Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bill Clinton, Nafta, Rahm Emanuel and the Jack Abramoff Two-Front Squeeze.

I was thinking about Bill Clinton this morning. Maybe partly because of his daughter's wedding. $5.0 million spent on a party. I remember reading that when he left the White House, Bill Clinton's total assets had a value of about $800,000, but he owed several million in attorneys' fees that he had run up in defending against all the crazy charges that had been brought against him. Well, things sure worked out okay for him, didn't they? He went from being $1.2 million in the hole to having so much money that he can throw away millions for an afternoon party. To which President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama weren't even invited! (Me neither).

I remember both he and the Mrs. were given millions to write their "memoirs," which probably was an indirect gift by their supporters to help them crawl out of the financial hole. But that was just the beginning. Bill Clinton soon was being showered with so much money from so many sources that it was hard to keep track of it all.

When Hillary was a Senator, I ran out some of the disclosures of finances, and they showed Bill getting $250,000 from Citibank (his buddy Bob Rubin, co-destroyer of the U.S. economy) for showing up for lunch, then the same thing a month later, and again, and again. Various Israel, or Jewish groups were giving him enormous amounts of money. Then there were a bunch of princes, or royalty from Saudi Arabia. It was an unbelievable amount of money, and it just kept coming. Remember some guy from one of the Stans paid Bill Clinton $100,000, something like that, to go with him to Canada and try to schmooze a deal for him? At one point, I counted up the money that had been paid to Clinton by various corporate and foreign interests, and it was closing in on One Billion Dollars. Much of which he hides in his personal "charity," meaning he doesn't pay taxes on it. My, how the lad has prospered since leaving the White House.

What were all those crazy charges against him? Travelgate? Allegations that Hillary Clinton fired somebody in the White House travel office? So what if she did? Somebody said the Clintons were running cocaine in and out of a private airfield in Little Rock. Who makes up this crazy kind of nonsense? Then they killed Vince Foster, for reasons no one ever could explain. The crazies said Hillary killed Vince Foster! Completely manufactured lies, even accusing them of murder! Then Whitewater: While Hillary was a partner in a firm in Little Rock, she billed 10 hours on a real estate development project that later got into some kind of trouble? So what?

We know the sex claims. Clinton had an affair with somebody Flowers. Okay. Then he supposedly wagged his weenie at Paula Jones. Yuck, but okay. Nobody said he attacked her, raped her, groped her, hit her. How did these unsubstantiated claims of a relatively unknown female become a nationally-financed lawsuit designed to bring down the Clinton White House? Who paid for this, and why?

How much money was spent in pursuing these claims, and for what purpose? Who financed it? Do you know how much it costs to engage in litigation at this level? Trust me: millions of dollars. So who financed it?

We were always told it was the crazed right-wing. But why were they so excited about Bill Clinton? Who was he but some moderate cracker from a poor southern state? He had no real national ties, no particular money-mob behind him. Why would they be worried about him?

Bill Clinton signed nafta in 1993. Rahm Emanuel was the finance guy on Clinton's white house campaign, then has a mysterious blank on his resume, then reemerges in 1993 just in time to push through nafta. Which Clinton must have known would destroy the country. So why did he sign?

Here's what I'm thinking. Jack Abramoff secretly got the "Christian" Ralph Reed to round up a group of lunatic Christians to picket against a proposed Indian casino gambling. Then Abramoff told the Indians that they would have to pay him a ton of money, so he could lobby the government and get the casino approved. It was the double-squeeze: secretly create the problem, put someone under intolerable pressures, threaten to destroy them, then come in and offer to rescue them -- for a price.

It occurs to me that may be what happened to Clinton. He was attacked by the right like the last morsel of food in a starving nation. Irrationally so. They spent millions to keep him under constant attack, and force him to run up millions in debt to pay attorneys to defend him. Then after he signed nafta, and became a cheerleader for the WTO, they kept the pressure on to force him to continue the corporate-sponsored program, finishing up his term by deregulating Wall Street and giving them the green light to steal all our money. He ended up receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the beneficiaries of his largesse.

