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Preteen Marijuana Use Linked to Comorbid Substance Abuse and Psychological Disorders

Barbara Boughton

April 22, 2010 (San Francisco, California) — One of the largest studies to date of preteen marijuana users has found that those who start smoking the drug before age 13 years have an increased risk for comorbid substance abuse and psychosocial and legal problems, according to research presented here at the American Society of Addiction Medicine 41st Annual Medical-Scientific Conference.

In the study of 136 substance-dependent girls and boys, those who started using marijuana as a preteen were more likely to have a history of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide attempts, and traffic violations and to be dependent on other drugs.

"Our study supports a significant relationship between preteen marijuana use and poor outcomes. Its strengths include the fact that it is the largest clinical sample to date balanced by gender," lead researcher Youssef Mahfoud, MD, from the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio, told Medscape Psychiatry.

First Drug of Abuse

In the study of substance-dependent youths in treatment (age range, 14 - 18 years), characteristics of those who started using marijuana before age 13 years were compared with those who started using the drug after that age.

In comparison with those who started as teenagers, children who started using marijuana as preteens were more likely to be dependent on hallucinogens (44% vs 27%; P < .05) and to have comorbid substance abuse disorders (M = 3.42 vs 2.59; P < .05).

Those who began using marijuana before age 13 years also had higher rates of PTSD (16% vs 6%; P < .05), a history of attempting suicide (32% vs 19%; P < .05), and a history of traffic violations (7% vs. 1%; P < .05). In addition, preteen marijuana users were also more likely to have used marijuana as their first drug of abuse (55%), rather than alcohol.

To determine whether there were any factors that predicted preteen marijuana use, the authors also looked at ethnicity, race, parental education, parental substance abuse history, and characteristics of preteen marijuana users on admission to substance abuse programs.

Those who started using marijuana as preteens were more likely to be younger when entering treatment and to be marijuana dependent on admission. There was also a trend toward a greater risk for nicotine addiction, Dr. Mahfoud said.

Preteen marijuana abusers were more likely to be Hispanic (14% vs 3%). Those who used marijuana as a preteen also tended to have parents with less education. Sixty percent of those who started using marijuana as a preteen had parents with just a junior high education compared with 47% of those who started as teenager.

Important Implications

The study has important implications for societal interventions, Dr. Mahfoud said. Preteens with parents who have less education, who are vulnerable because of PTSD or suicide attempts, or who are identified as heavy nicotine users might be targeted for interventions aimed at preventing marijuana use, he added.

The researchers plan to follow the sample in the study to see whether they find an improvement in outcomes for preteen marijuana users after substance abuse treatment and to gauge whether preteen marijuana use is associated with less successful response to substance abuse treatment therapies.

"Addiction is a disease of adolescent onset when children's brains are growing rapidly," said Gavin Bart, MD, director of the Division of Addiction Medicine at the Hennepin County Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dr. Bart chaired the American Society of Addiction Medicine meeting and moderated the session at which the Case Western Reserve study was presented.

"So it's extremely helpful for those who treat substance abuse to know what the risk factors are for early marijuana use, and to use that information to identify patients at risk," he added.

"This is one of the first studies to look at preteens in clinical treatment, and to show that those who start using marijuana as a preteen have more problems controlling marijuana use and other drugs later in life. It reinforces the concept that prevention does not need to start in junior or senior high, but in grade school," commented Timothy Fong, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and codirector of the addiction medicine clinic at the University of California–Los Angeles. "However, this is not evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug," he cautioned. "It does not show causality."

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the John Templeton Foundation. Dr. Fong has disclosed being on speakers' bureaus for Reckitt-Benckiser, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and Lilly Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Mahfoud and Dr. Bart have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Society of Addiction Medicine 41st Annual Medical-Scientific Conference: Abstract 2. Presented April 16, 2010.

Medscape Medical News © 2010 Medscape, LLC
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Thu, November 24, 2011 - 2:03 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

PTSD Linked to Epigenetic Changes in Immune Function Genes

Jacquelyn K. Beals, PhD

May 4, 2010 — Individuals who experience traumatic events leading to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) demonstrate altered DNA methylation levels — especially in genes related to immune function, according to a study published online May 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Investigators obtained DNA from whole blood samples of 100 individuals participating in the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS). PTSD prevalence in this population was more than double that found in other studies, possibly due to high levels of exposure to violent assault, reported by 50.8% of DNHS participants.

Among 100 individuals in the present study, 23 were classified as having "lifetime PTSD" based on 6 diagnostic criteria, which must include exposure to a traumatic stressor that involves threat of death or severe injury or witnessing or learning about such an event affecting a close associate or family member; the response includes feelings of horror, helplessness, or fear.

Additional criteria include repeatedly reexperiencing the event; avoiding stimuli associated with the event, along with a decrease in normal responsiveness; and persistently increased arousal. The symptoms must persist 1 month or more, causing distress in or impairing normal social or professional functions.

14,000 Genes Analyzed

The new study analyzed methylation profiles of more than 14,000 genes in the 23 individuals clinically diagnosed as having PTSD and the 77 also exposed to one or more potentially traumatic events (PTEs) but not meeting PTSD criteria. With 0 representing unmethylated and 1 representing completely methylated, this study defined the cutoff for unmethylated as probe results less than 0.2 and methylated as greater than 0.8.

The results showed that the "number of uniquely unmethylated genes did not differ significantly between PTSD-affected and unaffected individuals." However, a significant difference existed between the groups in terms of the number of uniquely methylated genes (P < .0001).

Although some uniquely methylated genes were found in each group, there were fewer in the PTSD-unaffected group (methylation typically accompanies decreased gene expression).

More interesting than the number of uniquely methylated or unmethylated genes were the types of genes affected. In PTSD individuals, functional annotation clustering (FAC) analysis showed that the top 3 functional clusters of uniquely unmethylated genes in PTSD-affected individuals related to inflammatory response, immune response, and innate immune response. Corresponding analysis of non-PTSD individuals identified clusters of genes related to development, neurogenesis, and intracellular organelles.

FAC analysis of the genes uniquely methylated identified signaling, sound perception, and response to xenobiotic stimulus as top-ranked clusters in PTSD individuals, whereas signaling, lipase activity, and calcium ion binding were top ranked in non-PTSD individuals.

The investigators examined immune functions in PTSD individuals more closely by assessing antibody levels to cytomegalovirus (CMV), recognized as a "sentinel biomarker" of immune system compromise. The levels of CMV-specific antibody differed significantly between the PTSD and non-PTSD groups, being higher in the PTSD-affected group (P = .016).

Indicator of Immunocompromise

"Higher antibody level in this case represents immunocompromise," senior author Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York City, told Medscape Psychiatry.

"Everybody has CMV, but the more CMV one has, that is thought to be a sign of immunosenescence, immunocompromise. The fact that there are more antibodies suggests that there is immunosenescence...there is more antibody to something that we don’t expect to have so much of."

Many individuals experience more than 1 PTE, and other studies have suggested a relationship between the number of PTEs and PTSD severity. The present study analyzed the correlation between the number of PTEs experienced and level of methylation at each site on the microarray.

Relative to non-PTSD individuals, PTSD-affected individuals had almost 6 times more genes that correlated negatively with the number of PTEs they had experienced and almost 7 times more genes correlated positively with the number of PTEs experienced (P < .01). "A distinct signature of immune-related methylation profiles" was evident only in the PTSD-affected group.

Asked whether people with certain methylation profiles are just more vulnerable PTSD, Dr. Galea said. "Basically, we think that what we are seeing is trauma being associated with methylation epigenetic changes. The reason we think that is because we have evidence for dose response between traumatic event exposure and methylation.

"The more traumatic events people have, the more methylation changes they have — which of course would be unlikely that the methylation changes preceded the traumatic events," he added.

"It's not definitive," Dr. Galea acknowledged. "We can't be definitive with a cross-sectional study, but it's suggestive. The only way we can say it definitely is with a prospective study."

A Great First Look

"This is always a challenge with cross-sectional data," Dani Fallin, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, told Medscape Psychiatry. "I think these findings are a great first look, but the authors are right to point out that further longitudinal data is important."

"However, either interpretation could provide important information," Dr. Fallin continued. "If these epigenetic changes precede PTSD symptoms, this could inform the mechanism of PTSD. If instead, these serve as markers of the PTSD process once it has begun, this could provide insight into the natural progression biologically."

Dr. Galea and Dr. Fallin have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Published online May 3, 2010.

Medscape Medical News © 2010 Medscape, LLC
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Thu, November 24, 2011 - 1:48 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

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The godfather of the New Age

Thursday, Apr 12, 2007 07:40 ET
The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda


By Robert Marshall

The godfather of the New Age led a secretive group of devoted followers in the last decade of his life. His closest "witches" remain missing, and former insiders, offering new details, believe the women took their own lives.
For fans of the literary con, it's been a great few years. Currently, we have Richard Gere starring as Clifford Irving in "The Hoax," a film about the '70s novelist who penned a faux autobiography of Howard Hughes. We've had the unmasking of James Frey, JT LeRoy/Laura Albert and Harvard's Kaavya Viswanathan, who plagiarized large chunks of her debut novel, forcing her publisher, Little, Brown and Co., to recall the book. Much has been written about the slippery boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, the publishing industry's responsibility for distinguishing between the two, and the potential damage to readers. There's been, however, hardly a mention of the 20th century's most successful literary trickster: Carlos Castaneda.

If this name draws a blank for readers under 30, all they have to do is ask their parents. Deemed by Time magazine the "Godfather of the New Age," Castaneda was the literary embodiment of the Woodstock era. His 12 books, supposedly based on meetings with a mysterious Indian shaman, don Juan, made the author, a graduate student in anthropology, a worldwide celebrity. Admirers included John Lennon, William Burroughs, Federico Fellini and Jim Morrison.

Under don Juan's tutelage, Castaneda took peyote, talked to coyotes, turned into a crow, and learned how to fly. All this took place in what don Juan called "a separate reality." Castaneda, who died in 1998, was, from 1971 to 1982, one of the best-selling nonfiction authors in the country. During his lifetime, his books sold at least 10 million copies.

Castaneda was viewed by many as a compelling writer, and his early books received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Time called them "beautifully lucid" and remarked on a "narrative power unmatched in other anthropological studies." They were widely accepted as factual, and this contributed to their success. Richard Jennings, an attorney who became closely involved with Castaneda in the '90s, was studying at Stanford in the early '70s when he read the first two don Juan books. "I was a searcher," he recently told Salon. "I was looking for a real path to other worlds. I wasn't looking for metaphors."

The books' status as serious anthropology went almost unchallenged for five years. Skepticism increased in 1972 after Joyce Carol Oates, in a letter to the New York Times, expressed bewilderment that a reviewer had accepted Castaneda's books as nonfiction. The next year, Time published a cover story revealing that Castaneda had lied extensively about his past. Over the next decade, several researchers, most prominently Richard de Mille, son of the legendary director, worked tirelessly to demonstrate that Castaneda's work was a hoax.

In spite of this exhaustive debunking, the don Juan books still sell well. The University of California Press, which published Castaneda's first book, "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge," in 1968, steadily sells 7,500 copies a year. BookScan, a Nielsen company that tracks book sales, reports that three of Castaneda's most popular titles, "A Separate Reality," "Journey to Ixtlan" and "Tales of Power," sold a total of 10,000 copies in 2006. None of Castaneda's titles have ever gone out of print -- an impressive achievement for any author.

Today, Simon and Schuster, Castaneda's main publisher, still classifies his books as nonfiction. It could be argued that this label doesn't matter since everyone now knows don Juan was a fictional creation. But everyone doesn't, and the trust that some readers have invested in these books leads to a darker story that has received almost no coverage in the mainstream press.

Castaneda, who disappeared from the public view in 1973, began in the last decade of his life to organize a secretive group of devoted followers. His tools were his books and Tensegrity, a movement technique he claimed had been passed down by 25 generations of Toltec shamans. A corporation, Cleargreen, was set up to promote Tensegrity; it held workshops attended by thousands. Novelist and director Bruce Wagner, a member of Castaneda's inner circle, helped produce a series of instructional videos. Cleargreen continues to operate to this day, promoting Tensegrity and Castaneda's teachings through workshops in Southern California, Europe and Latin America.

At the heart of Castaneda's movement was a group of intensely devoted women, all of whom were or had been his lovers. They were known as the witches, and two of them, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, vanished the day after Castaneda's death, along with Cleargreen president Amalia Marquez and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl. A few weeks later, Patricia Partin, Castaneda's adopted daughter as well as his lover, also disappeared. In February 2006, a skeleton found in Death Valley, Calif., was identified through DNA analysis as Partin's.

Some former Castaneda associates suspect the missing women committed suicide. They cite remarks the women made shortly before vanishing, and point to Castaneda's frequent discussion of suicide in private group meetings. Achieving transcendence through a death nobly chosen, they maintain, had long been central to his teachings.

