Archive for January, 2009

Young Anarchist Dies, Will America Change?

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This is my response to a story about the death of a young woman traveling the country looking for alternatives to capitalism. It is a bit melodramatic, but when someone dies needlessly it is always a cause for deep mournful thought.
It is a far cry from the world of my youth. When I was a kid I hitched across the country more than 20 times. I often had no more than a few dollars, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes. Sometimes not even that. I started hearing about crazies killing travelers and by the eighties I stopped for the most part because the rides I got were from an increasingly alienated and angry America. The days of being offered a joint and a place to crash by fellow freaks or a free meal by some well meaning traveling salesman, were over by the time Reagan became president. But for a time, in the 60’s and 70’s it was a fun and easy way to travel and America was a place where you didn’t need much money to get by, Work was something you did if you felt like making a few extra bucks for a car or a trip to Europe. Rents were cheap, I had a house for $120 a month with 6 bedrooms. Times were good for the alternative culture.
Things began to change when the first oil crisis under Nixon made it hard to get around. You had to think about where to get gas and if you had a car you had to get gas money from friends. But it wasn’t until the Carter second oil crisis and the rampant inflation that things began to get so expensive that you had to think about getting a job full time. This was when the yuppies began to show up in the cities and the rents began to go up. By the time of Reagan it was a full blown change in values and they country began to become what it has been for the last 30 years a place where capitalism and the money economy have run rampant crushing other values.
Until the 80’s it was possible to live in this country without working and in an egalitarian manner. Since then it has become an ideological struggle to maintain a value system that was not based on greed. In the 80’s the flooding of crack cocaine in the poor neighborhoods by the CIA began, it was a way to fund the Contras in Nicaragua when congress cut off financial aid. The inner cities became war zones enlisted in the Reagan era war against communism. This was part of the Reagan revolution, create a world that was an armed camp, no place safe from capitalist intrusion and wealth extraction. The internal colonies became dangerous for its own inhabitants. The so called radical white community of anarchist idealists and artists became simply another arm of capital, the first wave of gentrification in neighborhoods that were soon to see developers and Starbucks, high rents and condo conversion.
Since the collapse of all remaining social nets provided by the government under Clinton with the end of welfare, the poor have been forced into predatory capitalism, finding income from drug dealing, and running rackets such as prostitution. Their victims in the neighborhoods are the addicts and have to steal to get money for drugs. The severity of the laws enacted under the draconian 3 strikes rules have made it easier in some places to shoot first and leave no witnesses. That sort of brutal Darwinism is simply another aspect of capitalist logic taken to an extreme. The country becomes a series of armed camps, divided along racial, economic and lingusitic lines. The rich gang have the cops, the poor gangs have their own enforcers, and those stuck outside of these camps the idealists, the working fools and the rest of the sufferers who pay taxes and try to grub out a decent living are under constant assault. The media sensationalizes the violence and presents a world without alternatives where vigilantism seems to make sense. That makes for the rise of fascist solutions, such as the three strikes laws that only fill the country with prisoners. The right has had its time, they have tried to take the rise of violence, caused by the logic of their own economic theories as an excuse for repressive solutions. The Bush administration with its elimination of Habeas Corpus, use of torture and massive surveillance of the American populace has shown the limits of that approach. The next step in that methodology would be the massive detention of citizens under martial law in FEMA camps. They have stared with the round up of illegal immigrants under the ICE forces of Homeland Security, but the liberals have decided to try another approach first.
Under Obama we now have an attempt on the federal level to turn the tide, They want to try to find a way to restore something of the old social contract. I don’t know if they understand that predatory capitalism has to be destroyed if human solidarity is to prevail. The same force that is talking about hope for America is sending more troops to Afghanistan and is protecting the narcotics trade. The drug trade fuels the gang wars in Mexico, the Colombian Cartels and the gangs in American inner cities. Kids who go from being soldiers in the drug gangs, if they don’t end up in prison, to being soldiers in the US military protecting the Cocaine and Heroin shipments, and are simply switching from one part of the system to another.
The ultimate protection is for the oil addiction of the western world. Until we switch to alternative energy sources and get away from highly concentrated doses of addictive substances, oil, coca, opium, all of it, there will be this system of protection, the gangs and militaries, and the system of distribution, the capitalist economy, run by the elites whether they are drug lords, oil barons or financiers who hold the money for them. It is one interconnected system and if we are to succeed we must see the mechanism destroyed. Addiction to oil, or other drugs drives the violence in our world. But simply changing the mechanism of distribution is not enough. We must end the addiction. Just a heroin addicts have their substitute in methadone, so oil addicts must find a substitute in alternative fuels. But these are temporary solutions. Ultimately what we need is to get the addict off of the need for these substances all together. That means an end to this constant drive for so called economic growth and pain killers. We need to find another economy one that is not involved in destroying the natural world and the human mind and body. People become addicts to avoid perceived sources of pain and discomfort. They seek an end to the agony inside their heads, bodies and world. The addiction to a substance, oil or heroin or crack comes as a false solution. Society can see the problem easily enough in cocaine and heroin and is just now beginning to see the problem in oil. It may also become evident in high protein meat consumption another aspect of the additive lifestyle of the modern world. Addiction to meat and oil are the most pervasive, opiates, sedatives, tranquilizers and the whole range of pharmaceuticals is another that has become pervasive as the generation that grew up on drugs grows older and prepares to die. Are we ready to face the reality that we need to radically change course if we are to restore the health of our bodies and the planet?
Who knows? Obama and his crew are only touching the surface of a society that is sick, a planet that is sick, and a world in need of a radical cure. The death of one young idealist in New Orleans is sad. But the death of a civilization is even sadder. Not because I mourn the death of a few wealthy capitalists, good riddance, but I do mourn for all the millions of people who are crushed daily beneath the wheel of this leviathan and who knows how many more will die before things are restored to some semblance of health.

Here is the story

The last stop for a young Utopian
She traveled across the country with little but her conviction that a better world was around the bend. Then she came to New Orleans.
By Richard Fausset

January 31, 2009

Reporting from New Orleans — Kirsten Brydum pedaled away from the Howlin’ Wolf club into the darkness of another American city that she didn’t know very well. It was 1:30 a.m.

She rode a black cruiser bicycle with a basket on the back, borrowed from friends of friends. In nearly every city she had visited on her 2-month-road trip, it seemed someone was willing to lend her an old bike.

The Rebirth Brass Band was on the bill that night. Brydum, 25, had danced for a while outside the club in her flip-flops. She thought that the bouncer would eventually let her in for free, and that suited her in more ways than one. She believed, passionately, that people would one day reject a basic mechanism of free-market societies: the exchange of goods and services for money.

She arrived in New Orleans in late September with a rail pass, a little red notebook and a head full of ideas about the oppressive forces of capitalism and government, and how they might be replaced with something better. The road trip was partly a rite of passage in the grand tradition of Jack Kerouac — an adventure to mark her recent graduation from college in San Francisco. But she also hoped to report on the small, scattered outposts where fellow radicals had established alternatives to mainstream culture.

It would all end in New Orleans, four miles from the Howlin’ Wolf, in a forlorn and out-of-the-way block in the 9th Ward.

More than three years after Hurricane Katrina, its homes remained battered and abandoned, its lots choked with debris and roof-high weeds. To many Americans, this kind of New Orleans neighborhood has come to symbolize a near-criminal lack of government presence.

Brydum might have seen the block as the kind of place where an autonomous, post-capitalist movement might flourish.

But it is unclear if she saw it at all.

She had some cash saved from waiting tables; her mom helped with some of the travel expenses. Brydum and an old boyfriend drew up the list of places she would visit: alternative health centers, collectivist punk communes, anarchist bookstores and “guerrilla gardens” planted by activists on land they do not own. Her plan was to document on a website what she found, allowing radicals to share ideas and strengthen tiny institutions that she believed would “prefigure a world without capitalism.”

