lives, changed hearts in a changed world.

The prophetic theology of the black church is a theology of liberation; it is a theology of transformation; and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation.

The Apostle Paul said, "Be ye reconciled one to another, even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God's self."

God does not desire for us, as children of God, to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other, or put each other down.

God wants us reconciled, one to another. And that third principle in the prophetic theology of the black church is also and has always been at the heart of the black church experience in North America.

When Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were dragged out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, during the same year, 1787, when the Constitution was framed in Philadelphia, for daring to kneel at the altar next to white worshippers, they founded the Free African Society and they welcomed white members into their congregation to show that reconciliation was the goal, not retaliation.

Absalom Jones became the rector of the St. Thomas Anglican Church in 1781, and St. Thomas welcomed white Anglicans in the spirit of reconciliation.

Richard Allen became the founding pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the motto of the AME Church has always been, "God our father, man our brother, and Christ our redeemer." The word "man" included men and women of all races back in 1787 and 1792, in the spirit of reconciliation.

The black church's role in the fight for equality and justice, from the 1700s up until 2008, has always had as its core the nonnegotiable doctrine of reconciliation, children of God repenting for past sins against each other.

Jim Wallis says America's sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for. Repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one other -- Jim Wallis is white, by the way...


... being reconciled to one another, because of the love of God, who made all of us in God's image.

Reconciliation, the years have taught me, is where the hardest work is found for those of us in the Christian faith, however, because it means some critical thinking and some re-examination of faulty assumptions when using the paradigm of Dr. William Augustus Jones.

Dr. Jones, in his book, God in the ghetto, argues quite accurately that one's theology, how I see God, determines one's anthropology, how I see humans, and one's anthropology then determines one's sociology, how I order my society.

Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means "God with us," if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.

My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.

And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Africana church (ph) and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.

The implications from the outset are obvious, but then the complicated work is left to be done, as you dig deeper into the constructs, which tradition, habit, and hermeneutics put on your plate.

To say "I am a Christian" is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

How we are seeing God, our theology, is not the same. And what we both mean when we say "I am a Christian" is not the same thing. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God's children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future which God has prepared for us.

Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans.

Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God's children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.

Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.

Thank you for having me in your midst this morning.


MODERATOR: We do want to get in our questions. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

I do want to repeat again, for those of you watching us on C- SPAN, that we do have a number of guests here today. And so the applause and the comments that you hear from the audience are not necessarily those of the working press, who are mostly in the balconies.

You have said that the media have taken you out of context. Can you explain what you meant in a sermon shortly after 9/11 when you said the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself? Quote, "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

REVEREND WRIGHT: Have you heard the whole sermon? Have you heard the whole sermon?

MODERATOR: I heard most of it.

REVEREND WRIGHT: No, no, the whole sermon, yes or no? No, you haven't heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question.

Well, let me try to respond in a non-bombastic way. If you heard the whole sermon, first of all, you heard that I was quoting the ambassador from Iraq. That's number one.

But, number two, to quote the Bible, "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever you sow, that you also shall reap." Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.


MODERATOR: Some critics have said that your sermons are unpatriotic. How do you feel about America and about being an American?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels.

I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?


MODERATOR: Please, I ask you to keep your comments and your applause to a minimum so that we can work in as many questions as possible.

Senator Obama has -- shh, please. We're trying to ask as many questions as possible today, so if you can keep your applause to a minimum.

Senator Obama has tried to explain away some of your most contentious comments and has distanced himself from you. It's clear that many people in his campaign consider you a detriment. In that context, why are you speaking out now?

REVEREND WRIGHT: On November the 5th and on January 21st, I'll still be a pastor. As I said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

And why am I speaking out now? In our community, we have something called playing the dozens. If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition, and my grandma, you've got another thing coming.

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

REVEREND WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers' show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we're going to build a future for our children, whether those people are -- just as Michelle and Barack don't agree on everything, Raymond (ph) and I don't agree on everything, Louis and I don't agree on everything, most of you all don't agree -- you get two people in the same room, you've got three opinions.

So what I think about him, as I've said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out, how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That's what I think about him.

I've said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks, all black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, "You don't tell me who my enemies are. You don't tell me who my friends are."

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color.

MODERATOR: What is your motivation for characterizing Senator Obama's response to you as, quote, "what a politician had to say"? What do you mean by that?

REVEREND WRIGHT: What I mean is what several of my white friends and several of my white, Jewish friends have written me and said to me. They've said, "You're a Christian. You understand forgiveness. We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected."

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever's doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they're pastors. They have a different person to whom they're accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do.

I am not running for office. I am hoping to be vice president.


MODERATOR: In light of your widely quoted comment damning America, do you think you owe the American people an apology? If not, do you think that America is still damned in the eyes of God? REVEREND WRIGHT: The governmental leaders, those -- as I said to Barack Obama, my member -- I am a pastor, he's a member. I'm not a spiritual mentor, guru. I'm his pastor.

And I said to Barack Obama, last year, "If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people." All right? It's about policy, not the American people.

And if you saw the Bill Moyers show, I was talking about -- although it got edited out -- you know, that's biblical. God doesn't bless everything. God condemns something -- and d-e-m-n, "demn," is where we get the word "damn." God damns some practices.

And there is no excuse for the things that the government, not the American people, have done. That doesn't make me not like America or unpatriotic.

So in Jesus -- when Jesus says, "Not only you brood of vipers" -- now, he's playing the dozens, because he's talking about their mamas. To say "brood" means your mother is an asp, a-s-p. Should we put Jesus out of the congregation?

When Jesus says, "You'll be brought down to Hell," that's not -- that's bombastic, divisive speech. Maybe we ought to take Jesus out of this Christian faith.

No. What I said about and what I think about and what -- again, until I can't -- until racism and slavery are confessed and asked for forgiveness -- have we asked the Japanese to forgive us? We have never as a country, the policymakers -- in fact, Clinton almost got in trouble because he almost apologized at Gorialan (ph). We have never apologized as a country.

Britain has apologized to Africans, but this country's leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I'm not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, "Does this hurt? Do you forgive me for stepping on your foot?" if I'm still stepping on your foot.

Understand that? Capiche?

MODERATOR: Senator Obama has been in your congregation for 20 years, yet you were not invited to his announcement of his presidential candidacy in Illinois. And in the most recent presidential debate in Pennsylvania, he said he had denounced you. Are you disappointed that Senator Obama has chosen to walk away from you?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Whoever wrote that question doesn't read or watch the news. He did not denounce me. He distanced himself from some of my remarks, like most of you, never having heard the sermon. All right?

Now, what was the rest of your question? Because I got confused in -- the person who wrote it hadn't...

MODERATOR: Were you disappointed that he distanced himself?

REVEREND WRIGHT: He didn't distance himself. He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American. He said I didn't offer any words of hope. How would he know? He never heard the rest of the sermon. You never heard it.

I offered words of hope. I offered reconciliation. I offered restoration in that sermon, but nobody heard the sermon. They just heard this little sound bite of a sermon.

That was not the whole question. There was something else in the first part of the question that I wanted to address.

Oh, I was not invited because that was a political event. Let me say again: I'm his pastor. As a political event, who started it off? Senator Dick Durbin. I started it off downstairs with him, his wife, and children in prayer. That's what pastors do.

So I started it off in prayer. When he went out into the public, that wasn't about prayer. That wasn't about pastor-member. Pastor- member took place downstairs. What took place upstairs was political.

So that's how I feel about that. He did, as I've said, what politicians do. This is a political event. He wasn't announcing, "I'm saved, sanctified, and feel the holy ghost." He was announcing, "I'm running for president of the United States."

MODERATOR: You just mentioned that Senator Obama hadn't heard many of your sermons. Does that mean he's not much of a churchgoer? Or does he doze off in the pews?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I just wanted to see -- that's your question. That's your question. He goes to church about as much as you do. What did your pastor preach on last week? You don't know? OK.

MODERATOR: In your sermon, you said the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. So I ask you: Do you honestly believe your statement and those words?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Have you read Horowitz's book, "Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola," whoever wrote that question? Have you read "Medical Apartheid"? You've read it?

(UNKNOWN): Do you honestly believe that (OFF-MIKE)

REVEREND WRIGHT: Oh, are you -- is that one of the reporters?

MODERATOR: No questions...


REVEREND WRIGHT: No questions from the floor. I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't -- based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.