Castaneda was born in 1925 and came to the United States in 1951 from Peru. He'd studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Lima and hoped to make it as an artist in the United States. He worked a series of odd jobs and took classes at Los Angeles Community College in philosophy, literature and creative writing. Most who knew him then recall a brilliant, hilarious storyteller with mesmerizing brown eyes. He was short (some say 5-foot-2; others 5-foot-5) and self-conscious about having his picture taken. Along with his then wife Margaret Runyan (whose memoir, "A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda," he would later try to suppress) he became fascinated by the occult.

According to Runyan, she and Castaneda would hold long bull sessions, drinking wine with other students. One night a friend remarked that neither the Buddha nor Jesus ever wrote anything down. Their teachings had been recorded by disciples, who could have changed things or made them up. "Carlos nodded, as if thinking carefully," wrote Runyan. Together, she and Castaneda conducted unsuccessful ESP experiments. Runyan worked for the phone company, and Castaneda's first attempt at a book was an uncompleted nonfiction manuscript titled "Dial Operator."

In 1959, Castaneda enrolled at UCLA, where he signed up for California ethnography with archaeology professor Clement Meighan. One of the assignments was to interview an Indian. He got an "A" for his paper, in which he spoke to an unnamed Native American about the ceremonial use of jimson weed. But Castaneda was broke and soon dropped out. He worked in a liquor store and drove a taxi. He began to disappear for days at a time, telling Runyan he was going to the desert. The couple separated, but soon afterward Castaneda adopted C.J., the son Runyan had had with another man. And, for seven years, he worked on the manuscript that was to become "The Teachings of Don Juan."

"The Teachings" begins with a young man named Carlos being introduced at an Arizona bus stop to don Juan, an old Yaqui Indian whom he's told "is very learned about plants." Carlos tries to persuade the reluctant don Juan to teach him about peyote. Eventually he relents, allowing Carlos to ingest the sacred cactus buds. Carlos sees a transparent black dog, which, don Juan later tells him, is Mescalito, a powerful supernatural being. His appearance is a sign that Carlos is "the chosen one" who's been picked to receive "the teachings."

"The Teachings" is largely a dialogue between don Juan, the master, and Carlos, the student, punctuated by the ingestion of carefully prepared mixtures of herbs and mushrooms. Carlos has strange experiences that, in spite of don Juan's admonitions, he continues to think of as hallucinations. In one instance, Carlos turns into a crow and flies. Afterward, an argument ensues: Is there such a thing as objective reality? Or is reality just perceptions and different, equally valid ways of describing them? Toward the book's end, Carlos again encounters Mescalito, whom he now accepts as real, not a hallucination.

In "The Teachings," Castaneda tried to follow the conventions of anthropology by appending a 50-page "structural analysis." According to Runyan, his goal was to become a psychedelic scholar along the lines of Aldous Huxley. He'd become disillusioned with another hero, Timothy Leary, who supposedly mocked Castaneda when they met at a party, earning his lifelong enmity. In 1967, he took his manuscript to professor Meighan. Castaneda was disappointed when Meighan told him it would work better as a trade book than as a scholarly monograph. But following Meighan's instructions, Castaneda took his manuscript to the University of California Press' office in Powell Library, where he showed it to Jim Quebec. The editor was impressed but had doubts about its authenticity. Inundated by good reports from the UCLA anthropology department, according to Runyan, Quebec was convinced and "The Teachings" was published in the spring of 1968.

Runyan wrote that "the University of California Press, fully cognizant that a nation of drug-infatuated students was out there, moved it into California bookstores with a vengeance." Sales exceeded all expectations, and Quebec soon introduced Castaneda to Ned Brown, an agent whose clients included Jackie Collins. Brown then put Castaneda in touch with Michael Korda, Simon and Schuster's new editor in chief.

In his memoir, "Another Life," Korda recounts their first meeting. Korda was told to wait in a hotel parking lot. "A neat Volvo pulled up in front of me, and the driver waved me in," Korda writes. "He was a robust, broad-chested, muscular man, with a swarthy complexion, dark eyes, black curly hair cut short, and a grin as merry as Friar Tuck's ... I had seldom, if ever, liked anybody so much so quickly ... It wasn't so much what Castaneda had to say as his presence -- a kind of charm that was partly subtle intelligence, partly a real affection for people, and partly a kind of innocence, not of the naive kind but of the kind one likes to suppose saints, holy men, prophets and gurus have." The next morning, Korda set about buying the rights to "The Teachings." Under his new editor's guidance, Castaneda published his next three books in quick succession. In "A Separate Reality," published in 1971, Carlos returns to Mexico to give don Juan a copy of his new book. Don Juan declines the gift, suggesting he'd use it as toilet paper. A new cycle of apprenticeship begins, in which don Juan tries to teach Carlos how to "see."

New characters appear, most importantly don Juan's friend and fellow sorcerer don Genaro. In "A Separate Reality" and the two books that follow, "Journey to Ixtlan" and "Tales of Power," numerous new concepts are introduced, including "becoming inaccessible," "erasing personal history" and "stopping the world."

There are also displays of magic. Don Genaro is at one moment standing next to Carlos; at the next, he's on top of a mountain. Don Juan uses unseen powers to help Carlos start his stalled car. And he tries to show him how to be a warrior -- a being who, like an enlightened Buddhist, has eliminated the ego, but who, in a more Nietzschean vein, knows he's superior to regular humans, who lead wasted, pointless lives. Don Juan also tries to teach Carlos how to enter the world of dreams, the "separate reality," also referred to as the "nagual," a Spanish word taken from the Aztecs. (Later, Castaneda would shift the word's meaning, making it stand not only for the separate reality but also for a shaman, like don Juan and, eventually, Castaneda himself.)

In "Journey to Ixtlan," Carlos starts a new round of apprenticeship. Don Juan tells him they'll no longer use drugs. These were only necessary when Carlos was a beginner. Many consider "Ixtlan," which served as Castaneda's Ph.D. thesis at UCLA, his most beautiful book. It also made him a millionaire. At the book's conclusion, Carlos talks to a luminous coyote. But he isn't yet ready to enter the nagual. Finally, at the end of "Tales of Power," don Juan and don Genaro take Carlos to the edge of a cliff. If he has the courage to leap, he'll at last be a full-fledged sorcerer. This time Carlos doesn't turn back. He jumps into the abyss.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

All four books were lavishly praised. Michael Murphy, a founder of Esalen, remarked that the "essential lessons don Juan has to teach are the timeless ones that have been taught by the great sages of India." There were raves in the New York Times, Harper's and the Saturday Review. "Castaneda's meeting with Don Juan," wrote Time's Robert Hughes, "now seems one of the most fortunate literary encounters since Boswell was introduced to Dr. Johnson."

In 1972, anthropologist Paul Riesman reviewed Castaneda's first three books in the New York Times Book Review, writing that "Castaneda makes it clear that the teachings of don Juan do tell us something of how the world really is." Riesman's article ran in place of a review the Times had initially commissioned from Weston La Barre, one of the foremost authorities on Native American peyote ceremonies. In his unpublished article, La Barre denounced Castaneda's writing as "pseudo-profound deeply vulgar pseudo-ethnography."

Contacted recently, Roger Jellinek, the editor who commissioned both reviews, explained his decision. "The Weston La Barre review, as I recall, was not so much a review as a furious ad hominem diatribe intended to suppress, not debate, the book," he wrote via e-mail. "By then I knew enough about Castaneda, from discussions with Edmund Carpenter, the anthropologist who first put me on to Castaneda, and from my reading of renowned shamanism scholar Mircea Eliade in support of my own review of Castaneda in the daily New York Times, to feel strongly that 'The Teachings of Don Juan' deserved more than a personal put-down. Hence the second commission to Paul Riesman, son of Harvard sociologist David Riesman, and a brilliant rising anthropologist. Incidentally, in all my eight years at the NYTBR, that's the only occasion I can recall of a review being commissioned twice."

Riesman's glowing review was soon followed by Oates' letter to the editor, in which she argued that the books were obvious works of fiction. Then, in 1973, Time correspondent Sandra Burton found that Castaneda had lied about his military service, his father's occupation, his age and his nation of birth (Peru not Brazil).

No one contributed more to Castaneda's debunking than Richard de Mille. De Mille, who held a Ph.D. in psychology from USC, was something of a freelance intellectual. In a recent interview, he remarked that because he wasn't associated with a university, he could tell the story straight. "People in the academy wouldn't do it," he remarked. "They'd be embarrassing the establishment." Specifically the UCLA professors who, according to de Mille, knew it was a hoax from the start. But a hoax that, he said, supported their theories, which de Mille summed up succinctly: "Reality doesn't exist. It's all what people say to each other."

In de Mille's first exposé, "Castaneda's Journey," which appeared in 1976, he pointed to numerous internal contradictions in Castaneda's field reports and the absence of convincing details. "During nine years of collecting plants and hunting animals with don Juan, Carlos learns not one Indian name for any plant or animal," De Mille wrote. The books were also filled with implausible details. For example, while "incessantly sauntering across the sands in seasons when ... harsh conditions keep prudent persons away, Carlos and don Juan go quite unmolested by pests that normally torment desert hikers."

De Mille also uncovered numerous instances of plagiarism. "When don Juan opens his mouth," he wrote, "the words of particular writers come out." His 1980 compilation, "The Don Juan Papers," includes a 47-page glossary of quotations from don Juan and their sources, ranging from Wittgenstein and C.S. Lewis to papers in obscure anthropology journals.

In one example, de Mille first quotes a passage by a mystic, Yogi Ramacharaka: "The Human Aura is seen by the psychic observer as a luminous cloud, egg-shaped, streaked by fine lines like stiff bristles standing out in all directions." In "A Separate Reality," a "man looks like a human egg of circulating fibers. And his arms and legs are like luminous bristles bursting out in all directions." The accumulation of such instances leads de Mille to conclude that "Carlos's adventures originated not in the Sonoran desert but in the library at UCLA." De Mille convinced many previously sympathetic readers that don Juan did not exist. Perhaps the most glaring evidence was that the Yaqui don't use peyote, and don Juan was supposedly a Yaqui shaman teaching a "Yaqui way of knowledge." Even the New York Times came around, declaring that de Mille's research "should satisfy anyone still in doubt."

Some anthropologists have disagreed with de Mille on certain points. J.T. Fikes, author of "Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties," believes Castaneda did have some contact with Native Americans. But he's an even fiercer critic than de Mille, condemning Castaneda for the effect his stories have had on Native peoples. Following the publication of "The Teachings," thousands of pilgrims descended on Yaqui territory. When they discovered that the Yaqui don't use peyote, but that the Huichol people do, they headed to the Huichol homeland in Southern Mexico, where, according to Fikes, they caused serious disruption. Fikes recounts with outrage the story of one Huichol elder being murdered by a stoned gringo.

Among anthropologists, there's no longer a debate. Professor William W. Kelly, chairman of Yale's anthropology department, told me, "I doubt you'll find an anthropologist of my generation who regards Castaneda as anything but a clever con man. It was a hoax, and surely don Juan never existed as anything like the figure of his books. Perhaps to many it is an amusing footnote to the gullibility of naive scholars, although to me it remains a disturbing and unforgivable breach of ethics."

After 1973, the year of the Time exposé, Castaneda never again responded publicly to criticism. Instead, he went into seclusion, at least as far as the press was concerned (he still went to Hollywood parties). Claiming he was complying with don Juan's instruction to become "inaccessible," he no longer allowed himself to be photographed, and (in the same year the existence of the Nixon tapes was made public) he decided that recordings of any sort were forbidden. He also severed ties to his past; after attending C.J.'s junior high graduation and promising to take him to Europe, he soon banished his ex-wife and son.

And he made don Juan disappear. When "The Second Ring of Power" was published in 1977, readers learned that sometime between the leap into the abyss at the end of "Tales of Power" and the start of the new book, don Juan had vanished, evanescing into a ball of light and entering the nagual. His seclusion also helped Castaneda, now in his late 40s, conceal the alternative family he was starting to form. The key members were three young women: Regine Thal, Maryann Simko and Kathleen "Chickie" Pohlman, whom Castaneda had met while he was still active at UCLA. Simko was pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology and was known around campus as Castaneda's girlfriend. Through her, Castaneda met Thal, another anthropology Ph.D. candidate and Simko's friend from karate class. How Pohlman entered the picture remains unclear.

In 1973, Castaneda purchased a compound on the aptly named Pandora Avenue in Westwood. The women, soon to be known both in his group and in his books as "the witches," moved in. They eventually came to sport identical short, dyed blond haircuts similar to those later worn by the Heaven's Gate cult. They also said they'd studied with don Juan.