On July 30, she flew to New York City, where she met her boyfriend, John Viola. In an e-mail to friends and family, she rhapsodized about their four days of “romance and resistance.”

Viola, a Bay Area attorney, met Brydum when he agreed to take on her 2004 criminal case. She and a few dozen others had been arrested at a San Francisco biotechnology and anti-globalization protest. By the time he got involved, the activists had been jailed for a couple of days, and the stress was beginning to show.

“And there was Kirsten, just super rock solid,” recalled Viola, 38. “Like a lot of people, I just immediately fell for her.”

She was small and fine-boned, with long hair and brown eyes. After he won her release, they would see each other at the same parties, the same protests. In March, they met at an impromptu procession through the streets of the Mission District that had started at the Anarchist Cafe, on Potrero Avenue.

“I was in the back with Kirsten, and people in cars kept coming up to us and saying, ‘What’s the procession for?’ ” Viola recalled.

“It’s for fun,” Brydum would tell them, smiling.

She grew up middle class in Van Nuys — sweet-tempered, well-liked, a good student. But from an early age, she questioned accepted wisdom.

At her Catholic elementary school, she challenged the religious dogma; her ideas, she later joked, got her branded “a third-grade heretic.” At Birmingham High School, she gravitated toward the punk-rock kids, the black-clad, the ravers and the seekers.

At the now-defunct New College of California, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, she immersed herself in contrarian thinkers, particularly the anarchists: Emma Goldman, imprisoned by U.S. authorities for opposing the draft in 1917; David Graeber, the anthropologist who studied the egalitarian communities of northwest Madagascar; and Hakim Bey, a scholar who extolled history’s “pirate utopias,” which operated beyond the grasp of governments.

Central to her thinking: “She didn’t believe that we lived in a world of scarcity,” Viola said. “That scarcity was a myth that was used to keep people divided. And so if resources and goods are taken care of and shared equitably, then there’s enough for everybody.”

In San Francisco, she put the idea into practice. She helped found a series of fine-dining events. Patrons were not required to pay. In Dolores Park, she co-founded a “Really Really Free Market,” where people gathered to give things away.

“Because there is enough for everyone,” the slogan read. “Because sharing is more fulfilling than owning.”

She was a Utopian, Viola said, but not naive. He had seen her street smarts. Still, as she prepared to leave New York and set out on her own, he was concerned.

“She was very aware of the risks,” he recalled. “She said, ‘If anything should happen to me on the trip, if I should ever be killed on the trip, I accept that.’ ”

The e-mail messages home traced her path. From New York, she rode the train to Philadelphia. There, she wrote, she met up with “a small activist scene living in the cracks of a neglected and impoverished neighborhood. . . . We borrowed bikes and rode all over town, visited the urban farm, danced at a benefit for Critical Resistance” — a group that advocates the eradication of prisons — “cruised a free store/vegan potluck barbecue/folk show in the basement.”

In Providence, R.I., she stayed in a friend’s apartment without electricity, noting, on her trips around town, the “gorgeous empty mills that seem to be opening up for more creative endeavors as the condo wave recedes.”

In Boston, she networked at a regional anarchists’ meeting. In Buffalo, she met up with a friend who calls herself Hannah Potassium. The pair rode bikes everywhere.

“She showed me the greener side of the Rustbelt city: rivers, lakes and gardens,” Brydum wrote. “We found a well-organized housing co-op with beautiful interiors and were invited to come back for dinner. At midnight, I hopped on a Greyhound to Detroit not knowing where to go or what to do when I arrive. . . . ”

She was shocked by Detroit’s vast landscape of blight. The broken city seemed to support her ideas about the folly of capitalism. But she was also troubled that people had to live there.

“Sure, there’s some romanticizing of a place like this: a post-industrial work less wonderland free for the taking, ripe with opportunities to create a pirate utopia,” she wrote. “But in reality, the scene was sad. Some people do still live in Detroit, and the few that I met from the activist scene were bitter and burned out. It’s hard to create the world you wish to see when there are no resources, few comrades to inspire, and no spare energy.”

By early September, she was in St. Paul, Minn., for the Republican National Convention, among the thousands of activists who protested President Bush, the Iraq war, and the neglect of the needy, chanting: “Stop the war on the poor!”

More cities followed: St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Madison, Wis., and Chicago. She found a ride from the Midwest to North Carolina on Craigslist. But the driver changed plans abruptly and left her in downtown Indianapolis. She eventually hooked up with another stranger who drove her.

Then it was on to New Orleans, on Amtrak’s Crescent line.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” she wrote. ” . . . The sun is setting on the bayou-licked lands and I am truly fortunate. I have rounded this beautiful Southeast corner on the Crescent line today and from now on I am westward bound.”

She rolled into town with a reservation of sorts at a punk-rock group house in the 9th Ward. They were friends of friends, white kids in a black neighborhood. Some dumpster-dived for food. Some were artists and musicians, and some hopped trains. Some had volunteered to help rebuild the city.

Julia Milan, a 22-year-old resident of the house, remembers the impression Brydum made when she came in from the Amtrak station. She wore a pink sundress with a pink ribbon around her waist.

“She was so cute,” Milan said, but not meek. “She looked very driven.”

Brydum had talked to her friends about making sense of New Orleans, and looking for radicals working for solutions amid the post-Katrina ruins. Since the storm, the city — long a magnet for escapists and hipsters — had also been attracting a new kind of itinerant idealist.

Some came to work for nonprofits or public schools. Others aligned themselves with activist groups like Common Ground Relief, a nonprofit that set up shop in the Lower 9th Ward, gutting houses, starting community gardens and helping organize residents left homeless.

Many of the newcomers arrived with scant knowledge of the charming but insular city, which, by some measures, is plagued with the nation’s highest crime rate.

“We give them overly cautious warnings,” said Caitlin Reilly, Common Ground’s volunteer coordinator. “We say, ‘You’re probably going to be fine, but you should be aware there’s very high crime, and a high murder rate.’ ”

But Common Ground was apparently not on Brydum’s list.

After the brass band show at the Howlin’ Wolf her second night in town, Viola said, Brydum disappeared.

Her laptop, duffel bag and phone remained at the punk-rock house, and the phone kept ringing.

“We were kind of worried, because she didn’t seem like a party kid,” Milan said. “The second day, we started to get scared.”

Her body had been found by a church group gutting houses in the 9th Ward; it was lying unidentified in the morgue. Brydum had been shot four times in the face. New Orleans police detectives began their search for a killer, but have thus far had no luck.

When the news reached the Bay Area, some of her fellow activists wondered if there had been a conspiracy. Some suspected the CIA.

“Kirsten’s death looks more like a hit job rather than a random act of murder,” someone called SF Activist commented on one blog, one of a number of similar comments. “New Orleans is still a militarized zone and it’s quite possible she was targeted by hired guns.”

New Orleanians tended to respond to such comments with a weary disbelief.

“Hired guns?!” a respondent named Sterno wrote after an essay on xavierthoughts.blogspot.com. “Every murder here in New Orleans looks like a ‘hit job’, mainly because our criminals are professionals.”

Viola, the boyfriend, flew to New Orleans to meet with homicide detectives. He held meetings with anti-violence activists and a few young radicals. With his encouragement, they established a system that provides escorts to anyone who feels uncomfortable biking alone at night.

Brydum’s mother, Mamie Page, always respected Kirsten’s ideas and ideals, even when she didn’t share them.

In an e-mail message, she said her younger daughter told her that Kirsten “would have been more about forgiveness than punishment for this crime, and focusing more on the issue of violence against women and rehabilitating the criminal.”

“I can’t get my brain around that one,” said Page, a paralegal living in Portland, Ore. “For obvious reasons.”

