Friday, July 13, 2007


Before you get started, stand warned, if you are not Jewish there are parts of this article you are likely to just not get.

Also, many of you will simply wonder why I bothered with all the religious stuff. The last paragraph of this "introduction" will give you some idea of the reason for that.

Earlier this week PETA filed a formal complaint with Sheridan County Attorney Jamian Simmons asking her to prosecute the Rubashkin-owned Local Pride kosher slaughterhouse in Gordon for apparent violations of Nebraska's cruelty-to-animals statute. PETA's complaint follows a two-day undercover investigation during which an investigator documented the following abuses:

* Cows remained conscious for up to two minutes after their throats were cut open.

* Workers ripped into conscious cows' throats with a metal hook.

* Workers mutilated conscious cows' ears to remove identification tags.

Under Nebraska law, cruel mistreatment of animals is a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class IV felony for subsequent offenses.

According to the blog "heeb'n'vegan" published by a Jewish Vegan, "...numerous experts have come forward to condemn the cruelty of the practices observed at the Local Pride slaughterhouse.

Of particular interest to me, the blog publisher states, are the words of Dr. Bernard Rollin. Dr. Rollin is a distinguished professor who received his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1972). He is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Scientific Change and Farm Animal Welfare. He is one of the leading scholars in the field of animal consciousness, and he has given more than 1,000 lectures around the world. He writes,

“When I was a boy learning the precepts embodied in the Jewish tradition, I was taught that the suffering of living things—tsaar baallei chaim—is morally and religiously intolerable. … What is depicted in this video is a mockery of these precepts, and a disgrace to Orthodox Judaism. … The drooling, the vocalizing, the manifest distress [depicted in the video] all serve to demonstrate that animal handling procedures at that abattoir are well below the threshold for acceptability. … In this video … the animals suffer while conscious for prolonged periods, in one case over two minutes. … In the same vein, the evident insertion of the meat hook to increase bleeding is both inhumane and a violation of the principles of kashrut. The ripping out of ear tags before the animal is unconscious is equally morally and religiously illegitimate. The vocalization and struggling after the cut is made speak for themselves and evidence suffering and a callous disregard for that suffering that should be abhorrent to and condemned by all observant Jews.”

In fact, three years ago when another Rubashkin family slaughter house was in the news, Rabbi Yudel Shain of the Lakewood, NJ-based Kosher Consumers Union made serious allegations about the state of kosher supervision at AgriProcessors. The Kosher Consumers Union is America's foremost advocate of issues concerning the kosher consumer. One of its aims is, "...protecting the kosher consumer by informing about mislabeling and false advertising that applies to food products that are falsely held out to the public as having met the Kosher Consumer's standards."

Among the explosive charges made by Rabbi Shain:

1. I photagraphed at AGRI an animal that was still very much alive (after shechita) & they shot it in the brain right away & it was used as a kosher animal. It is an accepted practice by Rabbinical certifiers NOT to use such an animal.

2. Rubashkin’s so called “Bais Yosef” meat is all a “sham”. The RUBASHKIN Certifier is of the stated opinion that all of their meat is “Bais Yosef” & that nobody really knows what is or is not Bais Yosef meat. (FYI contrary to Dayan Kohn BaisYosef means “no lung adhessions whatsoever”.) RUBASHKIN commonly send to caterers so called Bais Yosef meat for Sephardim and there will be 1 or 2 pieces marked accordingly “Bais Yosef’ & the rest isn’t Bais Yosef”. … Their so called Bais Yosef meat is a consumer sham! including the beef & veal certified by Rabbi Hatchuel.

3. The system at RUBASHKIN is that non-Jews do the physical “nikur” [removal of forbidden fats] which is then checked by the “Mashgiach” [rabbinic supervisor]. The Certifier was shown that the “Mashgiach nikur” physically can’t handle the load and some meat goes by without being checked. He responded “there isn’t enough full time work for 2 people, only for 1 1/2 people & we can’t hire half a person so we’ll leave it with one Mashgiach till there is enough work for two full time people”.

4. The quality of RUBASHKIN’s cattle is the cheapest available in the market (per USDA inspector, “low grade”) yet they have the highest ratio of “Kosher, Glatt, Bet Yosef” (including their veal) than most others. [Low-grade cattle normally have significantly higher levels of non-kosher and non-glatt than high-grade cattle.]

5. RUBASHKIN commonly switches labels, as it was found on numerous occasions that on top of a nonGlatt label was stuck on a Glatt label, ‘cause they were short for an order. The Non-Jewish RUBASHKIN truck drivers have in their possession a box of different kosher labels to put on to boxes of meat as per a store’s request (I have 1 of those boxes of labels that I saw fall off a truck).

6. The lung in an animal is an organ that constantly expands & contracts in the cavity of the animal. The lung is a relatively free hanging organ attached to the animal mostly by the tissue & muscle of the trachea, and slightly to other areas by some membranes. Once one cuts the supporting tissue & muscles around the kunah [lung] it is basically detached easily from the animal with a good pull or via a meat hook.

Immediatly after shechita while the animal is still in the schechita position, a non-jewish worker (the Shochet leaves the room) utilizes an 8 inch (approx) knife to enlarge the opening around the trachea & also cutting into the “diaphragm area. He then use a meat hook to grab & pull the trachea a few inches & cutting off the trachea near the lung.

The concerns are that by making the cut along the diaphragm area & around the trachea one may (in)advertently also puncture the lung. The knife is inserted quite deeply into the neck area thereby risking cutting the sirchos of the upper lung lobes. (Simlah Chadosha.)

Another serious concern is that by hooking & pulling on the trachea it will rip and dislodge the sirchos / adhesions that go from the lung to the Ribs and / or also some sirchos on the lung itself and then having the $$ opportunity to call it Glatt or at least kosher.

After the above procedures, it is practically impossible to check the lungs properly for Glatt or sirchos.

7. The “Weinberg pen” allows a shechita munachas, which is the preferred method of shechita throughout history. The design of this pen’s head restrainer is not proper. The metal bar should come way below the neck’s shechita area. The Shochet is obviously afraid of nicking his knife on the metal bar, so he must do a controlled shechita with 7-8 back & forth knife strokes (a possibility of shehiya exists). An experienced Shochet utilizes 1-2 Back & forth knife strokes. Because of this “controlled cut” the Shochet obviously is not severing all of the arteries, requiring an unacceptable “2nd cut”.

Severing all neck arteries causes an almost immediate total collapse of the animal.

8. Some 6-7 months ago a Shochet from a prominent “Torah community” was invited to see the beautiful “Rubashkin system” of shechita. He was impressed by the “show”. Now when the Shochet saw the PETA pictures he was aghast! While he was there they weren’t ripping tracheas, animals weren’t walking, thrashing around after the shechita etc. “I was taken for a ride! How can I believe “anything” I saw?” The Israeli Rabanut’s representatives claim they never saw many of the unacceptable items depicted on the PETA pictures.
The "heeb'n'vegan" blog cites an interesting article about shechita, titled "If Cows Could Talk, Like Balaam's Donkey," by vegetarian rabbi Haviva Ner-David in the July 9 issue of The Jerusalem Report. Ner-David lives in Jerusalem and is the founding director of Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage.