Now Rahm Emanuel is back in the white house. Presumably putting pressure on Obama at the corporate direction, to make sure that every last piece of meat is shredded from the bones of our citizens before our nation is abandoned, and the WTO and their predator servants move on to their next victims. Is Obama receiving the Clinton treatment, the double-squeeze Jack Abramoff con job? It may have worked once.

Assuming they just can't find any scandal in Obama's history, is it possible that the threat, the pressure point would be to bring down every black politician or higher-level employee in the federal government if Obama does not do exactly as instructed by the corporate rulers, the WTO and their agents? I look at the Shirley Shirrod story, now we've got Charlie Rangel, rumors they're going after Maxine Waters next.

Rahm Emanuel received more money from Wall Street than did any other person in Congress, but nobody said a word against him. Instead, they go after little folks for small-potatoes claims, destroying by media instead of by evidence. It's beginning to smell like more than just a coincidence.

Here's an article discussing Obama's appointment of Rahm Emanuel right after the election:

But, it is Emanuel’s role in securing the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that seems most at odds with Obama’s campaign and the economic debate over NAFTA during the 2008 Democratic Party primary.

Emanuel and the Passage of NAFTA

The passage of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton was one of Clinton’s most controversial actions. It pitted environmentalists, organized labor, and activists against the Democratic Party’s corporate backers and ushered in a debate that still rages to this day. Many of these constituencies saw the passage of NAFTA as a betrayal and point to job losses, weakened environmental standards, and other problems as proof of their critique.

In facing down stiff opposition to the trade agreement from the Democratic Party’s base and grassroots groups, Clinton turned to Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel cut his teeth as a fundraiser during Clinton’s 1991 presidential campaign. Following the campaign, Emanuel become one of Clinton’s key operatives in the fight to pass NAFTA. Emanuel worked closely with the so-called “NAFTA czar”–William Daley, the son of late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley (and a friend of Obama’s who was recently appointed to his transition team)–in mustering enough votes for the trade agreement.

In The Selling of ‘Free Trade,’ Emanuel is remembered for his “aggressive” work on NAFTA and being a critical part of the administration’s NAFTA working group. Emanuel lobbied for votes, helped direct the media strategy (including one targeted leak to undercut news of an anti-NAFTA politician’s election in Canada), and participated in the administration’s campaign to get the agreement passed–over public opposition–no matter what the cost. An October 26,1993 article in The Hotline said that the White House’s NAFTA effort “came to life” under Emanuel, who served as its “operational director.”

Emaneul has reflected positively on the administration’s passage of NAFTA:

“You know, politics is about mending and tacking and so on, and setting your priorities. We were a very determined administration. We made a lot of compromises to get NAFTA passed and a lot of deals to get NAFTA passed.”

Emanuel’s Support for NAFTA and Obama’s Position: Not that Strange After All?

In his statement announcing Rahm Emanuel’s appointment, Obama makes no mention of Emanuel’s support of NAFTA–even when he highlights his work during the Clinton administration. Instead, Obama says:

“During his seven years in the Clinton White House, Rahm was the point man on some of the most difficult issues, from the passage of landmark anti-crime legislation to the expansion of health care coverage for children.”

Most press coverage of Emanuel’s appointment has mentioned that he played a key role in the passage of NAFTA, but none has explored how this may be at odds with Obama’s campaign.

During the primaries, Obama aggressively criticized NAFTA. However, following the end of the primary, Obama began to tone down his rhetoric and appeared to retreat on his NAFTA rhetoric. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Obama stated that much of the anti-NAFTA rhetoric was “overheated and amplified” and that he is a supporter of free trade and is looking for ways to make free trade agreements work for all.

