Archive for June, 2008

Black Riders & Chip Fitzgerald

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Whoever said that giving a boy a gun will make him a man? All over the world, children have been given guns, as young as 12 years of age. In some cultures a male child becomes a man at about age 14, that was true in ancient Rome, and is still true in societies around the world that have not retained the delayed introduction into adulthood that has become prevalent in industrialized societies. In pre-industrial and primitive industrial societies the delay is not required; most everything a person needs to enter the mature world of adults has been absorbed by that age.
In the industrialized world there is a need for advanced training in sitting and waiting for orders. Some skill sets such as those required for brain surgery, may require an extra year or two of apprenticeship with a practitioner, but for most of us the only purpose for advanced education is to inoculate us in the tedium that comes with most so called careers in the world awaiting us. Most youth, by the time they are out of school have now been saddled with enough debt to get them inured to the concept that this is the norm for the rest of their adult lives, and especially if they have advanced degrees they will have become very good at sitting and waiting.
But that is not what I am writing about. Last weekend I went to a couple of events where I was made aware of the plight of several members of the Black Riders and of Chip Fitzgerald. I know that Chip is a former Black Panther who has been in prison for almost 40 years on murder charges while he was an active member of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1969. We know that the federal government had targeted the Black Panthers for suppression under the COINTELPRO program and that as a consequence we should consider Chip to be a prisoner of war and as such that battle is over, and he deserves to be released.
In a further development the children of the Black Panthers in Southern California are the Black Riders. They have a free food program and work with gang members to get them to move away from the gangs to a socialist perspective on what needs to happen in their communities. As such they are inherently doing work to improve their communities, but because they act in opposition to the established power structure they are seen as threats. Recently several members of the organization have been arrested on conspiracy charges. This is a later day adoption of COINTELPRO methods being used to repress modern day revolutionaries. The Black Riders deserve our support.
On July 1st the Black Riders are going to court in Los Angeles and want anyone who has time to come to the court and show their support. Chip Fitzgerald is coming up before the parole board on July 2nd and deserves your support also. You can find info about their cases by looking them up on line. I will post information as I have it.

Housing Foreclosure Fight Back

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

This is an interesting story that may indicate recourse for those who have homes in foreclosure, or who are simply interested in finding a method to strike back at the big lenders.
“The Sub-prime Trump Card
Standing Up To The Banks
By Ellen Brown
“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin (1802)
27/06/08 “ICH ” — - Jefferson had it right. More than 1.5 million homeowners are expected to enter foreclosure this year, and about half of them are expected to have their homes repossessed. If the dire consequences Jefferson warned of 200 years ago have been slow in coming, it is because they have been concealed by what Jerome a Paris calls the Anglo Disease – “the highly unequal economy whereby the rich and the financial sector . . . capture most of the income but hide it by providing cheap debt to the middle classes so that they can continue to spend.” He calls “finance” the “cannibalistic” sector in today’s economy. Writing in The European Tribune this month, he states:
“[O]ne of the more attractive features of the financial world, for its promoters, is its ability to concentrate huge fortunes in a small number of hands, and promote this as a good thing (these people are said to be creating wealth, rather than capturing it). . . . [O]f course, the reality is that such wealth concentration is created by squeezing the rest, as is obvious in the stagnation of incomes for most in the middle and lower rungs of society. This is not so much wealth creation as wealth redistribution, from the many to the few. But what has made this unequality . . . tolerable is that the financial world itself was able to provide a convenient smokescreen, in the form of cheap debt, provided in abundance to all. The wealthy used it to grab real assets in funny money, and the rest were kindly allowed to keep on spending by tapping their future income rather than their insufficient current one; in a nutshell, the debt bubble hid the class warfare waged by the rich against everybody else.”1
Now the debt bubble is bursting, with the anticipated real estate crash, banking crisis, foreclosures, and inevitable recession. “The income capture mechanisms set up during the bubble have not been reversed, so the pain is falling disproportionately on the poorest,” writes Jerome a Paris. Meanwhile, finance is being bailed out. What’s to be done? “[T]he financiers . . . will say that more ‘reform’ and ‘deregulation’ and tax cuts are needed,” he says, but “maybe it’s time to stop listening to what is highly self-interested drivel, and take back what they grabbed: it’s not theirs.”
Good idea, but how? The financiers own the media, and their massively funded lobbies control Congress. How can we the people get enough clout to take on the giant financial and corporate giants? What can we do that will make politicians sit up and take notice?
How about swarming the courts? New case law indicates that a majority of the 750,000 homeowners expected to lose their homes this year could have a valid defense to foreclosure. As much as $2 trillion in real estate may be vulnerable to this defense, providing a very big stick for a lobby of motivated debtors.
The Legal Trump Card: Make Them Produce the Note
A basic principle of contract law is that a plaintiff suing on a written contract must produce the signed contract proving he is entitled to relief. If there is no signed mortgage note or recorded assignment, foreclosure is barred. The defendant must normally raise this defense, and most defaulting homeowners, unaware of legal procedure and concerned about the expense of hiring an attorney, just let their homes go uncontested. But when the plaintiffs bringing subprime foreclosure actions have been challenged, in most cases they haven’t been able to produce the notes.
Why not? It appears to be more than just sloppy paperwork. The banks that originally entered into these risky subprime arrangements generally did so because they had no intention of holding the loans on their books. The mortgages were immediately sliced and diced, bundled up as mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and sold off to investors. Loan originators sold the mortgages to financial institutions or other banks, which then sold the rights to the monthly mortgage payment income to investors, while transferring the responsibility to collect these payments to specialized mortgage servicing companies. The result has been to slice up the mortgage contract, with no party really having ownership of the original paperwork. When foreclosure has been initiated, the servicer or trustee acting as plaintiff now has trouble proving that it originated the mortgage or owned the loan. In order for a second bank or financial institution to have standing to bring a foreclosure lawsuit in court, it must have been assigned the mortgage; and with the collapse of the housing market, many of the subprime lenders have gone out of business, making it impossible to contact the originating mortgage company. Other paperwork has just been lost in the shuffle.2″