Ner-David begins by talking about how repulsed she was by a cow's suffering at a
kosher slaughterhouse she visited. She writes that "the way shehita is carried
out today cannot be called kosher in terms of both the spirit and the letter of
the law. The Shulhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) tells us that an animal about to
be slaughtered should not see the animal being slaughtered before because fear
will cause the animal to flinch and therefore be rendered a treifa because the
knife will not cut smoothly. This rule (as well as other ways this cow's
suffering could have been minimized) was blatantly ignored by the slaughterhouse
I visited that day."

According to many halakhic authorities, shehita is
meant to minimize the animal's pain ("Guide to the Perplexed," 3:26). In the
past, shehita was a more humane way of slaughtering animals than was common in
the surrounding cultures in which Jews lived. This is no longer true. Though
stunning prior to slaughter has become the norm in non-kosher slaughter,
halakhic authorities do not allow stunning. In addition, though not an absolute
halakhic requirement, ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities and the Israeli
rabbinate require that the cow be inverted during shehita, which is not the
common position in non-kosher contexts.

Truth be told, if we consider
complying with the requirements of tza'ar ba'alei hayim a requirement for meat
to be considered "kosher," today's food industry renders all meat production
non-kosher. Until recent times, animals were raised on private farms, under
relatively humane conditions, and when the time for slaughter arrived, it was
possible, at least, to treat the animal with dignity. This was true for kosher
slaughter as well.

Today, mass production has taken over. Under these
conditions, it is impossible to treat animals in a way that would comply with
the laws of tza'ar ba'alei hayim. This is why all Jews concerned with Jewish
values and/or Jewish law should consider vegetarianism.

A side note: The slaughter house processes kosher beef, lamb and bison products using workers from the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The website "Failed" written by a disgrunlted ex-follower of Chabad Lubabvitch says:

The Jewish community has a long history with Pine Ridge and the Oglala Sioux. Most of it good; some, not. The tribe’s positive exposure to Orthodox Judaism has largely been through left-leaning Orthodox Jews, including at least one rabbi, Moshe Lichtman, who practice a sort of social action, peace and justice style, Judaism and who work with non-Orthodox Jews.

But the Rubashkin family has a history of illegal and anti-social behavior – a history that includes bank fraud, misappropriating union dues paid by it’s employees, the documented recruitment of illegal alien workers, repeated EPA violations and the original Postville controversy.

One wonders whether the Oglala Sioux have trusted too much, based on their past experience with an atypical "bein adam lehaveyro"* Orthodoxy.

As a vegetarian Jew myself who during one of my stranger "periods" became pretty darn religously observant, I would call upon the Jewish community to, at the very least, openly condemn the most blatant animal cruelty displayed at the so-called kosher slaughterhouses run by the Rubashkin family.

The following is from The Forward.

Video Renews Beefs About Slaughterhouse’s Practices

A video from a kosher slaughterhouse in Nebraska is reigniting concern about the way the nation’s largest kosher meat company handles its animals.

The three-and-a-half minute video shows bloody images of cows being killed at the Local Pride slaughterhouse in Gordon, Neb., which is owned by the Brooklyn-based Rubashkin family. The footage was filmed and released by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Rubashkins, adherents of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect, also own the Postville, Iowa-based AgriProcessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. In 2004, AgriProcessors came under sharp criticism from a number of rabbis and animal rights activists after PETA released a separate video from the Postville slaughterhouse that showed gruesome footage of cows walking around after having their necks cut. Since then, AgriProcessors has also come under fire for the treatment of its workers.

The new video shows much less gut-wrenching detail than the one from 2004. A PETA spokesman said that allegations this time around are more limited. Unlike the previous video, which was filmed clandestinely, the new one was made with the knowledge of the workers, according to PETA. The group alleges that the video provides proof of the Rubashkins’ failure to follow through on reforms that they agreed to make after the previous video was released, including a promise to use a gun to immediately kill any animal that is not rendered insensate after the kosher cut is administered.

“It’s extremely disappointing to find that three years later, AgriProcessors still can’t slaughter without horrible abuse of the animals involved,” Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice president of international grasssroots campaigns, told the Forward.

PETA has filed complaints with the county attorney in Nebraska and with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Calls to AgriProcessors’ headquarters and to an AgriProcessors’ spokesman were not returned before press time. Nat Lewin, a Washington lawyer who has defended AgriProcessors in the past, said that the video does not show anything illegal or out of the ordinary in slaughterhouses.

“All I can conclude is that it proves that PETA is out to destroy or make unlawful [kosher slaughter] in all its actual implementation,” Lewin said. “The purpose of the video is to have people say, ‘Look, there is a man with a beard and a long knife.’”

The new footage comes from a Nebraska plant that the Rubashkins opened in 2006. It is staffed by residents of a nearby Indian reservation. The Nebraska plant is reported to have 100 employees, an eighth of the number who work at the Iowa facility.

In the new video, the cattle appear be moving their eyes, necks and tongues long after their throats have been slit. In one case, PETA says the movement went on for two minutes. In testimony gathered by PETA, a number of veterinarians hold that cows are still conscious until their eyes roll back. Lewin said that “after [kosher slaughter,] animals may move, but when an animal moves that does not mean it is conscious.”

The video appears to corroborate PETA’s allegation that factory workers cut off the ears of cows while the cows are still moving. Other footage appears to show a worker using a metal device — a hook, according to PETA — to reach into the throats of the animals after the cut but before the animals stopped moving.

The most controversial scenes from the 2004 video showed a worker using a hook to pull out a moving cow’s trachea. AgriProcessors had promised to stop the practice.

Among the critics of the new footage is animal rights expert Temple Grandin, who was also a prominent critic of AgriProcessors after the release of the 2004 video. She visited the Iowa plant last year, after a series of reforms had been implemented, and gave it a clean bill of health. Now, in response to the new footage, she is again criticizing the company.

“They’re not working on fixing the details of their procedure,” Grandin told the Forward. “Now, it’s nowhere near as bad as the other AgriProcessors thing. I would label that atrocious. This I would label poor.”

The kosher slaughter at the Nebraska plant is certified by a number of Orthodox authorities, including the leading kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union. In 2004, the O.U. initially defended AgriProcessors but soon thereafter assumed a more critical stance, demanding that changes be implemented.

The CEO of the O.U.’s kosher division, Menachem Genack, told the Forward that he had not had a chance to watch the new video. He said that after hearing from PETA, he had asked one of his inspectors to go to the plant. Genack said that based on what he had learned, “this is nothing like the same story as Postville.”

A spokesman for a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, Amanda Eamich, said that her agency had sent a veterinarian to the Nebraska plant after receiving the PETA complaint. Eamich said that her agency is “reviewing the procedures” at the Nebraska plant but has not made any conclusions.

In 2004, PETA made complaints to the local prosecutor in Iowa and to the USDA. A USDA investigation found that the plant had “engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter.”

Thursday, July 12, 2007


A statement from Mexico's “People’s Revolutionary Army” (EPR) claimed responsibility for several blasts over the past week, including one yesterday which caused the shutdown of an oil pipeline run by government-controlled firm PEMEX.

The Guerrilla News Network reported the EPR statement said “three combined squads of urban and rural units … have carried out surgical harassment actions by placing eight explosive packs on the Pemex pipelines.” The statement demanded the release of two men detained in southern Oaxaca state in May, and others it identified as “political prisoners.”