In keeping with the philosophy of "erasing personal history," they changed their names: Simko became Taisha Abelar; Thal, Florinda Donner-Grau. Donner-Grau is remembered by many as Castaneda's equal in intelligence and charisma. Nicknamed "the hummingbird" because of her ceaseless energy, she was born in Venezuela to German parents and claimed to have done research on the Yanomami Indians. Pohlman was given a somewhat less glamorous alias: Carol Tiggs. Donner-Grau and Abelar eventually published their own books on sorcery.

The witches, along with Castaneda, maintained a tight veil of secrecy. They used numerous aliases and didn't allow themselves to be photographed. Followers were told constantly changing stories about their backgrounds. Only after Castaneda's death did the real facts about their lives begin to emerge. This is largely due to the work of three of his ex-followers.

In the early '90s, Richard Jennings, a Columbia Law graduate, was living in Los Angeles. He was the executive director of Hollywood Supports, a nonprofit group organized to fight discrimination against people with HIV. He'd previously been the executive director of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. After reading an article in Details magazine by Bruce Wagner about a meeting with Castaneda, he became intrigued. By looking on the Internet, he found his way to one of the semi-secret workshops being held around Los Angeles. He was soon invited to participate in Castaneda's Sunday sessions, exclusive classes for select followers, where Jennings kept copious notes. From 1995 to 1998 he was deeply involved in the group, sometimes advising on legal matters. After Castaneda's death, he started a Web site, Sustained Action, for which he compiled meticulously researched chronologies, dating from 1947 to 1999, of the lives of Patricia Partin and the witches.

Another former insider is Amy Wallace, author of 13 books of fiction and nonfiction, including the best-selling "Book of Lists," which she co-authored with her brother David Wallechinksy and their father, novelist Irving Wallace, also a client of Korda's. (Amy Wallace has contributed to Salon.) She first met Castaneda in 1973, while she was still in high school. Her parents took her to a dinner party held by agent Ned Brown. Castaneda was there with Abelar, who then went under the name Anna-Marie Carter. They talked with Wallace about her boarding school. Many years later, Wallace became one of Castaneda's numerous lovers, an experience recounted in her memoir, "Sorcerer's Apprentice." Wallace now lives in East Los Angeles, where she's working on a novel about punk rock.

Gaby Geuter, an author and former travel agent, had been a workshop attendee who hoped to join the inner circle. In 1996 she realized she was being shut out. In an effort to find out the truth about the guru who'd rejected her, she, along with her husband, Greg Mamishian, began to shadow Castaneda. In her book "Filming Castaneda," she recounts how, from a car parked near his compound, they secretly videotaped the group's comings and goings. Were it not for Geuter there'd be no post-1973 photographic record of Castaneda, who, as he aged, seemed to have retained his impish charm as well as a full head of silver hair. They also went through his trash, discovering a treasure-trove of documents, including marriage certificates, letters and credit card receipts that would later provide clues to the group's history and its behavior during Castaneda's final days.

During the late '70s and early '80s, Jennings believes the group probably numbered no more than two dozen. Members, mostly women, came and went. At the time, a pivotal event was the defection of Carol Tiggs, who was, according to Wallace, always the most ambivalent witch. Soon after joining, she tried to break away. She attended California Acupuncture College, married a fellow student and lived in Pacific Palisades. Eventually, Wallace says, Castaneda lured her back.

Castaneda had a different version. In his 1981 bestseller, "The Eagle's Gift," he described how Tiggs vanished into the "second attention," one of his terms for infinity. Eventually she reappeared through a space time portal in New Mexico. She then made her way to L.A., where they were joyously reunited when he found her on Santa Monica Boulevard. In homage to her 10 years in another dimension, she was now known as the "nagual woman."

Wallace believes this was an incentive to get Tiggs to rejoin. According to Wallace and Jennings, one of the witches' tasks was to recruit new members. Melissa Ward, a Los Angeles area caterer, was involved in the group from 1993 to 1994. "Frequently they recruited at lectures," she told me. Among the goals, she said, was to find "women with a combination of brains and beauty and vulnerability." Initiation into the inner family often involved sleeping with Castaneda, who, the witches claimed in public appearances, was celibate.

In "Sorcerer's Apprentice," Wallace provides a detailed picture of her own seduction. Because of her father's friendship with Castaneda, her case was unusual. Over the years, he'd stop by the Wallace home. When Irving died in 1990, Amy was living in Berkeley, Calif. Soon after, Castaneda called and told her that her father had appeared to him in a dream and said he was trapped in the Wallace's house, and needed Amy and Carlos to free him.

Wallace, suitably skeptical, came down to L.A. and the seduction began in earnest. She recounts how she soon found herself in bed with Castaneda. He told her he hadn't had sex for 20 years. When Wallace later worried she might have gotten pregnant (they'd used no birth control), Castaneda leapt from the bed, shouting, "Me make you pregnant? Impossible! The nagual's sperm isn't human ... Don't let any of the nagual's sperm out, nena. It will burn away your humanness." He didn't mention the vasectomy he'd had years before.

The courtship continued for several weeks. Castaneda told her they were "energetically married." One afternoon, he took her to the sorcerer's compound. As they were leaving, Wallace looked at a street sign so she could remember the location. Castaneda furiously berated her: A warrior wouldn't have looked. He ordered her to return to Berkeley. She did. When she called, he refused to speak to her.

The witches, however, did, instructing Wallace on the sorceric steps necessary to return. She had to let go of her attachments. Wallace got rid of her cats. This didn't cut it. Castaneda, she wrote, got on the phone and called her an egotistical, spoiled Jew. He ordered her to get a job at McDonald's. Instead, Wallace waitressed at a bed and breakfast. Six months later she was allowed back.

Aspiring warriors, say Jennings, Wallace and Ward, were urged to cut off all contact with their past lives, as don Juan had instructed Carlos to do, and as Castaneda had done by cutting off his wife and adopted son. "He was telling us how to get out of family obligations," Jennings told me. "Being in one-on-one relationships would hold you back from the path. Castaneda was telling us how to get out of commitments with family, down to small points like how to avoid hugging your parents directly." Jennings estimates that during his four years with the group, between 75 and 100 people were told to cut off their families. He doesn't know how many did.

For some initiates, the separation was brutal and final. According to Wallace, acolytes were told to tell their families, "I send you to hell." Both Wallace and Jennings tell of one young woman who, in the group's early years, had been ordered by Castaneda to hit her mother, a Holocaust survivor. Many years later, Wallace told me, the woman "cried about it. She'd done it because she thought he was so psychic he could tell if she didn't." Wallace also describes how, when one young man's parents died soon after being cut off, Castaneda singled him out for praise, remarking, "When you really do it, don Juan told me, they die instantly, as if you were squashing a flea -- and that's all they are, fleas."

Before entering the innermost circle, at least some followers were led into a position of emotional and financial dependence. Ward remembers a woman named Peggy who was instructed to quit her job. She was told she'd then be given cash to get a phone-less apartment, where she would wait to hear from Castaneda or the witches. Peggy fled before this happened. But Ward said this was a common practice with women about to be brought into the family's core.

Valerie Kadium, a librarian, who from 1995 to 1996 took part in the Sunday sessions, recalls one participant who, after several meetings, decided to commit himself fully to the group. He went to Vermont to shut down his business, but on returning to L.A., he was told he could no longer participate; he was "too late." He'd failed to grasp the "cubic centimeter of chance" that, said Kadium, Castaneda often spoke of. Jennings had to quit his job with Hollywood Supports; his work required him to interact with the media, but this was impossible: Sorcerers couldn't have their pictures taken.

But there were rewards. "I was totally affected by these people," Jennings told me. "I felt like I'd found a family. I felt like I'd found a path." Kadium recalls the first time she saw Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl onstage -- she saw an aura around her, an apricot glow. Remembering her early days with the group, she remarked, "There was such a sweetness about it. I had such high hopes. I wanted to feel the world more deeply -- and I did."

Although she was later devastated when Castaneda banished her from the Sunday sessions, telling her "the spirits spit you out," she eventually recovered, and now remembers this as the most exciting time of her life. According to all who knew him, Castaneda wasn't only mesmerizing, he also had a great sense of humor. "One of the reasons I was involved was the idea that I was in this fascinating, on the edge, avant garde, extraordinary group of beings," Wallace said. "Life was always exciting. We were free from the tedium of the world."

And because, as Jennings puts it, Castaneda was a "control freak," followers were often freed from the anxiety of decision-making. Some had more independence, but even Wallace and Bruce Wagner, both of whom were given a certain leeway, were sometimes, according to Wallace, required to have their writing vetted by Donner-Grau. Jennings and Wallace also report that Castaneda directed the inner circle's sex lives in great detail.

The most difficult part, Wallace believes, was that you never knew where you stood. "He'd pick someone, crown them, and was as capable of kicking them out in 48 hours as keeping them 10 years. You never knew. So there was always trepidation, a lot of jealousy." Sometimes initiates were banished for obscure spiritual offenses, such as drinking cappuccino (which Castaneda himself guzzled in great quantities). They'd no longer be invited to the compound. Phone calls wouldn't be returned. Having been allowed for a time into a secret, magical family, they'd be abruptly cut off. For some, Wallace believes, this pattern was highly traumatic. "In a weird way," she said, "the worst thing that can happen is when you're loved and loved and then abused and abused, and there are no rules, and the rules keep changing, and you can never do right, but then all of a sudden they're kissing you. That's the most crazy-making behavioral modification there is. And that's what Carlos specialized in; he was not stupid."

Whether disciples were allowed to stay or forced to leave seems often to have depended on the whims of a woman known as the Blue Scout. Trying to describe her power, Ward recalled a "Twilight Zone" episode in which a little boy could look at people and make them die. "So everyone treated him with kid gloves," she said, "and that's how it was with the Blue Scout." She was born Patricia Partin and grew up in LaVerne, Calif., where, according to Jennings, her father had been in an accident that left him with permanent brain damage. Partin dropped out of Bonita High her junior year. She became a waitress, and, at 19, married an aspiring filmmaker, Mark Silliphant, who introduced her to Castaneda in 1978. Within weeks of their marriage she left Silliphant and went to live with Castaneda. She paid one last visit to her mother; in keeping with the nagual's instructions, she refused to be in a family photograph. For the rest of her life, she never spoke to her mother again.

Castaneda renamed Partin Nury Alexander. She was also "Claude" as well as the Blue Scout. She soon emerged as one of his favorites (Castaneda officially adopted her in 1995). Followers were told he'd conceived her with Tiggs in the nagual. He said she had a very rare energy; she was "barely human" -- high praise from Castaneda. Partin, a perpetual student at UCLA and an inveterate shopper at Neiman Marcus, was infantilized. In later years, new followers would be assigned the task of playing dolls with her.

In the late '80s, perhaps because book sales had slowed, or perhaps because he no longer feared media scrutiny, Castaneda sought to expand. Jennings believes he may have been driven by a desire to please Partin. Geuter confirms that Castaneda told followers that the Blue Scout had talked him into starting Cleargreen. But she also suggests another motivation. "He was thinking about what he wanted for the rest of his life," Geuter told me. "He always talked about 'going for the golden clasp.' He wanted to finish with something spectacular."

Castaneda investigated the possibility of incorporating as a religion, as L. Ron Hubbard had done with Scientology. Instead, he chose to develop Tensegrity, which, Jennings believes, was to be the means through which the new faith would spread. Tensegrity is a movement technique that seems to combine elements of a rigid version of tai chi and modern dance. In all likelihood the inspiration came from karate devotees Donner-Grau and Abelar, and from his years of lessons with martial arts instructor Howard Lee. Documents found by Geuter show him discussing a project called "Kung Fu Sorcery" with Lee as early as 1988. The more elegant "Tensegrity" was lifted from Buckminster Fuller, for whom it referred to a structural synergy between tension and compression. Castaneda seems to have just liked the sound of it.

A major player in promoting Tensegrity was Wagner, whose fifth novel, "The Chrysanthemum Palace," was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner prize (his sixth, "Memorial," was recently released by Simon and Schuster). Wagner hadn't yet published his first novel when he approached Castaneda in 1988 with the hope of filming the don Juan books. Within a few years, according to Jennings and Wallace, he became part of the inner circle. He was given the sorceric name Lorenzo Drake -- Enzo for short. As the group began to emerge from the shadows, holding seminars in high school auditoriums and on college campuses, Wagner, tall, bald and usually dressed in black, would, according to Geuter and Wallace, act as a sort of bouncer, removing those who asked unwanted questions. (Wagner declined requests for an interview.) In 1995 Wagner, who'd previously been wed to Rebecca De Mornay, married Tiggs. That same year his novel "I'm Losing You" was chosen by the New York Times as a notable book of the year. John Updike, in the New Yorker, proclaimed that Wagner "writes like a wizard."

