Dangerous minds

What do Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissinger have in common, besides an unquenchable thirst for power? All three are members of the Bohemian Grove, the San Francisco-based male-only club that each summer holds an annual gathering in the redwood forest that fringes the Russian River in western Sonoma County. This year the fun begins on July 22 as 2,000 or so plutocrats, fat cats and assorted war criminals meet in a shaded glade to booze it up, wear women’s clothing and plot the overthrow of the known universe. Sort of.

“They’re a bunch of guys at a party. It’s just that some of them are really powerful guys,” said Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, which compiles an annual list of major stories and issues ignored by the mainstream media. A sociology professor at Sonoma State University, Phillips completed his dissertation on the Bohemian Grove—the club has been meeting at the same location for more than 100 years—and since has identified 236 members who belong to what he calls the Global Dominance Group and share the goal of “asserting U.S. military power worldwide.”

It’s a who’s who of war profiteers and slick financiers, from Bechtel to B of A. Not that they’re actually forming their plans for world domination at the Grove, Phillips said. “It’s more about consensus building.” The consensus building includes a half-dozen lakeside chats. This year’s featured speaker is Powell, whose speech is titled “From Battle Fields to Playing Fields.”

For the past 26 years, Mary Moore, co-founder of the Bohemian Grove Action Network, has helped lead the battle to draw attention to this clandestine meeting in the woods. This year, in light of the continuing war in Iraq and the attacks on illegal immigrants, Moore and her cohorts have redoubled their efforts, drawing upon a list of sponsors that includes Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), the Green Party of California, Project Censored and the United Farm Workers. Members of these groups and other activists—as many as 1,000 of them—will meet in Monte Rio, near the entrance of the Grove, at 1 p.m. on July 22.

“The people that gather at the Bohemian Grove are some of the most dangerous minds in the world,” Moore said. “We look at this as an opportunity to bring all of the elements of the Bay Area anti-war and immigrant-rights movements together.”

That invitation extends to Sacramento activists as well. For more information on this year’s protest, go to www.sonomacountyfreepress.com.

—R.V. Scheide

Sowing seeds

George Washington could not tell a lie—the man loved his hemp. “Make the most you can of the Indian hemp seed and sow it everywhere,” Washington instructed. Was the father of our country high on Indo? Hardly. He simply lived in a more practical era, where citizens recognized the value of a plant that can be used as food, fiber, fuel and medicine, and no one had yet dreamed up the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Hemp contains only a minute amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Nevertheless, the United States remains the only industrialized nation in which the growing and harvesting of hemp is illegal. That’s been a sore spot for the country’s fledgling hemp-products industry, which must import hemp from Canada, Europe and China.

“American farmers are tired of looking around the world and seeing other farmers making healthy profits growing hemp for export to the U.S.,” said Eric Steenstra, president of the nonprofit activist group Vote Hemp. “They want change.”

Change they may get. California and North Dakota are currently locked in a battle to become the first state to legalize hemp farming. In California, Assembly Bill 1447, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, authored by Assemblymen Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, sailed through the Senate Agriculture Committee with a 3-0 vote.

Can clothing made from native hemp fibers and cooking oil made from native hemp seed be just around the corner? For industrial hemp advocates, it looks promising. The bill has two remaining hurdles to pass before reaching the governor’s desk: a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee and approval from the whole Senate.

—R.V. Scheide