A number of multinational companies in Mexico have been forced to shut down as a result of the explosions. Some of the dozen or so companies that closed were Honda Motor Co., Kellogg Co.'s, The Hershey Co., Nissan Motor Co. The disruption affected clients in the industry-rich city of Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco; the industrial city of Leon, in the central state of Guanajuato; and the central states of Queretaro and Aguascalientes.

Pemex said the gas would probably not be restored until Friday at the earliest.

The EPR said the bombings were the signal of the beginning of its campaign against the interests of “the oligarchy and of this illegitimate government.”

Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps not, that the communique used the term "illegitamate government." Andres Manuel López Obrador, who "lost" the 2006 election to Felipe Calderon by less than 0.6 percentage point, uses the same term for the current administration.

The following is from the blog "Global Guerrillas."

JOURNAL: Just-in-time Disruption begins in Mexico

"The order to begin a national campaign of punishing the interests of the oligarchy and this illegitimate government has been put in play.." EPR Web site message after the attacks.

Mexico's Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), a splinter of the original group formed in 96 (in south-west Mexico), blew up a PEMEX 36-inch natural gas pipeline that shut down two auto assembly plants (Nissan/Honda) in Guadalajara. Two other pipelines were shut down (gas and crude oil) affecting the Salamanca oil refinery (domestic production).

The operation was small, and according to the group required eight charges set by small teams in three locations. The charges were set with a time delay (to detonate on the 5th and the 10th in the early morning). Nobody was caught and there were zero casualties. I suspect the returns on investment for the attacks, particularly given their ability to impact just-in-time production facilities, were amazing.

Unconfirmed update (from the comments below): 800 businesses have been shut down in addition to the gas supply to Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Querétaro, León y Celaya. The cascade's effects grow...


In Nepal, politically excluded and socially oppressed communities are raising their voices for proportional representation in the constituent assembly. Dalits, regarded as "untouchables," are demanding state compensation for the lawlessness and torture they endured for centuries. Dalits still cannot gain access to social and political sectors and their rights are limited in black and white terms. They are the poorest of the poor.

Speaking this week, The Nepal Communist Party-Maoists’ Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal urged the Dalit community to organize protests and to push their rightful demands He said now the voices of the Janajatis and Madhesis are are beginning to be heard because they have demonstrated their courage to speak.

Last month a major conference of Nepalese Dalit rejected a government offer to give Dalit 6 percent of the seats in the new Constituent Assembly that will pave the way for a new Constitution. The more than 2,000 Dalit activists and supporters in attendance voted to demand one-fifth of the Assembly seats for Dalit, and to mount a concerted campaign to pressure the government to agree.

The conference concluded that the restoration of democracy has not improved the status of Dalit and that the time has come to exert some political pressure.

A communique from the conference stated: "Though Dalits participated actively in the uprising, they remain curtailed from accessing social, economic, political, administrative and other sectors."

Pointing out that Dalit suffer from landlessness, illiteracy, and technical skills, the conference communique called for Dalit to be afforded "economic protection." It recommended that exploitative labor systems be abolished, that Dalit women be represented in government, and that Dalit school children be given free primary education.

The movement for social justice for Dalits has in the past been hampered by factional fighting. This summer's conference was a monumental move toward unity.

The following short article is from Kantipur Report (Nepal).

Dalits stage sit-in at Mandala

KATHMANDU, July 12 - Dalits have been staging a sit-in protest at Maitighar Mandala putting forth their demands including proportional Dalit representation in the upcoming Constuent Assembly (CA) elections and reallocating the palace for the development and upliftment of the Dalits.

The Dalits, headed by Civil Society have been staging a protest at Mandala since 2 Thursday afternoon.

According to the organizer of the protest program, the protesters were scheduled to sit there for an hour and then move towards the south gate of Singha Durbar chanting their demands and again stage a sit-in at the south gate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, and Canada's Global Action Network have released video and photographic evidence, taken by an undercover investigator, of multiple animal cruelty violations committed at Elevages Perigord, Canada's largest foie gras production facility in Quebec. The evidence has been submitted to Canadian authorities and both groups are urging prosecution.

Andrew Plumbly, director of Global Action Network, said: "This industry has no place in civilized society and we are asking the Canadian government to outlaw the production of foie gras immediately. We are also calling on all consumers and food distributors to make the compassionate decision to stop buying foie gras."

A press release from Farm Sanctuary reads:

The photo and video evidence shows horrifying conditions endured by ducks and geese used in the production of foie gras, many of which violate Canadian animal welfare laws including:

-- Tearing the heads of live ducks off -- Kicking, throwing and punching ducks -- Leaving ducklings to die of hypothermia and asphyxiation inside trash cans -- Bashing live ducks against walls and floors -- Suffocating and crushing live ducklings -- Force-feeding ducks -- Slaughter of fully-conscious ducks

"The evidence provided to the authorities in Canada shows clearly that the production of foie gras leads to egregious callousness and cruelty," said Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary. "We have seen it in U.S. foie gras producers, and now we have seen it in Canada. There's no getting around it. Foie gras equals cruelty."

The birds, who are de-beaked, de-toed and forced to live in extreme confinement in filthy, poorly-maintained cages, have liquid feed pressure- pumped down their throats through a metal pipe several times a day. This force feeding is known to cause bruising, lacerations, sores, organ rupture, and even death. It also creates the grossly oversized and diseased "fatty liver" for which foie gras is named. Gasping, vomiting and struggling to move, the birds endure this process every day at the end of their short lives.

Global Action network says an investigator worked at Elevages Perigord on daily basis for more than twelve weeks, and he documented all aspects of this vertically integrated operation, including the hatchery, fattening sheds, force feeding sheds, slaughterhouse and breeding facility.
Using hidden camera equipment, the investigator gathered close to 100 hours of video footage and countless photographs.

Many of these acts were allegedly committed against small or female ducks, considered less desirable for the production of foie gras than their male counterparts, before they underwent the force-feeding process - known as gavaging - that fattens the birds' livers for consumption.

Plumbly maintains while force-feeding is cruel, the footage shows another level of depravity.

"Employees would routinely kick the ducks as they were loading them into trucks or would throw them into the air," he said.

They would also rip the heads off small or sickly ducks, he added.

Although the evidence does not directly implicate higher-ups at Elevages Perigord, a subsidiary of French-owned Excel Development, Plumbly said testimony from the volunteer reveals the company's owners toured the facility regularly and were aware of the mistreatment.

The following is from the Montreal Gazette.

Video shows cruelty behind foie gras

A Montreal-based animal welfare group has released footage and photos taken during a three-month clandestine investigation of alleged animal cruelty at Elevages Perigord, Canada's largest producer of fatty duck liver or foie gras.

While a snippet of footage were released by Global Action Network to the media yesterday, today's three minute video shows alleged employees kicking ducks unable to move due to enlarged livers from the force-feeding process that take place before they are slaughtered, stuffing sickly or small ducks into garbage bags and beating them against a concrete block or metal grate. It also shows garbage bins full of dead ducklings, a duck floundering on a dirty floor while bloods spews out of their neck, ducks in small cages getting force-fed.

Management at Elevages Perigord, which has up until today not seen the video, thus far have no comment about the situation.

