Saturday, October 29, 2005


While it is no big surprise for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. You would think Maria Shriver, the California First Lady, would have a little more sense then to have invited Dr. Dr. Laura Schlessinger to be a featured speaker at the 19th annual conference on Women and Families in Long Beach, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005.

"It is unconscionable that the first lady of the state of California is giving a platform to a woman who has made a career for herself condemning families headed by LGBT individuals, opposing hate-crime legislation and promoting hate," said National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell. Kendell said the lack of representation of same-sex families at the conference at a time when the first lady should be demonstrating leadership in supporting equality for all families is disheartening. "She instead is selling out her values for her husband's anti-equality agenda," she said.

"For Maria Shriver to give a role at this conference to a woman who believes in the exclusion from equal protection of the law of so many California families is outrageous," said Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). "This event is an opportunity for the first lady and the governor to focus on inclusion of all California families."

Executive Director Geoffrey Kors of Equality California said, “Equality California is shocked that the Governor and the First Lady would feature Dr. Laura at what should be a non-partisan conference on women and families. On a day to celebrate the role of women in America, Dr. Laura casts a shadow of anti-gay sentiment and bias toward our families. Dr. Laura has spearheaded an inaccurate campaign against LGBT people, claiming we are child molesters and 'biological errors.' For Maria Shriver to give the blessing of the State of California to a woman who has promoted hate is unconscionable."

Dr. Laura once stated, "If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true," she said. "The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex. It is a biological error."

She also said,"How many letters have I read on the air from gay men who acknowledge that a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys. There's nothing new here."

Back in 99, the not really a doctor said, "When we have the word homosexual, we are clarifying the dysfunction, the deviancy, the reality. We change it to the word gay, it makes it more difficult to pinpoint the truth. So one of the things that the homosexual agenda did was to change the name. Just like somebody complained to me yesterday about ethnic cleansing, that it sounds like washing machine as opposed to murder. They were right. Ethnic cleansing sounds nice. Murder is the truth, homosexuality is the truth. Gay isn’t."

Schlessinger was invited to speak at the conference by Schwarzenegger a month after he vetoed legislation that would have permitted same-sex marriage in the state.

The Gov. himself spoke at the conference. In his speech he said nothing about the numerous widely opposed anti-worker, anti-education ballot measures which he is pushing.

Shortly after he started speaking, about 15 nurses, teachers and other protesters who had infiltrated the arena unfurled banners and began chanting: "We nurse. We teach. You won't stop our speech."

Plainclothes security guards quickly converged and led them out of the building. Some of the protesters later told the Los Angeles Times that the guards treated them roughly.

Speaking earlier in the day at the California Governor and First Lady's Conference on Women and Families, Maria Shriver urged women to be courageous "warriors" in pursuit of societal change. Apparently, viewing gays as human beings is too much societal change for her.

Shriver did take time to attack one of her husband's more notable critics – Warren Beaty. "When I look in the mirror, I don't just see a first lady," Shriver said. "I don't just see a Kennedy or a Schwarzenegger. I don't just see a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister or a friend." Her voice swelling with enthusiasm, she added: "Thank God I don't see Warren Beatty!"

In a telephone interview afterward, Beatty said: "I like Maria, but I would think that she might have some trouble looking in the mirror because she knows and I know that all these right-wing union-busting initiatives are bad for California. Sources: 365Gay, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Bay Times, Out In San Francisco, Equality California, Stop Dr. Laura, Horizons Foundation


Saludos desde Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Jose Perez Gonzalez is a member of our group Mayaguezanos con Vieques we would appreciate it greatly if you would help our brother Jose receive proper treatment. Below you will find information and a letter by the New York based Puerto Rican human rights group Pro Libertad.


Vieques Political Prisoner Jose Perez Gonzalez was moved to USP Atlanta over
a month and half ago and has been kept in inhumane conditions.

He is being kept in a cell, made for two people, with three other inmates.
The other inmates are sick with TB, the linens they are being given are
soiled and stained with bodily fluids.

He is also being denied his personal belongings, fresh water, toothbrushes
and many other personal amenities. He is being kept in the cell for 23
hours a day, with only an hour for recreation.

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign is urging all our allies and supporters to
download a PDF format copy of the following letter and mail it out to Warden
Zenk demand that Jose Perez Gonzalez be treated properly and that he be
transferred to a better penitentiary.

Mail out the letter or fax it to the Prison Fax: 404-331-2403 And if you
want to call the Warden at Phone: 404-635-5100

Jose Perez Gonzalez is from Ponce, Puerto Rico; he is the son of a butcher and his mother is retired government worker. He is married with three children. He is a member of Mayaguezano por La Salud y el Ambiente. He is well known in his neighborhood, of Barrio Segundo in Ponce. He was a civil disobedient and served three months in jail for his support activities. Jose was the only member of the Vieques 12 who went to trial. He was found guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. His release is 1/17/2008 .

Friday, October 28, 2005


It so happens that on some Friday's I just reprint an article of interest or importance from another source en lieu of the Oread Daily. Today, my friends, is another one of those days. The following article comes from Australia's Green Left Weekly.

VENEZUELA: Building socialism — an interview with Marta Harnecker
Federico Fuentes, Caracas

The last time I spoke with long-time influential writer on Latin American politics Marta Harnecker was at the 2003 World Social Forum, where we talked of the “most important anti-neoliberal struggle in the world” unfolding in Venezuela. It was two years later at this same event that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for the first time in the international arena, proclaimed his support for socialism as the only alternative to capitalism.

Harnecker now lives in Venezuela, trying to support the government however she can, including working as an adviser to the new Minister of Participation and Social Development. Meeting her again, I asked her what she thought Chavez’s comments on socialism represented in relation to changes in Venezuela over that period.

“I think you can say that nothing new has happened after the declaration of socialism, because the declaration is nothing more than giving a name to many things that were already occurring in this country. These were all things that were against the logic of capital. Instead they were based on the logic of a humanist solidarity.
“What had been occurring in practice helped to demonstrate to the leadership of this process that the logic of humanism and solidarity that they were proposing would at each step clash with the logic of capital.

“Look at the social missions. The missions are not socialist, but they can only be imagined in a society that wants to construct something different from capitalism, because they permit people to grow, to become subjects in this process and create a new way of looking at society.”

The social missions — which began with Mission Barrio Adentro, taking health care into the poorest barrios of Caracas — have now been extended to incorporate Venezuelans who have traditionally been excluded from the education system through Mission Robinson (literacy), Mission Ribas (high school) and Mission Sucre (university). Other missions have been established to tackle the plight of indigenous peoples (Mission Guicapuro) and the struggle of campesinos (peasants) for land (Mission Zamora), among others.