Other family members noted, with a disgusted irony, that the killer may have been covering up a robbery. Brydum’s bag and bicycle were not found at the scene.

“It’s kind of pathetic,” said Brydum’s aunt, Catherine Page-Evans, of Woodland Hills. “Of course, she would have given it to them.”

richard.fausset@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-anarchist31-2009jan31,0,3296515.story?page=1

This was a story in the LA Times, my response when I saw it on an anarchist mailing list, and now my posting on my blog. I don’t pay much attention to anarchist lists anymore, mostly because I feel that anarchists are too isolated from the mainstream to allow themselves meaningful participation in social change. Or perhaps I have become cynical in my middle age. But once in a while I see something that gets me going. Like the Israeli assault on Gaza, or the Bush invasion of Iraq, something that simply demands a response. And as a good citizen who cares about the state of the world, I comment and do what I can, protest in the streets, write to congress, even work with others in trying to create a better world. But I have my doubts, things have to change so much. Will Americans give up their fast food and fast cars? They may not have a choice much longer. The change can be hard and fought tooth and nail or it can come gently with grace and composure, but change must come. Lets hope it doesn’t end with the mass extinction of a certain species Homo Sapiens, better known as homo stupidius.

$18 Billion In Wall Street Bonuses, Obama Pissed

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

President Obama says shame on Wall Street for giving out $18 Billion collectively in bonuses last year. The 6th best year bonus wise on record, the worst year overall for Wall Street since 1932. Wall Street suffered a 30% plus reduction in value last year. Johnathan Alter of Newsweek noted to Keith Olbermann that this $18 Billion is double the amount in the Economic stimulus plan that is set aside for transit issues. He wants congress to write a disgorgement law that would insist that corporations that take Government Bailout money should return the bonuses given out for last year. That would put some punch in Obama’s tisk, tisking.
Will the government take on the Corporations as Olbermann queried? Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Democrats in the 60’s did according to Alter. FDR threatened to nationalize the banks but didn’t he noted when he stated that he hopes Obama does more than just talks tough.
Republicans in the House of Representatives voted zero for the Stimulus plan. It passed with only Democratic support. As Congressman Sessions of Alabama said “we need to resist…the financial soul of the nation is at stake”.
Chris Harris Hays of the Nation said that this was totally predictable as the Republicans left in the House are all from conservative districts and have no incentive to vote for the plan. They are as likely to help out on a stimulus plan as he put it as a Quaker would be to help draw up battle plans. They simply don’t believe in it. As Hayes put it the the stimulus plan will be a democratic plan and it will succeed or fail based on how well the Democrats do in passing a plan and cannot count on any cover from the republicans.
On the other hand he noted that in the Senate there are 8 or 9 Republican Senators who live in states that Obama won and they have to take into consideration the possible reaction of people at home. In their case Hayes expects the Democrats to use the stick more with them to get support in the senate, as the carrot approach in the House proved ineffective. As Matt Yglesias a fellow at the American Center For Progress said on Rachel Maddow show that tax breaks for business were sweeteners for Republicans. They might as well concentrate on tax breaks for the average person and putting more money in infrastructure”. Not likely, but nice thought.
Yglesias said that if the Republicans insist on being obstructionist and following the line from Rush Limbaugh then then Obama needs to use the bully pulpit and let people know that jobs are at stake.
Karl Rove says that on January 16th the Bush administration gave Rove immunity from testifying before Congress forever. Is that legal? The Congress says Bush simply ignored the subpoenas from Congress but they expect that Obama have Rove arrested and put in jail until he is ready to testify. At least that is what Jerrold Nadler congressman says on the Judiciary committee. There is no basis for anyone to simply ignore subpoenas from congress except in the last year of the Bush administration when the President told his people to ignore them. The only claim that can be made for privilege is that of self incrimination or executive privilege in the case of specific questions but the questions have to be asked before privilege can be invoked. To simply not show up is contempt of court. At least according to Congressman Nadler on Keith Olbermann.
Michael Isikoff of Newsweek says that Bush asserting this level of immunity is unprecedented. Josh Bolton and Harriet Meyers have made the same claims. Meyers is being challenged in court.
It is incredible that President Bush thinks he can grant immunity to all questioning after the fact. This I hope will be struck down in court.
Dan Rather on Rachel Maddow showed a clip of an interview he held with the military in Afghanistan and when asked about what the General in charge Dan McNeil had to say, and he had to pause, think and then say that they would know they are winning when they are beating Al Qaeda around the world.
How can we be winning in Afghanistan by beating Al Qaeda around the world? It simply does not make sense. I am not a big fan of this assault in the first place and as Dan Rather put it the big problem is in Pakistan and he expects Richard Holbrooke and President Obama to quickly realize that as the troops in Afghanistan told him. Well does that mean we invade Pakistan next? Mission creep anyone. Sending 22,000 more troops to that country is not going to solve any problems. The Russians couldn’t do it , the British didn’t succeed and I don’t think the NATO forces will be any more successful.
This morning on Democracy Now there was talk of mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup. I have been suspicious of that sweetener that I have been finding pop up everywhere and now my suspicions are confirmed. Recent studies show that it is being contaminated with mercury, a poison and mercury is showing up in the food supply. Beware of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Sugar as bad as it is, is better.
Here is an excerpt from a story at the US News & World Report article on the same subject.

“Mercury Found in High Fructose Corn Syrup
January 28, 2009 01:20 PM ET | Maura Judkis
Quantities of mercury have been found in high fructose corn syrup, the ingredient that has replaced sugar in many of our processed foods. Reports have also come out that the FDA knew about traces of the toxic substance in food, and sat on the information. This news comes out just as we’ve learned that the peanut butter factory responsible for the salmonella outbreak has a storied history of health violations. What a week for food safety.

Mercury in high fructose corn syrup affects many of the most popular foods in America, including yogurt, soda, candy, juice and jelly. Even a small amount of it can be seriously unhealthy.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. “Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”"

You can go to their site for more information or check out Democracy Now.

Another food subject in the news is the Salmonella outbreak from a peanut processing plant in Georgia. This is from the transcript on the Democracy Now site today.

“AMY GOODMAN: Federal officials revealed a Georgia peanut plant knowingly shipped products contaminated with salmonella on a dozen occasions over the past two years. On Wednesday, the FDA expanded its recall of peanut butter products in what’s become one of the largest food recalls in US history. The FDA is now asking retailers, manufacturers, consumers, to throw out every item containing peanut products manufactured at the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia.
Salmonella poisoning has already killed at least eight people, sickened more than 500, half of them children. More than 400 consumer products containing peanut butter have been pulled from the shelves, including Cliff bars, Shop Rite peanut butter crackers, Famous Amos cookies and King Nut peanut butter. Peanut Corporation of America sells peanut products to institutions like schools, nursing homes, and to other companies, including Kellogg’s, which turns the butter or paste into other products.
The peanut scare raises new questions about the FDA’s regulatory practices. The Washington Post reports, prior to the salmonella outbreak, the FDA hadn’t inspected the Georgia plant since 2001. In 2006, the agency contracted inspections to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but last year state officials failed to check for salmonella.”

Pretty bad huh. Maybe that was why my girlfriend asked me if the Chocolate I brought her today had nuts in it. She is afraid of being poisoned. Smart girl.
I told her about the mercury poisoning, I forgot about the salmonella in the nuts. She stays on top of the news. Do you? I hope you do because now is the time we can make a difference now that we have a president who cares about the people.