A spokesperson for the farm in St. Louis de Gonzague, about 40 kilometres southwest of Montreal, said they are concerned with the matter and will respond shortly.

Some questioned the validity of the video, obtained when a volunteer of Global Action Network infiltrated the farm posing as an employee during a 12-week period between November 2006 and February 2007. Neither the video footage or the photos show conclusive evidence that the images were taken at Elevages Perigord. While the employees committing the alleged acts of animal cruelty can be seen in several of the shots, none are wearing uniforms.

Director of Global Action Network, Andrew Plumbly, said the camera worn by their volunteer was small and therefore was unable to capture wide-angle shots of the farm. However, Plumbly did provide the volunteer's employment records while he was employed at Elevages Perigord. To protect his identity however, the name is blackened out.

The Surete du Quebec in Monteregie is investigating and are still trying to determine whether the images actually came from the farm, said SQ spokesperson Ronald McInnis. The SQ could not comment further on the case.

SPCA director Pierre Barnoti, who was on hand to view the video this morning, said that although he disagrees with the way the network delivered their evidence, he is certain that the group has good intentions.

Plumbly alleges not only that employees' actions were cruel and against Canada's criminal code but they also contravene the federal meat inspection regulations that requires you stun all animals and in the case of poultry decapitate them, before slaughtering them. Video footage showed the ducks moving their heads just prior to being slaughtered.


A jury in Birmingham, Alabama is right now hearing evidence that an executive with the Alabama-based coal company Drummond paid a right-wing paramilitary unit to kill union leaders who were organizing mine workers in Colombia.

The suit was filed in 2002 under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act and state tort law. It alleges that Drummond "hired, contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced" leaders of the union representing workers at Drummond facilities in Colombia. The murders occurred while contract negotiations with Drummond were underway.

As twilight fell on March 12, 2001, at Drummond Ltd.'s coal mine near La Loma, Colombia, union leaders Valmore Locarno and Victor Orcasita boarded a company bus with their coworkers for the ride home. A few miles into the journey, gunmen stopped the bus and took the two men away. They killed Locarno on the spot, according to a complaint by family members.

Orcasita was bound and driven away, tortured, and found dead with bullet wounds in his head. Months later, Locarno's successor as union president, Gustavo Soler, also was slain, according to the civil complaint.

During the proceedings jurors will hear details of violence against union workers in Colombia, where 2,500 have been killed since 1986, according to the National Trade Union School, which monitors labor rights in the country.

Bloomberg is reporting Attorney Herman ``Rusty'' Johnson, who represents families of the three men, has stated gunmen killed the leaders who got death threats in 2001 after complaining about conditions at Drummond's mine near La Loma. Drummond allied with paramilitaries against guerrillas in a decades-old conflict in Colombia, Johnson said.

``Drummond made a couple of choices,'' Johnson said in opening statements in Birmingham, Alabama. ``They chose to go down to a war zone to conduct their coal-mining operations and make some money. They made a choice in the war. They chose the paramilitaries. They chose union leaders for elimination.''

Johnson told the jury Locarno complained publicly about the need for protective equipment and showers for workers. He said Drummond officials made a series of threatening comments, including one by company president Augusto Jimenez.

``Jimenez stated that `the fish dies by opening his mouth,''' Johnson told the jury. ``That's not a phrase that we use here in the U.S. but we should all be able to figure out what that means. If you talk too much, if you campaign, if you protest, then you end up dead.''

The following is from The Independent (UK).

US mining firm in dock over Colombia murders

The bus carrying 50 tired and grimy miners had just left La Loma mine when gunmen forced it to stop and dragged two union leaders off. One was shot dead on the spot, the gunmen pumping four bullets into his head. The other was tortured and then killed. Six months later another union leader who had come to the mine was also assassinated.

The men, members of the Sintramienergetica union, had been trying to improve the appalling and unsafe working conditions at a United States-owned mine, which sends huge amounts of coal from Colombia to Europe and North America.

Six years later, a federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, is trying the privately owned coal company, Drummond, for war crimes. This week it heard evidence that the company ordered those killings in March 2001.

It was alleged that a union treasurer, Jimmy Rubio, saw a Drummond official pay a paramilitary leader to carry out the murders. Mr Rubio has been in hiding since his father-in-law was murdered just before he was to give a deposition in the case. The outcome of the trial could have huge implications for several dozen American multinationals being sued under a formerly obscure law, the alien tort claims Act, which was once used to combat piracy.

The 214-year-old law has been used by human rights groups to attack some of the best-known names in corporate America: Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, Del Monte, Citigroup and Bank of America. Five companies, including a Coca-Cola bottler, have been accused by the same trade union of hiring paramilitary groups to kill union leaders.

Chiquita, the banana company, recently admitted paying right-wing militias to protect its Colombia operations. It was fined $25m (£12.5m) this year for giving $1.7m to the militias from 1997-2004. Chiquita said the regular monthly payments by its wholly owned subsidiary Banadex were "to protect the lives of its employees". Such practices were widespread among multinationals in Colombia. The allegation against Drummond is that it used paramilitary violence to keep wages down.

"They thought they could get away with anything, literally get away with murder," said the union's lawyer, Daniel Kovalik. The Bush administration has tried to block the lawsuits, saying they interfere with foreign policy.

The Washington-based International Labour Rights Fund has filed many of the 26 lawsuits. It faces the hurdle of proving links between company policy and human rights abuses. Terry Collingsworth, director of the rights fund, said the purpose of the suits was not to win damages, but to change business practices.

For Colombia, the murders of the three Drummond organisers - Valmore Locarno and his deputy, Victor Orcasita, as well as his successor, Gustavo Soler, who was murdered six months later - were routine. Nearly 90 per cent of trade union leaders killed worldwide die there. Few of the murders are ever resolved. At least 800 union organisers have been killed since 2001. Many have simply fled the country.

Lawyers for families of the three men say the killers "were acting as employees or agents" of the company and have charged it with war crimes in a civil court action under the alien tort legislation, which allows foreigners to file civil lawsuits against US corporations for their conduct overseas.

The families say the war crimes claim is valid because armed groups have been killing each other for decades in Colombia's civil war and that by paying off paramilitaries Drummond had itself committed criminal human rights violations. The lawsuit alleges that Drummond intimidated union activists by allowing "known paramilitaries to freely enter their mining facilities" and permitted pamphlets to be handed out accusing union members of being part of a "guerrilla union".

Drummond, one of the largest coal-mining companies in the world, denies any involvement with the paramilitaries. For decades, landowners and businesses have used private militias to protect them from the guerrillas. And Drummond says the court must first prove that the workers were not associated with these guerrillas. The company, which opened its 25,000-acre Pribbenow mine in 1995, produces about 25 million tons a year, and earns about $2bn a year. Left-wing rebels have bombed the trains that take coal to the coast at least 40 times. And Drummond also pays the government to station several hundred soldiers at the mine.

The union's leaders say they still fear for their lives, and now have the support of the miners' union in Alabama, where 2,000 miners have been sacked since the Eighties when Drummond began investing in Colombia.


Monday in Odessa the US and Ukraine began their "Sea Breeze 2007" joint exercises, the most extensive exercises this year to be carried out on Ukrainian territory. The beginning of the exercises was marred by clashes between law enforcement and opponents of Ukraine's increasingly close relationship with NATO.