Harnecker explained that “one of the most important missions is Mercal. Mercal is something that is contrary to the logic of capital. It attempts to give food to people at a price not fixed by the law of demand, but rather at below market prices.” Products in Mercal outlets are usually sold at up to 40% below the market prices.

“It also has attempted to establish a network for national production by buying from cooperatives. One of the problems of cooperatives is the competition they face in the capitalist market. This is resolved by a state market which buys the products for the people and offers them at below market prices, where during the whole process profit is not the objective.

“It is interesting if we look at how the idea of Mercal comes about. It originates from the necessity of food sovereignty, coming out of the bosses’ strike in December 2002.” Harnecker said that the government at that time saw “how weak they were, all the food was in the hands of private businesses, so they could strangle the process through hunger. So the government rapidly saw the necessity to resolve this problem.”

Harnecker noted that the missions “were only possible by going outside the inherited state. One of the biggest problems of this revolution is the inherited state apparatus and the inherited habits of the people. The missions were a way of doing things outside the state and beginning to transform it from the outside, something that is very difficult.”

Participatory democracy

Along with attempting to transform the state and the logic of the capitalist market, the Bolivarian revolution has fought to replace the so-called representative democracy that existed for 40 years prior to the 1998 election of Chavez and replace it with a real participatory and protagonist democracy, under which the people begin to take control of their lives, their community and their country. It is in this area of popular participation that Harnecker spends most of her time, studying and promoting new experiences and initiatives that are attempting to transfer real decision-making power to the people. For Harnecker, “Venezuela is a country that gives its citizens all the opportunities possible for people to participate”.

We discussed the experience of the community governments in Carabobo. There, in the municipality of Libertador, the mayor has worked on the division of the parroquiales into sectors, where community governments are established to decentralise tasks and resources, such as rubbish collection and the maintenance and payment of electricity supply. All these tasks are taken on by the whole community, with resources from the council.

The Chavez government has also promoted the establishment of community committees to tackle problems of health, education, sport and other issues, working closely with the missions. The Comites de Salud (health committees) are one example. They work closely with the Cuban doctors in Mission Barrio Adentro, helping to carry out censuses of the community and encouraging those that are ill to visit the local doctor, whom many couldn’t previously afford to see.

Harnecker explained: “There are many different experiences, with different names, but similar objectives.” Together with the ministry for popular participation and social development, Harnecker is working on the promotion of the communal councils. “One of the problems we have here is that the new constitution has created excellent conditions for the protagonist participation of the people, but these ideas are not always implemented correctly.”

Harnecker cited the example of the Local Councils of Public Planning (CLPPs), established in the constitution and codified into law. These aimed to establish a council involving the mayor, the elected members of the municipal council, the presidents of the Juntas Parroquiales and leaders of the organised community elected in citizens’ assemblies. The idea was that the community would have 50%-plus-one membership of this body and it would help to establish where a certain portion of the municipality’s budget went. Yet in reality there have been many problems in getting these off the ground.

“For example”, said Harnecker, “how do you democratically elect representatives from a community in a citizen’s assembly when we are talking of a geographic area which is inhabited by thousands or tens of thousands of people? Whilst the grassroots of the society are not organised, it will be very difficult for those who make up the CLPP as an expression of the people to be truly representative.

“That is why it is so important to form the communal councils in small communities of 200 to 600 families in urban areas and much smaller in rural areas. The spokespeople of those councils should be the representatives of that community in the CLPP. The councils also help to resolve the problem of the dispersion of the organisations that are in the community. There are many popular organisations which are very focused on their own sector.”

Harnecker explained that what they are proposing with the communal councils is “that the community put forward an organisation or space that articulates all the organisations which exist in a community and that allows the elaboration of a single plan for the community which includes health, education, everything, but that it be a single plan”.


Through increasing popular participation, Harnecker explained that it “will help consolidate this process at the grassroots level, take it forward and broaden it, creating more forces that are in favour of the process”. Facilitating popular participation will also help create a whole new generation of leaders, because “that is where the people will have to do things and will have to demonstrate in practice that they are capable of leading this process. This is why I am enthusiastic about working with the construction of popular participation at the grassroots level, with the ideas of the communal councils, because these people are elected according to the leadership they display in their day-to-day activities.”

This is also how Harnecker sees that the Venezuelan process will be able to overcome one of its biggest weaknesses — the lack of a political instrument. “The different parties and different leaderships have not been able to integrate in a real way, they are too worried about their own group’s interests and there is a big problem within the MVR [Chavez’s party, the Movement for a Fifth Republic], which attempts to impose its hegemony. It is a ‘majoritarian’ party that is not really very generous. The problem is not so much in the top leadership, who understand that it is necessary to give and create spaces for their allies, but because there are many groups within the MVR they need to respond to the requirements of each group and that is where the problem comes from.

“For a while after the referendum it appeared that the UBEs [Units for Electoral Battle], a brilliant form of organisation, would allow Chavez to resolve the issue of the connection with the people and how to organise them. At that moment, a political front could maybe have been created from the UBEs, where the people involved would have really been those who worked in the grassroots, with representatives from the parties, but with a majority who came through because of work in the grassroots. Unfortunately the conditions were not there, particularly from what I have been told about the discussion inside the MVR, to accept the idea.”

Harnecker believes that “unless some very grave event happens that forces [the parties] to put the interests of the process above all else ... I foresee a process much longer of construction of leaders, the growth of leaders via popular participation. In six years I believe we are going to have a generation of leaders that will impose themselves on this process.”

Asked whether the revolution has six years to solve the problem, Harnecker replied: “What Chavez is doing is looking for mechanisms to substitute for that deficiency. He is the clear conductor of this process, the process depends a lot on Chavez and that is why the threat of assassination is real. However, with that conductor and with the popular pedagogy and with a process that creates opportunities for the people to participate and grow, this problem is being overcome. It is not a process where the people are waiting for the leader to deliver them a present, it is a process where the people are waking up, are auto-affirming themselves, are growing as people, and are forming themselves in the missions, through [Chavez’s weekly TV program] Alo Presidente, and through their daily participation.”

From Green Left Weekly, October 26, 2005

MARTA HARNECKER was born in Chile, lived for many years in Cuba after escaping Augusto Pinochet’s repressive regime. She has been director of the Center for Research on Popular Memory in Latin America (MEPLA) in Havana and author of Venezuela: Militares Junta al Pueblo and numerous books on the Latin American left. She is an adviser to Hugo Chavez.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The neo-Nazi demonstration outside the German embassy in Prague set for October 28 to protest the imprisonment of German Ernest Zuendel who denies the Holocaust will not be banned, the authorities said today.

