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News :: Alternative Media

Local ‘gutterpunks’ get magazine’s nod

Local ‘gutterpunks’ get magazine’s nod

May 2, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — Nineteen-year-old Kyle wears camouflage pants and a bomber jacket. He eats from Dumpsters, takes drugs, and has no aspirations except to survive on the streets.

The self-described downtown "gutterpunk" has lived in poverty since childhood in Salinas.

Kyle said a half-dozen friends have overdosed, and that he’ll be surprised if he lives past 30. So it came as a shock when he found out the May 15 edition of Rolling Stone magazine dubbed Santa Cruz one of the "best places" to be a gutterpunk like himself.

"(Expletive) Rolling Stone," he said, adding he wanted to find the people interviewed for the story, "because I’m going to (beat them up.)"

On Thursday, area street kids, law enforcement and service providers gave a mixed reaction to the national magazine’s description of the little-known local gutterpunk scene.

Gutterpunks, according to Rolling Stone, are "pirates of the railroad," youths raised in poverty now on the street, often abusing alcohol and drugs, living by their wits or their fists, sometimes riding the rails. The article paints a bleak picture of the lifestyle, but also describes a fierce camaraderie: "Back in their little world they watch one another’s back with the loyalty and ferocity of soldiers in a foxhole."

Rolling Stone puts Santa Cruz on a national gutterpunk circuit along with Berkeley; Los Angeles; Seattle; Austin, Texas; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; and Eugene and Portland, Ore.

Rolling Stone’s recognition follows two more complimentary references to Santa Cruz. The city recently was named one of the top 10 Christmas vacation spots by Travel and Leisure, and one of the top 50 best places to live in America by Men’s Journal.)

The article does not gloss over the gritty lives of the street youth, but it quotes a gutterpunk calling Santa Cruz "one of the best cities to crash in" because "college students accept the homeless kids there," and "the beach means they don’t have to shower at the shelter to be clean."

The story gives no estimate of the size of the local gutterpunk scene, and homeless-service providers say that’s hard to pinpoint.

The 2002 Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project’s comprehensive report shows county residents are suffering under the latest economic troubles.

"There was a huge jump (from 2001 to 2002) in people who said they’d been homeless within the past year," said Paul Brindel of the Community Action Board, a local nonprofit that works with the poor.

All told, about 8,300 people said they’d been homeless in the previous 12 months, he said, noting that was a jump from 1.5 to 3.2 percent of the general population.

But Brindel said the incidence of homelessness among young people here is higher than in the general population. He said studies show about 9 percent of the area residents between age 18 and 24, have been homeless over the past year.

Brindel said young people are vulnerable to homelessness because the age group is generally low-paid, many are students, and a combination of high rents and low wages "make them incredibly vulnerable to a small crisis."

The figures, however, are far from perfect. They reflect the county’s year-round poor population and don’t track the movements and numbers of more transient youth.

Homeless Services Center director Ken Cole said in any given year, the center serves about 320 different youths, about one-sixth of the roughly 2,000 people it serves. He didn’t think that was an increase from previous years, saying the number is up somewhat, "but the general (poor) population is up."

The center serves meals to the young but doesn’t shelter people under 18 unless they are with adults.

Other services available locally to homeless youth include Above The Line, a nonprofit that reaches out to "at risk" young people. Drug- and alcohol-treatment programs also are geared especially to teens.

Cole, however, said a gutterpunk scene is "news to me. Riding the rails is very dangerous and chancy. I question whether this is real in terms of any great number of people."

Police Chief Steve Belcher also dismissed any characterization of an unusually large influx of "street kids" compared to previous years. He said the population ebbs and flows. Most of the people police deal with regularly are young, "but that hasn’t changed in 30 years," he said.

John Bromley, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, which runs through Santa Cruz, said he hasn’t heard many complaints about people riding freight cars illegally in this county, at least compared to railway hub towns.

However, Timothy Maroni of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project said he’s familiar with the gutterpunk scene, and finds it striking they are typically white and very young, "just 14, 15, 16.

"It makes sense (Santa Cruz) shows up on a map," Maroni said. "We’re on that circuit. Kids come to town for a couple of weeks or months and are on their way."

He said the kids are very poor, often with histories of abuse, and should not be confused with "those kids who came from the East Coast, trust fund kids who followed the Grateful Dead."

Kyle is tall and sturdy, with a closely shaved head and a bomber jacket. He said he leans toward the "skinhead" side of gutterpunks.

"I guess I’m proud of my white skin," he said with a shrug.

Pedestrians on Pacific Avenue gave him a wide berth. He spoke of a generalized anger and a feeling he can’t ever "get out."

Kyle said he wants no help. He stressed he’s no runaway. He said he panhandles, hitches and hops trains, but "you always end up coming to a dead end."