Kommersant reports after the ceremonial opening and press conference, the officers who had spoken, were met at the exit of the building by a demonstration organized by representatives of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU), who shouted slogans such as "We don't need NATO" and "NATO, get lost" and carried signs denouncing the North Atlantic alliance.

The Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine is a left-wing party that supports integration with Russia and Belarus as an alternative to the EU.

Nationalist forces of a not progressive bent were also on hand to protest. These included the Black Sea Cossacks and members of the social organization United Fatherland.

Hundreds of supporters of the PSPU who had set up tents in the town of Odessa refused to obey a court order to take them down and resisted v when the police came to clear them away. A scuffle ensued between the protesters and the police. PSPU leader Natalia Vitrenko promised to employ "bolder methods of struggle" if "the authorities attempt to ban events directed against the NATO exercises."

Also taking part in the protests were members of the Ukrainian Communist party including the party's leader Pyotr Simonenko. "These exercises will bring nothing useful for Ukraine," said Simoneko confidently at the picket.

The following is in from Itar-Tass.

Ukraine-NATO exercises draw protests

ODESSA, July 11 (Itar-Tass) - The Odessa region’s administrators and chiefs of the NATO information and documentation center discussed Ukraine’ s integration in NATO at a roundtable meeting in the regional administration on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, several hundreds of supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party picketed the building of the regional administration with posters “Hands away from Ukraine”, chanting: “We will not let NATO lead the Ukrainian people to slaughter!”

The protests against the conduction of NATO-Ukraine exercises Sea Breeze-2007 in have been continuing for the sixth day.

Main rallies moved to the Chabanka Range located 25 kilometers from Odessa.

The protesters set up a tent compound at which over 1,500 citizens of Lugansk, Sevastopol, Lvov, Poltava, Odessa, Kharkov, Simferopol and Kiev are staying.

Organizers expect more supporters to come from all regions of Ukraine.

Opponents of the exercises suspended their protest actions for two daysi in Odessa, because the Ukrainian football supercup is held, drawing great crowds of fans from Donetsk and Kiev, the chief of the anti-NATO committee, Valery Kaurov said.

However, the protests of a still larger scale will resume on Thursday, he said.

Members of the public organization Oko also take part in pickets near a sea terminal in Odessa.

The organization’s press secretary Anatoly Petrov said provocateurs were constantly sent to the protesters.

“They tried to provoke a fight with the protesters, but nothing came of it. The picketers are law-abiding people and will not take provocations,” he said.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


It sure is a busy week in the Memphis area.

On Monday a group organized a buying boycott in West Memphis to protest the city's poor reaction to the police shooting of a twelve year old black child, DeAunta Farrow. Of course, the kid was armed with a toy gun. (See story below for more details).

Oddly enough, or not so oddly, on Tuesday the mother of a teenager who was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer 20 years ago was back in court fighting for justice. Faye Black and her longtime attorney Ernest Jarrett appeared at a hearing Tuesday, July 10, 2007, related to their civil suit against the City of Memphis.

December 1987, Marcus was killed at the Palomino Hotel. He was playing with a toy gun, but Officer John Dolan, thought it was a real. He fired his rifle.

Young Black tried to tell the officer it was only a toy. His momma said after her son dropped the gun and put his hands up, Officer Dolan shot and killed him.

A jury acquitted Dolan of involuntary manslaughter.

"It's been nineteen years. I don't care how ever long it takes. You never get over losing your baby." says Black.

By the way, Faye Black said her heart goes out to DeAunta Farrow's mother and she hopes the Farrow family will get the justice she's been denied all these years.

But wait, we ain't done with Memphis yet.

Also on Monday, protesters took to the streets and rallied around the Criminal Justice Center in downtown Memphis in support of five people who claim police officers got physical with them.

WMC-TV reports the protest stemmed from an incident in which the owner of the Nappy by Nature store claimed that he and his wife man-handled by police. Sefu Uhuru has marks on his arms to back his claim. He says a Memphis police officer put them there before pulling his wife's hair.

"He pulled my hair out and pepper-sprayed me like he was spraying on the wall," says Aza Basha Uhuru.

"Let us serve as an example for the rest of the community--stand up when you know you are right," says Uhuru.

Three other visitors to the store also made similar charges. The owner's wife was scheduled to appear at a hearing regarding the charges.

ABC24 in Memphis reports Todario Harris is another one of the five people who say they were attacked and illegally arrested. He says he and his friend J’malo White were listening to CD’s in a car parked in front of “Nappi By Nature” when a pair of Memphis police officers blocked them in. Harris says one officer said, “You look like you’re suspicious, you look like you’re out of place.” He says he and White were then assaulted.

That’s when “Nappi By Nature” owner Sefu Uhuru says he pulled up in front of his store to see his friends with police. Uhuru says, “I saw J'malo White’s pants were down around his ankles. I'm like, ‘What's going on?’ and immediately the officer turned around to me and started cursing, ‘Don't walk you black so and so and so behind me’.”

Uhuru says he then started to walk into his gift store to find his wife AzaBasha. She says she saw her husband start to walk inside, then “I see this guy just going for my husband so I scream out, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God.”! Sefu Uhuru says, “So I turned and immediately I see this officer reach for my neck and he has his handcuffs in the other hand almost like brass knuckles.” Uhuru says the officer began beating him. He says, “You can still see this permanent band on my arm where he was dropping the cuffs.”

The Uhurus thought their nightmare was over when the officer abruptly walked away. They called 911. However, Sefu Uhuru says, “Both officers come back in, slapped the phone out of my hand. Both of them are trying to start attacking me at this point.” He says one officer reached for his pepper spray. The couple warned the officer that Sefu has asthma. Pepper spray could kill him. AzaBasha says the officer was not happy about the warning. She says, “The next thing I know he's spraying me and snatching my hair out of my head.”

Harris and the Uhurus say other police officers showed up. Harris adds, “You would have thought we're the Columbian cocaine drug cartel there were so many police cars out here.”

The Uhurus, Todario Harris, his friend and his friend's aunt who tried to stop police say they spent about four hours inside squad cars. Harris says, “From their initial stop and accosting us five people went to jail.”

All five face charges, like resisting arrest. They all believe the incident happened because they are black. Sefu Uhuru says, “It was all white males brutalizing my self and my family. “ Harris adds, “It's definitely racial profiling. They (police) had no other reason to stop.” Sefu Uhuru says, “Some people like to say it (racism) doesn't exist, but it exists.”

SCLC organizers who helped get together the protest mentioned above said,

"We want the community to know that we support agressive policing however we are totally against excessive policing ah and these young people are people who have reached out into the community to help get people out of gangs to do positive things and they have been harassed and they were brutalized and this is racial profiling at its worst," said Rev. Dwight Montgomery.

Police records uncoverd by another local TV station show that Officer Billy Gray, one of the cops accused, has a long disciplinary record.

And now, more people are coming forward saying they too were attacked by the same two Memphis cops, accused of racial profiling and assault. George Burks says he feels the pain of the two young men parked in front of the Nappy by Nature Hair and Cultural Goods Store because just two and a half weeks ago he experienced the same thing. Burks says that on June 8th what should’ve been a routine traffic stop was anything but.