In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the -- one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non- question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.

So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.

MODERATOR: You have likened Israeli policies to apartheid and its treatment of Palestinians with Native Americans. Can you explain your views on Israel?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Where did I liken them to that? Whoever wrote the question, tell me where I likened them.

Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another.

Have you read the Link? Do you read the Link, Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding, where Palestinians and Israelis need to sit down and talk to each other and work out a solution where their children can grow in a world together, and not be talking about killing each other, that that is not God's will?

My position is that the Israel and the people of Israel be the people of God who are worrying about reconciliation and who are trying to do what God wants for God's people, which is reconciliation.

MODERATOR: In your understanding of Christianity, does God love the white racists in the same way he loves the oppressed black American?

REVEREND WRIGHT: John 3:16, Jesus said it much better than I could ever say it, "for God so loved the world." World is white, black, Iraqi, Darfurian, Sudanese, Zulu, Coschia (ph). God loves all of God's children, because all of God's children are made in God's image.

MODERATOR: Can you elaborate on your comparison of the Roman soldiers who killed Jesus to the U.S. Marine Corps? Do you still believe that is an appropriate comparison and why?

REVEREND WRIGHT: One of the things that will be covered at the symposium over the next two days is biblical history, which many of the working press are unfamiliar with.

In biblical history, there's not one word written in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations that was not written under one of six different kinds of oppression, Egyptian oppression, Assyrian oppression, Persian oppression, Greek oppression, Roman oppression, Babylonian oppression. The Roman oppression is the period in which Jesus is born. And comparing imperialism that was going on in Luke, imperialism was going on when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that the whole world should be taxed. They weren't in charge of the world. It sounds like some other governments I know.

That, yes, I can compare that. We have troops stationed all over the world, just like Rome had troops stationed all over the world, because we run the world. That notion of imperialism is not the message of the gospel of the prince of peace, nor of God, who loves the world.

MODERATOR: Former President Bill Clinton has been widely criticized in this campaign. Many African-Americans think he has said things aimed at defining Senator Obama as the black candidate. What do you think of President Clinton's comments, particularly those before the South Carolina primary?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I don't think anything about them. I came here to talk about prophetic theology of the black church. I'm not talking about candidates or their positions or their feelings or what they have to say to get elected.

MODERATOR: Well, OK, we'll give you a church question. Please explain how the black church and the white church can reconcile.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Well, there are many white churches and white persons who are members of churches and clergy and denominations who have already taken great steps in terms of reconciliation.

In the underground railroad, it was the white church that played the largest role in getting Africans out of slavery. In setting up almost all 40 of the HBCUs, it was the white church that sent missionaries into the south.

As I mentioned in my presentation, our denomination all by itself set up over 500 of those schools. You know them today as Howard University, Fisk, LeMoyne-Owen, Tougaloo, Dillard University, Howard University.

So they've done -- Morehouse, Morehouse. Don't forget Moorhouse, Spelman -- that white Christians have been trying for a long time to reconcile, that for other white Christians to understand that we must be reconciled is to understand the injustice that was done to a people, as we raped the continent, brought those people here, built our country, and then defined them as less than human.

And more Christians, more of us working together, not just white Christians, but whites and blacks of every faith, ecumenically working together.

Father Flagger (ph), by the way, he might be one of the one...


... models out what it means to be reconciled as brothers and sisters in Christ and brothers and sisters made in the image of God.

MODERATOR: You said there is a lack of understanding by people of other backgrounds of the African-American church. What are some of those misunderstandings? And how would you purport to fix them, particularly when some of your comments are found to be offensive by white churches?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Carter Godwin Woodson, about 80 years ago, wrote a book entitled "The Miseducation." I would try to fix it starting at the educational level in the grammar schools, as Dr. Asa Hilliard did in his infusion curriculum, starting at the grammar schools, to tell our children this story and to tell our children the true story.

That's how I go about fixing it, because until you know the true story, then you're reacting to my words and not to the truth.

MODERATOR: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me." Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Jesus also said, "Other sheep have I who are not of this fold."


MODERATOR: Do you think people of other races would feel welcome at your church?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Yes. We have members of other races in our church. We have Hispanics. We have Caribbean. We have South Americans. We have whites.

The conference minister -- please understand the United Church of Christ is a predominantly white demonstration. Again, some of you do not know United Church of Christ, just found out about liberation theology, just found out about United Church of Christ, the conference minister, Dr. Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman, and her husband, not only are members of the congregation, but on her last Sunday before taking the assignment as the interim conference minister of California, Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, a white woman stood in our pulpit and said, "I am unashamedly African."


MODERATOR: You first gained media attention, significant media attention for your sermons several weeks ago. Why did you wait so long before giving the public your side of the sound bite story?

REVEREND WRIGHT: As I said to Bill Moyers -- and he also edited this one out -- because of my mother's advice to me. My mother's advice was being seen all over the corporate media channels, and it's a paraphrase of the Book of Proverbs, where it is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

The media was making a fool out of itself, because it knew nothing about our tradition. And so I decided to let them make a fool as long as they wanted to and then take the advice of Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Lies, lies, bless the lord. Don't you know the days are broad?"

Don't make me come across this room. I had to come across the room, because they start -- understand, when you're talking about my mama, once again, and talking about my faith tradition, once again, how long do you let somebody talk about your faith tradition before you speak up and say something in defense of -- this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright.

Once again, let me say it again. This is an attack on the black church. And I cannot as a minister of the gospel allow the significant part of our history -- most African-Americans and most European-Americans, most Hispanic-Americans, half the names I called in my presentation they've never heard of, because they don't know anything at all about our tradition.

And to lift up those -- they would have died in vain had I just kept quiet longer and longer and longer and longer. As I said, this is an attack on the black church. It is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill, Chelsea. This is about the black church.

This is about Barbara Jordan. This is about Fanny Lou Hamer. This is about my grandmamma.

MODERATOR: Do you think it is God's will that Senator Obama be president?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I said I would offer myself for candidacy for vice president. I have not offered myself for candidacy of God. I can't presume to know what God would want.

In my tradition, however, what everybody has been saying to me as it pertains to the candidacy is what God has for you is for you. If God intends for Mr. Obama to the president, then no white racists, no political pundit, no speech, nothing can get in the way, because God will do what God wants to do.

MODERATOR: OK, we are almost out of time. But before asking the last question, we have a couple of matters to take care of.

First of all, let me remind you of our future speakers. This afternoon, we have Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, who is discussing trading up movies in the global marketplace. On May 2nd, Bobby Jindal, the governor of the state of Louisiana, will discuss bold reform that works. On May 7th, we have Glenn Tilton, CEO, United Airlines, and board member of the American transport association.

Second, I would like to present our guest with the official centennial mug and -- it's brand new.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Thank you. Thank you.

MODERATOR: You're welcome. And we've got one more question for you. (APPLAUSE)

We're going to end with a joke. Chris Rock joked, "Of course Reverend Wright's an angry 75-year-old black man. All 75-year-old black men are angry." Is that funny? Is that true? Is it unfortunate? What do you think?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I think it's just like the media. I'm not 75.



MODERATOR: I'd like to thank you all for coming today.



10) Soaring Food Prices Imperil Meals for Poor in Cambodia
April 30, 2008

PRAY VIEV, Cambodia — The Sun Sun primary school, two low-slung ochre-yellow buildings and a wooden shack, is surrounded by acres of rice paddies that recently yielded what farmers say is the best harvest in memory. But that has not shielded schoolchildren here from the effects of the global food crisis.

A countdown has begun among administrators at the school and at 1,343 other schools across Cambodia: in 30 days or less the schools’ rice stocks will run out and a popular free breakfast program will be suspended indefinitely because of soaring food prices.

Short of cash, the World Food Program, the United Nations agency that feeds the world’s poorest people, can no longer supply 450,000 Cambodian children with a daily breakfast of domestically grown rice supplemented by yellow split peas from the United States and tuna from Thailand.

In a country where a recurrent paucity of food has taught Cambodians to survive on a bare minimum of nutrition, children in this village are unlikely to starve. But some may miss out on an education.

“Most of the students come to school for the breakfast,” said Taoch Champa, a 31-year-old teacher.

The suspension of the breakfast program illustrates one of the many ways that the global food crisis, in which the price of grain has soared in recent months, is hurting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Only destitute schools were selected to take part in the program. Pray Viev is one of the poorest villages in Cambodia’s most impoverished province, Kampong Speu.