He looked askance at the Rolling Stone piece, saying Santa Cruz is not big enough, and "doesn’t have the capacity" to sustain much of a scene. He said many in Santa Cruz have housing but pose as gutterpunks, taking on the trappings of the lifestyle without really living it. One acquaintance, Marz, 31, said some kids "go to the mall to buy a punk rock perfume called Stench" because they’re slumming.

Kyle said he fights when he must but is mindful of an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from incidents in Los Angeles for fighting and drug use.
Contact Dan White at

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Announcement :: Civil & Human Rights

Holocaust survivor organizes UCSC conference on anti-semitism

Holocaust survivor organizes UCSC conference on anti-semitism

May 2, 2003
Sentinel Staff Writer

SANTA CRUZ — The horrors of the Holocaust are not just a lesson for UC Santa Cruz history professor Peter Kenez — they are vivid memories of paralyzing fear and devastating loss.

Kenez, a Holocaust survivor, is keynote speaker at a three-day conference on anti-Semitism planned Saturday through Monday at UCSC. Scholars and historians from around the world will examine what is being called a worldwide resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment.

The university regularly holds lectures and film screenings on Judaism and religious studies, but this is the first extensive, multi-discipline event it has offered on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The conference is free and open to the public.

"It involves about 20 scholars," said event coordinator and Jewish-studies lecturer Bruce Thompson. "It is timely in that there is this new wave of anti-Semitism that has really taken off in the last two years. Many would say it reached a plateau in the 20th century and was declining in intensity and virulence, but in the wake of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it has flared up and reached dimensions that are quite alarming."

Murray Baumgarten, UCSC professor and also an event coordinator, said anti-Jewish fliers, newsletters and magazines are circulating in France and the Arab world at a high rate, prompting concern among Holocaust survivors and educators.

"Is it part of the strategy in dealing with the Israel/Palestinian conflict?" Baumgarten asked. "We need to ask what does it mean that this stuff is circulating?"

One well-known, century-old tract, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," describes a supposed Jewish plot for world domination. Hitler was a fan.

It was recently printed in an Arab-American newspaper in Hoboken, N.J., Baumgarten said. It’s also distributed on a regular basis throughout the Middle East.

Kenez said the anti-Jewish material hints at the atrocities humans are capable of committing, and that remembering the Holocaust may help society to stop, pause, reflect and take another route.

Kenez knows first-hand what such teachings can foment. When he was 7, his father was kidnapped by Nazi soldiers in a suburb outside of Budapest, Hungary, while on his way home from work. He was taken to a concentration camp and his son never saw him again.

Kenez said he remembers his father and many members of his father’s family, just as he remembers the awful feeling he had that he himself might not make it out of Hungary alive.

"I was afraid, I was terrified," Kenez said. "I mean, you live from day to day, but I was very conscious that I might not make it."

In an ironic stroke of luck, Kenez came down with scarlet fever shortly after his father disappeared, and a red handkerchief pinned to the front door of his family’s home — used to warn of his illness — kept German soldiers at bay long enough for his mother to successfully plot an escape to nearby Budapest, where her parents lived and where it was safe.

"She collapsed emotionally (after the ordeal)," Kenez said of his mother. "She was scarred."

Kenez and his mother escaped to America after the war with only memories of his father, which, even today, remain powerful.

"I remember him very well indeed," Kenez said. "I admired him."

He said the feelings of dread and fear for his life never faded until he set foot on U.S. soil.

But while the anti-Semitism Kenez faced waned dramatically, it didn’t end; it just took different forms. He attended Princeton University — part of a 5 percent quota for Jews.

Baumgarten said anti-Semitism is rearing its head again in the United States, too. In addition to the Elders of Zion protocol published in New Jersey, war protesters at a recent San Francisco peace rally were photographed displaying pictures of the devil with a dollar sign over his head standing over a globe, surrounded by the words "Zionist Pigs" and "Stop the War Pigs."

A remembrance of the Holocaust is due, Kenez said: "It shows how people have behaved in extreme circumstances. It reveals something about our humanity, what human beings are really capable of."

The UCSC Jewish Studies Program and the Holocaust Center of Northern California are sponsoring the conference, "Re-thinking Anti-Semitism: The Holocaust and the Contemporary World.

Prominent scholars from the United States, Poland, England, Hungary, Israel and South Africa will examine anti-Semitism from a historical and contemporary perspective.

Yehuda Bauer, one of the premier historians of the Holocaust, will be a featured speaker. He is founding director of the Center for Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and director emeritus of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel.

"(Bauer) is coming all the way from Israel to speak, and he has promised to talk not only about his specialty, but about what’s happening now — comparing anti-Semitism with the new wave of anti-Semitism — something he hasn’t done before," said Thompson, the UCSC lecturer.