“I was going southbound on Getwell. I got pulled over by officer gray and Grigsby.

Burks says he too was the victim of police brutality, by the same police officers accused of racial profiling and assault outside of this South Memphis store.

“He was talking so bad and so aggressive to me, he didn't act professional at all and he was cursing at me every time I opened my mouth to explain...he was cussing me out so bad, he made me feel less than a man, he violated my rights and I was mad.”

So Burks filed a complaint...and he's urging anyone who feels like a victim of police brutality to do the same.

“I feel their pain and I understand what they're going through. What they do is hide behind the badge because they're police officers, they feel above the law.”

The following is from ABC 24 in Memphis, Tennessee.

'No Buy Day' in W. Memphis

Some businesses in West Memphis, AR may feel the pinch of an economic boycott on Monday, July 9, 2007.

A group calling itself Concerned Pastors and Citizens of West Memphis organized a "No Buy Day" to protest the city's handling of the Deaunta Farrow death investigation.

The 12 year-old boy was shot and killed last month by a West Memphis police officer who mistook a toy gun for a real one.

"You know there's a boycott today, right. You're not supposed to spend any money in West Memphis today," Jimmy Stuckey told black patrons outside a gas staion on Broadway. Sometimes it worked and the customers left emptyhanded and sometimes customers ignored the call to action.

Stuckey told Eyewitness News Everywhere the boycott was an effective way for blacks to show they have buying power in West Memphis and to remind elected city officials they are beholden to the voters. Stuckey said he and many others were disappointed with the lack of communication about the facts of the shooting and fed up with police brutality in the black community.

Organizers of the boycott said they planned to continue it for the remaining Mondays in July.


Jafar Kiani was stoned to death Thursday in Aghchekand, 124 miles west of Tehran in Iran. He was executed for committing adultery.

Members of the Stop Stoning Forever campaign in Iran had informed the Norwegian media Monday about the stoning of Jafar Keyiani last Thursday in Takestan. That nation responded today.

Although part of Islamic laws, Iranian officials have in the recent years given in to international protests and tried to replace stoning with other forms of punishment but still there are reports, especially in rural areas, that stoning sentences are issued and carried out.

Jafar Kiani and his partner, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, have been in prison for more than 11 years for an adulterous relationship and having two children. The couple’s children live in prison with their mother. The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign broke the news of their case on June 19 as they were scheduled to be stoned together on Thursday, June 21, 2007. After the news was spread, the Iranian judiciary officials were faced with a strong wave of national and international opposition and announced that the order of stoning would be stayed.

But apparently not!

According to unofficial reports, only a few villagers participated in the stoning so the sentence was carried out mostly by officials. According to the Iranian law, the judge who has issued the sentence would have to be present in person to throw the first stone.

The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign is asking all citizens of the world to raise their opposition to stoning and try to save the life of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi from stoning. Please contact the Iranian officials in Tehran and Takistan, Gahzvin and/or Iranian embassy in other countries.

For USA readers:

United States: Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, D.C.

(202) 965-4990
(202) 965-4991
(202) 965-4992
(202) 965-4993
(202) 965-4994
(202) 965-4999


(202) 965-1073
(202) 965-4990

The following is from Norway's Aftenposten.

Norway blasts stoning in Iran

Norway's Foreign Ministry called in the Iranian ambassador on Tuesday, to strongly protest Iran's execution by stoning of a man convicted of adultery.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre called the stoning "inhumane and barbaric."

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said he was "deeply upset" by what he called an "inhumane and barbaric method of punishment."

Støre, who's supposed to be on summer holiday, said he was deeply worried that the executed man's female companion Mokarrameh Ebrahimi will suffer the same fate. Støre vowed to work with other countries to pressure Iran into blocking her stoning.

Norway's embassy in Iran has been ordered to help ensure that international representatives be allowed to visit Ebrahimi in jail.

Norway has long condemned stoning and already had lodged protests with Iranian officials. The Parliament's foreign relations committee threatened to cancel a long-planned visit to Iran late last month if the threatened stoning took place. It didn't, and the Norwegian parliamentarians proceeded with the visit to a country where state oil company Statoil does business.

It remained unclear whether the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s strong criticism of the stoning would have any consequences on Statoil's business activities in Iran.

Iranian officials ended up allowing the stoning, admitting it took place in a rare confirmation on Tuesday. An Iranian judiciary spokesman said Jafar Kiani was stoned to death last Thursday in Aghchekand village, 200 kilometers west of the capital.

Death sentences are carried out in Iran after they are upheld by the Supreme Court. Under Iran's Islamic law, adultery is punishable by stoning.

The judiciary spokesman didn't detail how the stoning was carried out, but a male convict is usually buried up to his waist, while a female criminal is buried up to her neck with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict start throwing stones and rocks at the convict until he or she dies.

International human rights groups have long condemned stoning as "cruel and barbaric" punishment. The UN human rights chief Louise Arbour condemned the execution. The UN noted that the execution was carried out despite Iran's own moratorium on execution by stoning which had been in effect since 2002.


Thirteen people arrested last Monday, July 2, during a protest in Suchitoto, El Salvador, including CRIPDES leaders and community members, were charged with “Aggravated Damages, Acts of Terrorism and Injuring a Police Officer.” They were to be tried under the new Anti-Terrorism Law. Not anymore, we hope.

Those arrested were members of community groups and NGOs who protested against government plans to privatise water distribution. Around 100 peasants who were due to participate in a social forum blocked off several of Suchitoto’s streets in a show of protest prior to a visit to the town by President Saca. Initially peaceful, the demonstration turned violent and around 25 people were injured when the police intervened.

Saca was planning to announce his new "decentralization" plan in Suchitoto but the protests, led by the water workers union SETA, CRIPDES, and a number of other groups, prevented him from arriving.

According to CISPES, The police attacked the protesters around the police station, on the roads, and even chased people into rural communities. Police pulled four movement leaders out of a vehicle kilometers away from the protest and arrested them. They attacked other protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. In total the police arrested 14 people; another 25 people were injured with rubber bullets, 18 suffered serious effects of tear gas, 2 were hospitalized, and an undetermined number were beaten by police officers.

Everything seemed to indicate that these arrests were strategically planned by the government to discourage social protest and take apart the Salvadoran social movement.

The Salvadoran social movement has increased its opposition to water privatization, bringing together many groups organizing at the national level to raise awareness about the effects of water privatization, while countering Saca’s plan to privatize both water and health care with concrete alternatives.

The following is from Prensa Latina. The article might as well be about the United States.

Salvadoran Activists not Terrorists

San Salvador, Jul 10 (Prensa Latina) The new Human Rights Prosecutor in El Salvador, Humberto Luna, stated he did not agree with the application of the law against acts of terrorism on 14 detained activists in Suchitoto.

The Salvadoran ombudsman said Monday night such a decision seriously harms public rights such as freedom of speech and the right to association.

He added that these are accepted by the Salvadoran Constitution and that the authorities of the country must guarantee them to all Salvadoran citizens.

These people were captured on Monday, July 2, during a demonstration against privatizing drinking water services in the town of Suchitoto, north of this capital.

The protest was violently repressed with rubber bullets and pepper gas by police officers, said reports Monday.

Fourteen people were arrested and processed under the so-called Law against Terrorism, approved by rightwing parties headed by government Nationalist Republican Alliance last year.