In the early '90s, to promote Tensegrity, Castaneda set up Cleargreen, which operated out of the offices of "Rugrats" producer and Castaneda agent (and part-time sorcerer) Tracy Kramer, a friend of Wagner's from Beverly Hills High. Although Castaneda wasn't a shareholder, according to Geuter, "he determined every detail of the operation." Jennings and Wallace confirm that Castaneda had complete control of Cleargreen. (Cleargreen did not respond to numerous inquiries from Salon.) The company's official president was Amalia Marquez (sorceric name Talia Bey), a young businesswoman who, after reading Castaneda's books, had moved from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles in order to follow him.

At Tensegrity seminars, women dressed in black, the "chacmools," demonstrated moves for the audience. Castaneda and the witches would speak and answer questions. Seminars cost up to $1,200, and as many as 800 would attend. Participants could buy T-shirts that read "Self Importance Kills -- Do Tensegrity." The movements were meant to promote health as well as help practitioners progress as warriors. Illness was seen as a sign of weakness. Wallace recalls the case of Tycho, the Orange Scout (supposedly the Blue Scout's sister). "She had ulcerative colitis," Wallace told me. "She was trying to keep it a secret because if Carlos knew you were sick he'd punish you. If you went for medical care, he'd kick you out." Once Tycho's illness was discovered, Wallace said, Tycho was expelled from the group.

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If Castaneda's early books drew on Buddhism and phenomenology, his later work seemed more indebted to science fiction. But throughout, there was a preoccupation with meeting death like a warrior. In the '90s, Castaneda told his followers that, like don Juan, he wouldn't die -- he'd burn from within, turn into a ball of light, and ascend to the heavens.

In the summer of 1997, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Because sorcerers weren't supposed to get sick, his illness remained a tightly guarded secret. While the witches desperately pursued traditional and alternative treatments, the workshops continued as if nothing was wrong (although Castaneda often wasn't there). One of the witches, Abelar, flew to Florida to inspect yachts. Geuter, in notes taken at the time, wondered, "Why are they buying a boat? ... Maybe Carlos wants to leave with his group, and disappear unnoticed in the wide-open oceans."

No boats were purchased. Castaneda continued to decline. He became increasingly frail, his eyes yellow and jaundiced. He rarely left the compound. According to Wallace, Tiggs told her the witches had purchased guns. While the nagual lay bedridden with a morphine drip, watching war videos, the inner circle burned his papers. A grieving Abelar had begun to drink. "I'm not in any danger of becoming an alcoholic now," she told Wallace. "Because I'm leaving, so -- it's too late." Wallace writes: "She was telling me, in her way, that she planned to die."

Wallace also recalls a conversation with Lundahl, the star of the Tensegrity videos and one of the women who disappeared: "If I don't go with him, I'll do what I have to do," Wallace says Lundahl told her. "It's too late for you and me to remain in the world -- I think you know exactly what I mean."

In April 1998, Geuter filmed the inner circle packing up the house. The next week, at age 72, Castaneda died. He was cremated at the Culver City mortuary. No one knows what became of his ashes. Within days, Donner-Grau, Abelar, Partin, Lundahl and Marquez had their phones disconnected and vanished. A few weeks later, Partin's red Ford Escort was found abandoned in Death Valley's Panamint Dunes.

Even within the inner circle, few knew that Castaneda was dead. Rumors spread. Many were in despair: The nagual hadn't "burned from within." Jennings didn't learn until two weeks later, when Tiggs called to tell him Castaneda was "gone." The witches, she said, were "elsewhere."

In a proposal for a biography of Castaneda, a project Jennings eventually chose not to pursue, he writes that Tiggs "also told me she was supposed to have 'gone with them,' but 'a non-decision decision' kept me here." Meanwhile, the workshops continued. "Carol also banned mourning within Cleargreen," Jennings writes, "so its members hid their grief, often drowning it in alcohol or drugs." Wallace, too, recalls a lot of drug use: "I don't know if they tried to OD so much as to 'get there.' Get to Carlos." Jennings himself drove to the desert and thought about committing suicide.

The media didn't learn of Castaneda's death for two months. When the news became public, Cleargreen members stopped answering their phones. They soon placed a statement, which Jennings says was written by Wagner, on their Web site: "For don Juan, the warrior was a being ... who embarks, when the time comes, on a definitive journey of awareness, 'crossing over to total freedom' ... warriors can keep their awareness, which is ordinarily relinquished, at the moment of dying. At the moment of crossing, the body in its entirety is kindled with knowledge ... Carlos Castaneda left the world the same way that his teacher, don Juan Matus did: with full awareness."

Many obituaries had a curious tone; the writers seemed uncertain whether to call Castaneda a fraud. Some expressed a kind of nostalgia for an author whose work had meant so much to so many in their youth. Korda refused comment. De Mille, in an interview with filmmaker Ralph Torjan, expressed a certain admiration. "He was the perfect hoaxer," he told Torjan, "because he never admitted anything."

Jennings, Wallace and Geuter believe the missing women likely committed suicide. Wallace told me about a phone call to Donner-Grau's parents not long after the women disappeared. Donner-Grau had been one of the few allowed to maintain contact with her family. "They were weeping," Wallace said, "because there was no goodbye. They didn't know what had happened. This was after decades of being in touch with them."

Castaneda's will, executed three days before his death, leaves everything to an entity known as the Eagle's Trust. According to Jennings, who obtained a copy of the trust agreement, the missing women have a considerable amount of money due to them. Deborah Drooz, the executor of Castaneda's estate, said she has had no contact with the women. She added that she believes they are still alive.

Jennings believes Castaneda knew they were planning to kill themselves. "He used to talk about suicide all the time, even for minor things," Jennings told me. He added that Partin was once sent to identify abandoned mines in the desert, which could be used as potential suicide sites. (There's an abandoned mine not far from where her remains were found.) "He regularly told us he was our only hope," Jennings said. "We were all supposed to go together, 'make the leap,' whatever that meant." What did Jennings think it meant? "I didn't know fully," he said. "He'd describe it in different ways. So would the witches. It seemed to be what they were living for, something we were being promised."

The promise may have been based on the final scene in "Tales of Power," in which Carlos leaps from a cliff into the nagual. The scene is later retold in varying versions. In his 1984 book, "The Fire From Within," Castaneda wrote: "I didn't die at the bottom of that gorge -- and neither did the other apprentices who had jumped at an earlier time -- because we never reached it; all of us, under the impact of such a tremendous and incomprehensible act as jumping to our deaths, moved our assemblage points and assembled other worlds."

Did Castaneda really believe this? Wallace thinks so. "He became more and more hypnotized by his own reveries," she told me. "I firmly believe Carlos brainwashed himself." Did the witches? Geuter put it this way: "Florinda, Taisha and the Blue Scout knew it was a fantasy structure. But when you have thousands of eyes looking back at you, you begin to believe in the fantasy. These women never had to answer to the real world. Carlos had snatched them when they were very young."

Wallace isn't sure what the women believed. Because open discussion of Castaneda's teachings was forbidden, it was impossible to know what anyone really thought. However, she told me, after living so long with Castaneda, the women may have felt they had no choice. "You've cut off all your ties," she said. "Now you're going to go back after all these decades? Who are you going to go be with? And you feel that you're not one of the common herd anymore. That's why they killed themselves."

On its Web site, Cleargreen maintains that the women didn't "depart." However, "for the moment they are not going to appear personally at the workshops because they want this dream to take wings."

Remarkably, there seems to have been no investigation into at least three of the disappearances. Except for Donner-Grau, they'd all been estranged from their families for years. For months after they vanished, none of the other families knew what had happened. And so, according to Geuter, no one reported them missing. Salon attempted to locate the three missing women, relying on public records and phone calls to their previous residences, but discovered no current trace of them. The Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI confirm that there's been no official inquiry into the disappearances of Donner-Grau, Abelar and Lundahl.

There is, however, a file open in the Marquez case. This is due to the tireless efforts of Luis Marquez, who told Salon that he first tried to report his sister missing in 1999. But the LAPD, he said, repeatedly ignored him. A year later, he and his sister Carmen wrote a letter to the missing-persons unit; again, no response. According to Marquez, it wasn't until Partin's remains were identified that the LAPD opened a file on Amalia. "To this day," he told me, "they still refuse to ask any questions or visit Cleargreen." His own attempts to get information from Cleargreen have been fruitless. According to Marquez, all he's been told is that the women are "traveling." Detective Lydia Dillard, assigned to the Marquez case, said that because this is an open investigation, she couldn't confirm whether anyone from Cleargreen had been interviewed.

In 2002, a Taos, N.M., woman, Janice Emery, a Castaneda follower and workshop attendee, jumped to her death in the Rio Grande gorge. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Emery had a head injury brought on by cancer. One of Emery's friends told the newspaper that Emery "wanted to be with Castaneda's people." Said another: "I think she was really thinking she could fly off." A year later, a skeleton was discovered near the site of Partin's abandoned Ford. The Inyo County sheriff's department suspected it was hers. But, due to its desiccated condition, a positive identification couldn't be made until February 2006, when new DNA technology became available.

Wallace recalls how Castaneda had told Partin that "if you ever need to rise to infinity, take your little red car and drive it as fast as you can into the desert and you will ascend." And, Wallace believes, "that's exactly what she did: She took her little red car, drove it into the desert, didn't ascend, got out, wandered around and fainted from dehydration."

Partin's death and the disappearance of the other women aren't Castaneda's entire legacy. He's been acknowledged as an important influence by figures ranging from Deepak Chopra to George Lucas. Without a doubt, Castaneda opened the doors of perception for numerous readers, and many workshop attendees found the experience deeply meaningful. There are those who testify to the benefits of Tensegrity. And even some of those who are critical of Castaneda find his teachings useful. "He was a conduit. I wanted answers to the big questions. He helped me," Geuter said. But for five of his closest companions, his teachings -- and his insistence on their literal truth -- may have cost them their lives.

Long after Castaneda had been discredited in academia, Korda continued to insist on his authenticity. In 2000, he wrote: "I have never doubted for a moment the truth of his stories about don Juan." Castaneda's books have been profitable for Simon and Schuster, and according to Korda, were for many years one of the props on which the publisher rested. Castaneda might have achieved some level of success if his books had been presented, as James Redfield's "Celestine Prophecy" is, as allegorical fiction. But Castaneda always insisted he'd made nothing up. "If he hadn't presented his stories as fact," Wallace told me, "it's unlikely the cult would exist. As nonfiction, it became impossibly more dangerous."

To this day, Simon and Schuster stands by Korda's position. When asked whether, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the publisher still regarded Castaneda's books as nonfiction, Adam Rothenberg, the vice president for corporate communication, replied that Simon and Schuster "will continue to publish Castaneda as we always have." Tensegrity classes are still held around the world. Workshops were recently conducted in Mexico City and Hanover, Germany. Wagner's videos are still available from Cleargreen. According to the terms of Castaneda's will, book royalties still help support a core group of acolytes. On Simon and Schuster's Web site, Castaneda is still described as an anthropologist. No mention is made of his fiction.
Mon, August 30, 2010 - 4:40 PM — permalink - 1 comments - add a comment

Brazilian police 'execute thousands'

By Angus Stickler
BBC News, Rio de Janeiro

Rio's police are heavily armed in many areas of the city
Hundreds, possibly thousands of people are shot by police every year in Brazil, a BBC investigation has found.
The authorities say it is mainly criminals caught in military-style raids on drug gangs but according to a former senior official, new evidence suggests that many of the shootings are cold-blooded executions conducted by the police.

Former police ombudsman Professor Julita Lemgruber has told BBC World Service's Assignment programme that, in the state of Rio alone, the police killed 983 people last year. The figure is similar for Sao Paulo.

"The federal government should be challenging the various state governments in Brazil about the hundreds of people that the police kill in this country," she says.


As a former ombudsman, Professor Lemgruber was responsible for investigating the police as part of a previous crack down on corruption.

In the past five years, the number of fatal police shootings has more than doubled. Based on her experience as a government official, Professor Lemgruber says she believes the police are free to act with impunity.

It's all premeditated - very cold-blooded and calculated

Former military policeman
"You couldn't really investigate complaints because you knew there was this curtain of silence that was always present," she says.
She adds that she had personally dealt with cases in which summary executions had happened.

The authorities in Rio dismiss these allegations. They say most people killed by the police are criminals, shot in military-style raids.

But in the spring of this year events took a sinister turn when, on 31 March, two men entered a bar and started shooting, not once or twice, but again and again. Most of the victims were shot at close range - in the chest and in the head.

In all, 29 people were shot dead, apparently not by members of a criminal drug gang - but by off-duty police officers.


A former military policeman, Gordinho (not his real name), says executions by police death squads are common.

"Everyone knows the police here in Rio de Janeiro... nearly all of them abuse their authority," he says.

Most people killed by police are criminals caught up in raids, officials say
"When you get excited you feel you are the law... The shooting cases you hear about, most of them are executions.
"It's all premeditated - very cold-blooded and calculated."