You can read more of this article in Information Clearing House. I am not a homeowner so my opinions on this subject are not as well informed as they could be.
But one thing I am well informed on is the way that credit ratings are used to enfranchise or disenfranchise persons based on criteria that may or may not be legitimate. One thing for sure, this rating, which determines how much interest you pay for credit, is not established in any democratic manner. In this country, the people have been bamboozled by the rich into believing that institutions of finance should be in private hands, institutions that have not got the interests of the citizens but of investors. The semi private and private institutions that have been formed to watch over the banking and lending industries are weak or collude in perpetuating the situation we have where the rich get richer and the rest of us get sucked dry.
One is faced with the choices to either join them if you have the wherewithal, oppose them if you dare or suffer along with the vast majority. I choose opposition, but as Jesus said Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” from the King James Version of the Christian Bible.
To act against the power of the large financial institutions and their flunkeys in government is going to take some smart thinking and wise acting.
. I am not sure if Obama has even got reform of financial institutions in mind. But it is desperately needed, along with an intelligent energy policy, an international policy that is reflective of an enlightened view of the world and its peoples, and a restructuring of the health care system in the United States. We need to pick up where President Carter left off so long ago when he created a Department of Energy and a Department of Education. We need to use the peace dividend that resulted in the end of the cold war to make peace with the rest of the world, not turn the United States into a permanent war state.

Zimbabwe

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Defenders of the Mugabe regime point out those portions of the opposition are remnants of the former white rulers of the apartheid state of Rhodesia, named after the British imperialist Rhodes who was partly responsible for dispossessing the native Africans from their lands in the 19th century.
Some of these former rulers of Rhodesia have family related to persons in government and other ruling class positions in the United States and Great Britain. The Mugabe supporters claim that much of the opposition to his government comes from these sources.
But despite the media blitz that is determined to blacken the Mugabe government, there are objective concerns with corruption in high places among the Zanu-PF, the party of Mugabe. Many of the former fighters who were responsible for the overthrow of the apartheid government of the former white ruling class, have now become the thugs who have terrorized the opposition in the MDC. There has been massive population relocation as the shanty towns around Harare were dismantled, and the land reformation that was meant to give land back to poor black farmers from the white men who had taken it from them over the last 2 centuries has resulted in the collapse of the once vibrant agricultural sector of the economy.
The reasons for this are complex. It is not inevitable that land placed in the hands of small producers in less efficient. Witness the growth of small scale truck faming around the urban centers in the US. But when land reform is carried out ineptly and the new land owners do not have access to financial institutions to give them the loans they require to invest in the equipment, tools, seed, etc required to farm effectively, the result is a return to subsistence farming.
Reform on this scale has to be supported by the infrastructure of the country; it has to be a move supported by all sectors of the economy. If the financial sector is not supporting the agricultural sector, or if there is not adequate support from the University research in the agricultural extension service, these new farmers will be overwhelmed and the result is a new class of exploitative land owners who take advantage of the ignorance or financial insecurity of the farmers, the land reform merely results in the land switching from one elite to another, or the return of productive land to unproductively, which may not be bad if the land has been exhausted and needs time to remain fallow. But the modern world is not one where the small farmer can exist without a firm understanding of the economics involved, either that or there must be a strong supporting infrastructure.
What we have currently in Zimbabwe is a regime that has lost its credibility, despite the initial good will surrounding its overthrow of the apartheid white regime, just to have good intentions is not enough. You have to have the support of the people and the willing participation of all sectors of the nation for the success of the country as a whole. Otherwise the way is made for eventual collapse and a return to the rule by the old elites that have run the world for centuries. Good intentions are not good enough.