This evening on KPFK on the way home from work I heard the Tim Carpenter of the Progressive Democrats Of America noted that now is the time for the Democrats to push for a single payer health plan. Ah at last I hear someone talking about something important. We need it and he noted that the California Nurses have come out with a new report that says 33% of every dollar spent on health goes to the wallets of the insurance company CE-Os and investors. We can afford health care for all we just have to get rid of the middle man. Now that is smart thinking. He recommends that we all call our congress person and the house whip and ask for a single payer plan. Here is an excerpt from an article by David Swanson

“A massive, well-organized public movement has been built that is pressing right now for single-payer. In the House of Representatives, the leading advocate is Congressman John Conyers whose bill H.R. 676 had 93 cosponsors in the last Congress. Conyers provides a useful FAQ on single payer here, and Physicians for a National Health Program has provided a longer one. Other advocates include Labor for Single Payer, Healthcare Now, the California Nurses Association, and the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care which boasts dozens of major organizational members. Progressive Democrats of America has mobilized tremendous grassroots pressure through its Healthcare Not Warfare campaign. This is essentially a campaign for single payer health coverage, but it both organizes the peace movement to participate and communicates an important selling point. The financial cost of creating a single payer system would be a fraction of what we spend each year merely on the occupation of Iraq, which Congress and the president have committed to ending. Compared to the cost of wasteful programs at the Pentagon or bailouts for bankers or even the new economic stimulus bill, single payer is a bargain, doesn’t kill anyone, saves and improves lives, and even stimulates the economy better than most of the measures being used toward that end. The movement for single payer has organized a lot more than numbers; it’s also marshaled persuasive arguments.”

I could go on, I am on a roll, but hey my girlfriend says I write too much as it is, so I will let it rest… Write a comment if you feel inspired, but certainly write to your congress person, and get out there in the streets. We need activism now. It is our turn and we need to get something for the people for a change. The rich have had their chance.

Americans Oppose Afghanistan Troop Increase

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Let us hope Obama takes heed to the new BBC/Harris poll that asked Americans if they wanted to increase American troop presence in Afghanistan to which only 33% agreed. The rest seem to be less than enthusiastic for any war.
Perhaps he can see his way to a withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
On the economic front there is question of the frozen credit market, due to a large extent by the $30 trillion dollars tied up in derivatives particularly Credit Default Swaps. They are a form of insurance on debt invented in the 1990’s that grew from nothing to this monster that has sucked up all the capital available in the private market. As buyers default on their mortgages, the purchasers of these papers are demanding payment and that is where most of the money has gone in the bailout. But a few hundred billion cannot deal with the $30 trillion tied up in credit default swaps. They need to be eliminated.
Sylvain Raynes math professor at Baruch College has a plan to undo the swaps by having the lenders pay back the buyers of the swaps their premiums and simply eliminate the swaps. Another plan of Robert Arvanitis from Risk Finance Advisers simply wants to treat it as a buyer beware situation where anyone who bought a bad plan simply is out of luck. The problem is that these investors are not just a few rich corporations, they are pension funds and retirees and charities to name a few. The tax payers could be stuck with this debt and that would be simply too much to bear if the government were to attempt to honor these swaps. They were sold cheaply with very little behind them and they were not regulated.
A plan is being talked of whereby all these Credit Default Swaps are going to be consolidated into one market and they would have to have at least a 50% capital backing, according to a January 24th article in the New York Times by Gretchen Morgenson.
Rayne’s plan to unwind the Swaps is not a bad idea, the buyers would not get much since their premiums were so low, but these insurance instruments were not particularly well thought out in the first place. Whatever the taxpayer should not be left holding the bag. What I believe is that there simply should be a strengthening of Social Security and the rest of this stuff should be allowed to collapse. The banks should be nationalised and then spun off as community banks and commercial banks should again not be allowed to be investment banks.
America needs to start producing again and stop simply buying on credit and using the military as our only credible institution. We need to rejoin the family of nations.
Obama has done a couple of good deeds. He had a memorandum put out that he would consider the California improved auto emission standards closing the door on the Bush era obstruction of stronger environmental standards.
Also he seems to have eliminated the restrictions on birth control policies by family planners around the world. A woman’s choice seems to have again triumphed over the Fetus fetish people in the religious right. Rationality seems to be triumphing all across the board. We may be entering a new age of enlightenment.

English Disaster Aid groups have appealed for help through the British media. For some strange reason the BBC has refused to broadcast the appeal. They claim it is in the interest of fairness. That is strange when they broadcast appeals for Dar fur, the Congo and others. How could they call that being impartial? Protesters in London have even been blockading the entrance to the BBC headquarters.
Less strange is the Murdoch owned Sky News refusal. But the BBC, for shame.
Here is the appeal if you are interested.

“22 Jan: Aid agencies launch joint appeal to relieve Gaza humanitarian crisis Leading UK aid agencies are today (Thursday, 22 January) appealing to the public for urgently needed funds to help ease the desperate plight of people affected by the conflict in Gaza.
Launching the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Crisis Appeal, chief executive Brendan Gormley said that the devastation wrought in the Gazan territory was so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act.
Over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, and many thousands have been injured, overwhelming local hospitals. The destruction has left people without homes and many children without schooling; power, food and water supplies are insufficient to cover the population’s needs.
Mr Gormley said: “DEC agencies have a humanitarian mandate. We are not proposing to attempt to rebuild Gaza – that is not our role. But with the public’s support we can help relieve short-term needs. Agencies are already providing food, drugs and blankets as well as delivering clean water.
“But we will soon reach the limit of what we can do, without more money. For Gazans struggling to survive, receiving urgent humanitarian aid will help them take the first step to recovery.”
Mr Gormley stressed that DEC aid agencies were non-political. “We work on the basis of humanitarian need and there is an urgent need in Gaza today. Political solutions are for others to resolve, but what is of major concern to us all is that many innocent people have been affected by the situation – and it is them that we seek to help.”
- ENDS -
The DEC press office can be contacted on 0207 387 0200 or out-of-hours on 07930 999014.
Notes to editors:
1. The DEC consists of: Action Aid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision.

2. The Palestinian Ministry of Heath (MOH) has reported 1,314 Palestinian fatalities since 27 December 2008. This is noted in the Situation Report on the Humanitarian Situation in the Gaza Strip – No.14, 19 January 2009 (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

3. How to donate:
It’s easy to donate. Please visit our website on www.dec.org.uk or call the DEC on 0370 60 60 900. We know people are facing financially difficult times but even a small donation makes a difference. Even a small donation to the appeal will help get food, water, shelter, emergency and medical supplies to people who desperately need it.

4. The DEC criteria to launch an appeal are:
The disaster must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift International humanitarian assistance. The DEC agencies, or some of them, must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national Appeal.There must be sufficient public awareness of, and sympathy for, the humanitarian situation so as to give reasonable grounds for concluding that a public Appeal would be successful.

5. For new footage, photographs, case studies and pre-recorded or live interviews with both aid agency staff on the ground and in the UK, please contact the DEC press office on 0207 387 0200 or out-of-hours on 07930 999014.”

It is also the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland and the writer of “Auld Lang Syne”
And here it is…
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wandered mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i’ the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Historical Background:

The traditional Scottish hymn “Auld Lang Syne” is an extremely old song that was first written down in the 1700ties. The Scottish national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796, pseudonym “Rab Mossgiel”) is the person whose transcription got the most attention, so the song is associated with him. ”

Anyway is a good drinking song to get sloshed by and to slobber in your cups to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, well there could be worse things.
It is also Chinese lunar New year, the year of the Ox and since this is going to be a year of work, I would imagine the gods had a good laugh at that one.

Thats the Rumor report for today.