When the free breakfast was introduced here eight years ago by the World Food Program, it was an instant hit.

“Students brought their brothers and sisters, 2, 3 and 4 years old,” said Yim Soeurn, the principal at Sun Sun. “It was very hard to control.”

Breakfast has been a magnet for students ever since, as well as the teachers’ best friend. Well-fed students are more attentive, tardiness is no longer a problem (breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m., before classes begin) and attendance by girls, who for years had been kept home by their parents, has increased sharply.

Mr. Yim said he knew what would happen when the free food disappeared: “Poor students will not come to school.”

When the breakfast program was interrupted in January 2007 because of budget problems, attendance fell by 10 percent, Mr. Yim said.

Menh Veasal, a 14-year-old at the top of his class, skipped school to collect frogs and crabs from a nearby river, his contribution to meals with his parents and seven siblings. Sim Sreywat, 12, was ordered by her mother to trek to nearby mountains where she harvested tamarind buds and bamboo shoots.

The imminent depletion of rice supplies is particularly paradoxical for children who each day walk or ride their bicycles to school through miles of neatly delineated rice paddies. Rice is plentiful in Cambodia, and the country has been a net exporter for the past decade.

But it is becoming less and less affordable for the people who grow it. A 2006 survey, well before the spike in food prices, found that 22 percent of Cambodians in rural areas could not meet their own basic food needs.

The most productive agricultural land in Cambodia is near the borders with Thailand and Vietnam, and much of what is harvested there is exported at world-market prices.

But the soil in Kampong Speu Province is sandy and parched, yielding less than one ton per hectare, or 2.5 acres, half the national average. Local farmers typically have plots that are too small to feed their families.

Thomas Keusters, the World Food Program’s director in Cambodia, said he did not know whether the school feeding program would restart. “Not before the next school year, October 2008, at best,” he said.

Worldwide, the agency has begun an appeal for an additional $500 million to cover the increase in food prices. In Cambodia, the price of rice is now above $700 a ton, more than double the $295 per ton the agency budgeted for this year.

U.N. to Address Food Crisis

BERN, Switzerland (AP) — The United Nations will set up a top-level task force to tackle the global food crisis and avert “social unrest on an unprecedented scale,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

Mr. Ban, who will lead the task force, said its first priority would be to meet the $755 million shortfall in financing for the World Food Program.

“Without full funding of these emergency requirements, we risk again the specter of widespread hunger, malnutrition and social unrest on an unprecedented scale,” he told reporters.


11) Backgrounder: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. Economy
February 4, 2008


Expert opinion varies wildly on the relevance of U.S. war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to the health of the U.S. economy. At the most basic level, economists disagree whether these wars will have a positive or negative long-term economic impact. Total military spending (including spending on support and operations inside Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as operations tied to the “Global War on Terrorism,” all of which are budgeted separately from the U.S. defense budget) remains relatively modest compared to historical levels. During World War II, defense spending rose to levels as high as 37.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Even including war-spending supplements and terror-war expenditures on top of the normal defense budget, today that number comes to about 6.2 percent of GDP. While experts say the total costs of the wars should thus be kept in perspective, they also point to collateral economic consequences beyond direct expenditures. These include international debt accrued to sustain war costs, volatility on the global oil markets in part attributed to violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the geopolitical uncertainty engendered by a war that remains widely unpopular outside the United States. These things, experts say, all come with economic consequences of their own.

Total cost of the Iraq and Afghan Wars

Following 9/11, the United States launched new military endeavors on a number of fronts, including in Iraq. Estimates for the total costs of these efforts remain sharply politicized. Costs have consistently outpaced government predictions. In September 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey estimated the cost of invading Iraq could amount to between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, who at the time headed the White House budget office, called Lindsey’s estimates “very, very high” (MSNBC) and said the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion; shortly thereafter, Lindsey left the White House. In January 2004, a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the total costs of Iraq’s reconstruction would land between $50 billion and $100 billion. But in October 2007, the CBO said in a new report that the United States had already spent $368 billion on its military operations in Iraq, $45 billion more in related services (veterans care, diplomatic services, training), and nearly $200 billion on top of that in Afghanistan. The CBO now estimates the costs of the Iraq war, projected out through 2017, might top $1 trillion, plus an extra $705 billion in interest payments, and says the total cost of Iraq and Afghanistan combined could reach $2.4 trillion.

Some experts say even those figures underestimate the true price tag. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, projected in a 2006 paper (PDF) with another economist, Linda Bilmes, that the total macroeconomic costs of the Iraq war itself would surpass $2 trillion. This analysis differs from that of the CBO, which measured only the war’s budgetary impact. Stiglitz and Bilmes also predict a somewhat higher budgetary impact than the CBO did, though the CBO responds at the end of its 2007 report that some of the difference may be accounted for by factors like inflation and standard pay increases that have little to do with the Iraq war itself.

More recently, a group of Democrats on the U.S. congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report estimating the total long-term cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would range between $2.6 trillion and $4.5 trillion, depending on how quickly forces are drawn down. These figures drew pointed criticisms from congressional Republicans, who released a statement (PDF) citing dozens of errors in the report’s findings, some of which were subsequently changed.

Comparing the Defense Budget to the Total Economy

The U.S. defense budget has risen over the past decade but remains substantially lower than historical levels when considered as a percentage of U.S. GDP. President Bush requested $481.4 billion in discretional spending for the Department of Defense’s 2008 budget. That figure does not include any of the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been paid for primarily through “emergency supplemental requests” that are not included in the federal budget’s accounting. War spending is expected to tally to roughly $193 billion in 2008, an increase of $22 billion, or roughly 13 percent, over 2007 expenditures. Other aspects of military-related spending also fall outside the defense budget, including nuclear-weapons research, veterans affairs programs, State Department activities in war zones, and operations covered by the budgets of the various intelligence agencies. Allocations toward the “Global War on Terrorism,” which exceed $145 billion for 2008, also fall outside the U.S. defense budget, and do not include the war-budget supplements.

Even considering the military budget and war spending together, however, total U.S. expenditures remain modest compared to historical levels in wartime. Shortly before the Vietnam War, in 1962, defense spending alone tallied 9.3 percent of GDP. During World War II expenditures were higher still; in 1944 the defense budget peaked at 37.8 percent of GDP. Even after recent increases, defense spending today comes to about 3.7 percent of GDP—and the combined total, even after including both war-spending supplements and “Global War on Terror” expenditures, comes to 6.2 percent of GDP. Still, today’s spending represents an increase since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when defense spending tallied roughly 3 percent of GDP.

In a global context, U.S. spending on military-related endeavors ranks high. According to 2005 data from SIPRI (PDF), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spends substantially more on military endeavors than any country in the world. If war spending and allocations to the “Global War on Terror” are excluded, the U.S. military budget is still more than seven times that of its next closest competitor, China. If you include those other expenditures, U.S. military spending surpasses that of all other countries in the world combined. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency notes on its website, however, that when you look at military expenditures as a percentage of GDP, the United States ranks lower, at twenty-eighth in the world.

Does War Spending Help or Hurt the Economy?

There is an ongoing debate about the extent to which war spending affects a country’s economy. Experts disagree on the most fundamental point—whether war helps or hurts national economic prospects. Massive U.S. national defense spending during World War II is sometimes credited with rejuvenating U.S. economic prospects following the Great Depression. The journalist Robert J. Samuelson, in a primer on the topic, says there can be little doubt that military spending and mobilization during World War II reduced U.S. unemployment rates and revitalized the economy. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that countries with high military expenditures during World War II showed strong economic growth following the war, but says this growth can be credited more to population growth than war spending. The paper finds that war spending had only minimal effects on per-capita economic activity.

The effects of more recent wars are equally disputed. A historical survey of the U.S. economy from the U.S. State Department reports the Vietnam War had a mixed economic impact. The first Gulf War typically meets criticism for having pushed the United States toward a 1991 recession. In a 2003 op-ed in the Guardian, economist Stiglitz wrote that the aftermath of the Gulf War exposes the “myth of the war economy.” Indeed, he argues that increased military spending is “unambiguously bad” for the living standards of normal citizens. Other economists argue the opposite. Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who served as an economic adviser for President Ronald Reagan, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs that the United States could moderately increase the Pentagon’s budget without negatively affecting the economy.