From the BBC 6/28/08
“Reports suggest a large number of spoiled ballot papers
Robert Mugabe is expected to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Sunday, following his victory in an election boycotted by the opposition candidate.
Government sources say Mr. Mugabe has won by a huge margin in the vote, which has been widely condemned as a sham.
Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the election amid claims of violence and intimidation by government supporters.
US President George W Bush said he had ordered sanctions be drawn up against the “illegitimate” government.
…the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.
The government blames the MDC for the violence. “
And now we have another failed regime, let us hope that the Mugabe supporters have the intelligence to reform before they are forced out, I am afraid that it may be too late.

Who Cares?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This is an excerpt from the Financial Times in the editorial page on the Nuclear deal between the US and India. Ironic when you consider how much effort the US is putting on trying to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. It is very much a game of playing favorites.

“An opportunity in a deal’s demise
Published: June 24 2008 19:58 | Last updated: June 24 2008 19:58
The nuclear deal between the US and India that President George W. Bush welcomed as a strategic coup when it was announced in 2005 appears to be as good as dead.
If current last-minute efforts to resuscitate the agreement fail, nobody should lament its passing. The motivation behind the deal – a closer relationship between the world’s richest democracy and its most populous – was laudable. But the costs it entailed to efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons were far too high.
It would have undermined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by sanctioning the supply of nuclear materials to a non-member state, in effect forcing the US into a formal violation of the NPT. It would have carved out another exception in the treaty, which already formally discriminates in favour of the five established nuclear powers, by granting India special privileges, apparently on the basis that it is a democracy, a friend of the US, and has, as far we know, a reasonable record in not spreading nuclear technologies to other countries.
But India has made no pledge to stop making material for bombs and the safeguards for this deal would have been insufficient to guarantee that material supplied under the agreement could not have been used indirectly to accelerate India’s bomb-making capacity.
The likely failure of the accord should therefore be viewed as an opportunity to reinvigorate and strengthen the NPT. The treaty will be formally reviewed in 2010, when governments can renew a push towards a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons articulated by growing numbers of politicians and intellectuals.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008″

The United States, long considered to be the model democracy to which others strived to match in their transparency, their idealism and their integrity, has become just another player in the game of power politics, since the Bush crew has taken power.
People the world over have taken up the cynical refrain as the United States led the way in opportunistic manipulation to get its way in the new post 9-11 world. It is a world where caring about the rules, where honesty and integrity have all fallen by the way side in the rush to get tough in the war on terror.
The argument is presented, what would you do to save this little girls life? A picture of a 4 year old little blond haired beauty playing with her dolls is presented, with a switch back to a heavily bearded man with a turban on and a group of earnest looking white men, clean shaven and wearing white shirts, short sleeve and ties, stand over the bearded and turbaned man, with brown skin and decidedly beady eyes. What would you do to protect the fatherland? The kith and kin, the kinder and the volks? What would you not do? Would you imprison all the dirty bearded turbaned men, you bet. Would you pass laws allowing the authorities to spy upon the bearded ones, or any one talking to the bearded ones? You bet. Would you wrap a wet towel around his head and almost drown him to get him to tell you anything? Wouldn’t you?
Would you? Would you create a special police force whose duty it was to round up suspected terrorists? Would you tell the people that because of the threat to the country you will have to divert all funds from other uses to the war against the bearded ones with turbans? Would you empower the special police, the Security police if you will, to go into peoples homes, take their computer data bases, their cell phone logs, and their address books? Would you?
Hitler did, he called them the Gestapo. We call them Homeland Security. But then who cares if we do.

Is Strike Against Iran Coming?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I am taking a long excerpt from David Hornik’s article. He lives in Jerusalem. It is a bit pejorative, one can see the pro Israeli bias, but it does cover the timing issue of a strike against Iran by either the Israelis alone, or in conjunction with the US or even with the secret aid of Turkey or other NATO members. Turkey shares a border with Iran to the North of Iraq.

“Crunch-Time on Iran Approaching
By P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 25, 2008
…with Tehran continuing to march jeeringly and defiantly toward nuclearization after seven and a half years of Bush, Israelis could be forgiven for filing his words under Noble Rhetoric.
Friday’s New York Times report about a massive Israeli air force exercise in the skies of Greece—about as far from Israel as Iran is—underlined the fact that Israel is far from counting on any of these foreign avowals. This week speculation is peaking as to who—if anyone—is actually planning to hit Iran, when, and depending on what.
For former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton it depends on who emerges as the next U.S. president on November 4. He told Fox News on Tuesday that if it’s Barack Obama, he thinks it likely that Israel will hit Iran’s nuclear facilities between that time and the new president’s inauguration on January 20, 2009.
If, though, the winner is John McCain, said Bolton—who himself considers McCain much more realistic on Iran than Obama—there’s a good chance Israel will wait to see what happens and postpone a strike on Iran. Bolton said it was apprehension about Obama—still favored by a majority of American Jews, whose outlook tends to differ from that of their brethren in the Middle East—that was most likely to push Israel to go ahead and act.
The speculation can only be intensified by a surprise visit to Israel later this week by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen.
Mullen’s return so soon,(he had visited last December), and just after the Israeli exercise over Greece, could mean the U.S. is already past the NIE’s downgrading of the Iranian threat and closer to the Israeli perception—or that the U.S. is worried about Israeli intentions.
And yet another move fueling speculation was Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s extension for another year of Meir Dagan’s tenure as head of the Mossad. Dagan, known as a hawkish realist, is credited among other things with the intelligence feats that enabled Israel’s strike on the Syrian reactor in September.
DEBKAfile, the Israeli scoop site, has a considerably shorter timeline than Bolton and claimed the extension of Dagan’s tenure is “indicative” because “Israeli intelligence estimates the summer months are critical for acting against Iran’s nuclear advances…. If it is not stopped by September or October of 2008, it will be too late….”
As for Iran itself, it claims not to be impressed. On Monday its Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Israel “do[es] not have the capacity to threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran…. They have a number of domestic crises and they want to extrapolate it to cover others.”