Luna considered the regulations in this legislation excessive.


The OD is back, a day late and a dollar short, but back. I decided to start y'all out with something that should piss just about everyone off at some point. The interview below was sent to me by an old chum and OD reader and comes from Dissident Voice . Read it and weep (or scream, whatever)...

By the way, I want to thank ArtPolitic (whoever they may be) for the cool image seen right next door.

Eat, Fight, Fuck, Pray
An Interview with Joe Bageant

by Joshua Frank / July 9th, 2007

Joe Bageant is author of Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War just published by Random House Crown. He recently spoke with DV co-editor Joshua Frank about his new book, religion, rednecks and what it’s like to serve beer to an underage horse.

Joshua Frank: So Joe, what the hell is going on with the redneck strain of the working class anyway? Why do they seem more apt to embrace evangelism rather than a labor union? Is it, as psychologists would say, learned helplessness, or worse, idiocy?

Joe Bageant: Well, Josh, that’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with there. In fact, it’s too broad to be answered, but that will not stop me from responding with my usual shrillness and tin drum noise punctuated by flatulence. Let me start by saying the term redneck does not apply especially to southerners. I have found indigenous redneck culture and communities in Maine, Oregon Kansas, New York, Massachusetts, and California … in virtually every state and in large numbers. Among loggers, cowboys, poles, Germans, and even Latino rednecks.

Really. Don’t you think beer and low riders and macho sports aesthetic of Latinos, the heterosexual, patriotic Jesus focused Catholic is that much different from their Jesus focused Baptist Dixie and Midwestern counterparts? The low riders of LA are the same as beer and muscle cars of the south. In fact the first rednecks were probably the striking miners at the Ludlow Colorado massacre, who wore red bandanas and were seen as tough, surly, angry working class people who had to be kept down. The sun on the neck definition is another more recent one that got applied especially to Southerners, during the civil rights era I suppose.

We have been taught to use these ethnic, regional and racial labels to cover up the real issue in America that the rich want keep hidden another 200 years—that we are a classist country. That one class owns pretty much the whole country these days and that all the rest are left to suck hind tit and pretend they are all members of something called “the middle class.” The only real middle class is that thin layer of commissars, lawyers, teachers, journalists, and other caterers to the empire, those people necessary to manage it and count the beans, dumb down the kids and lock up enough people to keep the privatized gulags in business.

Anyway, I assume you are referring the heartland white working class people who attend fundamentalist churches. Ever since around 1800 about one-third of white America has been fundamentalist Christians, about one-third of Americans have had a born again experience. The thing that is different now is that these churches have access to political power. They were welcomed across the church-state wall of separation by cynical GOP strategists to whom giving the Republicans another chance to sack Washington, loot the national kitty and maybe pull off a good oil raid in the Middle East, was more important than our constitution. Now that they’ve let John Calvin’s wooly beast into to tent, we find it chewing on the constitution and generally stinking up the joint—it’s not going to leave without a fight.

As to the last parts of your question: When it comes to embracing the church instead of a labor union, I can remember a time when the churches stood behind the labor unions. Have we learned to be helpless? Man, we are helpless. Capitalist conditioning has replaced citizenship with consumerism. I mean, what are you or I doing? I write a book so the global publishing chain of Bertelsmann makes more money; you and I both sit here on the Internet spewing electrons across circuit boards that keep Bill Gates and the stock brokers farting through silk while we preach to the choir who bought our books. There are far better alternatives. We could grab some axe handles and heat up the tar bucket and start to burn some shit down. That still works you know.

Joshua Frank: I’ve always thought that’d work.

Joe Bageant: But we won’t. Because we are all programmed to participate through purchase, whether it is my book at Barnes and Noble or the software that enables us to read CounterPunch. Or choose the candidate that has been preselected and purchased in advance by the people who have essentially made Americans into a nation of iPod implanted pizza drivers and well dressed lawn jockeys sitting in front of monitors on the empires electronic plantations.

Joshua Frank: So how can we change this political myopia?

Joe Bageant: Our involvement with politics, our political lives, are merely as spectators who listen to commercials for three years before the magical moment before we “cast our vote” by simply going shopping in the tiniest shopping space of all—the voting booth—with the most limited choices possible that can still be called a choice: two twin parties whose parents, the corporations, have to display them against different colored backgrounds so people can get a clue as to their difference. (“I am for fighting the war until the last dog is dead,” as opposed to “I am for pulling the troops out, but not until a few hundred thousand more dogs are dead. I don’t wanna be seen as weak on the dead dog thing.” Or my favorite, “We can’t leave now or there will be chaos?” What the fuck is it we have created there now?) Right now the owning class Westchester Country Club Democrats is offering us two flavors, Hillary Clinton (bitter vanilla) and Barrack Obama (Mocha hope.)

Soooo … What’s going on politically with the great beery redneck nation? Nothing. We don’t think about politics until the last half hour before time to vote. Then a sort of a heartburn grips our chests, and all the negative campaign ads, and the sound of Bill O’Reilly’s voice and last night’s beer and bratwurst and Hillary’s stern beady eyes drill in on us … preachers call down lightening bolts and fighter planes do a double roll over the desert … then suddenly an acidic clot curdles in our throat, we close our eyes and we projectile vomit all our fears and suspicions and prejudices and state injected messages in the direction of the party making the most noise right up until the last minute. That’s what we do down here.

What do ya’ll do?

Joshua Frank: Well, I grew up in Montana with rednecks aplenty. Most of my own family is small farmers who were forced to move to the little towns in the area because of the onset of industrial agriculture. They lost the land they worked. Most of them are still proud rednecks. I respect the work ethic, but not all the culture that goes along with it. Up in Big Sky country, folks know politicians lie, so they put their trust in God instead.

Pick up trucks. Gun racks. Elk hunting. Beer drinking. It’s a way of life there. I enjoy most of it. It takes some pretty damn rough times before people stand up and say, enough is enough! You’d think they’d be screaming from the mountaintops by now. But they haven’t because they don’t think they can do a damn thing about their lot. And that’s where you get a lot of that anti-government sentiment. The Freeman and the Unabomber. It resonates quite well. As it should. The state doesn’t stand up for the little guy, but for the big corporations and they know it. The elites, however, always seem to capitalize off of their collective weakness—mainly their inability to stand up in the face of power. But anymore, the mainstream “right” and “left” are almost one in the same when it comes to the fundamental economic issues of our times.

Anyway, this is supposed to be an interview with you. Not me!

Joe Bageant: I lived in northern Idaho for years and had a lot of truck with Montanans like yourself. And to me they are among the best people in this country, tough uncomplaining people, kinda like Southerners, but with far less racism (unless you happen to be an Indian in some cases). Once when I was trending bar on the reservation, a Montana cowboy led his horse right into the place and demanded a beer for his steed. He had been drunk for two days, driving south toward New Mexico with his horse trailer, down from Alberta, Canada, and was obviously looking for a good old time tension-releasing brawl. “Well sir,” I told him. “That horse ain’t old enough to drink.” “That horse is 18,” he replied. I peeled back the horse’s lips and checked his teeth. I had horses of my own and knew how to check their age. “That horse is nine years old,” I said. “Just about the age a good cow pony starts getting some real sense.” He threw back his head and laughed. The situation was defused and we sat there in the Bald Eagle Bar and jawed until closing time. A good, tough, brave man of the kind America doesn’t make anymore. Tipped me ten dollars, then went off to wrap himself in a blanket and sleep in his truck until first light.