"The Town Hall cannot ban any event which does not arouse a clear suspicion that a criminal act would happen during it," Town Hall Jiri Wolf told journalists.

October 28th is a national holiday in the Czech Republic which marks the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918

Opposition to the neo-nazi demonstration, however, is growing following protests expressed by the Federation of Jewish Communities, the Czech Council for Victims of Nazism, the Association of Liberated Political Prisoners and their Descendants, and others reports Romano Vod'i.

Oldrich Stransky, chairman of the council and the association, sent a letter to Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka calling on him to help outlaw all public events aimed at the questioning and falsifying the past.

Anti-nazi activists plan to be at the embassy at the same time as Hitler's ninnies make their appearance.

Ernst Christof Friedrich Zündel is a German Holocaust denier and pamphleteer who was jailed several times for publishing hate literature. In 1977, Zündel founded a press publishing house called Samisdat Publishers which issued such pamphlets as "The Hitler We Loved" and "Why and Did Six Million Really Die?," both prominent documents of the so-called Holocaust Revisionism movement.

For many years Zündel made his views known from his home in Canada and in 2005, he was deported back to his native Germany and detained in Mannheim prison awaiting trial for Holocaust denial.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported, “Zundel also turned his home (in Canada), in the words of a Canadian federal court, into "a revolving door for leaders of white supremacist groups with histories of violence."

When asked once if he could think of any definitive experiment that could decide the gas chamber issue one way or the other Zündel offered the macabre suggestion that someone " a gas chamber according to what are alleged to be the plans, get DEGESH to supply the gas, fill it with people, gas them and see if they in fact died. Since the U.S. continues to execute people, we could also save some money in conducting such an experiment."

Zundel or Zuendel or Zündel, however you spell his name, is also the author of a book which argues that UFOs are actually Nazi secret weapons, still being launched from a hole in the ice in Antarctica. Sources: Romano Vod'i,, Prague Daily Monitor, SPLC, Wikipedia


Please join us for the HIP HOP CAUCUS' MARCH ON GRETNA in Louisiana on Monday, November 7, 2005!

Come March with Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (Hip Hop Caucus), Kim Gandy (NOW), Van Jones (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), Ron Daniels (Center for Constitutional Rights/Institute for the Black 21st Century), Curtis Muhammad (Community Labor United), Rev. Tony Lee (Ebenezer AME Church), Cousin Jeff Johnson (BET/People for the American Way), College Students, Community Activists, led by People of New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina; join the People’s Committee for Relief & Oversight, NOW, UP for Democracy, & the Hip Hop Caucus, as we March on Gretna!!!!!!

Date: Monday, November 7, 2005

Time: Rally starts at 10:00 a.m.

Location: Convention Center, 900 Convention Boulevard, New Orleans

March over Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna's Oakridge Mall

PRESS CONFERENCE for this event will be held in Washington, D.C. on

November 2 with representatives of sponsoring organizations (details forthcoming)

We will march over the Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna's

Oakridge Mall where buses were to transport evacuees to safety - a destination people from New Orleans never reached.

In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans authorities directed people to evacuate the city by crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge which spans the Mississippi River linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna.

However, if you were black or in the company of blacks, you were blocked from evacuating New Orleans by armed Gretna police with guard dogs. Under orders from Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson to seal off the bridge and deny safe passage to evacuees, Gretna police officers fired shots in the direction of the crowds and held others at gunpoint. It should be noted that the people of Gretna had been evacuated, the Gretna officials were concerned about the protecting the property of their suburban community.

On Monday, November 7, 2005, the Hip Hop and progressive community will cross that bridge!

We march with our fellow citizens displaced by Katrina to reclaim the right to cross that bridge to Gretna, and in crossing that bridge in the name of the rights to safety and self-determination, to racial and economic justice – we March in support of the People's control of the reconstruction process in the Gulf Coast. And we will keep marching until we reclaim this democracy nationwide in the elections on November 7, 2006! NEVER AGAIN WILL PROPERTY RIGHTS TRUMP PEOPLE’S RIGHTS!


The Hip Hop Caucus and UP for Democracy will also be organizing a work brigade on Sunday, November 6, 205 to assist New Orleans families in the "recovering and retrieving" - assisting in the clean-up efforts now underway.

This march is endorsed by Black Leadership Forum, Center for Social Justice, Cities for Progress/Institute for Policy Studies, Clergy & Laity Concerned About Iraq, Code Pink,, Common Ground, Community Labor United, Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Global Crisis Coalition, Global Exchange, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Healthcare NOW!, Hip Hop Caucus, Independent Progressive Politics Network, League of Pissed Off Voters, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, New Orleans Network, National Organization for Women, People’s Alliance for Community Empowerment, People’s Hurricane Relief & Reconstruction Oversight Committee People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond, Progressive Democrats of America, Project South, Rainbow Push, National Progressive Youth & Student Organization, Quality Education as a Human Right, Rebuild Green, Rebuilding Louisiana Coalition (NOLA), Rebuild Hope NOW, Saving Our Neighborhoods, Southwest Workers’ Union, TransAfrica Forum, United for Peace & Justice, United Houma Nation of Louisiana, Urban Heart.

For more information: or call Charles Young at (202) 545-0113 or Diane Shamis (845) 661-3754.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


More than 470 physicists, including seven Nobel laureates, have signed a petition to oppose a new U.S. Defense Department proposal that allows the United States to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. The signers object to the new policy because it blurs the sharp line between nuclear weapons and conventional, chemical and biological weapons.

The petition is signed by two past presidents of the American Physical Society, the premier professional organization for U.S. physicists—George Trilling of UC Berkeley and Jerome Friedman of MIT. Friedman, who is also a Nobel laureate, was joined on the petition by six other Nobel Prizewinners in physics—Philip Anderson of Princeton University, Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois, Douglas Osheroff of Stanford University, Daniel Tsui of Princeton University, Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas and Frank Wilczek of MIT.

Other prominent physicists on the petition include Fields Medal winner Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study, Wolf Prize laureates Michael Fisher of the University of Maryland and Daniel Kleppner of MIT, and Leo Kadanoff of the University of Chicago, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and president-elect of the American Physical Society.

Two initiators on Tuesday criticized the emerging US policy that will destroy the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"The new policy allows the US to use nuclear weapons against states that do not have nuclear weapons and for a host of new reasons, including rapid termination of a conflict on US terms or to ensure success of the US forces," said Jorge Hirsch, physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, who started this petition.

"The US use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states will destroy the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and give strong incentive for other countries to develop and use nuclear weapons, thus making nuclear war more likely, " said professor Kim Griest, another initiator of the petition. "This new US policy dramatically increases the risk of nuclear proliferation and, ultimately, the risk that regional conflicts will explode into all-out nuclear war, with the potential to destroy our civilization," he noted.

