Friday, January 29, 2010

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn, a great human being, died on Wednesday, mercifully missing the State of the Union speech by the Great Black Hope who failed.

This is a great loss to the country and the world.

In memoriam, TV and radio (that I listen to) have been playing Zinn speeches.

Of particular interest to me is when he talks about how social movements start. He was part of the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

They started with just small groups of people getting together, sure that their small numbers were insignificant, but determined to protest anyway.

Lately, I've seen a lot of moaning about the Democratic Party and its betrayal of we, the people. And a lot of vain wistful wishing that there was an alternative. This drives me crazy. There is an alternative, if you're inclined to party politics. It's the Green Party, based on peace, justice, environmentalism and grassroots democracy.

But, no, the teeth gnashers don't want to join a small party and help it to grow. They want a full fledged mass movement that they can join after others have done the work. They want an alternative to spring full grown from the forehead of Zeus.

It's not really hard work anyway, it's just unpleasant work. It's not like building a railroad, or something. It's attending meetings, and standing on corners asking for signatures on petitions, and going door to door passing out leaflets. It's not fun, but it isn't backbreaking. Jeez.

Listen to Howard Zinn and be inspired. I know that I am.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poor Haiti - So Far From God, So Close to the US

OK, I paraphrased a quote about Mexico, but it fits Haiti also. Here's another, from Lily Tomlin
"No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up".

I know the the US will kill for profit, but watching people dying for lack of aid, while US troops prevent civilian planes from landing and stockpile needed food and water in the airport, instead of getting it out to the people, is a new low in horrifying eye opening reality.

Americans, used to giving up their own rights, freedom, privacy and dignity for "security", are now apparently fine with watching people die under rubble, from crush wounds and compound fractures, move into their second week without food or water, and suffer great pain without analgesics, because, you know, our troops must be "secure".

Heavily armed troops are afraid of starving people? They're refusing to feed people because hungry people might rush to get food? And not letting other, braver, people into the country to supply relief?

I am so appalled that I don't even have words. And I am more appalled, and depressed, by reading comments to the Guardian UK website, when they reported that a French official criticized the US military for turning back relief planes, and for setting up an occupation force.

Hundreds of ignorant Americans wrote in to deny that the US would ever want to occupy Haiti. That the US military would ever be used to oppress other countries. There was a lot of chest beating bravado and inflated self aggrandizement about the unsurpassed virtues of the American people and the cowardice of the French. I am so embarrassed. Again.

This is the third century that the US and France have united to oppress Haiti. Originally a French colony, with African slaves worked to death to grow sugar, after the American and French revolutions, the slaves rebelled and overthrew the French. The new United States of America freaked out and helped impose a blockade on the new republic of Haiti. Then the French imposed reparations onto the Haitian people, to make them pay for their own freedom. They totally overcharged them, also, 150 million francs. They sold the Louisiana Purchase for 80 million francs. The US didn't recognize Haiti until 1863, when they freed their own slaves. Without paying for them, by the way.

Haiti was forced to borrow the money ($20 billion in today's prices) from French and American banks. The US invaded in 1915 (as pointed out by Major General Smedley Butler, of "War is a Racket" fame) and occupied Haiti until 1934. Yes, although the ignorant among us don't believe it, the US did indeed occupy Haiti, only leaving when puppet governments were assured. Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc, were among the dictators that America backed. They assured their continued rule with the Tonton Macoutes, paramilitary thugs who ran death squads against opponents. They borrowed more money, for themselves and their off-shore bank accounts, leaving millions for Haitians to pay back, with interest, of course. Haiti pays $1 million a week, just on the interest.

In 1991, after years of organizing, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President on a program of helping ordinary Haitians. G. H. W. Bush promptly backed a coup against him. Clinton sent in US troops to return him in 1994. At last, the US doing something right? Sadly, no. They constrained him by forcing him to agree to neo-con policies as a condition of returning. Aristide was elected again in 2000 and was again forced out by a US backed coup in 2004. The US kidnapped him and shipped him to Africa, where he remains, requesting to return to no avail.