Direct Economic Impact of the War

Apart from abstract questions about whether war spending is helpful or hurtful, economists also debate the specific economic impact of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether one estimates the total long-term cost of the wars at $2.4 trillion or $3.5 trillion—the estimates of the CBO and the congressional Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee—experts debate precisely what direct impact this expenditure would have on the U.S. economy. The analysis differs starkly depending whose numbers you use. If the CBO’s prediction is correct that the wars will cost roughly $2.4 trillion through 2017, assuming current U.S. population levels, that would average out to a total cost of $7,973 per U.S. citizen, or $570 per citizen per year.

By contrast, the Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, which estimated a $3.5 trillion cost through 2017, say the war will cost the average U.S. family $46,400. Per person, the total cost, given these estimates, would be $11,627, or $830 per year. Both estimates factor in interest payments on foreign debt, which the United States has sold in order to help finance the war. These debt payments account for a significant percentage of total costs. For instance, examining long-term costs just for Iraq, the CBO says actual costs through 2017 will amount to roughly $1 trillion, but interest payments on debt will add over $700 billion to that price tag.

Collateral Economic Impact

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan touch the U.S. economy in a variety of ways beyond the impact of direct spending. First, Iraq has a lot of oil, and swings in the country’s production levels have an effect on global oil pricing. By some estimates, Iraq has the second-highest amount of oil in the world, behind Saudi Arabia. The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2007 that improving security conditions had allowed Iraqi oil production to return to pre-war levels. But the former Iraqi oil minister said in an interview with the Journal that maintaining current production levels would be a challenge. Whether Iraq is able to sustain—or possibly increase—its oil production, the fighting of the Iraq war ground production nearly to a halt in 2003. In the years since, production gains have proved choppy, as noted in a recent Backgrounder on Iraq’s infrastructure.

Geopolitical turmoil can also affect oil prices. Crude prices have spiked since the inception of the Iraq war, though experts say turmoil in Iraq is only one of several factors influencing this increase. Still, Iraqi production currently accounts for 3 percent of global oil production, and thus turmoil in Iraq can have a substantial effect on oil prices. This, in turn, bears heavily on the U.S. economy. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the CBO who currently serves as a campaign adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), notes the impact in a 2006 Financial Times op-ed, saying it could have significant “business cycle effects” by bringing higher oil prices and lower U.S. growth rates.

Market analysts say rising energy prices combined with a falling dollar have already strained the budgets of U.S. companies and consumers, pushing the United States toward a possible recession. Rising oil prices also fan inflation, which remains at low levels in the United States but which experts say could emerge as a major economic issue, particularly if the U.S. Federal Reserve feels the need to make substantial additional interest rate cuts. Experts add, however, that should Iraq’s security situation continue to improve, future gains from increased oil production could help mitigate some of these economic pressures.

Geopolitical Risk and Market Psychology

Experts say some of the gravest economic effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also among the hardest to define quantitatively. Markets build assessments of financial and geopolitical risk into their pricing of just about everything. To the extent that political unrest in Iraq threatens the stability of Middle Eastern and global markets more generally, it also has a broad, though somewhat ambiguous, dampening effect on asset prices. Yale economist William D. Nordhaus outlined the plethora of ways different fallout scenarios from the Iraq war could weigh on the global economy in a December 2002 article in the New York Review of Books. Though Nordhaus quotes cost estimates that have now been surpassed, his general outline of fallout scenarios remains viable. They include “prolonged conflict [in Iraq]; adverse impacts on oil markets; escalation of war by Israel; terrorist acts around the world; heavy occupation and peacekeeping costs; burdensome reconstruction costs and nation-building; costly humanitarian assistance; shocks to the overall U.S. economy; and the use of weapons of mass destruction.” Add to that list the possibility of conflict with Iran, which many experts say has been exacerbated by U.S. involvement in Iraq; the possibility of conflict between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, which would threaten lucrative oil production in northern Iraq; and the opportunity cost that an overwhelming U.S. foreign policy focus on Iraq could spell if it delays the resolution of conflicts in other regions.

In addition, experts comment on the psychological toll involvement in Iraq has taken on the United States, and specifically the U.S. economy. In a recent essay in Newsweek International, Fareed Zakaria notes that worries spawned in part from U.S. involvement in Iraq have undermined what was previously an “open and expansive” U.S. attitude toward foreign policy and economics. Zakaria says the United States has become a nation consumed by fear and pessimism. He says this fear has led to protectionist policies on trade, immigration, and markets, which in turn threaten the future of the U.S. economy.


12) The Costs of Containing Iran
From the January/February 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Over the past year, Washington has come to see the containment of Iran as the primary objective of its Middle East policy. It holds Tehran responsible for rising violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lebanon's tribulations, and Hamas' intransigence and senses that the balance of power in the region is shifting toward Iran and its Islamist allies. Curbing Tehran's growing influence is thus necessary for regional security.

Vice President Dick Cheney announced this new direction last May on the deck of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis in the Persian Gulf. "We'll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats," Cheney said. "We'll continue bringing relief to those who suffer, and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed a similar sentiment: "Iran constitutes the single most important single-country strategic challenge to the United States and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see." Meanwhile, Iran's accelerating nuclear program continues to haunt Washington and much of the international community, adding to their sense of urgency.

Taking a page out of its early Cold War playbook, Washington hopes to check and possibly reduce Tehran's growing influence much as it foiled the Soviet Union's expansionist designs: by projecting its own power while putting direct pressure on its enemy and building a broad-based alliance against it. Washington has been building up the U.S. Navy's presence in the Persian Gulf and using harsh rhetoric, raising the specter of war. At the same time, it funds a $75 milliondemocracy-promotion program supporting regime change in Tehran.In recent months, Washington has rallied support for a series ofUnited Nations resolutions against Iran's nuclear program and successfullypushed through tough informal financial sanctions that haveall but cut Iran out of international financial markets. It has officiallydesignated the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a proliferator of weaponsof mass destruction and the IRG's elite al Quds Army as a supporter ofterrorism, allowing the Treasury Department to target the groups' assetsand the U.S. military to harass and apprehend their personnel in Iraq.Washington is also working to garner support from what it now viewsas moderate governments in the Middle East -- mostly authoritarianArab regimes it once blamed for the region's myriad problems.

Washington's goal is to eliminate Iran's influence in the Arabworld by rolling back Tehran's gains to date and denying it the supportof allies -- in effect drawing a line from Lebanon to Oman toseparate Iran from its Arab neighbors. The Bush administrationhas rallied support among Arab governments to oppose Iranianpolicies in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. It is tryingto buttress the military capability of Persian Gulf states by providinga $20 billion arms package to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.According to Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, one of thearms sales' primary objectives is "to enable these countries to strengthentheir defenses and therefore to provide a deterrence against Iranianexpansion and Iranian aggression in the future." And through a seriesof regional conclaves and conferences, the Bush administrationhopes to rejuvenate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process partly inthe hope of refocusing the energies of the region's governments on thethreat posed by Iran.

Containing Iran is not a novel idea, of course, but the benefitsWashington expects from it are new. Since the inception of the IslamicRepublic, successive Republican and Democratic administrations havedevised various policies, doctrines, and schemes to temper the rashtheocracy. For the Bush administration, however, containing Iran isthe solution to the Middle East's various problems. In its narrative,Sunni Arab states will rally to assist in the reconstruction of a viablegovernment in Iraq for fear that state collapse in Baghdad would onlyconsolidate Iran's influence there. The specter of Shiite primacy in theregion will persuade Saudi Arabia and Egypt to actively help declawHezbollah. And, the theory goes, now that Israel and its longtimeArab nemeses suddenly have a common interest in deflating Tehran'spower and stopping the ascendance of its prot?g?, Hamas, they willcome to terms on an Israeli-Palestinian accord. This, in turn, will (rightly)shift the Middle East's focus away from the corrosive Palestinianissue to the more pressing Persian menace. Far from worrying thatthe Middle East is now in flames, Bush administration officials seemto feel that in the midst of disorder and chaos lies an unprecedentedopportunity for reshaping the region so that it is finally at ease withU.S. dominance and Israeli prowess.

But there is a problem: Washington's containment strategy is unsound,it cannot be implemented effectively, and it will probably makematters worse. The ingredients needed for a successful containmenteffort simply do not exist. Under these circumstances, Washington'sinsistence that Arab states array against Iran could further destabilizean already volatile region.