The two physicists began their petition last month following reports in The New York Times and Washington Post that the US government was in the final process of adopting a new policy that would permit the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear adversary under certain circumstances.

The new nuclear strike doctrine, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002.

A "summary of changes" included in the draft titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" in fact "revises the discussion of nuclear weapons use across the range of military operations."

The new “Doctrine” would permit the use of nuclear weapons against an adversary for the following reasons:

* For rapid and favorable war termination on U.S. terms.

* To ensure success of U.S. and multinational operations.

* To demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter adversary use of weapons of mass destruction.

* Against an adversary intending to use weapons of mass destruction against US, multinational, or alliance forces.

The policy thus indicates that the U.S. envisions a role for nuclear weapons that goes beyond simple deterrence and suggests their use to destroy military targets.

The draft document asserts that although the international community may condemn the state that initiates nuclear warfare, neither customary nor conventional international law prohibits employing nuclear weapons. Sources: People’s Daily (China), University of California at San Diego, Integrative Center for Homeland Security (Texas A and M), Science Daily, Washington Post


A Chicago City Council committee yesterday voted to ban the sale of the liver “delicacy” known as foie gras in Chicago restaurants. If the proposal is approved by the full Council, Chicago will join the state of California and a host of countries that have already banned the pricey appetizer. They include the United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel.

Alderman Joe Moore, who proposed the Chicago ban, and has been ridiculed by some as a result, says passage of the measure would, “…mean that there will be fewer restaurants serving this product and, hence, fewer ducks and geese being tortured to create this product." The Alderman says the force-feeding of geese and ducks to procure the fatted liver delicacy is inhumane.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Daley ridiculed the proposed foie gras ban as a Big Brother-style government intrusion.

Didier Durand, chef/owner of Cyrano's Bistrot, 546 N. Wells, spoke in opposition to the ban on behalf of the Illinois Restaurant Association. "To take it off our menu would be destroying a time-honored culinary tradition. Every restaurant has the right to serve what they want."

But to animal lovers across the world, the practice of force-feeding 30 million animals a year until their livers swell to up to ten times their normal size is a cruel practice which causes untold suffering. In recent years the movement to abolish force-feeding for foie gras production has gained momentum worldwide

In France, however, politicians have just approved a draft law that protects foie gras and declares it a part of the French national heritage.

Foie gras - translated literally as "fatty liver" - is big business in France, which produces 70 per cent of the 20,000 tons made worldwide each year and accounts for 85 percent of global consumption. The industry employs 30,000 people and the average French person eats the delicacy at least ten times a year.

"How on earth can you say that a barbaric custom, consisting of sticking a funnel or a pneumatic pump down the throat of a caged animal, is a tradition of high culture?" asked the Citizens Initiative for the Abolition of Force Feeding on its website.

The reactionary stance of France over foie gras flies in the face of EU directives dating from as far back as 1998, which warn that: "No animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner ... which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury".

Foie gras is made from the grotesquely enlarged livers of male ducks and geese. Birds have up to 2 pounds of food per day pumped into their stomachs through long metal pipes that are shoved down their throats. The cruel ordeal often causes severe injuries that make it painful or even impossible for birds to drink. Those who survive the feedings suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell to eight to 10 times their normal size. Many birds become too sick to walk and are reduced to pushing themselves across their cages with their wings. When the birds are slaughtered, their livers are sold for foie gras.

The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare for the European Union found many examples of abuse as a result of force-feeding, including:

• Birds are routinely confined to small cages or crowded pens.

• Birds are force-fed tremendous amounts of feed via a 12- to 16-inch plastic or metal tube, which is shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump.

• The force-feeding may be performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks and three to four times daily, for up to 28 days for geese.

• Force-feeding causes the liver to increase in size about 6-10 times compared to the normal size for a bird.

• Increased liver size forces the abdomen to expand, which makes moving difficult and painful. An enlarged abdomen increases the risk of damage to the stretched tissue of the lower part of the esophagus.

• Force-feeding results in accumulated scar tissue in the esophagus.

• The liver can be easily damaged by even minor trauma.

Force-fed birds have been found to have chronic heart disorders; ruptured liver cell membranes; cirrhosis; traumatic esophagitis; and lesions in their gizzards and intestines. Dead birds have been found by investigators with food filling their esophagi and spilling out of their nostrils. Sources: Chicago Sun Times, NBC5 (Chicago), CBS2 (Chicago), Scotsman, Foie Gras: Delicacy of Despair, Humane Society of the United States


The following comes to us from the One People's Project

Since the group’s inception earlier this year, the Minuteman Project has tried to paint itself as a non-racist organization, emphatically denying any association with racist activists. This denial always seems to come with a wink and a nod as it become more and more apparent that this is not the case. There is Joe McCrutchen, a Minuteman from Arkansas who is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, and whose reports from working with the Minutemen would appear on the website of Billy Roper’s group, White Revolution. There is anti-Hispanic activist Glenn Spencer of Voices of Citizens Together (VCT), who has spoken at many Council of Conservative Citizens events. There are the two National Alliance members that the Southern Poverty Law Center found working with the Minutemen. There is also John Clark from Florida, a member of two hate groups, California Citizens for Immigration Reform (CCIR) and the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), who was a keynote speaker at a meeting in Bridgewater, NJ on June 25. California saw neo-Nazis demonstrating openly with the Minutemen, complete with swastika flags. Minutemen leaders in Texas resign because of the rampant racism that no one would do anything about. Then there is co-founder Jim Gilchrist, who is not only a member of CCIR, but is also running for Congress as a member of the racist American Independent Party (AIP), a party formed by segregationalist George Wallace that worked in opposition of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If the Minutemen thought that even with all of this they will somehow beat the charge of being a racist crowd, along comes something that might suggest otherwise. Touted as the first and only feature-length documentary about the Minuteman Project, The Line in the Sand is a DVD recently produced by Byron Jost, an independent filmmaker from Torrey, Utah with ties to the white supremacist Vanguard News Network (VNN). Featured prominently in the documentary are Gilchrist, his fellow Minuteman Project founder Chris Simcox and anti-immigrant congressman Tom Tancredo along with Glenn Spencer, VNN webmaster Alex Linder and Dr. Kevin MacDonald, a Professor of Psychology at California State University-Long Beach who has claimed Jews are responsible for a "breeding program" to conquer other "races." In the documentary Dr. MacDonald has a rather lengthy segment where he blames the Jews for the current immigration situation.