To attack Iran the Israeli Air Force will have to either cross Jordanian and Iraqi air space, in which case at least the Americans will have to cooperate. The Jordanians may not have much say in the matter. Or they will have to cross Syrian and either Iraqi or Turkish air space, a feat that will mean possible combined resistance from the Syrian and Iranian Air Defenses and American and/or Turkish assistance. Or what I think is most likely, a missile strike as proposed by the DEBKAfile, and then a follow up air strike from bases in Turkey by the Israeli Air Force.
Turkey allowed Israel to use its air space for the strike against Syria, and would probably do so again for a strike against Iran, traditional foes of Turkey for dominance in the Middle East. After all from the Turkish viewpoint Israel is a lost province, whereas Iran was always a threat to Turkish control over the lands of the Fertile Crescent.
This may seem to be merely tactics but the recent Israeli-Greek military games may have been meant to put pressure not on Iran, but on Turkey to allow the Israelis to use Turkish bases and air space. Greece is a traditional enemy of Turkey, also for a time a former province, but recent hostility between the two nations may trump any memories of cooperation, when Greeks held positions of authority in the Turkish Empire.
Granted I am taking a long view here, but it explains some of the reasoning why Turkey and Israel would cooperate in the first place. It also supports my theory that to divide the Middle East into Jew Vis Moslem is to miss the point of history. The history of religious tolerance is much longer in the area than the recent British instigated conflicts between the religions.
It is part of the British poison pill diplomacy enacted as it lost its empire at the end of World War 2, possibly in cooperation with the United States who had the most to gain by these divide and conquer policies that would make Israel a dependency on the United States. At least that is the opinion of this humble author.

Iran, Israel And The Cockroach God

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

In a news briefing from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz we get this summary of the dance of death being played by the leaders of these two countries.
“Iran’s defense minister has warned of a “devastating” response to any Israeli attack on his country. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told Iranian state television yesterday that Tehran would strongly counter any hostile action with a destructive response. The New York Times quoted U.S. military officials on Friday as saying that Israel had carried out large-scale military exercises over the Mediterranean, apparently aimed partly at warning Iran of its capabilities to attack Tehran’s nuclear sites. Najjar called the exercise “psychological warfare,” and said Iran would not initiate any tension or conflict. (Haaretz Staff)”
I receive a google notification of anything dealing with nukes in the Middle East. It seems that the flash point for a potential nuclear war has shifted again from east and south Asia to west Asia again. Perhaps the Christian fundamentalists who are trying to tempt Christ to come back by fulfilling their version of prophecy are going to get their way. I just don’t understand what any deity would want with a nuclear waste land. Perhaps the God of the Bible is a giant Cockroach, and since they are the likely survivors of a nuclear holocaust, they can worship their deity in peace then without worrying about pesky humans stepping on them. Amen to that.