Iran does present serious problems for the United States. Its questfor a nuclear capability, its mischievous interventions in Iraq, and itsstrident opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process constitutea formidable list of grievances. But the bigger issue is the Bush administration'sfundamental belief that Iran cannot be a constructive actorin a stable Middle East and that its unsavory behavior cannot bechanged through creative diplomacy. Iran is not, in fact, seeking tocreate disorder in order to fulfill some scriptural promise, nor is it anexpansionist power with unquenchable ambitions. Not unlike Russiaand China, Iran is a growing power seeking to become a pivotal statein its region.

Another one of Washington's errors is to assume that Iran canbe handled like the Soviet Union and that the Cold War modelapplies to the Middle East. Both Israel and Arab governments havepressed Washington to contend with Iran's nuclear ambitions and sincethe Lebanon war of 2006 have worried about the strengtheningconnections between Tehran and Hezbollah. They have respondedby throwing their support behind the government of Fouad Siniorain Beirut and trying to break the collusion between the Iranian andSyrian governments. Washington has been supportive, building upits military presence in the Persian Gulf and using last year's surgein the number of U.S. forces in Iraq to roll back Iran's gains there.But the same Arab governments that complain about Tehran'sinfluence also oppose the Shiite government in Iraq, which is pro-Iranian and pro-American, and favor its Sunni opponents -- leavingWashington having to figure out how to work with the Iraqi governmentwhile also building a regional alliance with Sunni Arab states.Washington's containment wall will therefore have to run rightthrough Iraq and so inevitably destabilize the country as it becomesthe frontline in the U.S.-Iranian confrontation.

The Bush administration's strategy also fails to appreciate thediverse views of Arab states. Arab regimes are indeed worried aboutIran, but they are not uniformly so. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain decryIranian expansionism and fear Tehran's interference in their internalaffairs. But Egypt and Jordan worry mostly that Iran's newfoundimportance is eroding their standing in the region. The stake for them isnot territory or internal stability but influenceover the Palestinian issue. Even within theIranian consensus. Unlike Bahrain, Kuwait,and Saudi Arabia, for example, Qatar and during the Cold War.the United Arab Emirates do not suffer aShiite minority problem and have enjoyedextensive economic relations with Tehran since the mid-1990s. Farfrom seeking confrontation with Iran, they fear the consequences ofescalating tensions between it and the United States. Even U.S. alliesin the Middle East will assess their capabilities and vulnerabilities,shape their alliances, and pursue their interests with the understandingthat they, too, are susceptible to Iran's influence. A U.S. containmentstrategy that assumes broad Arab solidarity is unsound in theory.

Nor can it be implemented. For close to half a century, the Arabworld saw Iraq's military as its bulwark in the Persian Gulf. Havingdismantled that force in 2003, the United States is now the onlypower present in the Gulf that can contain Iran militarily. Shoulderingthat responsibility effectively would mean maintaining large numbersof troops in the region indefinitely. But given the anti-Americansentiment pervading all of the Gulf today, none of the states in theregion (except for Kuwait) could countenance the redeployment of asubstantial number of U.S. forces in their territory. Thus, Washingtonwould have to rely on weaker regional actors to contain a rising Iran,which is the largest country in the Persian Gulf in terms of size, population,and economy. Even major arms sales to the Gulf statescould not change this reality.

Washington's reliance on reviving the Middle East peace processas the linchpin of its strategy to contain Iran is also problematic. Bushadministration officials are assuming that resumed diplomacy betweenIsrael and its neighbors will assuage the Arab street, rally Arab governmentsbehind the United States, and lay the groundwork for a unitedArab-Israeli front against Iran. But this hope disregards the fact thatin their current state, Palestinian and Israeli politics will not supportthe types of compromises necessary for a credible breakthrough.Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian PresidentMahmoud Abbas are too weak to press their constituencies towardthe painful concessions that a viable peace compact would require.The expectations of Arab leaders far exceed those of Israel and theUnited States: while they have been openly demanding final-statusnegotiations, Secretary Rice has been talking only about creatingmomentum toward peace.

Even if the peace process can be successfully relaunched, the notionthat Arabs see the rise of Iran as a bigger problem than the decades-oldArab-Israeli conflict is misplaced. After years of enmity, the Arabmasses and Arab opinion-makers continue to perceive Israel as amore acute threat. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understandsthis well: he has been raising the heat on the Palestinian issueprecisely because he wants to make headway among the Arab peopleand understands that they do not share the anti-Iranian sentimentof their governments. Along with his inflammatory denunciations ofIsrael and Tehran's assistance to Hamas and Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad'sembrace of an Arab cause has garnered him ample support amongthe rank and file. In fact, Tehran enjoys significant soft power in theMiddle East today. Washington assumes that its proposals regardingthe Arab-Israeli peace process will redirect everyone's worries towardIran; Tehran believes that current efforts will not satiate Arab demands.A careful reading of the region's mood reveals that Iran is on firmerground than the United States.

Indeed, it is not the Palestinian issue that will decide the balance ofpower in the Middle East but the fate of the failing states of Afghanistan,Iraq, and Lebanon, where Iranian influence has found ample room toexpand. The Palestinian issue remains important to Israel's security,stability in the Levant, and the United States' image and prestige. It isalso a catalyst for regional rivalries. But the Palestinian issue is not theoriginal cause of those regional contests, nor will it decide their outcome. For all its worrying about Iran's growing power, Washington has failedto appreciate that the center of gravity in the Middle East has indeedshifted from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. It is now more likely thatpeace and stability in the Persian Gulf would bring peace and stabilityto the Levant than the other way around.

For a government that so often invokes the past to substantiate itspolicies, the Bush administration has a curiously inadequate grasp ofrecent Middle Eastern history. The last time the United States ralliedthe Arab world to contain Iran, in the 1980s, Americans ended up witha radicalized Sunni political culture that eventually yielded al Qaeda.The results may be as bad this time around: a containment policy willonly help erect Sunni extremism as an ideological barrier to ShiiteIran, much as Saudi Arabia's rivalry with Iran in the 1980s played outin South Asia and much as radical Salafis mobilized to offset Hezbollah'ssoaring popularity after the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006. During theCold War, confronting communism meant promoting capitalismand democracy. Containing Iran today would mean promoting Sunniextremism -- a self-defeating proposition for Washington.

The realities of the Middle East will eventually defeat Washington'sCold War fantasies. This is not to say that Iran does not pose seriouschallenges to U.S., Arab, or Israeli interests. But envisioning that agrand U.S.-Arab-Israeli alliance can contain Iran will sink Afghanistan,Iraq, and Lebanon into greater chaos; inflame Islamic radicalism; andcommit the United States to a lengthy and costly presence in theMiddle East.


The Middle East is a region continuously divided against itself.In the 1960s, radical Arab regimes contested the legitimacy and powerof traditional monarchical states. In the 1970s, Islamic fundamentalistsrejected the prevailing secular order and sought to set the region onthe path to God. In the 1980s, much of the Arab world supported thegenocidal Saddam Hussein as he sought to displace Iran's theocraticregime. Today, the Middle East is fracturing once more, this timealong sectarian and confessional lines, with Sunnis clamoring to curbShiite ascendance. Again and again, in the name of preserving thebalance of power, U.S. policy has taken sides in the region's conflicts,thus exacerbating tensions and widening existing cleavages. Beyondthe Arab-Israeli conflict, the United States has shown limited interestin mediating conflicts, settling disputes, or bringing antagonists together.Washington sided with the conservative monarchies against Arabsocialist republics, acquiesced in the brutal suppression of fundamentalistopposition by secular governments, buttressed Saudi powerand the Iraqi war machine to temper Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini'sIslamist rage. It is now courting Sunni regimes to align against Iranand its resurgent Shiite allies. Every time, as Washington has becomemired in the Middle East's rivalries, its goal of stabilizing the regionhas slipped further away.

Instead of focusing on restoring a former balance of power, theUnited States would be wise to aim for regional integration and fostera new framework in which all the relevant powers would have a stakein a stable status quo. The Bush administration is correct to sense thata truculent Iran poses serious challenges to U.S. concerns, but containingIran through military deployment and antagonistic alliances simplyis not a tenable strategy. Iran is not, despite common depictions, amessianic power determined to overturn the regional order in the nameof Islamic militancy; it is an unexceptionally opportunistic state seekingto assert predominance in its immediate neighborhood. Thus, the taskat hand for Washington is to create a situation in which Iran will findbenefit in limiting its ambitions and in abiding by international norms.