Who Is The Enemy? Part Two

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Today on Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN there was a discussion on Afghanistan by experts who are for the most part in favor of putting more troops on the ground there. I was surprised to see Steve Coll author of “Ghost Wars” a history of the CIA in Afghanistan even giving limited support for placing more troops on the ground. What he and the other experts emphasised was that the Afghan forces should be built up.
Ashiraf Ghani former member of the current Afghan government and a possible candidate for the presidency made the point that the cost of maintaining 1 American soldier is the equivalent of 17 Afghan soldiers. He wants the NATO forces to stop bombing and to train Afghan soldiers and to use intelligence not the crude weapon of bombing to get rid of the resistant fighters. He made the point that this is not a war of civilizations. The people of Afghanistan just want to be left to themselves and only want economic aid to rebuild their country.
Michael O’Hanilon and David Kilcullen analysts assigned to report on the progress of the NATO forces in Afghanistan had mixed opinions. They seemed resigned to the fact that there will be an increase in the troops sent there. They have decidedly mixed feelings about the potential for success. They seemed to think that counter insurgency efforts that are more intelligently managed is key. The plan seems to be to take the same steps in Afghanistan as has been taken recently in Iraq. That is to clear the insurgents, hold the cities and build the relationship with the locals. But as was pointed out the tribal structure in Afghanistan is much looser than in Iraq and that has been torn apart by years of war.
When asked about why the Taliban had grown in strength Mr Ghani says it was a power vacuum in the crucial period of 2002-2004, when the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai was installed by the Americans but not allowed to rule without constant interference according to Mr Ghani. The Taliban was allowed to rebuild and the government that did make its presence known was incredibly corrupt. According to Mr Kilcullen the police are hopelessly corrupt and would probably be the main reason for the collapse of the government if the western troops pulled out.
But the people of Afghanistan want peace and a chance to have a country where they don’t have to worry about constant war.
Another problem that Ghani brought up is the economy based on Narcotics. Since the beginning of the time there have been cases of people taking opiates to relieve pain and to dream and to have visions. But in Afghanistan the narcotics are for the international drug trade that profits the people little but the dealers much. As one of the persons being interviewed by Mr Zakaria, Barnett R. Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan, said that the biggest industry in Afghanistan is not narcotics but the provision of private security for drug dealers, and the new rich who have been able to get money from doing business with the aid agencies and the NATO military forces. He feels that it is not that the country is a narco-nation but simply that the government has failed to control the growth of narcotics. It is the number two industry after the provision of security in the country.
O’Hanilon says that it was deliberate American policy to keep the military small in Afghanistan. All of them seem to agree that that was a bad policy and that the Afghan military needs to grow larger to contend with the Taliban.
On the subject of negotiating with the Taliban most seem to think that there is a hard core that is beyond reach but that most of the fighters are not Taliban but local people just trying to protect their interests. Nobody really addressed the anger of the Afghans with NATO for its use of Air Power in a maner that is indiscriminate and has caused the loss of life of many civilians.
Nobody wanted to deal with why the US is there in the first place or if we should just get out. There was one who said if the only thing between a total Taliban victory in Afghanistan and not was the presence of the NATO troops then perhaps we should be negotiating with them. Ghani said that the military aid should be turned in to financial aid but no one said the US and NATO should unequivocally get out.
When asked what was our critical interest in being there nobody had a good reason except to say that South Asia in general was in our national interest but again no reason why.
Why is it in the interest of the USA or Europe to be in Afghanistan? And then again it was brought out that the Taliban was the creation of the Pakistani Intelligence. Now the Taliban being a creation of the Pakistanis and the Pakistanis being the allies of the United States they were given clearance by the CIA to do what they wanted to in Afghanistan after the Soviets were Kicked out of Afghanistan because the US wasn’t interested anymore. So to keep things under control because the warlords were battling it out after the Soviets left and things got out of hand so they came up with the idea to form a religious government called the Taliban. These Taliban went and conquered their country back and that was the end but then Osama Bin Laden needed a place to go because he had been kicked out of Saudi Arabia for being critical of the American invasion of Kuwait. He helped in Bosnia when they were fighting the Serbs, and he went to Sudan and Sudan was cool with him but then he declared Jihad against the US and there was a real problem. He was pressured to get out of Sudan in 1996 by the US and the Egyptian government because he had hooked up with the Muslim brotherhood. He went back to Afghanistan where he was welcomed as a returning hero. He became buddies with the emerging Taliban and helped them take control of the country. So the Taliban now had all these Egyptian radicals and Saudis and the Pakistani intelligence services helping them and they took over the country from the warlords except in the far north were a coalition remained that opposed the Taliban and the Pakistani influence in their country.
Osama got back at the US for harassing him out of the Sudan by attacking the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Later when Clinton bombed the compound in Afghanistan and that factory in Sudan he got back by attacking the Cole in Yemen. When the US refused to leave Saudi Arabia, then 911 happened. It was sort of like the end of the world for the Taliban because that was when Bush decided to invade Afghanistan and later he decided to go after Iraq since the invasion of Afghanistan was so easy. But they let Osama get away. Bush was so intent on capturing Saddam Hussein that he just forgot about Osama and 911 was just a bunch of dead people anyway. Bush had a world to take over and that world had oil and justice and American contractor jobs for all…

Who Is The Enemy?

