Monday, April 14, 2008

Losing Our Will

I wonder what the answers would be if each American asked himself or herself the question: “How is the war in Iraq helping me?”

While the U.S. government continues to pour precious human treasure and vast financial resources into this ugly war without end, it is all but ignoring deeply entrenched problems that are weakening the country here at home.

On the same day that President Bush was announcing an indefinite suspension of troop withdrawals from Iraq, the New York Times columnist David Leonhardt was telling us a sad story about how the middle class has fared during the Bush years.

The economic boom so highly touted by the president and his supporters “was, for most Americans,” said Mr. Leonhardt, “nothing of the sort.” Despite the sustained expansion of the past few years, the middle class — for the first time on record — failed to grow with the economy.

And now, of course, we’re sinking into a nasty recession.

The U.S., once the greatest can-do country on the planet, now can’t seem to do anything right. The great middle class has maxed out its credit cards and drained dangerous amounts of equity from family homes. No one can seem to figure out how to generate the growth in good-paying jobs that is the only legitimate way of putting strapped families back on their feet.

The nation’s infrastructure is aging and in many places decrepit. Rebuilding it would be an important source of job creation, but nothing on the scale that is needed is in sight. To get a sense of how important an issue this is, consider New Orleans.

The historian Douglas Brinkley, who lives in New Orleans, has written: “What people didn’t yet fully comprehend was that the overall disaster, the sinking of New Orleans, was a man-made debacle, resulting from poorly designed levees and floodwalls.”

We could have saved the victims of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, but we didn’t. And now, more than 2 ½ years after the tragedy, we are still unable to lift the stricken city off its knees.

Other nations can provide health care for everyone. The United States cannot. In an era in which a college degree is becoming a prerequisite for a middle-class quality of life, we are having big trouble getting our kids through high school. And despite being the wealthiest of all nations, nearly 10 percent of Americans are resorting to food stamps to maintain an adequate diet, and 4 in every 10 American children are growing up in families that are poor or near-poor.

The U.S. seems almost paralyzed, mesmerized by Iraq and unable to generate the energy or the will to handle the myriad problems festering at home. The war will eventually cost a staggering $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. When he was asked on “Democracy Now!” about who is profiting from the war, he said the two big gainers were the oil companies and the defense contractors.

This is the pathetic state of affairs in the U.S. as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Whatever happened to the dynamic country that flexed its muscles after World War II and gave us the G.I. Bill, the Marshall Plan, the United Nations (in a quest for peace, not war), the interstate highway system, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the finest higher education system the world has known, and a standard of living that was the envy of all?

America’s commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, and our ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, went up to Capitol Hill this week but were unable to give any real answers as to when the U.S. might be able to disengage, or when a corner might be turned, or when a faint, flickering hopeful light might be glimpsed at the end of the long, horrific Iraqi tunnel.

A country that used to act like Babe Ruth now swings like a minor-leaguer. The all-American can-do philosophy has been smothered by the hapless can’t-do performances of the people who have been in charge for the past several years. It’s both tragic and embarrassing.

The war in Iraq stands like a boulder in the road, blocking progress on so many other important issues that are crucial to our viability as a society. We’ve seen this before. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which included the war on poverty, was crippled by the war in Vietnam.

On the evening of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went into Riverside Church in Manhattan and said of the war in Vietnam: “This madness must cease.”

Forty-one years later, we can still hear the echo of Dr. King’s call. The only sane response is: “Amen.”

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Church of Scientology's 'Operating Thetan' documents leaked online

Wikinews has obtained Operating Thetan (OT) documents of the Church of Scientology which were leaked via Wikileaks. Although some portions of the manual have been leaked previously, this is believed to be the first time the full unedited version has become publicly available.

The 612-page manual for Scientologists written by L. Ron Hubbard contains instructions for the eight different Operating Thetan levels including 'clear' and OT8.

Most of the manual is typed from a computer, while the packet contains some hand written notes by Hubbard himself who also signed them. The manual also contains letters by Hubbard to individuals who have passed the according levels.

"A great many phenomena (strange things) can happen while doing these drills, if they are done honestly," Hubbard writes in regards to 'OT1.' Hubbard then goes on to explain in hand written notes, the 'drills' one must do in order to become 'OT1':

"One: Walk around and counts bodies until you have a cognition. Make a report saying how many you counted and your cognition. Two: Note several large and small female bodies until you have a cognition. Note it down. Three: Note several large and several small male bodies until you have a cognition. Note it down. Four: Final a tight packed crowd of people. Write it as a crowd and then as individuals until you have a cognition. Note it down. Do step over until you do."

Hubbard then goes on to explain OT2, but before he does so, he tells the Churches how to keep Scientology working. One way is to not divulge information on their "technology." Doing so, says Hubbard, would result in "the complete destruction of all our work."

"On the other hand there have been thousands and thousands of suggestions and writings which, if accepted and acted upon, would have resulted in the complete destruction of all our work. Our technology has not been discovered by a group. True, if the group had not supported me in many ways, I could not have discovered it either. But it remains that if in its formative stages it was not discovered by a group, then group efforts, one can safely assume, will not add to it or successfully alter it in the future," states Hubbard in a confidential letter dated February 7, 1965.