KPFK In Trouble

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Today I was listening to my favorite show on KPFK, between doing my laundry and exchanging a vitriolic series of emails with an old co host on a radio show we did in Colorado back in the late seventies. But as I listened I heard what distinctly sounded like a cry for help. The station is floundering according to Ian Masters, it is deep in debt and there are only a few consistently good programmers with solid news.
I tend to agree except for Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, but that is a feed from New York, or wherever she is when she broadcasts. Robert Sheer, former editor of Ramparts Magazine and a regular on Right Left and Center, an NPR talk show based in Santa Monica Public Radio KCRW, has a new book out “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 911 and Weakened America”. A mouthful but instead of talking about the book, they talked shop, about the radio business. Something I know a little about, having been involved with several radio stations and radio projects back in the late seventies and early eighties.
They discussed how the station has been taken over by “chem trails loonies” as Ian put it and how the station seems to have lost its political focus. I can only say that the programs I listen to are very good, Ian Masters on Sunday, Democracy Now in the mornings on weekdays, and occasionally the Reggae and African shows on Saturday. Sometimes I catch the computer show Saturday morning, although this Saturday they had some ridiculous program about skin care on. It reminded me of one of those parodies that Harry Shearer does on his Sunday morning show on KCRW of happy talk, talk show hosts. Joe Franklin the original TV talk show host who broadcast from 1950 until 1993, in New York is the model for much of that stuff. I can remember watching his show in high school sometimes, it was very soothing, like taking a valium. Harry did a great send up of an LA version today talking about the important issues of the battle between the candidate’s wives, Cindy McCain the classic fem female, vis Michelle Obama the modern progressive woman. As he had his characters say they are going to discuss all the important issues, hair, nails and color coordination.
But I am onto something, if my drug addled brains will let me focus long enough to get a grip on the subject, oh yeah, it was Cheech and Chong, no, sorry, it was “Harold and Kumar go to Guantanamo”, great movie, the scenes with the president smoking dope were priceless, I could exactly picture Bush doing that, even the sappy happy stoner ending of Bush being just misunderstood, and trying to impress his dad, was hilarious. A great send up of the Cheech and Chong series, but with a great subtext of the Odd Couple. Stoner medical students, now graduated confront the war on terror, hilarious, and dumb, like the scene on the plane when their bong is mistaken for a bomb. I can just see some of my Yippie stoner friends doing stuff like that. Hell my old girlfriend and I would do stuff like that when we flew to France together, blow job at 30,000 feet, sure, it was fun.
Ah but back to the present, no more blow jobs, but hey I have other compensations, my new girlfriend is beautiful, and smart and funny as hell, if there is a god in heaven, he has sent me a reward for all my years of torment, but that is another story.
So what I meant to write about was the problems at KPFK, they were practically begging me to come down to the station and lend a hand. Not me personally but those of us who live in the LA region and care about radio that expressed the truth, So I am thinking that would be great. All I need now is to get back involved with a bunch of ego maniacs. My old buddy Nick knows Ian and claims he is something of a jerk, but then he is the best radio talk show host in LA and maybe in the country. So he can be excused for a little ego. But the question is do I still have that fire in the belly for that sort of thing? It takes a lot of time and energy, maybe not as a programmer, maybe as something behind the scenes, helping with some of the day to day management matters of the station that is more up my alley these days; anyway I welcome any suggestions. Perhaps just suggesting to people that they go down and volunteer, you don’t have to be a great radio personality, I certainly was nobody special when I did radio, and I think that is good, radio should be for the people not for the personal egos of some so called star. Hard work and diligence makes for good radio, as well as good ideas and a willingness to give things a try. Often great ideas linger on the shelf because someone just didn’t have time, They were too busy surviving. I know I have had that dilemma before. But sometimes you just have to say the hell with it and go for what your heart tells you.
Ian Masters says KPFK is six figures in the hole and they expect him and Democracy Now to keep it afloat. I am not sure I have anything worthwhile to offer, but it is our community radio and I am part of the community, so why not. Meantime I would recommend anyone who at all likes the programming on KPFK to contribute what they can. I have donated twice this year, and I would hope that anyone else who has an interest in seeing the control of the country that the Bushites have, especially over the media, that now is the time to support all the alternative institutions where the truth can be heard.

House Passes Wire Tap Bill

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

“US lawmakers pass surveillance bill
Posted: 21 June 2008 0258 hrs from Channel News Service

WASHINGTON : In a late-term triumph for US President George W. Bush, the US House of Representatives on Friday approved spy-powers legislation that has drawn heavy fire on civil liberties grounds.
Lawmakers voted 293-129 for a bill that may shield telecommunications firms facing massive lawsuits over their work with Bush’s secret, six-year, warrantless wiretapping program, begun after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has opposed granting retroactive immunity to companies that cooperated with a program thought to have skirted established surveillance laws.
During often bitter House floor debate, many Democrats broke with the measure, the fruit of months of talks among Senate and House leaders of both parties that ultimately gave in to key White House demands.
“It’s Christmas morning at the White House thanks to this vote,” said Caroline Fredrickson, a top official with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which has fiercely opposed the legislation.
“It’s vital that our intelligence community has the ability to learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning,” Bush said the two-minute statement.
Critics charge the secret program was illegal because it ran afoul of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)’s requirement of a court order to spy on US citizens inside the United States.
The White House says Bush, who brought the program under FISA oversight in January 2007, made proper use of wartime presidential powers under the US Constitution and that the often-updated law was ill-suited to deal with modern telecommunications and the nature of the terrorist threat.
If passed, the new measure could short-circuit about 40 court challenges targeting major US telecommunications firms that cooperated with the program, which the US public learned about in a December 2005 New York Times article.”
- AFP /ls
That sums it up pretty well. Bush wins again, what is it with the Congress? How can a guy who should be up on war crimes get away with this?
I suspect it is because of the basic good nature of the American people. They continually exhibit a willingness to put up with things from their government that would drive people in most countries into a frenzy of protests. Dictators all over the world gawk in admiration at the American propaganda machine; it is truly a marvel to behold.
Americans have had it pretty easy. They have armed police to keep the poor at bay, a huge military to keep the world at its beck and call, and relatively light taxes to pay for it all. Granted the infrastructure is collapsing, the government provides almost no services outside of this immense protection racket for the people, and leaves almost everything else up to the initiative of so called private enterprise. This Mafia on a grand scale has a pr machine par excellence called Hollywood, that grinds out image after image promoting the American way of imaginary existence, and when that is insufficient there is Prozac for the masses of the working class and crack and heroin for the unemployed underclass’s to keep them sufficiently numb, or at least incapacitated to react fast enough to get away when the goons come down to crack their skulls. Who has taken the lesson of a continuous war economy to heart as described in 1984, the famous George Orwell novel? Not the Russians, not the Chinese, not the British or the French or the Germans, nope, it is the good old USA that has taken up that torch, we called it the War on Drugs in the warm up phase, now it is the “War On Terror” in its fullness of perfection. This is a war to end all wars because it is an endless war. Nuff said.