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Why does the United States government insist that we are at war? War with whom? The shadows? Ghosts? The devil?
Sure there was a terrorist attack on the world trade center and people died. But did that justify an invasion of Afghanistan? It was the irrational striking out by an angry giant. Or was it? The Bush administration came in with a government surplus and a down economy due to the bursting of the High tech bubble. Remember that? Seems like nothing now.
Cheney had his famous meeting with big business and was looking to change the world making it better for business. Not that Clinton was bad for business, it was under his watch that Glass-Stegal was repealed, the act that forced banks to separate investment banks from commercial banking. What the Bush people offered was an unrestricted hand for private industry to show what they could do in an economy when the government was on their side and not regulating. Al Gore, who won the popular vote and was downplaying his environmental credentials in the election.
The Bushies were cruising, sure the liberals were pissed that he stole the election but Gore hadn’t really offered a strong choice and Bush claimed he would be a unit-er not a divider. Then came 911.
Some said it was a government plot. But why would they? What was going on in the world that demanded such a drastic move? Bush wanted to go after Saddam Hussein from day one, but there was an effective embargo at the time and Iraq was weaker militarily than it had been in decades. But it was a godsend for the military industrial complex and for them it was an opportunity to rebuild the money spent on defense.
There had long been attempts on the part of the government to reign in civil liberties, Under Clinton the anti terrorism act was passed after right wingers bombed the federal building in Oklahoma. Bush was able to create his Homeland Security Department and destroy the concept of personal privacy as congress was stampeded in the fearful atmosphere after 911. Afghanistan was invaded as the government lashed out. It was an easy victory but as every one knew these planners had no idea what do when they won, because they were getting ready to move on to Iraq and then Iran. They were on a roll and they had regime change on their minds.
Rumsfeld had the brilliant idea of doing war on the cheap, using modern business practices of just in time inventory control and outsourcing to private contractors as many functions as they could and deficit financing by having the Chinese pay for the war, he figured along with Cheney and Bush and their think tankers that they could rollover any opposition in the middle east and end the terrorist problem by denying them any bases from which to operate. The American public only had to go on spending, After all it was consumption of Chinese products that kept the Chinese economy going and by keeping the Chinese working their government would kick back the money needed to keep the American war effort going and we wouldn’t have to spend a dime on it. It was ingenious but it didn’t work.
The problem was that the people in Iraq were not simply waiting for Americans to take over. The Iraqi government knew that there was no way to resist the Americans so they simply went underground and bid-ed their time. In Afghanistan the Taliban used the period of relative indifferent occupation over the last few years to rebuild and to resist. Since the United States in overthrowing previous regimes had no plan as to what to do after, the forces of occupation became not liberators but oppressors.
But that is all ancient history and we are now dealing with the consequences, but what do we do? The people who attacked the World Trade Center were opposed to the United States government that attacked the home of their religion. They were also attempting to get to the cause of the problems in their own countries. Oppressive regimes that worked with the great powers to keep the resources flowing to power the US and Europe and that keep their own people powerless.
This is complex, it is not simply that the US supports dictatorships, it is also that the original reformers, the Nasser’s, the socialists of the PLO were defeated by Israel and corrupted by the USA. Then the fundamentalists who came out of the great university system of Cairo were now turning to religion instead of Marxism after the Soviet Union was defeated and gave up the ghost there was no more source for funds from the left. The PLO had to come to terms with the west and in doing so it lost credibility in its struggle for an independent Palestine. This also let to alliances with Iran who after the overthrow of the Shah now became the radical bulwark of an alternative Islam to the compromised Islam in Saudi Arabia that was partially occupied by American troops at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The last great secular resistance in the middle east was offered by Saddam Hussein who thought he had American approval in his attack on Iran in the 1980’s and a nod and a wink when he went to take back Kuwait a former province of Iraq when it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
This gets complicated because until World War I most of the middle east was part of the empire of the Turks. Iran was a traditional rival to the East as the remnants of the Persian Empire and Egypt had been partitioned off as a protectorate of the British Empire that wanted to control the Suez Canal and have easy access to India, Turkey protected Mecca and had control of Israel, Iraq, Syria and much of Saudi Arabia. The Balkans that rabble of small countries, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Romania were part of the Turkish Empire.
First Greece and then the rest of the Balkans gained independence from Turkey over the course of the 19th Century. The myth of Turkey as the sick man of Europe emerged at that time and it was seen as a power of the past. But to the Muslim peoples in British occupied India the Caliphate as the Ottoman Empire was also known was their spiritual ruler, and the Caliph in Istanbul was the person they owed allegiance to. Much of India had been ruled by a Muslim ruler, the Moguls until the British took over in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because the Turks were Sunnis, the Muslims in India looked up to them and not to Iran ruled by Shites for leadership. Pakistan did not exist it was a mid 20th century invention, along with Israel, part of a British plan to keep the former colonies amenable by sowing divisiveness in the newly independent areas. But that is another story.
Back to the middle east. When World War One began Turkey allied itself with Germany and Austria, against Russia and Great Britain. They had their eye on the Turkish heartland in the Russian central Asia and the oil fields of Baku, at that time there had not been the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia.
The British were afraid of a Turkish attempt to attack India and sent troops to attack at Gallipoli a complete failure. More successful was the move to stir up Arab nationalism on the part of Lawrence of Arabia, and Bedouins attacked the Turkish army assisting the British as they fought their way from Egypt into Palestine, to Jerusalem and Damascus. Another British force attacked Mesopotamia and eventually captured Baghdad. The Turks were routed and pulled back to the ethnic Turkish home in Anatolia which eventually became modern Turkey and gave up all of the rest of the middle east. The British got Iraq and Palestine called the Trans Jordan and France got Syria and Lebanon, The deserts around Mecca became an independent Arab kingdom united under the Saudi family that now rules what was then seen as worthless desert. Mecca itself went from being under Ottoman control to that of the Saudis. With the discovery of oil in the 1930’s in Bahrain, it wasn’t long before Oil men from the west were making deals to explore Saudi Arabia for oil. During World War 2 the US made a point of establishing good relations with the Saudis and since then there has been a special relationship between the US and the home of the worlds largest oil reserves.
When the Iraqis attacked Kuwait looking for a way to pay off its war debt from years of fighting Iran, defending the Sunni world from the Shite radicals the USA sent its army into Saudi Arabia. That was to protect the oil and as a base from which to invade Kuwait to give it back to the Emir of Kuwait. He hired the United States to get back his country and the first President Bush complied. But that go Osama Bin Laden pissed. He had offered the Saudi Government to rally a force to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait and was turned down. At the time he was something of a hero for having gone to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union and drive them out of a Muslim land. It was seen as a jihad. He had worked with Americans in Afghanistan and taken weapons funnelled by the CIA, the Pakistani intelligence service and the Saudi intelligence service and helped build the Afghan resistance. His family were big time contractors and engineers in Saudi Arabia and he built the tunnels in the mountains in Afghanistan as protection for the rebels against the Afghan army and their allies the Soviet Union. At the time there was a Marxist government in Afghanistan that was trying to educate the masses and especially women and bring them into the modern era. The so called freedom fighters were Muslim fundamentalists who were fighting for the traditional Muslim rule. They were not democrats they were theocratic. These theocrats turned against the government of Saudi Arabia when the Saudi rulers invited American troops into the home of Islam. They were seen as crusaders, infidels. And the US went from being an ally against the Soviet menace to an enemy of Islam,
Leftist PLOers had always been anti American as had the secular socialists in Syria and Egypt. When Egypt lost against Israel in the 1973 war they turned against their Russian aid who were not able to help them defeat the Israelis and turned to America, who gave An-war Sadat so much military aid that the Russians could not match, plus the US got Israel to give Egypt back the Sinai peninsula but could keep the Gaza a head ache with all those refugee Egypt didn’t want. Sadat made peace with Israel and as his reward was assassinated.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 as a progressive pan muslim movement believes in uniting the Arab world under a Caliphate with the Sharia as the basis of law. Osama Bin Laden claims it as his inspiration and many radical Muslims around the world subscribe to its tenants. It has attempted to win elections in Egypt but has been suppressed by the military backed government. Hamas in Gaza is a political extension of the brotherhood. It officially condemns violence except in special circumstance such as Palestine and against the Baathists in Syria where many of its followers were massacred. This movement has charities and hospitals and works to better the condition of the poor people in the lands where it has organized. It is the most powerful popular force in the middle east at this time. But it has no place come into power except perhaps Gaza where it won elections.
Israel moved out of Gaza in 2005 unilaterally withdrawing There were elections and Hamas won out over the PLO in Gaza, there was a struggle when the PLO refused to recognise them but eventually they took over control of the Gaza. Israel began a blockade of the Gaza and as a consequence the Gaza’s began firing homemade Rockets into Israel. A truce was reached and the rocket attacks almost completely stopped. Israel was supposed to lift the blockade but didn’t. Then on election day Israel raided Gaza and took several men. Hamas retaliated by increasing the rocket attacks again. Israel then clamped down by increasing the severity of the blockade. As the Obama inauguration approached Israel decided to attack Gaza first with bombing and air strikes and then with a ground assault. It was timed to last until right before the inauguration, ending only just before to avoid embarrassing Obama on his inauguration day. There obviously was a deal made. Obama would not make public comments and Israel would stop the attacks before the inauguration. Dirty politics, but not untypical. At least Obama made it clear that he wanted the fighting to end. Now will he bring peace to the middle east? If he talks to the parties and plays fair maybe he can. But is he just attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan like the attack that just happened with a drone, then we can expect more of this inane war on Terror, a war against a whole people, a war that cannot be won.
To be continued.