There will be an examination of the "Protocols" and an extensive exhibit from the Neufeld-Levin Family Archive.

Anne Frederika Neufeld-Levin and her family also escaped the Holocaust, and she donated family letters, personal artifacts and items from Nazi-dominated Europe to UCSC Library’s Special Collections. She also established the Neufeld-Levin Endowed Chair in Holocaust Studies at the campus.
Contact Robyn Moormeister at

‘Rethinking Anti-Semitism: The Holocaust and theContemporary World’

WHAT: A three-day conference.

WHERE: Stevenson College, UC Santa Cruz.

WHEN: Saturday through Monday, commencing with UCSC professor Peter Kenez’s speech at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a screening of the film, ‘Danube Exodus,’ by Hungarian director Peter Forgacs.

Among the conference highlights, professor Yehuda Bauer will speak at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

ADMISSION: Free and open to the public.

DETAILS: For a full schedule of events or other information, call 459-2496 or go online to

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

NO DAY IN COURT: Capitola 13


Loose Scruz

It’s tough being a nonviolent activist in Santa Cruz County. Because we live in a veritable Xanadu for political activism, protestors just don’t get the proper respect of, say, Seattle or Chicago or some place where they’d pull out the tear gas and rubber bullets and make it a media field day.

Case in point: The so-dubbed “Capitola 13? dutifully showed up at the county courthouse last Wednesday as their citations instructed them to do. The motley crew of long hairs and grandmothers held a press conference and spouted their anti-war rants to a couple of reporters on the steps of the courthouse. But when it came time to face the judge, what happens? Their names don’t even appear on the docket.

The Capitola cops arrested the 13 for trespassing in March when they refused to leave an office building on 41st Avenue, where recruiting offices for the U.S. Armed Forces are housed. More than 100 sign-carrying protesters showed up there that day to protest war in Iraq. The cops and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies showed up too—the deputies were decked out in riot gear head to toe.

Now it seems that Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee isn’t sure what to do with the 13 rabble-rousers. He asked the group to return on May 2 and promised to send out letters to appear. But as of press time, 13-er Linda Crouse says she hasn’t heard hide nor hair from Lee, and the naughty DA had not returned Scruz’s repeated phone calls. SCruz speculates that Lee wants to drop the charges—really, what’s the point of forcing a bunch of dissident grandmas to perform community service—and that the Capitola cops are giving him static.

Whatever the case may be, at least one lawyer is hoping his client will be denied his day in court. Says Dana Scruggs, attorney for one of the 13: “I respect Bob Lee, and I’m sure he’s carefully considering these groundless charges and will elect not to file charges against any of these patriots.?

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Announcement :: Peace & War

Bookshop to the Rescue

Bookshop to the Rescue

Bookshop Santa Cruz donates 20 percent of today’s proceeds for humanitarian relief in Iraq

by Scott Hutchins

Neal Coonerty does not support the war in Iraq, nor does he intend to sit around idly while his country continues to fight. The Bookshop Santa Cruz owner has decided to take a positive and proactive approach to war by donating a portion of all the money he makes today (Thursday, May 1) to help relieve the famine and destruction that has taken place throughout the country because of the conflict.

“We took a look at the effect of the war in Iraq on the Iraqi people, and we felt like we wanted to do something,? Coonerty says. “We felt that something had to be done. So, a bookseller friend of mine in Montana came up with the idea that on May 1 we would give a percentage of sales to a humanitarian group over in Iraq helping with the disruption and the unrest that is going on over there.

“We picked out Oxfam, which is a group that does quite a bit of charitable work internationally,? he says. “We’re going to donate 20 percent of our book sales that day to Oxfam and hopefully help the standard generosity and caring of the American people [reach] those who have been in a war. Hopefully we will be able to demonstrate that.?

Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations that operate in over 100 countries worldwide to alleviate poverty, injustice and famine.

“I had known of Oxfam’s work as a group for quite some time,? Coonerty says. “They go all over the world and provide humanitarian efforts to people who are in need. They have been in places where people are starving to death and at different refugee camps. I know that there is an Oxfam operation already set up in Iraq so the money that is donated can be used immediately. It is a good organization that has been around for decades. I am not exactly sure what the money will be used for specifically, but Oxfam has a proven track record so I am sure the donations will be used in the best, most effective way possible.?

Coonerty anticipates that Bookshop could raise anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 dollars that will go directly to Oxfam. He is realistic in acknowledging that his bookstore alone cannot make much of an impact insofar as bringing humanitarian aid to Iraq. This dilemma has prompted him to turn to the business owners of the Santa Cruz community for support. “I am trying to encourage other businesses in downtown Santa Cruz to join in on the effort and make a difference,? Coonerty says.

At GT press time, Coonerty and his fellow business owner in Montana are the only two participants in the May 1 fundraising event. He stresses that the money raised will have an important and positive effect on the famine-stricken and impoverished people of Iraq.