Hubbard also goes on to say that "man has never before evolved workable mental technology and emphasizing it is the vicious technology he did evolve—psychiatry, psychology, surgery, shock treatment, whips, duress, punishment, etc., ad infinitum." Hubbard also says that "war, famine, agony and disease has been the lot of Man" and that Man "has been what has made Earth a Hell—and if you were looking for Hell and found Earth, it would certainly serve."

Hubbard calls those 'men' "SP Body Thetans" or those who "are out of valance" and who are "stuck to another thetan or body but is not in control" with Scientology. Some he says are even "psychotic, serve faces and have fixed ideas" which "inhibits recovery." Thetan is derived from the Greek word "Theta" which means "thought or life."

"An individual being such as a man is a thetan, he is not a body and he does not think because he has no brain," states Hubbard.

It is not until 'OT3' when you learn the true beginning of Scientology. In Hubbard's own hand written notes, he begins to describe a series of "76 planets [orbiting] around larger stars founded 95,000,000 years ago" which he says "are visible from here [Earth]."

From those planets, which were over populated by "about 250 million per planet," came a "head of the Galactic Federation" named Xenu who solved the overpopulation by sending mass amounts of his people to Earth somewhere between "75,000,000 and 4 qadrillion [Sic] years ago." Hubbard says that he brought them to Earth and dropped them off inside volcanoes on an island he describes as Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Xenu then captured the ones who escaped after 36 days and exploded the remaining individuals with a hydrogen bomb. Xenu was later "captured after six years of battle" and Earth had since become a "desert."

It is also said at this level, an implant, in what Hubbard calls an "engram" will be given in which the individual can "see pictures." However these pictures are not to be "stuck" or permanent.

At 'OT4' individuals are allegedly rid of illegal and legal drugs. Documents state that addicts are not treated with drugs, but simply not given anything.

"As drugs and drug incidents have been so common on the whole track, to simply generally ask for drugs or drug incidents when dealing with BTs and clusters, could cause a total restim," states the document which then says that individuals are made to wait out the effects of the drugs. Another process used to try and stop drug use is to "take any previously given Drug somatic items, or newly list any additional items connected with reading drugs, medicines, etc., and assess for reading somatic item." Hubbard insists that these methods are proven effective.

'OT5' is when individuals learn about the "physical universe, not the laws of physical scientists, but the basic considerations about Matter, Energy, Space and Time," states Hubbard.

At 'OT6' you allegedly learn telepathy and 'OT7'is the "rehabilitation of ability to project intention."

The final level, 'OT8', you are to "have full certainty and, therefore, perception on all" of your issues. According to Hubbard, the 'OT8' manuals are supposed to stay aboard the Free Winds Scientology ship which has heavy security because nothing is supposed to leave the ship. Despite that, Hubbard himself claims to have smuggled out his own 'OT8' instructions for the "elite" Scientologists.

"I am breaking security as I disagree that this should only be released to an elite in Scientology. I do, however, ask it not be released to psyches or 'squirrels' or anyone who will break the Independent Security Network and allow it to get back to the Church of Scientology. It would be best if they do not find out that we have it. Please treat this data responsibly. It is the key to the only truth possible," said Hubbard in regards to his 'OT8' instructions.

Wikileaks previously leaked documents relating to the Church of Scientology's division the Office of Special Affairs. The 208-page document released March 9th details Scientology's involvement in black propaganda according to its "Fair Game" practices.

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Old rockers give new meaning to life and lyrics

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The unlikely image of a 92-year-old war bride screaming The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" into a microphone backed by an elderly chorus has already captivated live audiences around the world.

Now the film version is set to do the same.

"Young at Heart" documents the group of U.S. senior citizens belting out songs by Sonic Youth through to James Brown. The small-town act has been running for some 25 years but international fame is now at hand.

"A monster has been created," filmmaker Stephen Walker joked in an interview about the film's rise.

It started as a 2006 British television documentary and became an audience favourite at the Los Angeles and Sundance film festivals in 2007 and 2008.

The opening sequence showing Eileen Hall, then 92, singing the 1982 hit from punk-rock group The Clash provided the inspiration for Walker when he first saw the group onstage in London in 2005.

"I was totally blown away," Walker said. "It was an amazing way to look at this song afresh. It becomes a song about love and death and not about relationships."

That led to Walker spending several months filming the group in Northampton, Massachusetts -- population 30,000 -- as members struggled to master lyrics from Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" to Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can."

The film opens across the United States this week and, after scoring distribution deals, will soon open in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Japan and Australia.


Besides giving new meaning to lyrics from popular hits, the film is comedic and poignant as it explores friendship, old age and death.

It also addresses a society fed up with a "youth-obsessed and celebrity culture," Walker said.

"People are getting something extraordinary from this," Walker said about the standing ovations at preview screenings in the United States. "Somehow a nerve is being touched here."

Bob Cilman, the group's musical director for the past 25 years, said the popularity showed that audiences wanted to see more elderly people in the public spotlight, on stage or in film.

"Whether it is Australia, France or America, everybody is obsessed with youth and we fly in the face of that," said Cilman, 54. "People applaud it because (youth culture) is not what people want but it is what people are spoon-fed."

Stan Goldman, 78, shown in the film singing a duet of James Brown's "I Feel Good," told Reuters the group did not seek rock star status.

"In our wildest imaginations we never anticipated this," he said.

Pat Linderme, 77, said the goal was simple -- to sing and be happy.

"You get so caught up in your singing you forget your pain," she said.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and John O'Callaghan)

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