Tomato Scare And Workers Rights

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about the Salmonella infected tomatoes, from which over 200 persons have been reported to have become ill. Fast food places like the Taco Bell I have been to took Tomatoes of the menu temporarily. As a mostly vegetarian, I find the problems in the vegetable food supply to be especially problematic.
One aspect of this problem that is overlooked and I never hear mentioned is the low to nonexistent wages among food workers. While the owners of agribusiness get government subsidies and the small class of farmers in America have a disproportionate voice in Washington, DC, the farm workers, the ones whose sweat and labor actually picks the produce and vegetables that are too delicate for machined to handle, are paid virtually nothing. They have to live in barracks like shacks, are often illegal immigrants who are afraid to stand up for their rights, and are sometimes even subject to out right slavery as has been documented recently.
These people, who I met up front and close when I was arrested on a DUI once back in the 90’s. I was forced to spend a week in the Salinas County Jail where most of the persons were local farm workers. Poor people, many long term residents, some new comers, but all poor, who were picked up for outstanding warrants largely for failure to appear, public drunkenness charges, drug charges, spousal abuse charges, and the like, the only real criminal I met was a gambler who had a habit of kiting checks, he was the other white guy, besides myself and a kung fu practicing speed freak in on charges of spousal abuse.
I noticed a pattern while in there, and going back and forth to the court in the prison vans, and that was that all these brown people were being systematically repressed by the local white establishment. All the sheriffs’ deputies, highway patrolmen and local cops I saw were white. The judges and attorneys were white. It was a very racially segregated system. Knowing a little history of the area, Salinas, Watsonville, and the entire valley behind Monterey and over the hill from the central valley is a prime source of lettuce, strawberries, garlic and other fruits and vegetables, all labor intensive, all demanding a large seasonal work force. I knew of the cannery workers strikes and union activities in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in the area, but I did not see any evidence of it in the 90’s. What I did see was a lot of substance abuse, a lot of police repression and a generally harsh treatment of people of color. These were the people who pick the produce that lands up on your kitchen table and in your fast food meals. When they were not in the fields if they were not following the harvests in other parts of the country, then they were idle, and idle hands are well, you know the story.
Several of my San Francisco activist friends, had gone down to that area as union organizers and supporters of striking workers. I had participated earlier in the 70’s in lettuce and grape boycotts and had lent a hand at times with organizing meetings in high school and leafleting. But recently I have not been too involved until I heard about Burger King trying to disrupt supporters of workers in Florida tomato fields who wanted a $1 a bushel raise in their piece rate. Other buyers had agreed to the raise but Burger King was holding out. They sent in spies to meetings of activists, and may even have sent in agents to disrupt their activities.
This is reprehensible behavior. When you see that the minimum wage laws always hold a lower rate or don’t apply to farm workers, when you see the conditions they have to live in, trying to raise families on the pittance they get, food stamps and hand outs from church groups, it is not suppressing that someone may have been a little neglectful and something toxic got into the food chain. It is a miracle considering how much of our food is produced at the cost of back breaking labor, people working near toxic chemical sprays, people paid minimally, people who are jailed and abused when they step even a little bit out of line, I think it is a miracle that we don’t have salmonella scares every week.
As energy prices because the increase in the cost of pesticides, fuel and packaging, there will be an increased pressure on food prices, and Agribusiness owners will attempt to squeeze the workers on the bottom to produce more for less. They want their profits. But I think it is time to rethink our relationship with agriculture. We need to get away from the model of a monolithic industrial culture that depends on cheap labor and fuel to hide inequities and inefficiencies. Water is sprayed from giant guns instead of in more efficient drip irrigation methods that were pioneered in Israel. Frozen or refrigerated produce is trucked thousands of miles across the country in semis at increasing cost. Farm workers are forced to labor under untenable conditions and even then some of this is exported to Mexico and Latin America where even worse conditions prevail.
As many advances as have been made by the United Farm Workers, the Teamsters and others in the cause of economic justice, we can see that the system is straining at the edges. What we may be seeing is the hens coming home to roost in another aspect of the world reaction to American hegemony and the dominance of exploitative capitalism, where profit and the needs of Wall Street investors take priority over every other concern. Under the deregulation movement of the 80’s and 90’s we saw industries left to fend for themselves more and more. Now we are reaping that harvest. A harvest that is a direct result of the management system that has been inaugurated under advanced capitalism.