Dialogue, compromise, and commerce, as difficult as they may be,are convincing means. An acknowledgment by the U.S. governmentthat Tehran does indeed have legitimate interests and concerns inIraq could get the two governments finally to realize that they havesimilar objectives: both want to preserve the territorial integrity ofIraq and prevent the civil war there from engulfing the Middle East.Resuming diplomatic and economic relations between Iran and theUnited States, as well as collaborating on Iraq, could also be the precursorof an eventual arrangement subjecting Iran's nuclear programto its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. If Iranenjoyed favorable security and commercial ties with the United Statesand was at ease in its region, it might restrain its nuclear ambitions.

Engaging Tehran need not come at the expense of the UnitedStates' relationships with Iran's Arab neighbors. Instead of militarizingthe Persian Gulf and shoring up shaky alliances on Iran's periphery,Washington should move toward a new regional security system. Thesystem should feature all the local actors and could rest on, amongother things, a treaty pledging the inviolability of the region's borders,arms control pacts proscribing certain categories of weapons, a commonmarket with free-trade zones, and a mechanism for adjudicatingdisputes. For the Gulf states, this new order would have the advantageof bringing the Shiite-dominated states of Iran and Iraq into a constructivepartnership, thus diminishing the risk of sectarian conflict.A new security arrangement would be an opportunity for Iran tolegitimize its power and achieve its objectives through cooperationrather than confrontation. And it would allow the Iraqi government,which is often belittled by its Sunni neighbors, to exercise its owninfluence and so expose the canard that it is a mere subsidiary of Tehran.Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region's two leading nations, could movebeyond their zero-sum competition in Iraq and press their allies thereto adopt a new national compact that would recognize the interestsof the Sunni and Kurdish minorities in Iraq.

None of this, however, will come about without active U.S. participationand encouragement. The Persian Gulf states will requirereassurance if they are to entrust their defense to a new regional order.For Iran, whose chief competitor for regional preeminence remainsthe United States, there would be no reason to participate unlessWashington were involved. The United States, for its part, wouldhave to show that it is seeking not to impose a new balance of powerbut to uphold a regional arrangement that all the relevant regimescan endorse. Ultimately, the paradoxical but beneficial result wouldbe a new situation in which all the Persian Gulf states would not justcooperate with one another but also endorse the United States' continuedpresence in the region. The strategy would serve the interestsof the United States' European allies as well as those of China andRussia, all of which require stability in the Middle East and reliableaccess to its energy supplies.

Engaging Iran while regulating its rising power within an inclusiveregional security arrangement is the best way of stabilizing Iraq,placating the United States' Arab allies, helping along the Arab-Israelipeace process, and even giving a new direction to negotiations overIran's nuclear program. Because this approach includes all the relevantplayers, it is also the most sustainable and the least taxing strategyfor the United States in the Middle East.


13) On Arrests, Demographics, and Marijuana April 30, 2008
About New York
April 30, 2008

Among those washed into Manhattan Criminal Court by the Tuesday morning tides was a 25-year-old man who works in technology support for a large company.

He had been caught with $30 worth of marijuana after his car was stopped on Riverside Drive, an offense against Section 221.10 of the New York State penal code. His case involved surveillance by an unmarked car and two officers who then stayed late into the night processing their prisoner, fingerprinting him, writing a complaint and taking his mug shot.

The court proceeding lasted about 45 seconds. The charges would be permanently dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for a year, which did not appear to be a big challenge, since he had never been arrested before.

If the case seemed like much ado about hardly anything, the laws of the State of New York agree. The city’s Police Department and the mayor, however, have other ideas.

A study released Tuesday reported that between 1998 and 2007, the police arrested 374,900 people whose most serious crime was the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana offense.

That is more than eight times the number of arrests on those same charges between 1988 and 1997, when 45,300 people were picked up for having a small amount of pot.

Here are other figures from the study, which was conducted by Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College, and Deborah Peterson Small, a lawyer and an advocate for changes in drug laws and enforcement practices.

Nearly everyone involved in this wave of marijuana arrests is male: 90 percent were men, although national studies show that men and women use pot in roughly equal rates.

And 83 percent of those charged in these cases were black or Latino, according to the study. Blacks accounted for 52 percent of the arrests, twice their share of the city’s population. Whites, who are about 35 percent of the population, were only 15 percent of those charged — even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely than blacks or Latinos to use pot.

Among the pretty large population of white people who have used pot and not been arrested for it is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Asked during the 2001 campaign by New York magazine if he had ever smoked it, Mr. Bloomberg replied: “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.” After he was elected and his remarks were used in advertisements by marijuana legalization advocates, Mr. Bloomberg said his administration would vigorously enforce the laws.

The statistics cited in the report, which were drawn from records kept by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, show that Mr. Bloomberg has kept his word. Although low-level marijuana arrests last year are down from their peak in 2000, they remain at very high levels historically.

In an official comment on the study, the Police Department was critical of the role played by the New York Civil Liberties Union in publicizing the report and noted that the research had been backed, in part, by the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization.

Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said that all crime in the city had declined by about 60 percent in the three decades cited in the study. “Attention to marijuana and lower-level crime in general has helped drive crime down,” Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Levine said that the only research on the issue suggested that marijuana arrests played little role in driving down serious crime, and may in fact divert police resources.

What of the skewed numbers on arrest by race? Mr. Browne said that it was wrong to use national drug use surveys as evidence of racial bias in New York marijuana arrests. Mr. Levine said that one reason black and Latino men were disproportionally arrested on marijuana charges is that they are the vast majority of those stopped and frisked by police.

More than 30 years ago, legislators and the governor agreed, in broad terms, that the state would no longer jail people in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The exceptions are that anyone caught “burning” marijuana or with it “open to public view” faces a misdemeanor charge.

The man who appeared in criminal court on Tuesday explained how his pot came to be openly displayed to police officers, even though he was in his car.

“I came out of the building, and this unmarked car, no light, no indication it was police, was right on me,” said the man, a Latino who asked that his name not be used because he was concerned about his job. “Right on my tail. An officer got out, he said, ‘I saw you walking from that building, I know you bought weed, give me the weed.’ He made it an option: ‘Give me the weed now and I will give you a summons, or we can search your vehicle and can take you in.’ ”

He opened the console and handed them his marijuana — making it “open to public view.”

“I was duped,” he said. But the deception was legal, and his pot wasn’t.

The officers escorted him in handcuffs to the unmarked car.



14) House Democrats work on huge Iraq money bill
Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Monday, April 28, 2008

House Democratic leaders are putting together the largest Iraq war spending bill yet, a measure that is expected to fund the war through the end of the Bush presidency and for nearly six months into the next president's term.

The bill, which could be unveiled as early as this week, signals that Democrats are resigned to the fact they can't change course in Iraq in the final months of President Bush's term. Instead, the party is pinning its hopes of ending the war on winning the White House in November.

Bay Area lawmakers, who represent perhaps the most anti-war part of the country, acknowledge the bill will anger many voters back home.

"It's going to be a tough sell to convince people in my district that funding the war for six months into the new president's term is the way to end the war," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, a leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus who plans to oppose the funding. "It sounds like we are paying for something we don't want."

The bill is expected to provide $108 billion that the White House has requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers who are drafting it say it also will include a so-called bridge fund of $70 billion to give the new president several months of breathing room before having to ask Congress for more money.

The debate is shaping up as a key test for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The San Francisco Democrat, who opposed the war from the start, faces fierce criticism from the anti-war left for refusing to cut off funding for the war. She's trying to hold together a caucus split between anti-war lawmakers, who'd prefer a showdown with the White House, and conservative Democrats, who believe cutting off the war funding would make the party look weak on national security and put its majority at risk.

Pelosi is plotting a "guns-for-butter" strategy to try to force Bush to accept some new domestic spending in exchange for the money he needs to fight the war. The speaker is floating a proposal to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks for those whose benefits have run out. The package also could include a new GI Bill benefit to help veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan pay for college.

Bush is already vowing to veto any spending that goes over his $108 billion request. House Republicans, eager for an election-year fight with Democrats over spending, are pledging to back up his veto threat.

"We're going to insist that this is about funding the troops and nothing else," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week.