What makes this fundraising campaign special is that it isn’t propagandistic in its purpose. A person or business owner is not required to have a specific view to support this cause. All that is required is a genuine compassion for a country and a people that are in need of some help.

“What people need to understand is that this fundraiser isn’t about which stance you take on the war,? Coonerty said. “It’s about helping others.?

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Activists win another legal victory against Caltrans in fight for free speech

Flagged Down

Activists win another legal victory against Caltrans in fight for free speech

by Laurel Chesky

Last Wednesday was a banner day for local activists Cassandra Brown and Amy Courtney. After a 16-month-long legal battle with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) the two women won their third—and, they hope, final—victory to protect First Amendment rights on state highways.

On April 23, federal Judge Ronald M. Whyte released a decision ruling that Caltrans cannot pick and choose between political messages flown from California highway overpasses.

In November of 2001, Brown and Courtney hung an anti-war banner bearing a skull and crossbones and the words “At What Cost?? from the Granite Creek Road overpass in Scotts Valley. Ten minutes later, their sign was removed, while an American flag was left hanging from the same overpass. After the incident, a Caltrans spokesman told GT that the department was allowing only American flags to remain on overpasses.

After 9/11, American flags began popping up on overpasses across the state. For safety reasons, Caltrans does not usually allow flags to be hung on highways. But in the post-9/11 gloom, Caltrans relaxed their rules for flags. “We were looking for a way to allow the flag to be displayed on state right-of-way,? says Caltrans spokesman Dennis Trujillo.

Shortly before Christmas, 2001, the women sued Caltrans, claiming that their First Amendment rights to free speech had been violated because Caltrans’ policy is biased against their anti-war statement. Case law disallows governments to discriminate between political messages expressed within a public forum. The suit attempted to force Caltrans to adopt a policy consistent with U.S. Constitution. No monetary damages were sought. “It was just the right thing to do,? Courtney says. “Our constitutional rights were violated.?

In January of last year, Judge Whyte granted the women a temporary injunction while the lawsuit proceeded. The judge ordered Caltrans to either leave up all flags and banners, or to take them all down. Caltrans appealed the injunction to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In March, the appeals courts upheld the temporary injunction.

Last week’s decision—the result of a trial held last November at the U.S. District Court in San Jose—places a permanent injunction on Caltrans “flags-only? policy.

In light of the appeals court ruling, the women and their lawyers expected last week’s favorable decision. “The only surprise is how vigorously Caltrans has fought free speech,? says Santa Cruz attorney Nathan Benjamin, who took the case pro bono.

Caltrans lawyers argued that leaving banners on overpasses posed a safety risk. They also argued that the American flag does not convey a political message, and therefore, the department was not discriminating by removing other banners. Judge Whyte disagreed and ordered Caltrans to deal with flags and banners “on a content neutral and viewpoint neutral basis.?

While the issue at hand—free speech on highway overpasses—may not seem momentous, at a time when American civil liberties are evaporating, the court order offers some hope to those who fear that the Constitution has taken a detour through the shredder. “This is really a victory for the whole U.S. citizenry,? Brown says. “It was good to hear the news that the real Patriot Act—the Bill of Rights—works.?

Trujillo says that Caltrans is “considering our options? regarding an appeal of the permanent injunction. However, with three court orders and a stack of legal precedents refuting the agency’s position, “There is no sound legal basis for an appeal,? Benjamin says.

Caltrans will enforce the order by removing flags as well as signs and banners posted on overpasses, a practice that the agency enacted after the temporary injunction was issued. “Basically we continue to comply with the court’s ruling by continuing to have all flags and banners removed,? Trujillo says.

However, Trujillo says, don’t expect Caltrans’ 6,000 maintenance workers to rip down flags and banners within minutes of being hung. “With 50,000 lane miles of highway system, and with the complimentary transportation that fills our system, we’re not going to identify everything immediately,? he says. “We don’t have flag and banner police.?

Meanwhile, Brown and Courtney face a bittersweet victory. They say they never intended to rip down American flags; they just wanted to see their banners hanging alongside them. But since Caltrans has opted to remove all banners, the women’s message has also been barred from overpasses.

“I’m bummed out,? Courtney says. “I mean, that just shows the true colors of the political aspect of why Caltrans was fighting this to begin with. We know they had no problem with banners being up … until they started saying things not supportive of U.S. foreign policy, and then it became an issue.?

And, since the day when Brown and Courtney first hung their protest banner, the U.S. has waged two wars, and more may be coming.

“Justice will be served when the answers to the questions we posed in our banner have been sufficiently answered by the government and the media at large,? Courtney says. “And we’re now several thousand of civilians and troops dead.?

“Our question, ‘At what cost?’ has been answered? in terms of deaths and the erosion of civil rights, Brown says. “My question now is, is it worth it??