After the killings in March, Marcello Itagebah, Secretary of State for Public Security and the man ultimately responsible for policing in Rio, promised to take a "meat cleaver" to police corruption. Following the investigation, 11 police officers were arrested.

"That shows to the people that we can conduct a very good investigation and that we can arrest police officers that committed crime," he said.

"We already have arrested more than 500 police officers, and we have expelled about 200 since last February. That is a job that has to be done every day."

But executions by death squads appear to be a traditional feature of Rio policing. While the authorities no longer give them official backing, evidence from the city morgues suggests they continue.

"Around 60% of the bodies of people that were killed by the police had more than six shots," explains Professor Lemgruber.

"Most of them [were shot] in the head and in the back - mostly executions."

Brazil is a deeply religious nation. Leaders of the Catholic Church have spoken out against corruption in politics and in the police force.

And among the congregations in the favelas, there is growing anger. They are determined to fight for change.

"You see children playing in the streets, and the people all happy - but when the cops come here - pop pop pop - some people are killed," says one resident, Paolo Cesar.

"They kill everybody. They got bad cops - bad cops."

Another resident insists that "we are fighting really hard for justice because the guilty people have to pay".

The crucial test now for Brazil's politicians is whether they have the will and ability to overturn a longstanding and lethal police culture of justice by bullet.
Wed, July 28, 2010 - 9:02 PM — permalink - 1 comments - add a comment

"Rebel Poets of the 1950s"

"America demands a poetry that is bold, modern and all-surrounding and kosmical, as she is herself." Although Walt Whitman wrote that prescription shortly after the Civil War, it also vividly describes the generation of American poets who came of age after World War II. Particularly during moments of cultural change, poets have joined artists on the front lines of expanding consciousness by forging a vernacular language that gives expression to contemporary life. One such shift in poetry occurred at the time of World War I, and another major shift took place during the decade after the Second World War. The 1950s are stereotypically represented as a time of conformity and unclouded prosperity--a mixture of Ozzie and Harriet, hula hoops, suburban tract homes, and shopping malls--along with the political anxiety imposed by McCarthyism. During such a period of apparent hegemony, the poets presented in this exhibition became a collective force that stood outside of these larger societal trends. "The avant-garde is never anything but a community of particular sympathy," observed poet Jonathan Williams. "It is the total locale of America that produces the culture."

The "Rebel Poets of the 1950s" have been grouped into four overlapping constellations: the Beat Generation, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Black Mountain poets, and the New York School poets. Together they formed, in Allen Ginsberg's words, "the united phalanx," whose unity owed more to a collective feeling of embattlement than it did to unified poetics. At the time, many of these writers were called anti-intellectuals, "destroyers of language," and literary juvenile delinquents. These writers actually read voraciously--both classical and modern literature--and pursued the perennial avant-garde imperative to reinvigorate literary culture by destroying the hackneyed and moribund. Ironically, the reigning tradition that now seemed ripe for attack was modernism, along with the strictly formalist New Criticism that had become entrenched in the universities and in literary journals. In an attempt to widen the range of modern poetry, the rebel poets of the 1950s emphasized many elements that were new or had been previously excised: the bardic spoken voice, links to jazz and spontaneous composition, open verse forms and rhythms, derangement of the senses as a stimulus to creativity, confessional candor, and content that embraced political issues, Buddhism, and the natural environment.

Perhaps as important as their loosely shared poetics was a sense of personal friendship that transcended geography. Frank O'Hara called it "hands-across-the Rockies for perhaps the first time in American history." A tightly knit community arose out of necessity, for these poets depended on the little magazines, small presses, and public readings that they jointly organized. They often were associated with visual artists, not only in the watering spots in which they gathered (New York's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's North Beach), but in the books and magazines they jointly produced to celebrate the conjoined word and image.

The Beat Generation
The writers most frequently associated with the Beat Generation are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Diane DiPrima. The first three met one another around Columbia University in the mid-1940s, and forged relationships that would prove central to their lives. The three shared an apartment for several months and became midwives--as collaborators, agents, typists, and readers--to each other's literary careers. Neither Kerouac nor Burroughs are primarily poets, but their experimentation with language--the revolution of the word--paralleled that of the poets. Ginsberg was the first to become widely known, following his public reading of "Howl" in 1955, and its obscenity trial in 1957. Kerouac's most famous book, On the Road, was largely written in a three-week marathon in 1951 but was not published until 1957. It became not only a best-seller, but the enduring testament of a generation. That same year, Ginsberg and Kerouac traveled to Tangier to help Burroughs type and organize the manuscript that would be published as Naked Lunch a few years later; it, too, was tried for obscenity. The Beats' literary careers crossed over into the arena of popular culture, and now, decades later, these writers are celebrated in advertisements, movies, and songs. Their identity as poets-as-rock-stars sometimes obscures their contribution to American literature. Psychological candor, enshrinement of the commonplace, and the writing of "spontaneous prose" are some of their key contributions. Following in the tradition of William Carlos Williams and Thomas Wolfe, they created works that spoke in the native vernacular, shorn of highbrow pretension. They introduced the speech of the marginal and musical into American literature.

The San Francisco Renaissance
Allen Ginsberg's reading of "Howl" in October 1955 marks the beginning of the San Francisco Renaissance. But the city had its own literary community long before that time, dominated in the 1940s by three poets--Kenneth Rexroth, Brother Antoninus, and Robert Duncan. In the mid-1950s a younger generation joined them, including Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Bob Kaufman. Together, these disparate writers created a vital and productive artistic community, whose identity was strengthened by their geographical distance from New York. Kenneth Rexroth identified some of the elements that made it a center for art and poetry: the city was the most livable city in America, tolerant of many lifestyles, and independent of the forces represented by New York's commercial gallery and publishing combines. The San Francisco poets looked to nature and to Asia for inspiration, and they spawned the fashion of reading poetry in coffeehouses to the accompaniment of jazz. "A reading is a kind of communion," observed Gary Snyder. "The poet articulates the semi-known for the tribe."

The Black Mountain Poets
The Black Mountain poets shared perhaps the most intimate community of any group of writers, for they lived together, ate together, and wrote together in a remote spot in rural North Carolina. Founded in 1933, Black Mountain College became one of America's most fertile training grounds for musicians, writers, visual artists, and performers. (Among the students and teachers at this outpost were Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Josef Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Cy Twombly.) It was during the school's final years in the 1950s that poets dominated the campus; their strong presence owed a great deal to Charles Olson, who served as the college's rector. The shadow he cast was both literal and figurative; he was a towering, charismatic figure, and his seminal essay, "Projective Verse," influenced a generation to expand the possibilities of poetic rhythm. Robert Creeley, who came to Black Mountain College in its last years, not only taught and wrote direct, stripped-down poems, but also edited the Black Mountain Review, one of the most influential little magazines of the era. Two of the college's students during its final years, Jonathan Williams and John Wieners, became not only prominent poets, but also edited little magazines and ran small presses that continued long after the school closed.

The New York School
The New York School of poets took its name from the group of painters portrayed in the "Rebel Painters" exhibition. The connections between these poets and the painters were strong--in friendship, professional associations, and artistic collaborations. Avowedly unprogrammatic, the New York poets were devoted to the belief that "every moment has its validity" and that, in the process of creation, one should try "to be the work yourself." New York's environment provided a brilliant backdrop for their poetry, alive with odd juxtapositions, shuttling at top speed between high culture and pop culture. The quotidian details of life and the social activities of friends provided the basis for elegant, witty riffs on modern urban life. The New York poets often looked to non-American or non-literary artists_notably the Abstract Expressionist painters, the Surrealists and Dadaists, and the composer John Cage for their inspiration. Frank O'Hara wrote a manifesto, "Person-ism," that mockingly declared "the death of poetry as we know it"; focusing on the essence of poetry as the expression between two people, O'Hara said he could use a telephone instead of writing a poem.

O'Hara, a prolific poet as well as an energetic social organizer, curator, and critic, became the group's ringleader; his premature death at the age of forty was widely mourned. Edwin Denby was introduced to the circle in 1952, although he was a generation older and was best known for his dance criticism. LeRoi Jones (who changed his name to Amiri Baraka in the 1970s) wrote ground-breaking works about African American identity, and he also edited a magazine, Yugen, that linked the New York School poets, the Black Mountain poets, and the Beat Generation. Describing himself, John Ashbery observed that he uses words as an abstract painter uses paint, creating in his poems a sense of the conscious mind as it processes the world. This attention to the details and juxtaposition of urban modern life also inflects the poetry of James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and Kenward Elmslie.

Just as the Beat Generation's social constellation was rooted in Columbia University, the New York School's roots are in Harvard, where O'Hara, Ashbery, Elmslie, and Koch spent their undergraduate years in the late 1940s. After graduating, they immigrated to New York, where their common haunts included art museums and galleries, the ballet, and summer cocktail parties on eastern Long Island.

The portraits in this exhibition have been selected to reflect the wide range of these writers--they include paintings, photographs, woodcuts, drawings, prints, a caricature, and a sculpture. Some of the artists knew these poets as intimate friends; Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frank, and Jonathan Williams, for example, photographed their close associates to create a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Beat Generation and the Black Mountain poets. Other photographers, notably Fred W. McDarrah, Harry Redl, and John Cohen, captured the art and poetry world in which they lived for publication in magazines. Stylized portraits by Alex Katz, Alice Neel, and Larry Rivers reflect the close links between the poets and the New York art world, while Peter LeBlanc's woodcuts, inspired by sumi ink drawings, evoke the San Francisco poets' ties to Asia. Prints by American-born British citizen R. B. Kitaj and by the English caricaturist Ralph Steadman suggest the international importance accorded these writers.

This cornucopia of images of poets is anchored by their words. The written word is represented by the poets' publications from the period. Ranging from informal, mimeographed little magazines to elegant books that resulted from collaborations with artists, these publications were essential for disseminating the poetry that eluded the mainstream publishing industry. The spoken word is represented by audiotapes of several poets reading from their own works. These tapes--some recorded in pristine studio conditions, others recorded live against the makeshift backdrop of group readings- -reflect the vocal contributions in a group that valued the tradition of the troubadour. As these poets eloquently demonstrate, now, when television and movie images dominate America, the individual voice still retains its power to enlighten and to enchant.

Steven Watson
Guest Curator of the Exhibition
Sat, July 10, 2010 - 5:41 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Thoughts on geoengineering, Vandana Shiva

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Gwynne Dyer, he’s author of Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats and Vandana Shiva joins us, an Indian environmentalist, scientist, philosopher, global justice activist and eco-feminist. A longtime critic of genetically modified crops and the system of corporate driven agriculture and neoliberal globalization that’s privatized natural resources and impoverished farming and indigenous communities across the global south. Well we’re talking about geoengineering. You just came from giving a speech last night at St. John the Divine. What are your thoughts on geoengineering, Vandana Shiva?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, three thoughts. The first is, it is the idea of being able to engineer our lives on this very fragile and complex and interrelated and interconnected planet that’s created the mess we are in. It’s an engineering paradigm that created the fossil fuel age that gave us climate change. And Einstein warned us and said you can’t solve problems with the same mindset that created them. Geo-engineering is trying to solve the problems of the same, old mindset of controlling nature. And the phrase that was used, of cheating, let’s cheat—you can’t cheat nature. That’s something people should recognize by now. There is no cheating possible. Eventually the laws of Gaia determine the final outcome. But I think the second thing about geo-engineering is, we’ve just had the volcano in Iceland, yes it was Iceland. And look at the collapse of the economy. And here are scientists thinking that’s a solution? Because they are thinking in a one dimensional way. Linear issue of global warming, anything to do with global cooling. I work on ecological agriculture. We need that sun light for photosynthesis. The geoengineers don’t realize sunshine is not a curse on the planet. The sun is not the problem, the problem is the mess of pollution we are creating. So again we can’t cheat.

And the final issue is, that these shortcuts that are attempted from places of power, and I would add places of ignorance, of the ecological web of life, are then creating the war solution because geo-engineering becomes war on a planetary scale with ignorance and blind spots, instead of taking the real path, which is helping communities adapt and become resilient. That’s the work we do in India. We save the seeds that will be able to deal with sea level rise or cyclones so that we have soil tolerant varieties; we distributed them after the tsunami. Last year we had a monsoon failure. But instead of sending armies out, we distributed seeds. And the farmers who had seeds of millets had a crop. The farmers who were waiting for the green revolution chemical cultivation had a crop failure. So building resilience and building adaptation is the human response, it’s the ecological response. And we don’t have to panic. The panic and fear is coming out of ignorance.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: I’d like to ask you about the—something you’ve talked about quite often—the global land grab that is going on around the world by countries fearing the scarcity in terms of their food products going out and grabbing other countries’ lands. Could you talk about that?