The documentary is just over 90 minutes of hatemongering against the Hispanic community, whether they are Mexican nationals or those who live in the US. From listening to Spencer and others on the DVD, viewers see that this hatred is from the perceived notion that Mexicans are trying to take over the US and reclaim it for Mexico, something that is commonly refered to by white supremacists as a reconquista. This is the most prominent theme of the documentary, and those featured routinely refer to what they are doing as engaging in a war, particularly against Mexico. Even with this theme, Spencer, Simcox and the others featured repeat the mantra that what they do is not because they are racist, but when the documentary goes to Dr. MacDonald or Alex Linder, racism and anti-semitism is what drives their points.

This is not the only contradiction in the documentary, which while it is supposed to be favorable to the Minutemen, ends up exposing them for the phonies they are. In one scene, Gilchrist holds up binoculars and a cell phone as being the weapons of the Minutemen. This was done in an effort to deflect charges that the Minutemen are armed. Earlier in the documentary, however, Simcox is speaking about how some Minutemen are carrying weapons, and even jokes about how being detained by a woman with a gun embarrasses some of the Mexican men. Detaining those crossing the border in itself is another contradiction, as Minuteman spokespersons have said repeatedly that they only observe. In the documentary, one woman, Cindy Kolb detains two border crossers for the border patrol. Kolb is caught in yet another contradiction, that of how humanitarian the Minutemen paint themselves. While their spokespersons have noted times they have given border crossers, food and water, Kolb is seen in this documentary picking up a jug of water she found and emptying it so border crossers looking for water will not happen upon it.

Attempts were made to reach Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox and ask about their involvement in a documentary on their organization produced by neo-Nazis. Simcox did not return emails, but the campaign manager for Gilchrist’s congressional campaign had harsh words for the production. “I can tell you that Jim personally and professionally condemns the movie,” wrote Howie Morgan in an email. In addition to being Gilchrist’s campaign manager, Morgan is a Mississippi Representative of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the organization responsible for the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Era, but since then has become so right-wing under the 37-year leadership of Roy Innis, that white conservative racists often turn to them to help them deflect the charges when they arise.

Originally from Los Angeles, filmmaker Jost says he has two more productions in the works, and this is the first for his production company, October Sun Films. “I came to the realization that there is just a lack of professional quality in pro-white video, and since that's my background it was only natural that I start doing this,” he said in an interview.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


More than 1,000 fishermen have been protesting against the government in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, 300 days after the Asian tsunami. "What happened to the money the foreigners gave," read one banner carried by protesters, referring to the promised five billion dollars in foreign assistance. They said they had seen little of the billions that had been promised. One protest leader was detained by police.

"We are not from any political party, we are just fishermen trying to tell the government to help us," said L Jayatilleke, one of the organizers of the protest.

In fact the widely hyped tsunami recovery efforts undertaken by relief agencies and governments in five disaster-affected countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives - remain hampered by incompetence, corruption, discrimination and lack of public accountability

"Tsunami survivors, like many victims of Hurricane Katrina [in the United States], are angry and frustrated," said Laurel Fletcher, co-author of the study titled "After the Tsunami: Human Rights of Vulnerable Populations", released by the University of California's Berkeley Human Rights Center. "Months have passed and they are still living in displacement camps where they have virtually no say in how their communities.

The Berkeley study, produced in collaboration with the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, says governments in all five tsunami-affected countries failed to establish effective mechanisms to respond to complaints of abuses, and international humanitarian agencies often failed to report abuses. "A lack of coordination on the part of aid agencies, coupled with a lack of oversight, also led to inequities in aid distribution," the joint study added.

But it is not only the locals who are at fault.

Rivalries and poor coordination defeated the efforts of agencies that rushed to the rescue of tsunami victims, with aid groups jealously holding back information from each other.

A report by the British Red Cross tells how dozens of foreign surgeons tussled for the chance to treat one patient in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, while thousands of other victims were ignored. The UN, far from providing a co-coordinating role, often got in the way of relief efforts. The report says the devastation and chaos wreaked by the waves that hit southern Asia meant that many charities duplicated aid but neglected some of the worst-affected areas. Some aid agencies, eager to raise their profiles, concealed information about the disaster rather than share it with rival organizations, the annual World Disasters Report claims.

The Red Cross report notes the region was inundated with surgeons - Banda Aceh in Sumatra had 10 field hospitals and a hospital boat with 20 surgeons "competing" over one patient - but was desperate for midwives and nurses. "The operations were largely 'gender blind'," Matthias Schmale, the British Red Cross international director, said. "Few organizations considered providing women with sanitary needs, underwear or culturally appropriate clothing."

Oxfam with its own report says government agencies and aid organizations often failed to consult people in affected communities about aid distribution and reconstruction. "Without that consensus, charges of cronyism and corruption flourished." It says humanitarian assistance does not cover all needs, often arrives too late and is too often determined more by media profile or political criteria than humanitarian need. It concludes that these failings are condemning thousands of people to unnecessary suffering and death. Sources: Australian, Inter Press Service, Asia Times, AsiaNews


Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has now spent a decade under house arrest.

Suu Kyi has spent a total of 10 years in three separate periods of house arrest—from 1989-1995, 2000-2002 and from May 2003 until today. In June she turned 60, alone and cut off from the outside world.

"The pattern of detaining, releasing and detaining Aung San Suu Kyi is symbolic of the one step forward, two steps back strategy the regime has perpetrated on the entire country," Debbie Stothard, co-coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, said in Bangkok.

Demonstrations were held Monday in front of United Nations buildings in New York City, Canada, Sweden, Australia, South Korea, and the Netherlands, as well as outside the House of Commons in London.

While there was no public recognition or demonstration on the streets of Burma where security remained tight, 67 members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) began a three-day meeting on Monday with an appeal to the military junta to release her and all other political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi is the secretary general of the NLD. The NLD scored a landslide victory in 1990 elections but the military - which has run the country since 1962 - ignored the result.

In the Netherlands, Burmese exiles gathered in front of the UN office in Rotterdam urging Dutch support for the report by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech President Vaclav Havel, appealing for UN action on Burma. Their report recommended that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution compelling Myanmar to work with Secretary General Kofi Annan in implementing a national reconciliation plan that would bring a democratically elected government.

In addition to the rally outside of Parliament, London's Burma Campaign also released an 83-page report, "Ten years of detention: too many years of empty words", which said that although the United Nations had passed 27 resolutions on Myanmar, all had failed and the world body needed a coherent strategy. "The repetitive words of fourteen years' worth of UN reports, resolutions and statements, and the efforts of a sequence of UN Special Envoys and Rapporteurs have failed to affect any positive change in Burma whatsoever," it said. "Instead, at each turn, Burma's generals have opted to reject, snub and embarrass a UN system whose approach to Burma has been mired by an absence of both strategy and sense of urgency."