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:: Resistance & Tactics

Reese Erlich vilifies mainstream media for shoddy war coverage

Bad News

Veteran journalist Reese Erlich vilifies mainstream media for shoddy war coverage

by John Malkin

CNN, MSNBC and a boatload of imbedded reporters gave us the battlefield blow-by-blow. We sat glued to our TVs, watching the war in Iraq unfold as the Marines marched toward Baghdad. We chewed our fingernails as we awaited news about the American POWs. We cried when helicopters went down. We also cried when Iraqi civilians died. But perhaps they didn’t die from our formidable weaponry; it was Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, wasn’t it?

But the stories that should have outraged us—falsified documents of Iraq’s nuclear capability, Richard Perle’s gig lobbying the Pentagon for WorldCom—amounted to a flash in the pan and barely created a whimper. Why? Because, says journalist Reese Erlich, the media let those stories die.

Erlich, a 35-year veteran reporter, is co-author of “Target Iraq: What The News Media Didn’t Tell You,? with Norman Solomon. He traveled to Iraq on assignment for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, The World (Public Radio International), Common Ground Radio, the St. Petersburg Times and the Dallas Morning News.

Erlich is scheduled to appear in Santa Cruz on Friday for two speaking engagements. He speaks at 5:30 p.m at UC Santa Cruz, in the Red Room at College Eight and 7:30 p.m. at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave. Erlich spoke with Santa Cruz reporter John Malkin last week.

John Malkin: What is your perspective on the media coverage of the war in Iraq?

Reese Erlich: It has been poor, if you’re talking about the mainstream U.S. media. It has been so bad that you can clearly tell the difference between that and the BBC. The Europeans are appalled, frankly, by the amount of bias. Fox News runs the logo-slogan of the U.S. military “Operation Iraqi Freedom? as the logo for their show. It is pretty blatant. Every time some new weapon of mass destruction has supposedly been discovered, they hype it all over the place, whether it be CNN or MSNBC or The New York Times. And then a couple days later, of course, it turns out to be completely false, with no story correcting it, no story saying, “Whoops, we’re sorry, we misreported that,? or, “We fell for the line coming out of the Pentagon.?

JM: There are a couple of things that seem to me should be headline news. One is the fact that the last swing votes needed from Congress for approval of this recent war were gained by showing apparent evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons components. That turned out to be false. And, it was revealed that the U.S. used the United Nations weapons inspectors to spy on Iraq, and also spied on UN Security Council members who were in opposition to the war. What are your feelings about all of that?

RE: Everything that you mention has come out in one form or another, in mainstream media in the U.S. These are not secrets. What is interesting about it is that they are one-day stories. They came out and they are shown to be true and then they die. The reason that that happens is that there are no consequences to it. They (the government) can lie and cheat and start wars, as long as you win the war and it appears to be successful.

The mainstream media in this country are not interested in pursuing the truth, per se. They are interested in pursuing the truth as seen though the eyes of the top leaders of the country, mainly the top leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties. The top Democrats have made absolutely no comment, and have no interest in pursuing things like the U.S. spying on the French, German and the other UN offices, or the fact that the U.S. was using as its central component of the whole argument about the Iraqis having nuclear weapons was the supposed purchase of nuclear components from Niger, in Africa, which turned out, once the independent sources looked at the documents, turned out to be blatant forgeries.

There is no follow-up on that in the media, because nobody in power, no Democrat, is willing to make it an issue. So, if the upper levels of the economy and political structure of our society don’t disagree [with each other], then the media are not willing, in most cases, to take on an issue to point out hypocrisy no matter how true it may be, no matter how much interest there might be, because there is no political cover for them. There is certainly no economic incentive for them. In fact, it is quite the opposite. So, those stories die. They are willing to publish it once, in some cases, and then the story dies.

JM: How does the war in Iraq compare with other conflicts in terms of how war is perceived at home?

RE: The U.S. government wants above all else, to make sure that support for the war at home remains strong. That is the lesson they learned from Vietnam. If people at home start opposing the war, then you have lost the war. So, they spend as much time worrying about propaganda and maintaining political and other support for war at home as they do for making out a battlefield plan. So, part of that this time was a calculated risk to use the “imbedded? reporters to allow the use of video television cameras, which they can’t completely control. But, they took a calculated risk that the reporters would be patriotic and generally pro-war, which they were. They didn’t have to overtly censor in most cases, although there were some cases where they did. So, the result is that it appears on television as though this were some kind of a new video game.

JM: You wrote a chapter called “Depleted Uranium: America’s Dirty Secret.? Tell me about depleted uranium and its use in this most recent war on Iraq.