VANDANA SHIVA: You know my last book, "Soil, Not Oil" I talk about the fact that, you know, the oil culture has given us climate change. And if we continue in that same paradigm, the only next step is eco-imperialism. Grab what remains of the resources of the poor and take it to create insularity, and a false defense of security. Because the planet is interconnected, our lives are interconnected. The rich cannot isolate themselves in islands of defense against a planetary instability. The other option is earth democracy, as I talk about it. Now those who have power and money and those who are driven by greed and injustice are now seeking to grab the land of the poor. It’s happening on a very large scale in Africa, it’s happening in India. The World Bank is promoting it because this is a very false idea, that large-scale farms will help us with food security with all the details showing smaller farms produce more food. So if you have to be food secure, you’d better be small. Diversified farms can deal with climate change much better because if one crop doesn’t do well, some other crop will do fine. And the monoculture of large farms will be more vulnerable to climate collapse. And, of course the biggest issue is half the world farms, you can’t rob them of their livelihoods.

Forget the running out of water and climate wars related to water wars, you’re going to have, you’re already having in India, as a result of the land grab, in this case more for mining and industry, what we’re seeing is a war within. And Operation Green Hunt has been launched by the government in order to clean out the lands to be able to grab the lands on behalf of corporations. We talked about the Kashmir crisis and the shootouts. But those scenes are taking place in every remote tribal area today. And that issue of war for resources, that as long as you’re powerful you have the right to grab anyone’s resources and you have a right to use all kinds of illegitimate violence, that militarized mindset that I say comes from capitalist patriarchy, is really at the root of so many of our problems which is why we need to feel at home with nature and we need to recognize that the resources of the earth belong to all, have to be shared. In the land rights of the poor defenseless indigenous person is the biggest peace initiative of today and it’s the biggest climate issue of today.

AMY GOODMAN: Gwynne Dyer, defined and defend geoengineering and tell us which governments are engaging in it.

GWYNNE DYER: First of all, Vandana and I agree on about 95%.

VANDANA SHIVA:—We agree about the problem, that there is a problem.

GWYNNE DYER: Yes, we agree about the problem, and I don’t disagree with any of her solutions. But I do not think they’re going to happen in time if we do not intervene directly as well to avoid a massive human dieback in population. We are heading for the brink very fast.

VANDANA SHIVA: But your solutions commit the planet to a massive dieback.

GWYNNE DYER: I don’t agree with you.—Holding the temperature down is an intervention. It is an intervention that’s intended to be temporary, it wins you time to get your emissions down. The goal is still to get it emissions down. Many of the other goals you and I agree upon are attainable, but only with time, and we don’t have the time. We’re going to be—the last report out of Hadley Center suggested on the current track, we are four degrees Celsius hotter, average global temperature by 2016, that’s only 50 years.

VANDANA SHIVA: But Gwynne, everyone of your solutions is further disrupting the web of lifee, which is the problem. The problem is not warming and cooling, we can survive, the planet can survive.

GWYNNE DYER: Of course the it can-–not all of us.

VANDANA SHIVA:—Not all of us, but the problem is that geoengineering is an experiment. It is not a solution. And you cannot experiment in such a violent way without full assessment of the impact. And as I said, just a simple thing a blocking the sun’s rays is a problem for the planet. Its a problem for humanity...

GWYNNE DYER:—You’re talking 1% I mean you are talking one percent-–

VANDANA SHIVA: But iron filings—

GWYNNE DYER:—I don’t like iron filings-–...that is ridiculous.

VANDANA SHIVA: But iron filings in the ocean-–

GWYNNE DYER:—that is ridiculous.

VANDANA SHIVA:—Reflectors in the sky? Or Artificial Volcanoes.. But thats [inaduble]. Everyone of them, if the solution is looked at, all its spinoffs, in a full ecological way, and a full social impact, what does it mean? And the most important thing is its undemocratic. I think the crisis of the climate is so serious that people need to be involved. The problem of geoengineering or genetic engineering is a bunch of experts sitting with a bunch of corporations saying we’ll decide on behalf of the people. That is part of the problem. That is why I really respect Evo Morales, he called the people of the world after the collapse of Copenhagen, and said the people will decide the solution.

GWYNNE DYER: The people of the world will not decide you know that and I know that. This is not..

VANDANA SHIVA:—But they are deciding.

GWYNNE DYER: I havn’t noticed yet—–.

VANDANA SHIVA: Well there’s a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth that came out of that amazing gathering that we need to shift to an earth centered paradigm—rathter than an arrogant, narrow, reductionist, mechanistic science, expert-based paradigm.—

GWYNNE DYER:—You know what will happen, you know what will happen—

AMY GOODMAN: I just want to interrupt for a second, to say Gwynne Dyer if you can explain—I don’t most people understand what geoengineering is.

GWYNNE DYER: Geoengineering is short-term interventions to avoid a climate runaway disaster, in order to give us more time to get our emissions down, which in themselves, will cause a runaway, climate disaster if we simply allow them to go ahead. Without geoengineering, you hit that disaster in less than 50 years. You probably need more than 50 years to get your emissions down. Now first of all, obiously, you got to do the experiments. You got to figure out are there horrendous side effects you don’t want to do. But if you don’t do this, you know who dies first? Its the people in the tropics and subtropics. Not up here. We watch you die on television.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: Can I ask you in terms of geoengineering, what companies or are what governments are promoting this as a potential solution?

GWYNNE DYER: We still don’t have any official government commitment to it anywhere.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: What companies are investing in it and developing it?

GWYNNE DYER: Companies are investing in a couple of marginal things, frankly I don’t believe have any credibility. Vandana mentioned iron filings chucked into the sea. Well, I don’t think thats—

AMY GOODMAN: What does that do?

GWYNNE DYER: Well the idea is that you cause blooms of algae which will then die, and as their bodies drop to the seabed, imbed carbon—in the seabed and take it out of the oxygen.

AMY GOODMAN: And volcanoes what are they?

GWYNNE DYER: Well the volcanoe, the idea is that It all came as when they explode put sulfur dioxide-when volcanoes explode, put sulfur dioxide, large amounts of it, into the stratosphere, where it stays for a couple of years because it doesn’t rain up there. The particles stay and they reflect enough sunlight to lower the temperature of the earth.

AMY GOODMAN: And seeding the clouds?

GWYNNE DYER: Seeding the clouds is make them more reflective, spray up some sea water on low-lying clouds and they’ll reflect a little bit more incoming sunlight than they did before-–

AMY GOODMAN: And what else?

GWYNNE DYER:—And lower the temprature. The other proposals I mention, you know paint the outer reefs green or white, but I think thats probably a one-time solution.

VANDANA SHIVA:—I wouldn’t object to that.


VANDANA SHIVA: What color you paint it doesn’t really matter—I wouldn’t object to that.

GWYNNE DYER: There’s a new one thats come up recently, a fellow at Harvard suggested that you could actually begin with rivers and resevoirs but put rather microscopic scale bubbbles into the water, which would whiten it. In other words it would reflect more sunlight than normal dark water does, without actually changing the quality of the water.

AMY GOODMAN: And as Juan asked, the corporations involved?

GWYNNE DYER: In none of these cases, so far, are there corporations involved. This is coming out of the scientific community. There-–

AMY GOODMAN: Is it also coming out of the Pentagon?

GWYNNE DYER: They are looking for links with both the Pentagon I think, and the scientific community, with corporate funding. But the initiatives are coming out of the scientific community. The scientific community is scared and desperate. There’s an undercurrent of panic in most of the interviews that I held with the scientists—.

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana, Gwynne’s argument there is just not enough time to talk about the people-oriented solutions are you are talking about?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well the first thing is, there is never enough time, but you have to find a solutions. To use the excuse of immediacy and urgency to take the wrong action is not a solution. In terms of time, wheat orgaic farming, again in my book "Soil Not Oil" we have shown localized ecological biodiverse system of farming could solve 40% of the climate problem because 40% of the emissions are coming from food mills, oxide emissions, cutting down the Amazon forests, all it to globalized and industrialized food system. Tomorrow we can do that. In three years’ time, all of the world’s farming could be ecological absorbing the carbon dioxide and putting fertility back in the soil. It is not a 50-year experiment, it is an assured, guaranteed path that it’s been shown to work. And it does three things for you. It reduces emissions while increasing food security and productivity and increasing water security, because soils rich in carbon and organic matter, are the best resevoirs of water. But I want to just mention-–just as there’re a group of scientists panicking because of the reductionist approach,—I’m a scientist. The reason I do ecology today is because I realize science was a shrinking in terms of the knowledge an individual gets in a particular stream. And so many of the narrow expertise is where you are getting this panic because they don’t know there’re other solutions. I’d love to take some of your geoengineering friends from the scientific community to our farm, to show here is a solution that works in the short run, in the an immediate run. There is an organized movement now—

GWYNNE DYER: I don’t think—

VANDANA SHIVA: I want to mention this, there is a movement against geoengineering called HOME: Hands of Mother Earth. Citizens telling irresponsible scientists, arrogant in their path, hands off mother earth.

GWYNNE DYER: Look your solutions are good. They will work. If you were the dictator of the world and could impose...

VANDANA SHIVA:—Which I would never be.

GWYNNE DYER:—But let me finish, if you were the dictator of the world and could change land ownership patterns in the U.S. like that, you could have it all done in three years-–

VANDANA SHIVA: It will happen.

GWYNNE DYER: You can’t do that.

VANDANA SHIVA: It will happen.

GWYNNE DYER: Not in three years, in thirty.

VANDANA SHIVA: The young people will they are ready to make change.

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there, Vandana Shiva, her books, well among them "Soil Not Oil" and Gwynne Dyer, "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats."
Fri, July 9, 2010 - 6:03 PM — permalink - 1 comments - add a comment

The underlying ambition of the Summit

By: Michel_Chossudovsky

More than 15,000 people will be gathering in Copenhagen for COP 15: the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Official delegations from 192 nations will mingle with the representatives of major multinational corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, The representatives of environmental and civil society organizations will also be in attendance. Parties & Observers

Heads of state and heads of government are slated to be in appearance in the later part of the Summit event. (See The essentials in Copenhagen - COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009)

It is worth noting that key decisions and orientations on COP15 had already been wrapped up at the World Business Summit on Climate Change (WBSCC) held in May in Copenhagen, six months ahead of COP15. The WBSCC brought together some of the World's most prominent business executives and World leaders including Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. (The World Business Summit on Climate Change, includes webcast)

The results of these high level consultations were forwarded to the Danish government as well as to the governments of participating member states. A so-called summary report for policymakers was drafted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, on behalf the corporate executives participating in the event. This report has very little to do with environmental protection. It largely consists in a profit driven agenda, which uses the global warming consensus as a justification. (For details see Climate Council: The World Business Summit on Climate Change)

"The underlying ambition of the Summit was to address the twin challenges of climate change and the economic crisis. Participants at the Summit considered how these risks can be turned into opportunity if business and governments work together, and what policies, incentives, and investments will most effectively stimulate low-carbon growth." (Copenhagen Climate Council)

The agenda of the Copenhagen Climate Summit (7-18 December 2009), is upheld both by the governments, the business executives and the NGO community as "one of the most significant gatherings in history. It is being called the most complex and vital agreement the world has ever seen."

CO2 emissions are heralded as the single and most important threat to the future of humanity. The focus of the Summit is on strictly environmental issues. No mention of the word "war" --i.e. the US-NATO led war and its devastating environmental consequences.

No mention of the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons as an instrument of "peacemaking".

No mention, as part of an environmental debate, of the radioactive fallout resulting from the Pentagon's humanitarian nuclear bombs. Tactical nuclear weapons, according to scientific opinion commissioned by the Pentagon are "safe for the surrounding civilian population".

No mention of "weather warfare" or "environmental modification techniques" (ENMOD) and climatic warfare.

No mention in the debate on climate change of the US Air Force 2025 project entitled "Owning the Weather" for military use. (See FAS, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning... | (Ch 1) see also SPACE.com -- U.S. Military Wants to Own the Weather)

Despite a vast body of scientific knowledge, the issue of deliberate climatic manipulations for military use is no longer part of the UN agenda on climate change. It was, however, part of the agenda of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Environmental Warfare and Climate Change, Global Research, 27 November 2005, See also Michel Chossudovsky, Weather Warfare: Beware the US military’s experiments with climatic warfare, The Ecologist, December 2007 )

CO2 is the logo, which describes the Worldwide crisis. No other variable is contemplated.

Moreover, no meaningful anti-pollution clean air policy directed against CO2 emissions can be formulated as an objective in its own right, because the reduction of CO2 emissions is subordinate to the Global Warming consensus. The words "poverty", "unemployment" and "disease" resulting from a global economic depression are not a matter of emphasis because authoritative financial sources state unequivocally: "the economic recession is over". And the war in the Middle East and Central Asia is not a war but "a humanitarian operation directed against terrorists and rogue states."

The Real Crisis

The Copenhagen Summit not only serves powerful corporate interests, which have a stake in the global multibillion dollar carbon trading scheme, it also serves to divert public attention from the devastation resulting from the "real crisis" underlying the process of economic globalization and a profit driven war without borders, which the Pentagon calls "the long war".