Last Friday Canada condemned Myanmar’s detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and demanded her immediate and unconditional release. “Canada reiterates its call for Burma (Myanmar) to immediately and unconditionally release Aung San Suu Kyi and the members of her party,” Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said in a statement. “For most of the past decade and a half, Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained under house arrest by the Burmese authorities. When these periods of detention are viewed cumulatively, October 24, 2005, marks the completion of her 10th year of detention,” Pettigrew noted. The Canadian foreign minister urged the Myanmar regime to recognize the 1990 election results and lead the country towards democracy. “The Burmese authorities should also abandon their ongoing efforts to entrench and legitimize military rule, and instead recognize the 1990 national election results and take steps to initiate genuine democratic reform,” he said. “The people of Burma have languished far too long under authoritarian rule, and continue to suffer human rights abuses.”

Aung San Suu Kyi's cousin and a former prime minister in exile, Sein Win, told the BBC on Monday that Myanmar's rulers had only partly succeeded in limiting her influence. "On the whole, Aung San Suu Kyi is still the leader of the people," Sein Win said. "And nothing can be done - national reconciliation, or development of the country, what we wanted - without Aung San Suu Kyi's participation and role." Sources: Irrawaddy News Magazine (Thailand), BBC, Voice of America, Daily Times (Pakistan), Democratic Voice of Burma, SAPA, AFP


In The Quiet Land
(By Daw Aung San Suu Kyi)

In the Quiet Land, no one can tell
if there's someone who's listening
for secrets they can sell.
The informers are paid in the blood of the land
and no one dares speak what the tyrants won't stand.

In the quiet land of Burma,
no one laughs and no one thinks out loud.
In the quiet land of Burma,
you can hear it in the silence of the crowd

In the Quiet Land, no one can say
when the soldiers are coming
to carry them away.
The Chinese want a road; the French want the oil;
the Thais take the timber; and SLORC takes the spoils...

In the Quiet Land....
In the Quiet Land, no one can hear
what is silenced by murder
and covered up with fear.
But, despite what is forced, freedom's a sound
that liars can't fake and no shouting can drown.


More than 50,000 women in Reykjavik ranging from actresses to politicians to fish factory workers to teachers marked "Women's Day Off" and marched through the streets demanding equality yesterday.

The protest was timed to start at 2.08pm. Activists calculated that this amounted to 64.1 per cent of the working day. Icelandic women complain that the average female wage is 64.1 per cent of the male income, even though a large majority of women are holding down jobs as well as taking the largest share of childcare.

The Times of London reports that all the main embassies ground to a halt, as did the banks, government departments, most shops and kindergartens.

All this took place on the thirtieth anniversary of a strike by Icelandic women which became a milestone for the international feminist movement.

In October 1975, 25,000 Icelandic women attracted worldwide attention when they left their homes and workplaces to go on strike. They gathered for two hours in the centre of Reykjavik in what was at the time probably the country's largest political rally ever. That protest sent shockwaves through the whole of the Nordic community and paved the way for the election five years later of Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the first democratically elected female President

“I was a theatre director in 1975,” the former President recalled. “Actresses and ticket clerks asked me for the time off to protest. I told them I would be there, too.”

The rally site yesterday, with a capacity for about 7,000, was not nearly big enough for the number of women who turned out, but loudspeakers were placed in outlying areas so at least some could listen in.

A sprinkling of men could also be seen, usually with their families in tow.

According to women who had experienced both women's strikes, the proportion of men in 2005 was noticeably higher than in 1975. One participant, Maria Kristmanns, is quoted in IPS: "I think that 30 years ago men were somewhat threatened by the day of action, but luckily it is clear that the mood has changed."

As with the 1975 strike, the objective was to show the value of women in the workforce for the Icelandic economy.

Edda Jonsdottir, project manager for the event, told IPS that 83% of Icelandic women work, “….equivalent to 49.5 percent of the workforce." She said, "The percentage of working women in Iceland is the highest in the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries. But women are still mostly in low-paid jobs, such as care work and teaching.”

In addition, activists point out family responsibilities and unequal division of housework -- of which women do 80 percent -- impair women's potential and opportunities in the labor market. If women marry or have more children, their real income goes down, while just the opposite is the case for men.

Activists listed the following as just some of the reasons for “Women’s Day Off.”

• women’s salary in Iceland is only 64,15% of men’s

• women get 72% of men’s salary for working the same number of hours

• having children has a negative effect on women’s salary, but a positive effect on men’s

• many women live in fear and insecurity in their own homes

• one out of three women becomes victim of gender related violence in her lifetime

• women do not get credit due for their education

• women in business have less access to finance

• responsibility for upbringing of children and domestic work is still largely on women’s shoulders

• jobs involving caretaking are among the lowest paying jobs in the job market

• women’s voice is still not loud enough in the media

• women’s bodies are treated as merchandise

• a woman has never been prime minister, bank manager or bishop

• women have never occupied half the seats in parliament

• women are not treated as equal to men

• this has to be changed
Sources: IPS, Iceland Review, Kvennafri (Iceland), Times of London

Monday, October 24, 2005


A rowdy group of nearly 500 persons organized by ACORN crashed a staid business meeting of national paint-industry executives Sunday at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, demanding accountability for decades of lead paint sales.

The Paint Big Wigs were surprised when members of ACORN flooded their third floor meeting room.

After raising a racket that put the meeting on hold, the crowd departed when J. Andrew Doyle, the paint association president, agreed to speak with a small group of ACORN leaders. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Doyle went to a side room and signed a written agreement to meet in Washington, D.C., with leaders of the protest group within 30 days to listen to their concerns about lead paint.

Marcel Reid, president of D.C. ACORN, told the Plain Dealer she and other members were pleased with the turnout and Doyle's agreement to meet with the group's leaders.

After the agreement, ACORN members carrying banners, placards and bullhorns marched from Public Square to a Sherwin-Williams Co. office on nearby Prospect Avenue for a brief protest. Although the office was closed, the activists shouted, "We are ACORN, mighty, mighty ACORN!" and waved banners that said, "They Knew for Decades" about the health problems associated with lead paint.

Meanwhile a groundbreaking case against lead paint manufacturers is set to begin in Rhode Island. The suit filed on behalf of the Rhode Island Attorney General says lead paint manufacturers created a public nuisance. The litigation is an effort by the State to make the lead pigment manufacturers take responsibility for the pervasive health hazard confronted by the Rhode Island public, including its children, parents,

Originally filed in 1999, the suit alleges that paint manufacturers helped to create a significant public health crisis in the state of Rhode Island by manufacturing, distributing and promoting lead-based paint products. Opening statements will begin Thursday, October 27 in Providence. The first trial in ended in a hung jury. Defendants in the case include NL Industries, Sherwin-Williams, Millennium Holdings and Atlantic Richfield.