RE: Depleted uranium ammunition is tank rounds, machine gun bullets and other ordnance that makes use of depleted uranium (DU). DU is a metal that is left over after the processing of uranium for making nuclear weapons or nuclear power. It is less radioactive then plutonium, but it is considered a low-level radioactive waste. And in this country, after the processing is done it has to be disposed of under very strict conditions, as would be the same with any other low-level nuclear waste. You can’t just stick it in somebody’s backyard.

But, the military figured out some years back that this stuff is really good for military uses. Not because it is radioactive, per se, but because it is more dense than lead. It is 1.7 times denser than lead, which means that if you put it in the core of a bullet, it slices through the enemy armor. It also has an explosive impact when it hits because it basically creates a low-level radioactive fireball. Then it settles into the dirt and then it can seep down into the water table and over time, in a period of five to 10 years, you start to see extraordinarily high rates of cancer, of malformed births and other problems that are directly related to DU being both a toxic heavy metal and it being radioactive.

JM: What about corporations involved in reconstructing Iraq?

RE: I think the most interesting thing to watch for is how the oil industries are going to run in Iraq. The latest information from the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times is that the U.S. plans include Jay Garner having ultimate decision-making power in what happens to the oil. Well, so much for the idea that Iraqi oil will be for the Iraqi people. We see a former U.S. general and former board member of a huge defense contractor who are going to be making the final decisions. There will also be an advisory board. Who will be heading the board? The former head of Shell Oil.

The U.S. corporations certainly will be coming into lucrative contracts to rebuild infrastructure, rebuild the oil fields and get them up and pumping again. U.S. oil companies will play some role in either the pumping or the distribution of the oil, freezing out U.S. rivals from France, Germany and Russia. It is just this incredible money-grab going on under the guise of helping the Iraqi people. And if the Iraqi people don’t like how their oil money is being spent, then, I don’t know, write your congressperson? Who do you complain to exactly?

This interview aired last week on Free Radio Santa Cruz, 96.3 FM.

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News :: Resistance & Tactics

Fighting Back in Santa Cruz: Medical Marijuana Patients Sue The Feds

Fighting Back in Santa Cruz: Medical Marijuana Patients Sue The Feds

April 28, 2003
CounterPunch News Exclusive


California medical marijuana patients blocked a country road in Santa Cruz county last September, trapping DEA agents who had just chainsawed 167 marijuana plants grown by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). Agents driving U-Hauls stuffed with the patients' seized medical cannabis, were forced to negotiate the release of WAMM founders Valerie and Michael Corral from custody in exchange for their own safe passage.

These same patients, together with their city and county officials, are now suing the federal government, and the individual DEA agents, to prevent such raids from taking place again. On April 23, the City and County of Santa Cruz became the first public entity to file a lawsuit against federal drug warriors. Plaintiffs charge that the government is violating the right of medical marijuana patients to make decisions about their pain relief -- and ultimately the final moments of their lives.

"The heart of the matter is the fundamental constitutional right of every citizen to control the circumstances of his or her own death,'' said plaintiff's attorney Gerald Uelmen. ``That right is so fundamental that the federal government cannot interfere with that right unless they show a compelling interest, and that is the challenge that we are posing to federal authorities in this case.''

WAMM provides medical cannabis under California's Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) which the federal government refuses to recognize. Its members have worked openly with the community and local law enforcement for ten years. But unlike other medical marijuana dispensaries, WAMM also serves as a hospice for its patients, most of whom suffer from terminal illnesses. During the September raid, as two dozen armed DEA agents stormed the Corrals' home and led them away in handcuffs, agents carted off WAMM's patient records, and seized the patient's weekly medical marijuana allotments.

The WAMM raid was one of a series of at least eight medical marijuana raids by federal agents which have taken place in California. The lawsuit, filed against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Acting Administrator of the DEA, John Brown, and Drug Czar John Walters, seeks to enjoin the federal government from any future raids on the WAMM cannabis gardens. The plaintiffs, are also demanding a judicial declaration stating that the federal government has no right to interfere with WAMM or similar organizations.

Valerie Corral says WAMM is still distributing donated cannabis. But since the raid, she says 15 of WAMM's 250 patients have died. Deaths that might have been eased, made less agonizing, if the collective could again grow cannabis. ``WAMM members arrive at our supply and our support meetings because they have no alternative,'' says Corral. ``But our supply is limited and daily, more of our members face excruciating pain and agony because we do not have enough medicine to ease that suffering away.''

The Corrals, who were arrested without a warrant, have not been charged with any crime. They believe that the DEA operation was part of a strategy of strictly punitive raids. The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages from the DEA agents involved in the raid, as well as local law enforcement officers who participated. Government officials acting outside the U.S. Constitution have no protection from lawsuits, and plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial if the government contests the case.