We are at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. War and economic depression constitute the real crisis, yet both the governments and the media have focused their attention on the environmental devastation resulting from CO2 emissions, which is upheld as the greatest threat to humanity.

The Multibillion Dollar Carbon Trading System

The carbon trading system is a multibillion money-making bonanza for the financial establishment. The stakes are extremely high and the various lobby groups on behalf of Wall Street have already positioned themselves.

According to a recent report, "the carbon market could become double the size of the vast oil market, according to the new breed of City players who trade greenhouse gas emissions through the EU's emissions trading scheme... The speed of that growth will depend on whether the Copenhagen summit gives a go-ahead for a low-carbon economy, but Ager says whatever happens schemes such as the ETS will expand around the globe." (Terry Macalister, Carbon trading could be worth twice that of oil in next decade, The Guardian, 28 November 2009)

The large financial conglomerates, involved in derivative trade, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank America Merrill Lynch, Barclay's, Citi Bank, Nomura, Société Générale, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are actively involved in carbon trading.( FACTBOX: Investment banks in carbon trading | Reuters, 14 September 2009)

The legitimacy of the carbon trading system rests on the legitimacy of the Global Warming Consensus, which views CO2 emissions as the single threat to the environment. And for Wall Street the carbon trading system is a convenient and secure money-making safety-net, allowing for the transfer of billions of dollars into the pockets of a handful of conglomerates.

"Every major financial house in New York and London has set up carbon trading operations. Very big numbers are dancing in their heads, and they need them to replace the "wealth" that evaporated in the housing bust. Louis Redshaw, head of environmental markets at Barclays Capital, told the New York Times, "Carbon will be the world's biggest market over all." Barclays thinks the current $60 billion carbon market could grow to $1 trillion within a decade. Four years ago Redshaw, a former electricity trader, couldn't get anyone to talk to him about carbon." (Mark Braly, The Multibillion Dollar Carbon Trading, RenewableEnergyWorld.com, 5 March 2008)

The Global Warming Data Base

Is the Global Warming Consensus based on reliable data?

There are indications that both the concepts and the data on temperature and greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 have been adjusted and shaped to fit the agenda of the UN Panel on Climate Change.

For several years, the claims of the UN Panel on Climate Change (UNPCC) including the data base have been questioned. (See Global Research's Climate Change Dossier: Archive of more than 100 articles)

Critical analysis of the climate change consensus has been conveyed in reports by several prominent scientists.

There has been, in this regard, a persistent attempt to silence the critics as conveyed in the writings of MIT meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen (See Richard Lindzen, Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence., Global Research, 7 April 2007)

Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libelled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis. (Ibid)

ClimateGate and the Emails' Scandal

In November 2009, barely a few weeks before the inauguration of the Copenhagen Summit, a vast data bank of over 3000 email exchanges between key Climate Change scientists and researchers was revealed.

While the emails do not prove that the entire data base was falsified, they nonetheless point to scientific dishonesty and deceit on the part of several prominent scientists who are directly linked to the UNPCC.

The emails suggest that the data was shaped, with a view to supporting a predetermined policy agenda. "Fixing the climate data to fit the policy" is the modus operandi as revealed in the email messages of top scientists, directly linked to the work of the UN Panel on Climate Change?

The British media has acknowledged that the scientists were intent upon manipulating the data on Climate Change as well as excluding the critics:

[the comments below the quotes are by The Telegraph].

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. Nov 16, 1999 "I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." Critics cite this as evidence that data was manipulated to mask the fact that global temperatures are falling. Prof Jones claims the meaning of "trick" has been misinterpreted
From Phil Jones To: Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University). July 8, 2004 "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
The IPCC is the UN body charged with monitoring climate change. The scientists did not want it to consider studies that challenge the view that global warming is genuine and man-made. From: Kevin Trenberth (US National Center for Atmospheric Research). To: Michael Mann. Oct 12, 2009 "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't... Our observing system is inadequate"

Prof Trenberth appears to accept a key argument of global warming sceptics - that there is no evidence temperatures have increased over the past 10 years.

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. March 11, 2003 “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

Prof Jones appears to be lobbying for the dismissal of the editor of Climate Research, a scientific journal that published papers downplaying climate change.

From Phil Jones. To: Michael Mann. Date: May 29, 2008 "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise."

Climate change sceptics tried to use Freedom of Information laws to obtain raw climate data submitted to an IPCC report known as AR4. The scientists did not want their email exchanges about the data to be made public.

From: Michael Mann. To: Phil Jones and Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh). Date: Aug 10, 2004 "Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future." The scientists make no attempt to hide their disdain for climate change sceptics who request more information about their work

(University of East Anglia emails: the most contentious quotes - Telegraph, 23 November 2009).

The complete list of contentious emails can be consulted at Alleged CRU Emails - Searchable published by eastangliaemails.com:

What is significant is that the authors of the emails are directly involved in the UN Panel on Climate Change:

"[They are] the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Philip Jones, the CRU's director, is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports. Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC's key scientific contributors, his global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely – not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it.

Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history. (Prof. Christopher Booker, Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of our Generation, The Telegraph, 28 November 2009)

One of the contentious emails by Dr Jones (published by eastangliaemails.com) points to the deliberate manipulation of the data:

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm, Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow. I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998. Thanks for the comments, Ray. Cheers Phil Prof. Phil Jones Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 xxx xxxx xxxx School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 xxx xxxx xxxx University of East Anglia Norwich Email p.jones@xxxxxxxxx.xxx NR4 7TJ UK

Source: Alleged CRU Emails - Searchable published by eastangliaemails.com

US Congressional Probe

Barely two weeks before the inauguration of the Copenhagen Summit, the US Congress is now probing into "the Global Warming Emails":

"U.S. congress has begun investigating climate scientists whose emails and documents were hacked into to see if their global warming theories have misrepresented the truth behind the cause of climate change.

Investigators have begun "studying" the 1,079 e-mails and over 3,800 documents that hackers stole last week from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the U.K, Rep. Darrel Issa from California told the Wall Street Journal.

Some of the leaked e-mails and files - which were posted on sites like www.Wikileaks.org and www.EastAngliaEmails.com - show growing tensions between scientists and skeptics. Others are mundane announcements of upcoming conferences or research trips.

According to his website, Rep. James Inhofe from Oklahoma said on Monday the leaked correspondence suggested researchers "cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."

The White House Science Adviser John Holdren has also come under investigation, after one of his emails written in 2003 to Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, was hacked.

"I'm happy to stand by my contribution to this exchange. I think anybody who reads what I wrote in its entirety will find it a serious and balanced treatment of the question of 'burden of proof' in situations where science germane to public policy is in dispute," Holdren said.

Meanwhile, The University of East Anglia said it will cooperate with police and proceed with its own internal investigation. The University posted a statement calling the disclosure "mischievous" and saying it is aiding the police in an investigation.

The statement also quotes Jones, CRU's director, explaining his November 1999 e-mail, which said: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

Jones said that the word trick was used "colloquially as in a clever thing to do" and that it "is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward."

The leaked data comes just two weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen will begin on Dec. 7 -18, when 192 nations will meet to discuss a solution on how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide. (International Business Times, November 24, 2009)

Meanwhile, the "international community" (supported by the mainstream media) has launched a counteroffensive, accusing the critics of waging a smear campaign:
The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, stood by his panel’s 2007 findings last week. That study is the foundation for a global climate response, including carbon emission targets proposed this week by both the US and China.

So far, climate scientists say nothing in the leaked emails [that] takes away from the fact that the climate change evidence is solid. In fact, a new study in the journal Science shows the polar ice cap melting is happening at a faster rate than predicted just a few years ago.

In a teleconference call with reporters this week, one of the scientists whose emails were leaked, Pennsylvania State University paleoclimatologist Michael Mann, said that “regardless of how cherry-picked” the emails are, there is “absolutely nothing in any of the emails that calls into the question the deep level of consensus of climate change.”


This is a “smear campaign to distract the public,” added Mann, a coauthor of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, the report on climate change released this week ahead of the Copenhagen. “Those opposed to climate action, simply don’t have the science on their side,” he added.

Professor Trevor Davies of the East Anglia CRU called the stolen data the latest example of a campaign intended “to distract from reasoned debate” about global climate change ahead of the Copenhagen summit. (As Copenhagen summit nears, ‘Climategate’ dogs global warming debate | csmonitor.com, Christian Science Monitor, 28 November 2009, emphasis added)

But what is significant in this counteroffensive, is that the authenticity of the emails has not been challenged by the IPCC scientists.

The scientists are not saying "we did not do it". What they are saying is that the Global Warming Consensus holds irrespective of their actions to selectively manipulate the data as well as exclude the critics from the scientific debate on climate change.

What is the Stance of the Civil Society and Environmentalist Organizations

Civil society organisations are currently mobilizing with a view to pressuring the official governmental delegations:

"Two years ago, at a previous UN climate conference in Bali, all UN governments agreed on a timetable that would ensure a strong climate deal by the time of the Copenhagen conference. The implications of not achieving this goal are massive, and nearly unthinkable. Turn to our great partners film – the Age of Stupid – if you need to be convinced why.

The meeting – which should include major heads of state for the last three days, will attempt to reach a massively complex agreement on cutting carbon, providing finance for mitigation and adaptation, and supporting technology transfer from the North to the South.

This is a major milestone in history, and one where civil society must speak with one voice in calling for a fair, ambitious and binding deal. We are ready, but we need to let the leaders know the world is ready too. Are you? (COP-15 Copenhagen Climate Conference | TckTckTck)

Where do civil society activists stand in relation to the climate change email scandal?

Will these civil society organizations, many of which are funded by major foundations and governments, continue to unreservedly endorse the Global Warming consensus?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace are among several key civil society organizations which are pushing the Copenhagen agenda. Their position is unchanged.

Environmentalist organizations are demanding a reduction in CO2 emissions, not as a means to tackling polution, but as an instrument to reverse the process of global warming. For many of these organizations, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the "bible". It cannot be challenged even if the climate data base which supports the Global Warming Consensus turns out to be questionable or contentious.

While the mainstream NGO lobby groups including Greenpeace and WWF continue to support the consensus, there is a small and growing movement which challenges the legitimacy of the Copenhagen CO15 Summit agenda, while also accusing the UNPCC of manipulating the data. This manipulation of the data also serves the profit driven carbon trading scheme.

The Alternative Summit: KlimaForum09

The NGOs will be meeting in a parallel alternative summit, KlimaForum09. More than 10,000 people a day are expected to attend the sessions of KlimatForum09

Major international NGOs and environmentalist groups will be in attendance including Friends of the Earth, Campaign against Climate Change among others.

Klimaforum09 is to finalize a draft declaration which "will put forth a vision of a more socially just world society, [while] emphasizing the need to create substantial changes in the social and economic structures of society in order to meet the challenges of global warming and food sovereignty." (See Declaration · Klimaforum09)

While there is fierce opposition to the multibillion carbon trading system within the NGO community, the Alternative Summit will not challenge the Global Warming consensus and its underlying data base. (All events · Klimaforum09).

While critical and active voices will emerge from within the various sessions of the Alternative Forum, the organizational envelope of KlimaForum09 remains compliant to the official agenda. In many regards, the rhetoric of the KlimaForum09's Danish organizers ties in with that of the host government of the offical Summit, which coincidentally also funds the Alternative Summit. (Political Platform · Klimaforum09"). What this means is that the boundaries of dissent within the Alternative Summit have been carefully defined.

There can be no real activism unless the falsehoods and manipulations underlying the activities of the UNPCC, including the data base and the multibillion profit driven carbon trading scheme, are fully revealed, debated and understood.

Global Research Articles by Michel Chossudovsky

© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky , Global Research, 2009

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.
Thu, July 8, 2010 - 7:10 AM — permalink - 2 comments - add a comment

The hypothesis that dangerous human-caused climate change

By Dr. Tim Ball Monday, July 5, 2010

The opening headlines of a web site claims: “We must act now – together. Extinction is our choice, unless within the next 8 years we have stopped using fossil fuels, planted millions of trees, ended logging, and prepared our cities and agriculture for the inevitable sea rise. Otherwise our children may not survive.”

It is not written by extremists, but by people who clearly don’t understand science or the patterns of nature. Why are they and others making so much noise about “tipping points”?


The hypothesis that dangerous human-caused climate change will create rapid change beyond the adaptive capacity of human society and natural systems is based on two fallacies. First, that climate change has not occurred before: an idea that only works because the public generally understands that it’s caused by humans and therefore can be stopped. Second, when it occurred it was very gradual over long periods. It allowed Phil Jones and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to present false evidence that recent temperature change was greater in degree and speed than could occur naturally.