Day Two Diplomacy To The Forefront

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke, have been named as special envoys to the Middle East. Mitchell is seen as a fair broker by the Palestinians and Israel as Zbigniew Brzezinski former President Carter national security advisor, said today on the Rachel Maddow show, has been named the envoy to help put into place a peace plan for Israel and Palestine. Holbrooke will be the envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Hillary Clinton was welcomed to her new post as Secretary of State like a rock star. There was cheering and clapping on the part of the staff welcoming her. She told the waiting crowd that there would be a new emphasis on development and diplomacy. President Obama mentioned as he introduced his new envoys, that Hamas would have to stop sending rockets into Israel, but he also said that the Palestinians needed hope and that Israel had to end the blockade of Gaza and pull out its troops. Finally someone who has some somewhat harsh words for Israel.
It is almost like there is nothing to complain about. This is so unusual. I am going to have to hunt for reasons to be critical of the government. This is unexpected. This is unprecedented. Having a president that I basically agree with, absolutely flabbergasting!!! I met Clinton when he was a candidate. He refused to answer my questions and had his secret service men rough me up. I didn’t expect much from him and he delivered little, like I have said before, Bill Clinton was a republican lite. Obama, he is a different story, He is a liberal straight up. Now I may not like everything he says, but so far I like most of what he says and that is pretty amazing in my book.
Violating the federal wiretapping laws is a felony with a 5 year jail sentence attached. For at least 4 years the wire tapping done on citizens by the NSA under the Bush administration and it was illegal according to James Bamford a former NSA analyst who wrote the “Shadow Factory” about the NSA. He was interviewed on Rachel Maddow show today. Yesterday another former NSA agent revealed on Keith Olbermann’s show that the NSA had been spying on all Americans and especially journalists. These were not foreign agents, these were American citizens going about doing their jobs. Is anyone being prosecuted for this? Not yet. Should they be? They sure should!
Moammar El-Gadhafi had an op ed piece in the New York Times recommending a one state solution for the Jews and Palestinians, they should merge and form one state “Isratine”. This was first proposed seriously by Gadhafi’s son. I certainly agree with that. It would be sensible, if the Jews would give the Arabs equal citizenship. It would be like the South African solution and would be the only really viable one. Independent Palestine without Jordan or Egypt, is simply not a viable state. It will always be a bantustan if Israel stays in control of the access to the mini states of the west bank and the Gaza. As long as the Palestinians are in this weak and dependent state they will be an international basket case. They should merge with one state or another. Even though that is not the modern tendency, witness the break up of Yugoslavia, but what has resulted there, a series of weak mini states, not one of them is a really strong independent entity.
Nice idea Gadhafi, any chance it might happen? Hardly.
On the economic front we have plenty of bad news even Microsoft is laying people off including 1500 people today. NPR reporter Warren Olney producer of “Which Way LA? on KCRW is talking about Bank Nationalization. That is a good first step. On CBS evening news today it was reported 5 major financiers have committed suicide so far due to the economic collapse. The loss of power is hard for some to deal with, but what about the rest of us who have to cut back lifestyles that are hardly that of the rich and famous? What if we simply admit capitalism is a killer, it murders us daily. Why not simply decide to share it all equally and give to each as they need and take as each can produce. It would certainly be fairer and more sensible. But I speak as a man who works as a planner, I spend all my time day in and day out figuring out how to get things done. It planning for a company or a country or a world, its all the same to me. We certainly would be all a lot better off if it was divided up equitably. But until then there is no reason for people to die over money it really shouldn’t be that important to anyone. It is an indictment to our society that there are those who are that attached, and it is an even worse indictment that we are all dependent on something as irrational as the stock market.
Bank of America finally got rid of the former chairman Greg Fleming of Merill Lynch. It was revealed that he gave away $4 Billion worth of our tax bailout to his buddies as bonuses. Good riddance.
Today Secretary of the Interior Salazar said that the government will pull back on the plans to exploit off shore oil. Could this be the end of another Bush bad idea? Lets hope so.
And that is the rumor report for today.

Houston We Have Liftoff

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Obama has hit the ground running with his first day, we have some very good things to say about the world. The president has put a moratorium on the trials in Guantanamo. He says he wants to shut the place down in a year. He has said that he is planning to be out of Iraq in 16 months and he made calls to leaders in the middle east to maybe let them know that he is the boss now. Not a bad start.
On the domestic front he caped the salaries of government officials making over $100 thousand a year. He told lobbyists that they have to wait 2 years before they can work in a government office they lobby-ed and even more important when you leave the government you cannot work as a lobbyist for as long as Obama is President. Yep lobbyists have to wait. No instant big bucks in the lobbying business. That is great.
What else, Oh lets see, congress was obstructing Holder’s nomination as Attorney General because the republicans want assurances that he will not prosecute anyone from the previous administration for committing acts of oh say, torture for example. Holder said he could not promise this in advance and the Republicans said they wanted to put his confirmation on hold, for at least a week. Therefore no Attorney General yet. A little Republican congressional flexing after they let Hillary Clinton breeze through as Secretary of State.
On other matters Obama says that he wants to follow the Freedom of Information Act and make sure that the government was open to giving information to concerned citizens. That is the opposite of the Bush policy of secrecy.
We are still waiting to see what it the new plan will be for the economy and I guess we have to see if congress it going to let Geithner off the hook and let him become Secretary of Treasury.
Will we have a Kennedy in the Senate? Caroline Kennedy is the on again off again replacement for Hillary Clinton. But she seems to be having problems with the media communicating what she wants to do.
Will Al Franken ever get to make his congressional comedy debut? We hope so. And now we have to see who will be the new Senator from Colorado.
On other matters there is the issue of how much was spent on the inauguration celebrations. It seems that the Huffing ton Post is critical of the AP for claiming that Obama spent $160 million on the inauguration. A lot of money as my redneck coworker gloated, “tax dollars when Bush spent $4million”. I doubt everything that guy says, he listens to Rush Limbaugh, so I went on the internet to check it and there was a story about the AP report not being credible but I never did find out what Obama spent. Bush spent $43 million though. But here was the biggest crowd ever for an inauguration, they had to do something.
What about my cutting commentary? Well there was the redo of the inauguration because the oath was botched. Republican Supreme Court Justice, not good.
There is the problem with Afghanistan and the supply routes through the Khyber Pass because the Pakistani drivers are afraid to go through. That means supplies don’t go through to the troops in Afghanistan. But he wants to send more troops there and I think that is a mistake. He wants to withdraw a brigade a month from Iraq, good, but he wants to send them to the admittedly perilous Afghanistan. We should get out of there and disband NATO. The threat from Russia is simply not the same as that from the old Soviet Union. So there you have it my criticism of the day.
On another note, we have former NSA analyst Russel Tice on Keith Olbermann’s show telling us something that we should all not be too surprised about, yep they were listening in on all media conversations. And yes they have the ability to listen in on everybody, but they simply don’t have the ability to listen to everything they can listen to. Thank god for that, but damn did they really have to listen to everything? Apparently under Bush they thought they did. Illegal as all hell. OK well now will there be a law suit? I doubt it. But there should be.
And that is the Rumor report for today. Houston we have liftoff!!!

What Is Normal?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

It was inauguration day. Obama got elected president. The cool cat, the black panther, the bad dude, is president. He is the black man. The hip is the new normal. That is the message of the day. All my life I have been an outcast. Perhaps it was because my folks were show people they has horses, traveled around from town to town, hung out with circus people and carnies. We were the rodeo people and the audience were the squares the normals. Black people were almost by definition hip, they stood out, they could not blend in no matter what and they had all the cultural attributes of cool. They had jazz and the blues, hip hop and rap, They had the clothes, the style and they scared the middle class white people.
We were their white brothers, the outsiders undercover, we could blend in, pass as it were, that was maybe why I was naturally attracted to hippies, beatniks, protesters and black panthers as a teenager, it wasn’t that I was trying to be different, these were the normal people for me. I was raised in a family of cowboys. We felt different and were different from the suburbanites who grew up around us. We lived on the old run down farm on the hill with the horses and the outhouse and the bad plumbing but we were cool. The other kids looked up to us, and even me with my dreams of being like them, I was different, it came with the territory. I was told I was descended from kings, from ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, whatever, I was taught to be proud I was one of the horse people not one of the squares.
We were not the rich hunt club types, we had hard scrabble lives, our horses were not symbols of wealth but our livelihood. We were closer to those plains Indians who depended on their horses to get to the buffalo, our horses were our life, we treated them better than family. When they were sick we were up all night taking care of them. That was a given.
Back to Obama, even his name is cool. Barack Hussein Obama. He may look a little nerdy with the big ears, but he is cool, half African, half a son of Kansas via Hawaii, his name says it all. But now the cool man is president.
I went to a bar tonight to celebrate, among my middle class American compatriots who voted for Obama. They were not cool. They were overweight middle class white people. These were the kind of people who I would have scorned as a youth, they were squares. What were they doing celebrating like this hip exotic brother was one of theirs. They were claiming Obama for themselves. He was their president and he was my president. It made me crazy for a minute, these were not my people they were not my black brothers, my punk rock anarchist hippie junkie brethren of the underground. These were everyday working people with jobs and bills and lives that were just like mine had become. I was one of them and they wanted to claim me….I freaked and left in a hurry. I had not been raised for that. I had been ready for the victory of the cool, for a black man as president, for one of us being on top, but not to be embraced by the squares the normals, they were saying you are one of us now and I was saying we had conquered you,,,, but no they had conquered us/me, I was getting confused and that did not set well with my self image. Who was I now that the hip had become normal we now had a black man as president, The cool and hip and exotic ruled, that meant that is the new normal. And what am I who had spent my life among the anarchists and communists and black minorities and junkies and gays were we now normal too? Were we all accepted in this brave new family where we are all brothers and sisters? What is hip and cool? What am I but a normal guy with a job and bills and I look just like those people at that bar…Rock Against Racism. Fighting Nazi’s, demonstrating for civil rights, for freedom from capitalist oppression and war and fear, what was it all to mean in this new world where the cool dude is now the man?
What does it all mean jellybean?