Pelosi has been trying to ease tensions within her caucus over the bill. Anti-war lawmakers - including Woolsey, Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland - met with the speaker last week to urge her to keep the votes on war spending and domestic spending separate.

"We raised concerns," Lee said. "It just wouldn't make sense to force (members of Congress) to choose between providing food stamps for people who are hurting and need help during this terrible time and funding an occupation that people do not support."

House leaders may be able to get around the issue by splitting the votes. Last May, Democrats used a similar tactic, staging votes on two amendments - one for $22 billion in domestic spending, and another for $98 billion for the two wars - to allow anti-war lawmakers to vote for the domestic spending, but against the money for the war.

The strategy would let many Democratic lawmakers register their opposition to the war, but it wouldn't change the outcome. The Senate would eventually wrap all the spending into one package to send to the White House for Bush's signature.

Democrats may use the bill to put Republicans on the defensive by offering an amendment to boost tax incentives for renewable energy as well as language that would block the administration from implementing new rules that would cut Medicaid payments and shift those costs to the states.

House leaders also may introduce an amendment that would require Bush to use any new war money only for redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq. Bush vetoed a bill with similar language last year and Democrats lacked the votes to override it. Still, Democrats say it would remind voters that it's Bush and Republicans who are refusing to end the war.

But anti-war activists say Democrats are being disingenuous by claiming to oppose the war while also preparing to give the president even more war funding than he requested.

"They are the biggest hypocrites in the world," said Medea Benjamin, the San Francisco-based founder of the anti-war group CodePink. "They want to paint the Republicans as warmongers and they want to keep funding the war, and they think we don't see through this?"

Bay Area anti-war activists met at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater last week to discuss ways to protest the war spending bill. CodePink plans to renew its protests outside Pelosi's home in San Francisco and at lawmakers' offices, Benjamin said.
Pelosi on hot seat

Pelosi was pressed on the issue last week during a sit-down with CNN's Larry King. "Your party became the majority in the House primarily pledging to end the war," King said. "That didn't happen."

"No," Pelosi acknowledged. "It didn't happen because we had hoped that the president would listen to the will of the people and at least be willing to compromise on ... how the war is conducted and some timetable for redeployment of our troops."

Congress watchers said Democrats are still stung after losing repeated battles with the White House and Republicans over the war last year.

"Last year they tried a lot of confrontation and they went nowhere," said Louis Fisher, a constitutional scholar at the Library of Congress and an expert on congressional war powers. He said Democrats still fear being portrayed as putting U.S. troops at risk if they try to shut off war funds.

"That argument seems to win almost every time," Fisher said. "Look how long it took to cut off the funding in Vietnam. It wasn't until the summer of 1973."

Congressional scholar Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution said House leaders are making a wise choice to give a new president, whether Democrat or Republican, some time to chart a new course in Iraq. He noted that even the Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have said it would take a few months to begin withdrawing troops.

Democrats in Congress may risk frustrating their base by funding the war into next year, but Mann said it's unlikely to hurt them in the November election. The public still generally sees the Iraq conflict as Bush's war, he said.

"This only becomes a Democratic war if a Democratic president fails to deliver on his or her promise to end the war," Mann said.

E-mail Zachary Coile at


15) Even Less Help in Hard Times
May 1, 2008

The troubled economy could soon create a major fiscal crisis for the state-run Medicaid and children’s health programs that would only be exacerbated by the Bush administration’s efforts to cut these programs back. Congress must provide temporary aid to the most beleaguered states and find a permanent way to protect Medicaid and children’s health programs from wrenching cuts every time a recession hits.

The problem was laid bare in a report this week from the Urban Institute, funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Researchers estimated that each percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate would increase Medicaid and children’s health enrollments by one million people as more families fall into poverty. And it was estimated that it would drive another 1.1 million people into the ranks of the uninsured as they lose their employer-sponsored coverage.

This will happen at a time when state governments are ill prepared to cope because their tax revenues are plunging during the economic downturn. By one count, 27 states and the District of Columbia are forecasting some $40 billion in budget deficits for the coming year.

Many states will have little choice but to shrink their Medicaid and children’s health programs, along with other state services, to meet legal requirements that their budgets be balanced. At least 13 states have already proposed such cuts or begun to implement them.

A recent poll by the Kaiser foundation found that nearly 3 in 10 respondents already have a serious problem paying for health care or health insurance. Nearly a quarter have switched or stuck with a job primarily because of health benefits, and a significant number said that they or someone in their family had decided to marry in the past year mainly to gain coverage for a spouse.

In the last downturn, earlier in this decade, the federal government provided some $20 billion in fiscal relief to the states, including $10 billion in increased matching funds for Medicaid. But this time, the Bush administration has imposed new rules that would impede expansion of the children’s health program and new regulations that would reduce federal funding for Medicaid by anywhere from $14 billion (the administration’s estimate) to $50 billion (the states’ estimate) over the next five years.

This is a terrible time to reduce funding for safety-net programs. Congress needs to place a moratorium on the Medicaid regulations by a veto-proof margin and find a way to overturn the children’s health rules. As a permanent remedy, Congress should restructure Medicaid and children’s health programs so that federal financing increases during bad economic times — when people most need their government’s help.


16) Low Spending Is Taking Toll on Economy
May 1, 2008

For months, beleaguered American consumers have defied expert forecasts that they would soon succumb to the pressures of falling home prices, fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks. Now, they appear to have given in.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that the economy continued to stagnate during the first three months of the year, with a sharp pullback in consumer spending the primary factor at play.

Pressures on households in which cash is tight appeared to weigh significantly in the calculations of the Federal Reserve as it rolled back interest rates Wednesday for the seventh time since September — this time by one-fourth of a percentage point — in a bid to prevent a further falloff in the economy.

The Fed made clear, though, that investors and borrowers should not expect another drop in interest rates anytime soon. In the statement accompanying their action, policy makers said they believed that with the short-term rate at 2 percent, they had already unleashed enough economic stimulus to “help promote moderate growth.”

With the overall economy growing at a mere 0.6 percent annual rate for the second quarter in a row, consumer spending advanced by only 1 percent, the government estimated. That was down sharply from the 2.9 percent gain for all of 2007 and the 3.1 percent gain for 2006. It was the weakest showing since 2001, the last time the economy was ensnared in a recession.

Even more ominously, Americans cut back on a wide variety of discretionary purchases, conserving their cash for necessary spending.

In the dip, economists saw evidence that the basic laws of arithmetic are now impinging on millions of households.

As real estate prices plunge, so does the ability of homeowners to borrow against the value of their homes, crimping a major artery of spending. As banks grow tighter with their dollars in a period of uncertainty, families are running up against credit limits, forcing many to live within their incomes. And as companies lay off employees and cut working hours, paychecks are effectively shrinking.

“This is not a fluke or a technical quirk,” said John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia in Charlotte, N.C. “It’s fundamental. Real disposable income has been squeezed.”

Consumer spending fell for a broad range of goods and services, including cars, auto parts, furniture, food and recreation, reflecting a growing inclination toward thrift. Areas in which spending rose were predominantly those not considered optional purchases, including health care, housing and utilities.

The fact that the economy expanded at all, even by a tiny margin, sowed hopes that a recession might yet be averted. But most economists found in the details of the preliminary report signs of broadening economic distress at home even as businesses expanded production to meet growing demand from abroad.

A panel of economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private research organization, ultimately decides whether a particular period of weakness qualifies as a recession, which it defines as a “significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months.”

Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said, “The argument that we’re not in a recession certainly gets a little bit more of a boost from this report.”

But he and many other specialists still assume the economy will slide into negative territory. Moreover, the recession-or-not question is now almost entirely academic, Mr. Bernstein contended, given the steady erosion of American spending power and soaring costs for food and gasoline.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that wages and benefits, adjusted for inflation, were down 0.6 percent in the January-March period, compared with a year earlier.

“A very significant slowdown in the economy has caused a lot of pain,” Mr. Bernstein said. “That’s a done deal.”

The Commerce Department reported that growth was hampered in the first three months of the year by a continued decline in home construction, which fell for the ninth straight quarter, and by a pullback in investments for business equipment and buildings.

The only factors preventing the economy from sliding backward were the growth of American exports — aided by a weakening dollar — and a swing in business inventories from shrinking to swelling. Putting exports and inventories aside, the final sales of goods and services produced domestically dipped at a 0.4 percent annual rate in inflation-adjusted terms, the first such decline since the end of 1991.