At the same time though, there is a belief in authority, a reverence even, that is so typically American. America has never been a nation of true dissenters. Even during the Sixties. Don’t let the old newsreels fool you. You gotta remember that when those kids were gunned down at Kent State, one half of America was cheering and an even larger portion did not give a shit. But the footage was so shocking, and we actually had a rather liberal media back then, and so, like Twin Towers footage, it was shown over and over and written about until the message finally soaked in. But Americans for the most part are on the side of their own oppressor and like it that way. Heartland Americans were happy when the working man was shot down at Ludlow, and happy when the Bohunk and Pollack miners were gunned down at the Latimer mines (again, the rewriters of history have made it seem otherwise). The good people of the heartland were happy with the kangaroo courts that framed and murdered Joe Hill and Sacco and Venzetti. And today they are happy when they see police in black Kevlar beating down young radicals in Seattle and Old Jewish women in Miami protesting turning that city into a free trade zone labor gulag.

Joshua Frank: Your book has been put out by a major publishing house. As you note, these cats are in the business of making money, and I’m assuming they wanted to make your book palatable to the run-of-the-mill liberal audience. What was that process like?

Joe Bageant: For lefties it can be infuriating. My publisher is Random House, is owned by owned by Bertelsmann, the former Nazi German publisher that made massive profits from Jewish slave labor and published ant-Jewish propaganda for Hitler. It also owns Doubleday, Bantam, and a slew of other media around the world. So today we see the irony of scores of Jewish editors etc working for Bertelsmann, but this time instead of tattoos, they are sporting blackberries, worrying about theater tickets and treating their Salvadorian nannies like shit.

Anyway, big publishers Random House Crown roll the ball right down the middle of the aisle looking for a strike to sell the most books to the broad middle class. No leftie gutter balls. Let Seven Arrows have’em. On the other hand, Crown publishes Anne Coulter, which tells you something about the real middle road and what sells. Everyone must do that to keep their jobs and climb the ladder of the company, which constitutes the corporate brand allegiance that is their lives, livelihood and personal identity in the Empire. Their lives are the brand. The brand is their lives. As in, “I am an editor at Harper Collins, the one who did the Martini Book of Common Wisdom,” or “Hillary’s book,” or whatever.

At one end, you have the editors, many of whom care about the life of the mind but have internalized capitalist market driven values, and thus feel courageous when they really are not. At the other end you have the company management, who see all books merely as units. Naturally, in a system like that, the pull is always rightward toward profit driven and non-risky thinking. Consequently, the American reading public for idea based books, which is small as hell, thinks it is expanding its knowledge through reading when they buy books, when actually, all most want to do is see their viewpoints reaffirmed. But what really happens is that they are drawn more rightward by the narrowness of available choices in a marketplace that loves the homogeneity and standardization of thought which makes marketing much easier.

In all fairness though, I would be the first to say that a publisher like Random House seems to put energy, resources and talent behind you, once they are committed. Frankly, they put in more than I really care to deal with sometimes. But when I hear the horror stories of some very good writers working with small publishers and their limited resources, I know I have been fortunate that way. Lucky to have the editor, publicist and agent I have. Most writers would kill for what sort of landed in my lap, given that I was not looking to write a book in the first place. I try not to be an ingrate, but at the same time I am not at all impressed with this stuff. I might have been at your age, but not now. Thankfully, it has come too late. It’s rather like a beautiful woman coming to the bed of an 85-year old man. Delightful to behold, but no distraction from the path that took so long to hew through the jungle of false thinking and ill-focused passions.

I had the good standard middle class New York Jewish editor. She had the job of reconciling my cranky agrarian based redneck leftist thinking with the publishing environment and the marketplace as it is. I am a rather uncontrolled writer given to free association and distracting rants. When it comes to something as long as a book, I absolutely need an editor for guidance. Someone to say, “That sucks. It’s unreadable,” and make suggestions. Without her work, it would not be getting the glowing reviews it is getting so far.

Writer/editor relationships can get very personal as you know, and we had class issues, given was the chasm between our backgrounds. But I must say the editor made every effort to bridge that gap, once she got around to my book, when, at times, I simply refused to. Mostly when drunk and depressed by the glacial process by which books are published. To compound matters, time was running out for me. I was very ill with my lung disease at the time and was diagnosed as having about 18 months to live, which turned out to be somewhat wrong; I’ve got a few more years in me yet. So here I was sneezing blood, working 55 hours a week at a straight gig, and trying to write a book too while my editor had put me on the back burner so she could work on Barack Obama’s book. Needless to say, I was a very miserable camper during much of the process.

At the same time, the entire grisly process brought my editor and I closer together as human beings, and I now consider her among my good friends, even if our backgrounds have forever conditioned us in different directions. I shudder for the fate of her children in this world the same as I do for those of my adopted family in Belize.

As to Belize, I’ve pretty much got my scene together there and consider it my home, though what I will do for money in the long term, I do not know. Presently I am back here to cooperate in the promotion of the book, and will be here a few weeks longer. I’m beginning to understand that I will always be spending significant amounts of time here, if for no other reason than earning money. A lot has happened in the past several months. I began to live on $4000 a year, as I had vowed, which causes stress on my marriage and family life, as you would imagine. And now I have a deep regret for the trees wasted in the publication of my book and hate what my air travel to Belize does to the upper atmosphere, regarding global warming. If I ever do another book, I can try to do it on recycled paper, insist it be done by union printers, and then, as I do now, donate all the royalties except the $4000 to small-scale development projects. But frankly, I don’t have anything to say that is important enough to justify the damage done by publishing it. Nothing that cannot be said on the Internet with far less environmental damage. But who knows? Life has a funny way of making us eat every word.

Joshua Frank: What do the folks of your town, of which you write so frankly, think about the book?

Joe Bageant: Not much so far. The working class people in the book, who never buy or read books at all, seem rather mystified when someone exposes them to parts of it. They relish figuring out who is who and generally agree with its message about class in America. The town’s old families are pissed. Some have called me. One asked why I wrote such “mean things about this town’s leading families.” Leading families! Can you imagine that? Another told me there is “no such thing as class in Winchester. We are all happy and equal.” I just about choked on that one. They tell me the local newspaper is oiling up its guns for an attack. And some upper crust family is bound to try and sue me, I’m sure.

Joshua Frank: So when is this class war you write about going to come to a head, or has it already? I’m talking about blood in the streets and mansions on fire. Will there ever be a true class revolt in the United States, or will any sort of militant dissent be stopped dead in its tracks by the Feds?

Joe Bageant: I don’t think that will ever happen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep up the fight. I think so-called terrorism and ecocide may tear down the system for us, though. Danger has no favorites. The good old days of “the teeming masses,” that sweat soaked, beer farting mob of working class Americans who didn’t have a pot to piss in, much less a credit card, but instinctively knew fascism when they saw it, are over. Seattle in 1999 may not happen in the states again. We have all become an artificial product of corporately “administrated” modern life.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the forthcoming Red State Rebels, to be published by AK Press in March 2008.