To have Obama appoint Bush and Clinton to head the relief efforts is an insult to the Haitian people. I guess that they shouldn't be surprised that the US military is withholding food, water and medical care from them.

Haiti was self sufficient in rice production in 1980. The US dumped subsidized rice into the country in the 80s and now Haiti imports not just rice, but sugar! The Federal Government subsidizes agribusiness in this country, including using scare water to grow rice in the California desert, then threatens other countries to "open their markets". During the 80s, the US tried to get Japan to open its markets and throw its rice farmers out of work, but Japan refused. The vitriol directed at Japan by American yahoos then matches the vitriol directed at France today. In the meantime, Farm Aid notwithstanding, hundreds of thousands of American farmers also lost their land in the 80s.

The Haitian farmers flooded Port au Prince, becoming cheap labor for American sweatshops. Last year, they almost starved when food prices rose. They lived in flimsily built houses, perched wherever they could.

And that brings us to today, when desperate people wait for help, while overfed Americans sit and sneer at their poverty. Boastful, swaggering Americans, who see no irony as they brag about their massive military, armed and armored to the teeth, who are afraid to go out and feed starving people.

Important article by Bill Quigley, who survived Hurricane Katrina.

Update: I was telling a co-worker about this tonight and he said that he knew of previous similar stories. I asked - where? and he mentioned Somalia. He said that he knew a Special Forces veteran who was told to fire on an American truck. He questioned why, but did it anyway. Then the soldiers were told that there were "snipers" out there, so the aid couldn't be distributed and it sat in the warehouse until it rotted.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Day I Almost Saved the Plane

In October, 2001 I took a plane to Maine. Well, I took 3 planes to Maine, because the system was still in disarray, and I was shipped all over the place. Including a stop at LaGuardia.

We flew over the WTC site. I thought it was ghoulish to gawk at the site of so much death and misery, so I remained seated until the people across from me asked the stewardess to point it out and she did, so I jumped up. Tacky. The stewardess pointed out that it was still smoking, but when I mentioned that to my friend back home, she said - How could it be, six weeks later? Well, that made sense, so I figured that I must not have seen what I thought I saw. Later, of course, I found out differently. And here's a great video of an official 9-11 NIST "investigator" denying what witnesses saw.

Anyway, on one of the planes back I was sitting up front of the plane, reading. I was in a single seat and the flight attendant was across from me. He got up and left and didn't come back. Then another man in a uniform came down the aisle and started trying to get into the cockpit. I jumped to the only possible conclusion. Clearly, someone in the back had attacked the flight attendant, stolen his uniform and was trying to get into the cockpit to hijack the plane. And it was up to me to stop him, because all the other passengers were in the back.

I hesitated, however, because the hijacker was big and I'm kind of small. I didn't think I could take him, frankly. And while I was hesitating, he got into the cockpit. The rest of the flight was stressful, as I waited for the plane to be crashed.

As it turned out, the hijacker was actually one of the pilots. And the flight attendant showed up again. And I was really glad that I hadn't attacked the pilot.

Ralph Nader was asked by a condescending reporter on one of the few times he got airtime, how he would have dealt with 9-11. The correct answer was, of course, either increased passenger surveillance or torture or war. Ralph Nader, however, said that he would have put locks on the cockpit doors, as he was calling for many years before 9-11. It wasn't done, because of the expense of the locks, you see.

How much does Homeland Security cost? How much are the occupations costing? How much are they planning to spend on the pervert scanning machines? How much to pay to shut up the 9-11 families?

And then, of course, they paid for locks after all.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Collapse of the Facade

What's going on in America? What happened to make the ruling class turn to open looting and murder, without trying to hide it?