San Jose Police Chief William Landsdowne reacted to the WAMM arrests by pulling his department's officers off the DEA joint task force that conducted the raid. Lansdown stated that it was unfair to force his officers to enforce a federal law that conflicts with California's Compassionate Use Act.

Fighting Back With The US Constitution

While resistance by the Bush Administration has helped stall drug law reform legislation, much of the fight has moved away from Congress and into the courts. In 1998, the federal government filed a preliminary injunction to halt the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (OCBC) from distributing medical cannabis. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2001 that the OCBC could not dispense medical cannabis under ''medical necessity,'' it did not consider the constitutional rights of individual patients. Plaintiffs in the WAMM lawsuit, County of Santa Cruz et. al. v. Ashcroft et. al, charge that the federal government is violating their Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment rights.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include seven WAMM patients who say they rely upon medical marijuana to, among other things, control seizures and severe pain, stimulate appetite in AIDS wasting syndrome, and ease the nausea caused by cancer treatments.

Plaintiff Michael Cheslosky says he uses medical marijuana to ease his many medical problems associated with AIDS/HIV. ``I'm scared to death that at any moment the door will be knocked down and my five grams of marijuana will be taken out of my house,'' said Cheslosky who is recovering from pneumonia. ``When I use marijuana, I don't have to use Chlorophen, Valium and Vicodin and morphine and pain killers and anti-anxiety agents and anti-depressants or aspirin even. I can control the dose and it has no side effects.'' Pat Ramey, caregiver for WAMM plaintiff Dorothy Gibbs, says medical marijuana is the only medicine that eases the pain of Gibbs' post polio syndrome. ``She is 93 years old and she has the right to die with some dignity,'' says Ramey.

WAMM members argue that the seizure of their medical marijuana violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment which protects unenumerated liberties from federal intrusion if they are fundamental rights. The Ninth Amendment also protects unenumerated liberties, which plaintiffs say include the fundamental right to ameliorate pain, maintain bodily integrity, preserve life, consult with their physicians regarding treatment, and act on the physician's recommendations. ``We have five justices on the Supreme Court who recognize that the right to control the circumstances of your death is a fundamental right,'' said Uelmen.

In addition to the violation of their Fifth and Ninth Amendment rights, WAMM charges that the raid violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and the Tenth Amendment which grants the state powers not exercised by the federal government. The lawsuit excoriates the federal government for violating the right of Santa Cruz municipal authorities to protect the health and safety of its citizens under its police powers.
DEA Spokesman Richard Meyer declined to comment directly on the pending lawsuit. But he noted that the FDA has refused to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule One drug, meaning it has no established medical use and a high potential for abuse. ``The court will have the last word, but we feel we are on very firm legal ground when we come to this issue of marijuana,'' said Meyer. ``Marijuana advocates don't want to stop at marijuana. Their ultimate goal is to make every drug legal and make it an issue of personal choice, and I don't think the American public wants that.''

The lawsuit charges that by attempting to regulate medical marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act,the federal government is exceeding Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. WAMM points out that their cultivation and possession of medical marijuana takes place within the borders of California. Their patients do not purchase marijuana, sell it or distribute it to others. They argue, therefore, that WAMM's intrastate and non-economic activities have no effect on interstate commerce and are beyond the power of Congress to regulate. ''Unless enjoined,'' reads the lawsuit, ``the federal government will continue to conduct medical marijuana raids that exceed federal authority under the Commerce Clause.''

Medical marijuana clubs that charge patients present different issues for the Commerce Clause argument. But the WAMM lawsuit could help shield other medical cannabis growers from prosecution. Plaintiffs are also seeking a judicial declaration that WAMM members are immune from criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act. A provision of the Act exempts from prosecution those deputized by municipalities to handle controlled substances. In December 2002, the Santa Cruz City Council adopted a resolution deputizing Valerie and Michael Corral as medical marijuana providers authorized to enforce the City's Personal Medical Marijuana Use Ordinance. Mardi Wormhoudt, a member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, says she was grateful for WAMM's services. ``I know that unless people were able to help themselves in this way, many people would end up needing help from county health services, and these are times that we can barely maintain the services that we do provide for people.''

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently deciding whether the City of Oakland has the power to offer the OCBC similar legal immunity. Convicted medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal argued that he too received such immunity through the OCBC. Uelmen, notes that WAMM has also filed a motion with the appellate court to have its seized marijuana returned, and has asked that both cases be heard together this summer.

Another related case in front of the 9th Circuit involved two medical marijuana patients who sued DEA chief Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General John Ashcroft last October. Raich v. Ashcroft charges that the federal government's ongoing attacks against medical cannabis patients and providers violated plaintiff's Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs have asked the court to enjoin the federal government from prosecuting them for growing or possessing medical cannabis. A federal judge denied a motion for preliminary injunction in March, and the decision is on appeal.