It has been able to produce some miracles of innovation, largely due to the work of scientists at the great research universities and some of the large corporations. In its ability to move capital rapidly and flexibly capitalism has proven to be capable of some amazing things. But these are people and people make judgment calls based on priorities that are established by those who control the system. I say we need to spread the wealth a little, deregulate with higher standards for labor income, the well being of the workers and a more efficient method has to be devised for moving produce, through more local production, incentives for smaller farms and a change in orientation from subsidies for agribusiness fat cats to the local small scale producers of higher quality and organic produce. It is a big order, but the solutions have been developing at the same time the main system has been tottering.
Every local farmers market is part of that. Every time you go to a farmers market, health food or alternative food source and by local organic produce you are helping switch the economic paradigm of agriculture.
But there is another problem that is the unionized workers of the large chain supermarkets. These are hard working professionals and what is needed is for the majors to take a hint and switch the type of foods they sell to match the model of the Trader Joes and Whole Foods. This can be done in a unionized environment. In fact it is the lack of unionization that keeps me from shopping solely at Trader Joes. I balance between the union supermarket and the more organically oriented independents. Because I think labor should be treated with respect, as a worker I am part of the labor force, but I also believe we need to spend our money on foods that are healthy and are grown without pesticides. These should not be mutually exclusive interests and increasingly they are not.
Healthy wholesome food should be a right of us all not a privilege of an affluent few. When I was living on a commune in Colorado we grew our own food as much as we were capable of doing. We canned fruits, raised turkeys, chickens and goats, and generally tried to lead healthy lives. I have participated in the COOP movement, working for local coops as a volunteer in several of the communities I have lived in. I also worked briefly for the All COOP newspaper in Minneapolis and in the early 80’s saw the potential of the COOP movement. President Carter had given some impetus to the movement along with the alternative energy movement. When we think back to all the alternatives that had been developing in the 70’s out of the 60’s idealism, it is sad to see how much might have happened if the right wing had not prevailed in the 80s and crushed the life out of many of those struggling movements. What we have now is a capitalist reinterpretation of the cooperative spirit, re channeled into the capitalist system so that profit can be made out of the organic, whole foods and other movements. Solar energy was crushed at the time because they could not figure out how to make a profit out of it. They were afraid of too many individuals putting solar collectors on their roofs and going off the energy grid.
But now we are being forced to deal with it, food and energy, the basics are now up for reconsideration. Do we want an increase in exploitation, greed and war, or a change in orientation? I think it is time for a change, The greed driven Bushites have had their day, the Reaganites, the Star Warriors have all had their time, now let us COOP people have our chance. Let see if peace and good food and equitable wages and simple living can be a more appropriate model for the future of our world.
Back in 1980 some friends of mine said they wanted to see Reagan elected not because they supported him, but because they thought people would rebel when they saw what he wanted to do to the country. They underestimated people’s willingness to put up with just about anything as long as they can go on with their daily lives. Most people do not live on an ideological basis. Most people just want to live a decent life, have a little fun and make their mark in the personal lives of their families.
But now people are seeing their lives impacted dramatically. The false affluence of the last economic bubble has faded. Some say, wait for the next one, and there are capitalist operators who make money on other peoples misery, Credit has a lot to do with it. The more there is the easier it is to get into trouble. Credit is borrowing from the future and the Bushites have done that in spades. Oil is borrowing from the past. Agribusiness by depleting the soil and then pumping it up with chemicals is stealing from both the past and the future. We live high on the hog at the cost of both the future and the past. This may be living for today, but I do not think this is the kind of lack of concern for the past and future that was meant by that.
We need to live in some sense of balance, in harmony with the world we live in. This space ship is not a dump, it is our home, and we are not about to take off for the stars to leave only the crippled and the mentally deficient behind like some science fiction fantasies projected. We are here because we belong here and we need to act as if this is our home, not a crash pad or a launching pad. There may be a future in the stars, but not if we destroy what we have here, do you think any sane universe would want to invite people who destroyed their own planet? Would you want to join a universal civilization of planet destroyers? I would be afraid they would eat us for lunch. But I don’s see that as the way of the universe, only the way of end of the world dreamers. And with that I conclude this saying only that a tomato is a thing of wonder, don’t let it become a source of poison like a medieval witch hunter seeing evil in every source of nourishment. We can live with the bounty of nature or we can be like some later day inquisitors destroying what we do not understand and calling it a war on terror or disease or more likely the people next door.