Somehow, they realized that there were no consequences for their bad behavior. Like a child that tests the parents with a few infractions, the ruling class took more and more chances, and found out that they could get away with it.

Last year, the Congress handed over the Treasury to Wall Street. Obama and McCain both stopped their campaigns to go back to Washington, DC and vote for the bill that 95% of the American people opposed. Yet we are told that 99% of the people in this country voted for one of the two of them the next month. Wow. Talking about getting away with it!

Emboldened, this year, Congress passed a law forcing every American to directly hand over money to health insurance companies. Wow!

Cheney hunted with Scalia, while he had a case in front of the Supreme Court. They openly scoffed at people who protested. This was after the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to Bush, although Scalia and Thomas both should have recused themselves due to conflicts of interest.


They openly brag about a "jobless recovery", making it obvious to all but the braindead that the ruling class no longer even pretends to care about the working class.

America now openly invades other countries. They openly assassinate people. They openly kidnap and murder people. Whatareyougunnadoaboutit?

They put in computerized voting machines, even though people protested. So what? When Mike Connell was finally scheduled to testify about the stolen 2004 election, he died in a plane crash. Whatareyougunnadoaboutit?

Now Obama is putting a Raytheon executive in a high position at the Pentagon. Here is the change we can believe in. They are waiving the ethics rule. See the difference? The Bushies just broke the home rules. Obama waives them. But not the international rules. Nope. Obama is just as lawless as Bush when roaming the planet with the American military machine.

This is what happened in the USSR, in my opinion. After decades of pretending to have socialism, the ruling oligarchs found out that they could just grab the riches of the Soviet Union and divide it among themselves. There was protest, until Yeltsin turned tanks on the Russian White House and cemented the demise of the Soviet Union, for which he is still hailed as a "hero" by the US corporate media. Millions of people died and millions were impoverished, which is called "freedom" by our media.

We used to pretend to have democracy in this country, with elections and writing your congressman and a court system to turn to for justice and all that. While the forms still exist, the vast majority of Americans know that they are hollow. Most people don't even bother to vote, although there is great corporate pressure to do so. That will probably stop soon. All they have to do is program the computers to show a big turnout, thus "legitimizing" the system in the last way they cling to.

In the meantime, we the people slip more and more into poverty and oppression. And, really, what are we going to do about it?

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Friday, January 1, 2010


I went to see Avatar yesterday.

Before I went, I read about US soldiers breaking down a door and killing 10 people in Afghanistan, including 8 children. The absolute horror of having massively armed terrorists breaking down your door in the middle of the night, and murdering your children, is something too terrible to contemplate, yet people in Iraq and Afghanistan have lived this nightmare for years now.

I then listened to NPR news, which was recycling the same manufactured terror of a wannabe that might have blown up a plane a week ago, if only he had had explosives and had been competent. Here we were a week later, still drumming up fake terror about what might have happened to Americans, while Americans were dishing out real terror to real people, unremarked upon, even by NPR, which then had a long commercial about how they provided "news" for intelligent people.

Then I went to see Avatar. Wow! There it is. The horrors that the US ruling class wreaks upon defenseless people, for the profit of the multinational corporations, from the viewpoint of those people. This is an incredible movie.

Weirdly enough, the National Guard had a long commercial before the movie, complete with the same music. Apparently, they have enough faith in the stupidity of American youth to totally miss the point of the movie to think that they'll get recruits!

An interesting part of the movie was when they (spoiler alert!!) destroyed the Home Tree. They made a point of saying that they needed to destroy the core columns. Hmmm. Then they showed the destruction of the Tree. Interestingly enough, although it started to look like the destruction of the WTCs, they didn't have the tree fall straight down in its own footprint, in a pile of splinters.

I wondered why. Then I realized.

This was a science fiction movie, but come on. You can't get too weird, or people will turn off.

Have a giant tree explode into splinters and fall into its own footprint at the speed of gravity?

That's just too unbelievable!

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