The Rhode Island Department of Health says nearly 100 Rhode Island children are lead-poisoned each and every month.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the litigation is an effort by the State to make the lead pigment manufacturers take responsibility for the pervasive health hazard confronted by the Rhode Island public, including its children, parents, homeowners, landlords and taxpayers.

Jack McConnell, a resident of Rhode Island and a member at Motley Rice LLC (which is handling the case along with the Attorney General’s office and co-counsel Thornton & Naumes of Boston, Mass. ) says, "We are extremely anxious to get this trial started so that we may help bring justice on behalf of all the children in our state who have been needlessly injured by lead paint. It's time for corporations to both accept responsibility for the public health problem that exists as a result of lead paint and to also help aid in the clean-up." Sources: News5 (Cleveland), Business Wire, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal


The Globe and Mail reports, the chief of the remote Kashechewan reserve in Northern Ontario, where E. coli has been found in the drinking water and the local school has been closed, is calling on Ottawa to remove his community until a new filtration system is built.

Instead, the national government has sent bottled waters and government officials.

Chief Leo Friday said, "We are looking for money to evacuate,” adding that Timmins would be the only reasonable place for Kashechewan's 1,700 residents to go.

Dr. Murray Trussler who visited the sick on the Northern Ontario reserve last week said the remote community struggling with E. coli problems agrees with Chief Friday.

"Nothing here is worth saving. The homes aren't worth saving. The nursing station is way outdated. We need a hospital here, not a nursing station. It needs to be run to provincial standards, not federal standards, which are totally substandard. And we need to have a proper water-treatment facility . . . and the school needs to be replaced."

Dr. Trussler, chief of staff at Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory, the base hospital for 12,000 people on the James Bay coast, is part of a delegation from the reserve which has flown to Toronto to meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Meanwhile Chief Friday says,"We cannot open the school because we don't have a boiler to boil water for the kids. . . . People in the community are very upset."

Chief Friday warns of violence if something isn’t done soon.

"I think people are getting upset, especially the youth," Chief Friday said. "I don't know what is going to happen next week if nothing is functioning. They [the youth] are talking about burning 10 houses every month," Chief Friday said.

Dr. Trussler, who described living conditions on the reserve as atrocious, told the Globe and Mail, “We've got drainage ditches in the community draining into the water supply." He said the ditches drain into a creek and all the refuse that collects floats downstream and is then sucked into the water-treatment plant.

The problems at the plant, whose intake is located 135 metres downstream from the release point of the community's raw sewage, are also influenced by the tides in James Bay.

Dr. Trussler explains, "What's happening is that all the E. coli is sort of slopping down toward the water-treatment plant, then we have an incoming tide and it goes back up river again, and then we get E. coli coming in and more spilling back."

Dr. Trussler said that because of the problems of E. coli, the level of chlorine in the water, which is routinely extremely high, had to be jacked up to "shock levels."

This has aggravated skin diseases, which are endemic at Kashechewan. "[High chlorine] just irritates and dries the skin further, so there is more itching and scratching, which just spreads things like scabies and impetigo."

He said that he had examined children who, for more than a year, have had impetigo, a bacterial skin disease that can cause the formation of pustules and a thick yellow crust on skin, commonly on the face.

He also said that he had seen cases of gastroenteritis, probably due to E. coli, but this cannot be confirmed until testing is completed.

"We ran across a lady who reportedly had hepatitis A. This is a virus. We don't normally screen for that. When we do a water sample, we look at E. coli and coliform counts, but we don't look for viruses," Dr. Trussler said.

He said that when he asked about protecting people from hepatitis A, Ontario offered to provide 100,000 doses of a vaccine against it, but the federal government turned it down, saying there was no hepatitis A problem in Northern Canada.

"This is absolute rubbish. There are 100 native communities in Canada currently under a boil-water advisory. Any time you are under a boil-water advisory, there's probability you are going to run into hepatitis A sooner or later," Dr. Trussler said.

The water-treatment system was controversial even before it broke down again a few days ago because it had been built about 135 metres downstream from the release point of the community's raw sewage. Chief Friday said sewage goes directly into the water-filtration system and it should be rebuilt somewhere else.

About 1,900 residents of Kashechewan First Nation have been under a Health Canada boil-water order for more than two years. The situation descended into crisis last week when federal officials warned of high E. coli levels in tap water.

New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jack Layton, who visited Kashechewan during the summer said, “This government is a disgrace when it comes to dealing with aboriginal issues. . . . This is one of the worst, most disgusting examples of 'all talk, no action' from this government. Where is the sense of urgency?"

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents Kashechewan, says the reserve is "the unfortunate poster boy of federal indifference on First Nations."

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine called for immediate action by the federal government on the water crisis in Kashechewan. There has been no action by the federal government even though the community has been under a boil water advisory since 2003.

Chief Fontaine said the first step is to deal with the crisis in Kashechewan. “Then we must map-out a comprehensive plan to address this issue on a national basis because this situation occurs in far too many First Nations communities in Canada."

Chief Fontaine said there are more than 100 first nations communities under boil-water advisories. Half of them are in Ontario.

A report by the Office of the Auditor General issued less than one month ago (September 29) concluded that the federal government's unregulated and poorly coordinated approach to First Nations water treatment poses a very real and dangerous threat to First Nations citizens.

"The situation nationally has been known for many years," stated Chief Fontaine. "I have personally seen the effects of inadequate treatment on communities from coast to coast. I saw a similar situation when I visited Gilford Island in British Columbia. The situation is echoed across the country and it's a ticking time bomb. Any community under boil water advisory could at any time find themselves in a situation like the one in Kashechewan. It is absolutely appalling and completely unacceptable that the federal government allows these conditions to fester and plague a community, while boasting of a federal surplus."

Chief Fontaine said he hopes racism is not the reason why water problems on reserves are ignored, while E. coli cases in Walkerton, Ont., or North Battleford, Sask., spark major controversy. “I hope to God that's not the reason, but boy, it makes you wonder."

Kashechewan First Nation located on the west shore of James Bay is accessible by air. The native language is Ojibway/Cree. Sources: CNW Group, Indian Life, Globe and Mail (Canada), Canadian Press


The following is from Sinn Fein News

Opinion: Protestants and republicanism - BY FEILIM O HADHMAILL

The last few weeks in the North have brought into focus once again the difficulties faced by republicans in achieving acceptance among large sections of the unionist community for even quite modest change — never mind the Irish Republic we strive for.