Should the courts decide that the City and County of Santa Cruz can immunize the Corrals from prosecution, the next question is whether the local government is willing to grow medical cannabis for WAMM patients. Twelve days after the September raid, City of Santa Cruz demonstrated its support for WAMM by allowing members to collect their weekly allotment of medical marijuana on the steps of City Hall. San Francisco is now considering whether it will grow medical cannabis for its patients. But Santa Cruz major Emily Reilly, says she has not yet been asked to consider the issue.

"I think its imperative that it happen,'' says Michael Corral. "We do need to get more governmental bodies behind us to push the issue to the feds, because this is real, this is not going away.'' Corral predicts that more communities will begin to file similar lawsuits in support of local medical marijuana patients. But he adds that while WAMM would like to plant another cannabis garden this spring, they do not want to put a private property owner at risk for asset forfeiture.

Michael Foley knows for sure that the federal government's current crackdown on medical marijuana is not yet going away. A few hours after WAMM announced its lawsuit, Foley's partner, Robyn Few, sat sobbing in San Francisco federal district court as he was sentenced to five months in federal prison for growing 95 medical marijuana plants. Foley is among at least eight people sent to federal prison for cultivating medical marijuana in California in the last two years.
Ann Harrison is a freelance reporter working in the Bay Area. She can be reached at

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Announcement :: Resistance & Tactics

Presidential candidate Kucinich to stump in Santa Cruz

Presidential candidate Kucinich to stump in Santa Cruz

April 30, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — An article in The New Republic lambasted U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, as a "fringe candidate" for president, as "truly unelectable" as Al Sharpton.

But don’t call the congressional progressive caucus leader "fringe" to area supporters, who say the Cleveland congressman will get a hero’s welcome in Santa Cruz next month.

Kucinich, 56, became the standard bearer of progressive ideals in Congress after last year’s death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Kucinich will be part of a Civic Auditorium event May 25 and also take part in two political fund-raisers that day.

The Civic event also features other well-known progressives: spiritual lecturer Marianne Williamson, author of "Return to Love" and "Illuminata," and author John Robbins, who wrote "Diet for a New America," a best-selling, queasiness-inducing indictment of the meat industry.

Imagine America, a collection of local and national nonprofits, is putting on the event and vows it will sell out the 2,000-seat venue, with ticket prices ranging from $10-$30.

Also May 25, Kucinich will attend a 4 p.m. $500-a-plate fund-raising dinner at a private home. Around 9 p.m. there will be a party/fund-raiser at the Veterans Memorial Building on Front Street with tickets at $50 each.

One of Kucinich’s admirers is the legendary interviewer/author Studs Terkel, who recently wrote that if only there could be a "coast to coast" debate between Kucinich and President Bush, "blood wouldn’t flow but we’d have a knock-out in the first round."

The New Republic labels him uncompromising in a way that will give his more "mainstream" contenders an edge.

"He doesn’t just attack John Ashcroft, he wants to repeal the entire Patriot Act," Ryan Lizza wrote in the New Republic. "He’s not just against war; he insists it’s only ‘about oil and a misguided strategy of empire.’ "

Those ideas, controversial as they are in certain parts of the country, are bound to get him standing ovations in Santa Cruz. The number of local Kucinich supporters, however, has not yet been gauged.

Still, many area progressives are enthusiastic, which explains the flurry of planned activity in Santa Cruz, supporter Steve Graves said.

Graves said Kucinich’s campaign should not be confused with Imagine America, though both call for "government more representative of poor people, people of color, and based on meeting basic human needs vs. exploiting other countries and an agenda of war."

Two years ago in Santa Cruz, Ralph Nader supporters were just as fervent about his political candidacy. Kucinich fans say there are similarities, and striking differences, between the two.

"When people try to marginalize you from the beginning, as they did Nader, it’s an uphill battle," Graves said. "But once people hear him, they are very moved by him. He’s very genuine."

But while some say Nader and Kucinich overlap in their ideas, they point out that Kucinich is an elected official and a Democrat with a long political career, including a stint as the "Boy Wonder" mayor of Cleveland when he was in his early 30s.

Sara Nelson, a La Selva Beach-based Kucinich backer who is also part of Imagine America, said the congressman could be part of a bold new vision "where a department of peace is in place to address domestic and international conflicts."

Aside from his politics, Nelson said, "Kucinich is a person who has a very spiritual sense of the interconnectedness in all life; this is most unusual for a congressman. He made a speech that was a peace prayer."

But could someone like Kucinich put a dent in Bush’s support?

Most everyone agrees the man who made the peace prayer doesn’t have a prayer of winning. Nelson said it’s too early to say how he’ll do, but she insists news outlets are not paying attention to his building support.

"The more the people at the level of the grassroots discover who he is as a human being and what he represents, the more this little prairie fire spreads," she said.
Contact Dan White

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