“You’re seeing a sharp slowdown in domestic demand,” said Michael T. Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners in Greenwich, Conn. “This is stall-speed growth.”

Economists suggested that larger stocks of unsold goods might portend trouble in the months ahead. If business does not swiftly improve, allowing factories to sell the products they have piled up, firms are likely to lay off workers at a more aggressive clip.

Even if business picks up and orders materialize, averting broader layoffs, factories will probably not need to produce as many new things in coming months, prompting some to trim working hours and purchases of materials.

“A big inventory contribution in one quarter means a payback in another quarter,” said Zach Pandl, United States economist at Lehman Brothers. “Firms are likely to pull back.”

The biggest questions ahead center on the duration and severity of the downturn. Attention now turns to the job market and the tax rebate checks being sent out to roughly 130 million American taxpayers to encourage spending.

On Friday, the Labor Department is to release its monthly snapshot of the jobs picture, which has become a primary factor gnawing at the economy. For four months in a row, the private sector has shed jobs, with 80,000 nonfarm jobs lost in March alone, according to the Labor Department.

If, as widely expected, the jobs report shows another monthly decline, markets are likely to absorb it as a sign of an economy that has effectively slipped into a recession despite the modestly reassuring positive figures from the Commerce Department.

Most economists agree that the tax rebate checks will finance a flurry of spending that should stimulate economic growth. But whether it will be a quick binge lasting only a few months, or whether spending will crystallize a sense of confidence, prompting companies to expand and hire, is a matter of much contention.

Even with the rebate checks, consumer spending should grow by only 1.7 percent this year and roughly the same next year, predicted Alan D. Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price Associates in Baltimore. With spending that weak, the economy would probably continue to shed 75,000 to 80,000 jobs a month, even after stronger growth resumes, he said.

The government has offered the rebate checks to buy time while it waits for the Fed’s lowered interest rates to wash through the economy, nurturing fresh investment and hiring. But many economists are skeptical that such timing can be pulled off. Many forecasts show a dip in economic activity from April through June, then a bump up from the rebate checks before the economy slows again at the end of this year.

“It doesn’t get us across the chasm,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG, speaking of the rebate checks. “It will make things look better than they are for a few months, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals. The underlying circumstances are unambiguously recessionary.”




Halliburton Profit Rises
HOUSTON (AP) — Increasing its global presence is paying off for the oil field services provider Halliburton, whose first-quarter income rose nearly 6 percent on growing business in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, the company said Monday.
Business in the first three months of 2008 also was better than expected in North America, where higher costs and lower pricing squeezed results at the end of 2007.
Halliburton shares closed up 3 cents, at $47.46, on the New York Stock Exchange.
Halliburton said it earned $584 million, or 64 cents a share, in the three months that ended March 31, compared with a year-earlier profit of $552 million, or 54 cents a share. Revenue rose to $4.03 billion, from $3.42 billion a year earlier.
April 22, 2008

Illegal Immigrants Who Were Arrested at Poultry Plant in Arkansas to Be Deported
Eighteen illegal immigrants arrested at a poultry plant in Batesville will be processed for deportation, but will not serve any jail time for using fake Social Security numbers and state identification cards, federal judges ruled. Magistrate Judge Beth Deere and Judge James Moody of Federal District Court accepted guilty pleas from 17 of those arrested last week at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant. Federal prosecutors dismissed the misdemeanor charges against one man, but said they planned to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin deportation proceedings against him. The guilty pleas will give the 17 people criminal records, which will allow prosecutors to pursue tougher penalties if they illegally return to the United States. They had faced up to up to two years in prison and $205,000 in fines. Jane Duke, a United States attorney, said her office had no interest in seeing those arrested serve jail time, as they were “otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
National Briefing | South
April 22, 2008

Coal Company Verdict in West Virginia Is Thrown Out
April 4, 2008
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
The State Supreme Court for a second time threw out a $50 million verdict against the coal company Massey Energy. The court decided to rehear the case after the publication of photographs of its chief justice on vacation in Monte Carlo with the company’s chief executive, Don L. Blankenship. The chief justice, Elliott E. Maynard, and a second justice disqualified themselves from the rehearing and were replaced by appeals court judges, but the vote was again 3-to-2 in favor of Massey. A third justice, Brent D. Benjamin, who was elected to the court with the help of more than $3 million from Mr. Blankenship, refused to recuse himself.

Utah: Miners’ Families File Lawsuit
National Briefing | Rockies
April 3, 2008
A lawsuit by the families of six men killed in August in a mine cave-in claims the collapse occurred because the mine’s owners were harvesting coal unsafely. The suit, filed in Salt Lake City, says the Murray Energy Corporation performed risky retreat mining last summer. It seeks unspecified damages. Three men trying to reach the miners died 10 days after the collapse in another cave-in at the Crandall Canyon Mine.

Regimens: Drug Samples Found to Affect Spending
Vital Signs
Having doctors distribute free samples of medicines may do exactly what drug companies hope for — encourage patients to spend more money on drugs.
A study in the April issue of Medical Care found that patients who never received free samples spent an average of $178 for six months of prescriptions. Those receiving samples spent $166 in the six months before they obtained free medicine, $244 when they received the handouts and $212 in the six months after that.
Researchers studied 5,709 patients, tracking medical histories and drug expenditures; 14 percent of the group received free samples. The study adjusted for prior and current health conditions, race, socioeconomic level and other variables.
The authors acknowledge that the study results could be partly explained by unmeasured illness in the group given samples.
The lead author, Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said although free samples might save some patients money, there were other ways to economize. “Using more generics, prescribing for three months’ supply rather than one month’s and stopping drugs that may no longer be needed can also save money,” Dr. Alexander said.
April 1, 2008

Rhode Island: Order to Combat Illegal Immigration
National Briefing | New England
Linking the presence of undocumented workers to the state’s financial woes, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed an executive order that includes steps to combat illegal immigration. The order requires state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. It also directs the state police and prison and parole officials to work harder to find and deport illegal immigrants. The governor, a Republican, said that he understood illegal immigrants faced hardships, but that he did not want them in Rhode Island. Under his order, the state police will enter an agreement with federal immigration authorities permitting them access to specialized immigration databases.
March 29, 2008

North Carolina: Ministers Say Police Destroyed Records
National Briefing | South
Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shooting of five people at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979. The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after a seven-member panel that had been convened to research the shootings requested police files related to them. The ministers did not identify the officer who provided the information. On Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansman and Nazi Party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured. Those charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
February 27, 2008

Gaza: Israeli Army Clears Itself in 21 Deaths
World Briefing | Middle East
The army said no legal action would be taken against military officials over an artillery strike in Beit Hanun in 2006 in which an errant shell hit residential buildings and killed 21 Palestinian civilians. An army investigation concluded that the shell was fired based on information that militants were intending to fire rockets from the area, an army statement said. The civilian deaths, it said, were “directly due to a rare and severe failure” in the artillery control system. The army’s military advocate general concluded that there was no need for further investigation.
February 27, 2008

World Briefing | Asia
Taiwan: Tons of Fish Wash Up on Beaches
About 45 tons of fish have washed up dead along 200 miles of beach on the outlying Penghu Islands after an unusual cold snap. News reports said 10 times as many dead fish were still in the water.
February 23, 2008

Zimbabwe: Inflation Breaks the Six-Figure Mark
World Briefing | Africa
The government’s statistics office said the inflation rate surged to a new record of 100,580 percent in January, up from 66,212 percent in December. Rangarirai Mberi, news editor of the independent Financial Gazette in Harare, said the state of the economy would feature prominently in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “Numbers no longer shock people,” he said. Zimbabweans have learned to live in a hyperinflationary environment, he added, “but the question is, how long can this continue?”
February 21, 2008




Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

http://video. videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


"They have a new gimmick every year. They're going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: 'Look how much progress we're making. I'm in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I'm your spokesman, I'm your leader.' While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.

"But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can't identify with that, you step back.

"It's easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it's hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you'll fold though."

—MALCOLM X, 1965


A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at:


[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk]


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
The Guardian,,2042968,00.html


Introducing...................the Apple iRack


"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4,]


"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending]


FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein


[The Scab
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard]


Sand Creek Massacre
(scroll down when you get there])

On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.

Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:

Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.

READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC,+Don

(scroll down when you get there])

SHOP: Articles at">

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