Centuries of colonial rule, with its accompanying privileges combined with a genuine fear that an Irish democracy would lead to rule (and oppression) by the native Irish have served to unite the bulk of the of Protestants around a peculiar concept of loyalism which appears confusing, not least to the British themselves.

Yet the fact remains that without the support of at least a section of that community and, I would argue, the acquiescence of a majority, the likelihood of a peaceful transition to a new independent Irish republic is unlikely.

Breaking down privilege through the promotion of the equality agenda is clearly important in removing part of the raison d'etre for descendants of the planter community wanting to remain separate from the rest of Irish society. However, the concept of an independent Ireland must also be attractive enough for people in the North (and not just unionists) to want to buy into. Republicans thus need to couple the promotion of the equality agenda with a vision of a new Ireland, which can stimulate the imagination of the current generation.

The past eleven years has seen major changes in Irish society North and in the South including major changes in the relationships between both parts of Ireland and Britain. There have also been major changes in republican thinking, strategy and tactics.

A number of local factors — a period of relative peace, the erosion of the British constitutional guarantee, of unionist power and its old certainties, the equality agenda, cross-border initiatives, relative prosperity, demographic changes, the emergence of an increasingly confident nationalist middle class in the North, the Celtic Tiger, secularisation of society, increasing multi-culturalism , have all combined with international influences — globalisation, the EU, etc, to produce a convergence North and South, of social, cultural, economic and political structures, influences and interests.

It is no longer the case that unionists in the North can clearly identify their interests as being wrapped up in a Six-County state based on sectarian privilege and propped up by Britain. Britain, under pressure from nationalist Ireland and the international community is slowly removing the props of unionist power and supremacy.

While it is clear that the unionist community has many social and cultural aspects which unites it and keeps it separate from nationalists in the North and people in the South, on an economic level it is increasingly unclear to many northern Protestants that their economic interests lie in such separation.

The traditionally 'Protestant' industries are in decline or increasingly challenged through the equality agenda. They are also increasingly becoming foreign or southern-owned. The are no longer guaranteed jobs in the Shipyard. While Protestants are still marginally better off economically than Catholics this masks a reality of great poverty and deprivation amongst many Protestants. It is increasingly the case that the Protestant and Catholic working classes are sharing the deprivation, which exists in the North.

It is arguable that it is too simplistic to say that economic interests are no longer the major issue they were in the past. There is the major British subvention to this part of the world every year, which doesn't include the massive injection of funding for employment in defence. If Protestants are to contemplate a united Ireland they must believe their standard of living would improve as a result.

It is also is arguable that it is the social and cultural aspects of unionism which prevents most Protestants nowadays from embracing the concept of a united Ireland.

Historically, Protestants have politically, economically, socially and culturally viewed themselves as one community united in defence of shared interests against those trying to destroy them. This is despite the fact that the Protestant community represents a multi-faceted spectrum of opinion, views, interests and religions.

Anyone who is part of a community recognises the strength and importance of community bonds. Those Protestants in the North who have been attracted to republicanism can testify to the difficulty presented by such community bonds. While the concept of unionism remains part and parcel of such bonds it remains difficult to attract Protestants to republicanism.

The social and cultural dimensions of Protestant allegiance towards unionism have strong historic roots. The historic refusal of Catholic Ireland to embrace Protestants reinforced the social and cultural bonds between diverse groups of Protestants. This process was reproduced and reinforced by the social and cultural apartheid of living in the North.

For Protestants to embrace republicanism as opposed to unionism they need to embrace it socially, culturally, economically and politically. Their concerns, needs, expectations and dreams on those levels need to be addressed by republicans. It means breaking down the social and cultural apartheid, which exists in the North and between North and South.

Republicans need to re-assess how they can contribute to breaking down social and cultural barriers which exists between themselves and many northern Protestants as much as they need to break down barriers between North and South. It means being able to show Protestants that in a new Ireland they wouldn't be outsiders -- and that they are not outsiders now as far as republicans are concerned.

Republicans have long claimed to be the inheritors of the universalist principles espoused by the United Irish Movement and the French Revolution, where concepts of citizenship transcend ethnic identities, the common name of Irish person replaces the ethno-religious divisions of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. Yet emerging from one major ethnic group and being based there usually leads to an over identification with one ethnic identity, its needs and concerns. Is it either desirable, appropriate or possible to promote a universalist, as opposed to ethnocentric, concept of citizenship while being indelibly linked to one ethnic community?

Ultimately, if republicans are serious about creating a republic based on universalist concepts of citizenship they need to transcend the old ethnic divisions. This means recognising that there is a difference between an ethnic identity -- British, Protestant, Scots-Irish, etc and a political philosophy — unionism.

Unionism is a political idea -- nothing more. There is no historical imperative, which prevents Protestants from being non-unionists. Even if the concept of Britishness is taken as one aspect of the culture of northern Protestants there is no requisite that this should dominate political thinking. Many British people live in many different countries throughout the world without feeling a need to promote a union of that country with Britain. Why should it be different in relation to Ireland? In fact the reality of life in Ireland today is a multicultural one.

In the 1790s it was Protestants in the North who led the way in promoting the new doctrine of republicanism. The current challenge to republicans is to construct and define a republicanism which can again attract a sizeable northern Protestant component.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I thought I should let you know that the big school gala fish sales bust in New Zealand will be investigated.

Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton has released a statement which says, "The way the law is currently written, the fisheries officers had little choice but to investigate the stall at the Waiharara School Calf Day last weekend, and to question the person running it. I have asked my Ministry officials to look into the issue of selling or raffling fish for charity, to see what options are available to deal with a situation like this.”

All of this follows accusations that the Ministry of Fisheries acted in a heavy handed manner after seizing fish being used for fund-raising at a Far North school's calf club day and taking a parent to a police station for questioning.

Waiharara school principal Kathy Cotching has labeled the actions of two MAF officers "bureaucratic thuggery" for the raid on the school last week.

The officers confiscated four chilly bins of smoked mullet but overlooked tuatua fritters on sale.

A parent of two of the school's 31 children, Peter Yerkovich who caught the fish and was manning the food stall when officers arrived, was taken to Kaitaia police station for questioning.

Yerkovich denied he had acted illegally as he had been issued with a customary permit to catch the 80 mullet. "I haven't been charged with anything yet, they [the officers] said that decision was up to higher authority." Yerkovich said, "Those two [officers] came a long way to catch me selling five packs of smoked mullet. The koha was $6 for a pack of two and the money was going to the school.”

The school banked about $2600 from the event.

I’ll try to keep you updated on this important story. Sources: New Zealand Progressive Party, Scoop (NZ), New Zealand Herald