Learning From FDR, Say No To Kristof And Sweatshops

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

When FDR became president he presented to congress had it passed the AAA, Agricultural Adjustment Act. It was a radical departure from the lase fare policies of the former Hoover administration. But FDR was willing to experiment and try whatever would work.
Farmers were up in arms at the foreclosures on their land because of the collapse in farm produce prices that had been getting increasingly worse since the end of world war one. Farmers had taken judges in rural Iowa and dumped them out on the edge of town nooses around their necks and grease poured over their heads. Insurance company agents were forced to agree to farmers terms at gun point when the held auctions to sell off the assets on foreclosed farms. Farmers were forming vigilante groups and were preparing to go on strike.
The AAA encouraged farmers to plow under and not grow crops, it paid them not to grow crops so that they would get a fair price for their produce. This was a form of state regulation in capitalism. It did not go as far as the more radical farmers wanted to go in that it was not a guaranteed income, but it stopped the movement towards a Farmers Holiday and Farmers Strike that was emerging. It kept agriculture from going to more radical extremes. Too bad, perhaps it would have been better if there had been a revolution in the 30’s but under FDR we got a progressive government and a form of state capitalism that saved the country from fascism or communism. We will never know which.

Nicholas Kristof at the NY Times would have us believe that sweat shops are good for the world.

“By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 14, 2009
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about “labor standards,” I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh.

This is a Dante-like vision of hell. It’s a mountain of festering refuse, a half-hour hike across, emitting clouds of smoke from subterranean fires.

The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. Then the smoke parts and you come across a child ambling barefoot, searching for old plastic cups that recyclers will buy for five cents a pound. Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.

Talk to these families in the dump, and a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, the kind of gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition that parents everywhere often have for their children.

“I’d love to get a job in a factory,” said Pim Srey Rath, a 19-year-old woman scavenging for plastic. “At least that work is in the shade. Here is where it’s hot.”

Look, I know that Americans have a hard time accepting that sweatshops can help people. But take it from 13-year-old Neuo Chan thou, who earns a bit less than $1 a day scavenging in the dump. She’s wearing a “Playboy” shirt and hat that she found amid the filth, and she worries about her sister, who lost part of her hand when a garbage truck ran over her.

“It’s dirty, hot and smelly here,” she said wistfully. “A factory is better.” ”

That is no solution.

Trade policy should not be based on the path to the cheapest labor source possible.
But that is what lase fare capitalism would have us believe is the way to a brighter and better world. Since American workers on the average have been loosing out in struggle of wages versus inflation at least since the 1970’s, the only solution that the neocons propose is that we shop for the best bargain and that we all head for Walmart, encourage the breaking up of those evil inflationary labor unions and accept whatever trickle down that the rulers are willing to urinate upon us.
Following their logic what we all need to do is to work hard for whatever pittance we are granted and invest in the stock market and become share holders in the capitalist dream. In fact on that theory we should eliminate Social Security, and simply put all our hopes in the good graces of the market because that is what will make us all rich or at least will give us the best return on our investment dollars.
For those of us unfortunate enough to not have any income to invest, there is always debt. If we borrow enough to buy a home we cannot afford and then pray to the great debtor god in the sky we may someday be foreclosed upon and give that home back to the good creditor who took us into their good graces in the first place. Or if we decide not to accept foreclosure we can always work at 2 or 3 jobs, and spend every waking hour at the beck and call of someone who is our lord and master for all the time we are not getting some well deserved rest.
Sound like feudalism? Well that is where the prophets of capitalism would have us, a far cry from the socialist dream that Marx envisioned as the inevitable result of advanced capitalism. It is strange that the former Soviet Union gave us the most extreme capitalist state and Maoist China gave us the most extreme example if capitalist production. It is almost as if they were modernizing to set the stage for capitalism. Something that was supposed to come first setting the stage for socialism.
On the other hand here we have in the United States a situation where the most advanced form of capitalism may be leading to something else perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of something more that more state capitalism, perhaps Obama is leading us into the beginnings of socialism. Perhaps Obama will take an approach like FDR and try what works and discover that what works best for the people is socialism.
Perhaps he will start with an economic policy that encourages unions, fair wages and corporate responsibility. The corporations need to toe to a green civic line, or get nationalized and that should be simply it. No playing around with state capitalist half measures time for socialism. A nice fantasy could be played out here but I am going to simply state that a fair wage paid to every worker around the world is the least that we are owed but those who have lived off our sweat for so long.
Passing the labor act that makes it easier for unions to organize would be a start. imposing fair labor and environmental practices on those who would trade with the USA is another. With that and a real plan for changing over from fossil fuel economies to one driven by renewable energy, there may be hope for the world and it is certainly not in sweat shops. It may be in a little sweat equity though.
But to consider sweatshops as the next step up the food chain is simply to deny the possibility that there are other paths that can be followed for development. Certainly emulating Dickinsonian England of the early 19th century is not the only way to go for the third world. Neither is the gulag ridden path of the former Soviet Union or the authoritarianism of modern China. Perhaps Obama will give us a more enlightened path to trod perhaps in the footsteps of his predecessor FDR, or perhaps Lenin.

Time And Space In And Out Of This Dimension

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Inter-dimensional reality demands a certain perspective if we are to keep from becoming stuck in the here and now. Most in the so called spiritual world are fans of the Here and Now, in fact there is a saying “Be Here Now”. There was even a book.
But this is not where we are headed. No we are on the cusp of something grander, we are near the limit of a new reality.
This is the reality of the beyond. It is the past and future intertwined. This is not when, this is the then and the soon to be all in a happenstance. Time and space are a bubble. This bubble is the local field reality. It is sort of circular, but it involves the past and future in a local environment, like a being on a space station that has been there, and then hasn’t. It is like Mars, a place that has been and Venus, a place that is yet to be, but they all are in their own here and now. But they move, not in space, or time, but beside it. Like they are next door neighbors. Not all that next door, but close enough so that one can with a little effort, cross over so to speak. Time and the space near the end is not all there is. It is all this and more. More than we can ever know. But we can lie in our little rooms and look out through our little windows and feel the fates around us and know that they too wonder who we are.
What we are is the stuff of fairy tales and adventures and dreams. This is all there is. And there is never enough because there is nothing left but love and the kind hope that there is a candle in the wind blowing us to another starry place in this or that time and space.


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