Sort Of Like The Battle Of New Orleans

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Ernest Borgnine played a great Devil in “The Devil’s Rain”, a lost gem of Satanism. It is one of the few sympathetic movies about Satanists I have seen. William Shatner got a bit part as a convert to Satanism. The souls are put in a jar where they are seen by interested parties through a window. But it is raining in the jar, hence the title of the movie, The Devils Rain. Eddie Albert plays a Dr. who is trying to get the servants of the devil to destroy the jar, when they do it rains and all devils henchmen dissolve in the rain, it is a great scene, because it goes on and on, and you get close ups of all these faces turning to mud. At the same time the Devils church is on fire. But the twist at the end is that the girlfriend that the hero was trying to save has been put in the reconstituted jar and Ernest Borgnine has taken over her body, quite a thought.
Ah yes I am to write about the earth shattering problems of the world but I am too damn tired tonight to care. It has been a long hard week and we are now facing a day when all men and women of good report, and bad, to join together for the sake of the nation and their own posterity. It is something that has been said in the past by others better situated than I.
It reminds me of the story of the Battle of New Orleans. The great Battle fought after the war between the United States and Great Britain was over. It was the war in which the Capital was burned down. The British basically kicked American butt up and down the eastern Seaboard with one finger of one hand while they took on Napoleon with the rest.
But there was that one battle, in of all places that home of Katrina, New Orleans. A battle in which soldiers, Indian fighters, frontiersmen, city slickers, and pirates all joined hands to kick the British butt down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico as the Johnny Horton song put it.
Think about it for a minute, this was the army that under Wellington bested one of the great military geniuses of all time, Napoleon. But there you have a terrorist Indian Killer, Andrew Jackson, and his rag tag band of free booters and then you had Jean Lafitte, French pirate and even freer free booter. He hated the Americans, but hated the British even more. So a pirate, a guy who robbed merchants for a living, and real politicians got a message from this pirate who had robbed them, people who had put a price on his head, and his message was an offer of assistance against the oncoming British.
They could have said no way, no we don’t accept help from pirates, but they were realists and had seen what had happened to Washington DC and they did not know the war was over, so they accepted the offer. The pirates and Indian killers and slave dealers, and slaves, joined together on the barricades to oppose the onslaught of the British.
From an article by Keith Weldon Medley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans.
“New Orleans was home to a large number of “free people of color”; defined as those who possessed property rights even while lacking political and civil rights. They gained their freedom in a number of ways: through manumission (sometimes by a white parent), by purchasing themselves, by being bought by a loved one, or by arriving as a free person from elsewhere. They defended the city in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans when two battalions consisting of five hundred blacks from Louisiana, serving under Gen. Andrew Jackson, stood in the line of British fire. Jackson later credited a shot fired from a black sharpshooter’s musket for felling the British commander, Gen. Edward Pakenham, effectively routing the enemy.”

And this when Jackson was planning his defense of New Orleans from an article by Joseph Geringer entitled
JEAN LAFITTE: GENTLEMAN PIRATE OF NEW ORLEANS
“Commodore Patterson and the others were surprised to see Lafitte stroll in among them, dressed in leather cape and his rapier at his side. What amazed them was the way Jackson seemed to dote on this “pirate,” soliciting his advice on many subjects, including the layout of the swamp region and strategic points of defense within it. Lafitte was afire, his powers of command evident in that room.”
Then when the battle was about to start…
“The Baratarians (Lafitte’s men) present at Chalmette (site of the main battle of New Orleans) were totally undisturbed by the menace. Much so that they attracted the attention of “Old Hickory.” While his own men shuddered in the gloom and abhorrence of what was to come, there were Pierre Lafitte, Dominique Youx, Chighizola, Gambi and a dozen others making coffee! Legend claims that Jackson approached them, complimenting the aroma of the coffee bean, where upon Dominique Youx instantly offered him some in a tin cup. “It’s hickory flavored, mon generale!” he saluted. Jackson roared.”
And there was Andrew Jackson, ambitious, barely literate, and determined to save America from the moneyed interests while he tried to make it rich himself. He had just lead a successful war with the Creek Indians
“Jackson …is both the killer of savages …and a compassionate, humane general who treated Indians well when moved by some particular act.”
From the review of the book by Sean Michael O’Brien. “In Bitterness and in Tears: Andrew Jackson’s Destruction of the Creeks and Seminoles.” Reviewed by: Matthew Warshauer.
But much has been written about these colorful characters, but what is important is that we understand that there are times that as the man said ‘Try men’s souls“, these could be the beginning of the end of the worst of them, and the beginning of a time for hope.
Or maybe it is the time to despair, or perhaps time to being to make alliances with unexpected allies, we have all had our bad moments in the last 30 years of the right wing terror. It is time for the people to get out of their daily lives, to think creatively, and learn from the example of those fighters in New Orleans.
Oh and I would imagine there were some Voodoo priests on those barricades, and that is Satanist, kind of.


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