Western science views natural ecosystems from the philosophical basis of uniformitarianism. This view came from the work of Charles Lyell (1797-1875) and served as an underpinning for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Darwin took Lyell’s famous work “Principles of Geology” with him on the voyage of the Beagle during which the theory was formulated and evidence procured. Uniformitarianism is the concept that change is gradual over long periods of time. It prevails today.

There were a couple of challenges along the way. An important one by Stephen Jay Gould was called punctuated equilibrium. This argues that a relatively stable situation exists, but is periodically interrupted by a catastrophic event that destabilizes everything until a new equilibrium is established. Gould published his ideas in academic journals but also took it to the public forum: like Galileo who published in Italian rather than Latin. This did not prevent attacks from academics like committed Darwinist Richard Dawkins who said punctuated equilibrium was, ““an interesting but minor wrinkle on the surface of neo-Darwinian theory”. Gould raised even more questions about the rapidity and pattern of evolution in his book “Wonderful Life”.

In reality rapid and significant change is the norm. Even a cursory study of climate illustrates this idea. For example, just 20,000 years ago extensive ice sheets covered large parts of the world. One equal in area to the current Antarctic ice sheet covered over half of North America. Almost all the ice melted in approximately 5000 years. As the ice melted sea level rose 150 m in approximately 8000 years.

Natural ecosystems and animal populations go through boom or bust patterns in response to climate cycles. Among the first to study the relationships was Charles Elton who showed the pattern of fluctuating numbers of predators using the Lynx. There are collapses but there are also built in recovery strategies. Figure 1 is a plot of population fluctuations of lynx produced by Elton and Nicholson.

Figure 1: Fluctuation of Lynx numbers over 114 years.

People Are To Blame
In the 1980s, US Great Plains and Canadian Prairie farmers were accused of causing a decline in waterfowl populations. Environmentalists said they had cut the woodlands, drained the wetlands and used chemicals. In fact, the birds altered their migration routes to the west as winds that accompanied a drought pattern changed. There were no apologies when wind patterns changed, the drought ended and the birds returned in record numbers. Environmentalists sitting in cities point fingers in order to achieve a political agenda. They should listen to earlier people who understood nature and knew what was happening. The April 28th, 1773, entry for the Hudson’s Bay Company journal at Churchill notes, “Indians general complaint that a very great part of the country inland (the Great Plains) has been on fire the last summer it being so very a dry one to which the natives compute the scarcity of animals.” Droughts occur approximately every 22 years on the Great Plains and are well documented in tree rings and other sources. It’s a problem that people don’t realize the natural cycles and how they ebb and flow. However, it is seriously aggravated by environmentalists who exploit the lack of knowledge and force politicians to inappropriate reactions always at the expense of the economy and people.

Roger Pocklington, a Canadian oceanographer and climatologist studied water temperatures from Newfoundland to Bermuda. A hero in the 1970s when cooling was the consensus because he showed water temperatures falling. He was amused when the climate consensus shifted to warming and he was an outsider because the water temperatures continued to decline. With the decline cod began to disappear. We discussed the climatic reasons for the decline, which were very cold decades in northeastern North America and changes in wind patterns pushing cold dense waters of the Labrador Current much further south into the cod fishing grounds of the Grand Banks. We were concerned about decline in the number of cod as water temperatures fell, but the standard now was to blame humans.

Government only considered over-fishing as the cause and closed the fishery. It is fourteen years on and the fish stay away despite going through three cycles because water temperatures remain low. If it was over-fishing recovery would be in progress; their absence is proof of temperature being the major factor. Closing the cod fisheries in Newfoundland was akin to banning corn production in Iowa. The economy was disrupted and would have been devastated except ironically, it was those evil oil companies that saved the day. Discovery of massive deepwater oil deposits at Hibernia boosted the economy and papered over the impact. Thousands of Newfoundlanders also migrated to the newly expanding Athabasca Tar Sands. Meanwhile a traditional economy and lifestyle are gone, but without the oil they are devastated.
Thu, July 8, 2010 - 6:41 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

When enemies are better than friends

Alexei Levinson, 6 July 2010


During the naval blockade of Cuba, Fidel Castro used the reality of American warships for internal political ends. Bar a short interregnum of "new thinking" in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Russian leaders have cultivated similar seige mentalities.
Rather than emphasising friends and allies, today's Russian leaders prefer to single out their enemies, writes Alexei Levinson. It is an approach that plays on Russians' traditional psychological comfort zones, while at the same time allowing politicians to evade responsibility at home.
About the authorSociologist, senior researcher at the Levada Center, Moscow Russian foreign policy discourse knows three “states”. One, which we shall call the “ordinary” state, is the conception of the world in terms of allies and enemies. In this situation, politics becomes a matter of union with one group against another. There are, however, another two “extraordinary” states. The first we will link to an idea of Russia’s world-historical mission: a mission of leading humankind to eternal happiness. In short, many Russian rulers have advanced the idea of universal disarmament and peace, the amicable unification of Europe, or the entire world (a unification which should only happen under the direction or at least with the participation of Russia). It was not only Emperors who promoted ideas of absorbing Europe into Russia or absorbing Russia into Europe. Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, and ultimately, Gorbachev were also all avid proponents of such a line.

During the naval blockade of Cuba, Fidel Castro used the reality of American warships for internal political ends. Bar a short interregnum of "new thinking" in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Russian leaders have cultivated similar seige mentalities.

The moment that such ideas of European integration fall through – as they inevitably do – the reaction is usually another, “extraordinary” state. The best way of conceiving this state is to think of it as a kind of triumphant stress about Russia’s historical solitude. It is a state that means rejecting not only a belief in the brotherhood of nations, but also rejecting more ordinary ideas of partnership and alliance.

These states — and more often combinations of them — have coloured not only the reality of foreign policy on the level of state, and the rhetoric of politicians and the media, but also the reaction of public opinion to such politics and rhetoric. Now, as we have said, they are a (usually delayed) response to the foreign politics of the day. But they also form a background to the public mood, which politicians can leverage at their discretion. They can be used to intimidate, or charm a foreign partner; they can be used to differentiate the mildness or harshness of a given position.

The way such states are used for foreign policy ends is, however, only half the story. In fact, rulers find them much more useful as instruments for internal politics. One can, after all, achieve a great deal of progress using chiliastic expectations and moods. The flip side — the image of Russia as a country that no-one loves, a country with “only two true allies: the army and the navy” — is just as useful. (This expression is attributed to Tsar Alexander III, who ruled in the century before last; for many Russians, Alexander’s insight is no less relevant today). Many Russians feel real psychological comfort in feeling surrounded by the enemy. For politicians, it can also be used as a means of evading responsibility. I remember a conversation I had with a journalist some time ago, who reported listening in on a cabinet meeting with Fidel Castro at a time when Cuba had long been the subject of an American naval blockade. According to this story, Fidel is supposed to have pointed out of the window at the silhouettes of American war ships scattered across the horizon, and said: “if they went, we’ll be forced to make them out of cardboard”.

The research that our group conducted during the epoch of Gobachev’s “new thinking” uncovered an interesting mix of “new” and “old” thinking in the mass consciousness. Indeed, on the very eve of Gorbachev’s first speeches on the subject, the official Soviet line still held that “the world has never been closer to a nuclear war”. Almost overnight, everything changed, and former enemies became friends. We were eager to become part of the European set and even for a moment debated joining NATO. Such trends were naturally reflected in public opinion at the time: when we asked the public to name who Russia’s friends were, for example, it was common to hear “everyone” as an answer. That is not to say that feelings of historical solitude were not prevalent even then: some indeed answered “Russia has no friends”.

The same surveys showed particularly interesting responses about Russia’s “enemies”. Discounting overspill from historical alliances (“our enemies are the US, Germany, NATO, or “the West”), there were three general responses — “no enemies”, “we are our own enemies” and “there are enemies... the problem is that we don’t know who”. Today, our latest polls show the following answers: around 4% consider that Russia has no enemies; while about three times as many believe that Russia has no friends.

The era of Gorbachevian “new thinking” passed by very quickly. Russian foreign policy instead focused on the relations of the country’s first president with the leaders of great powers; and for a long period, there was a perceptible loss of interest towards close neighbours. At the time, it seemed that this aspect of foreign policy proceeded almost on its own accord; that there was no system to it. In fact, it was highly dependent on the efforts of second-rate politicians, middling journalists and low-ranking officials, who consistently pursued internal and personal goals.

Why was this done? It was done to make Russians feel that, once again, they were surrounded by Western enemies. As a rule, it began with complaints of one or another kind towards Western neighbours; with the intensification of historical disputes or more recent issues. Unlike the Stalinist policy of the 1940s — which attempted to turn such countries into allies by whatever means — now actions were being taken which could only have the opposite effect. Russian public opinion was very malleable, agreeing with any line: from “ideological” arguments, relating to “their” lack of respect towards “our” historical symbols, to more “economic” ideas, i.e. “they should start paying more for our gas”. And the net result was clear. Indeed, in the model of a bipolar world, split East-West (at least in the Russian understanding), there could only be one outcome: these small neighbours moved over to the “West”, joining the EU and NATO. (We talk, of course, less in terms of official resolutions and legal acts of union, and more about the picture formed in the Russian public psyche). The above is the general and key cause of the Russian siege mentality we referred to earlier.

In May 2010, Russians were asked to name five countries who they considered to by the “most unfriendly, hostile towards Russia”. Their axis of acrimony reads Georgia (57%), Latvia (36%), Lithuania (35%) and Estonia (28%). After this follows the USA (26%) and Afghanistan (14%), before a continuation of the European chain with Poland (14%) and Ukraine (13%). At this most westerly point of Russia’s border ends the list of significant responses. Less than 10% of those surveyed actually named other countries. Indeed, of Russia’s western neighbours, only Belarus is not on the list (at least not yet).

For a long time, Belarus actually topped the list of Russian friends (49%). Meanwhile, another friend on the Western trajectory — Germany — is held dearer for being a long defeated enemy. Now, just 1% of Russians consider Germany to be an enemy, while 24% consider it a friend. Then there is France, an even-longer-defeated enemy (11% consider it a friend, and less than 1% consider it an enemy).

The Russian public’s attitude to Ukraine is a much more complex issue. Under former Presidents Kravchuk and Kuchma, both Russian power structures and – perhaps more strangely – parts of the general public had gripes to bear with Ukraine. Many Russians still considered Ukraine to be part of Russia, separated by border checkpoints and customs restrictions because of one silly misunderstanding. Russia’s political elite reacted to the Orange Revolution with real fear. They began to imagine the same thing happening to them. But their fear was misplaced. Russian society was not configured in the same way as in Ukraine. There was no force capable of threatening the Kremlin. All the same, they unleashed a ferocious anti-Orange campaign. Even without such a campaign, Russians didn’t need much convincing that “they” had “turned their backs on us”. By 2006, Ukraine was on the list of the five most unfriendly countries. But the election of Yanukovych — considered by Russians to be pro-Russian politician — calmed peoples’ fears. Now 20% see Ukraine as a friend.

As we have already mentioned, Belarus tops the list of “friendly” countries. There are perhaps three reasons for this. The first is Belarus’ awful reputation in Europe. For some Russians, this is reason enough to consider the country our friend — “our enemy’s enemy is our friend”. The second reason is an interest in the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenka. At one time, Lukashenka was actually sized up as a successor to Yeltsin (as a president of a United Russian-Belarussian state). Winged by such a prospect, Lukashenka even began what looked to many like an election campaign in Russia; indeed, in a number of Russian regions he had a higher approval rating than Yeltsin. This experiment was quickly stopped, but its one effect might have been to indicate to the people searching for Yeltsin’s successor that such a leader was not to be found among Russia’s democrats, but from within the country’s authoritarian (or potentially authoritarian) tendency.

(Another interesting feature of our surveys, by the way, is the position of Kazakhstan, which immediately follows Belarus in Russia’s “friends” column. Russians are not particularly interested in the subtleties of the political system in this country. But they do understand one thing: as with Belarus, a president there is a president for life (many Russians are impressed by this). Like Russia, the country lives off a rent derived from natural resources: you might say that socially they are very close.)

The third and most important factor informing Russian sympathy towards Belarus is the fact that many Russians believe that Belarus has managed to preserve life as it was in Soviet times. While only a minority of Russians who would like to see a return to 1985, many still believe it would have been better to preserve the principles of the Soviet system. For such people, the experience of Belarus – which has preserved a paradise of twenty years’ past, simply adds fuel to their main complaint with the “democratic” reformers of the 1990s, i.e. that it wasn’t necessary to cause such upheaval in peoples’ lives.

Regardless, there can be no doubt that the process of converting friends into enemies continues to this day. While the author was preparing this article, Russia entered into a new “gas war” with Belarus. And when relations with this partner — once Russia’s “best friend” — are soured, it will be possible to consider Russia’s western border as firmly closed, sealed by a screen of enemies.
Tue, July 6, 2010 - 5:03 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment
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