Emanuel now has issued mild criticisms of NAFTA and has said that it would be negotiated differently now, but that the NAFTA issue is a distraction from larger problems with the economy. These mild criticisms are a lot like what Obama has said and are in many ways similar to Obama’s position: it isn’t the logic of free trade agreements and neoliberalism that is wrong, it’s how they are done. For his part, Rahm earlier this year urged the passage of several pending neoliberal trade agreements.

Rahm and NAFTA: Does it even Matter?

There is certainly a progressive case to be made against Rahm and a such critique certainly has merit. On issues from NAFTA to the Iraq War, Rahm’s position has been disappointing or at odds with what many progressives believe.

However, many progressives are defending Rahm as being necessary to navigate the difficult inter-workings of Washington politics. They argue that Rahm will not set policy priorities, but simply reflect Obama’s goals and direct his staff. Still, the Chief of Staff is responsible for determining the president’s schedule and controlling access to him–which gives Emanuel a key role in determining the voices Obama will hear.

At the same time, Emanuel is representative of some of the worst of Clinton’s politics and the rightward shift of the Democratic Party over the past two decades. Emanuel’s appointment–coupled with the appointment of a slew of former Clinton administration officials to Obama’s transition team–serve as important reminder that progressives need to be on their toes if they want to be represented in the Obama administration.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homeless And Hungry American Children, and Chelsea Clinton's Five Million Dollar Wedding. What's Wrong With This Picture?


Alexandra Pelosi has a new documentary showing on HBO, called "Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County." It's hearbreaking but well worth seeing.

The key economic problems facing these families are the grossly excessive run-up in the cost of housing (a bubble deliberately created by Greenspan and Wall Street to substitute for the tech bubble after Nasdaq collapsed), unemployment (the result of corporate trade deals which send jobs to other countries) and inadequate wages.

Most of these families have at least one person working full-time. Which, not that long ago, would have allowed these families to have a decent apartment or even a home, nutritious food, one parent at home to watch the kids, reliable transportation and clothing. But in today's world, with the crushing of American working people, all of that is gone. These children wander the streets of Anaheim at night watching the fireworks at Disneyland from a distance, usually hungry, searching through dumpsters for anything they can claim as their own. Since families are routinely evicted, the dumpsters contain the belongings of their former neighbors, the children's toys, yesterday's food. It's disgusting.

I'm thinking about Chelsea Clinton, a girl who has received the benefits of extreme privilege and wealth, and who decided that she would "give back" to the country by going to work for a hedge fund on Wall Street, and is now planning to marry another Wall Street scum. Chelsea has a new face and body (reportedly courtesy of the medical establishment) to fit her Wall Street life, and to show the world she is just like her despicable power- and money-hungry parents. They just reported that the Chelsea wedding will cost Five Million Dollars. I remember reading about Jimmy and Roslyn Carter's children doing things like going into the peace corps, becoming poverty workers, teachers -- giving back. Not Chelsea. She's a taker, like her parents.

I have a suggestion: maybe instead of Chelsea spending money like she's Anastasia in the last days, she could have a small wedding and give the Five Million Dollars she planned to waste on herself to the homeless families and children featured in this documentary. And to the homeless school that had been set up specifically to help these children, the wretched of the earth, who often spend nights sleeping in parks, and who rarely have enough to eat.

What do you say Chelsea? Do you think you've spent enough money on yourself now? Could you spare a nickel for the starving children of this country, children whose parents are unemployed because of what your parents did in sending their jobs to other countries. Sister, can you spare a dime?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chet Baker (1929-1988)


Chet Baker (1929-1988) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer and singer. He dropped out of high school at 16 and joined the Army, becoming a member of a band at the Presidio in San Francisco. After he left the military, he began playing in San Francisco jazz clubs. Among his earlier successes were being chosen to play with Stan Getz, then with Charlie Parker. Baker was very handsome, and was given a part in a movie in 1955 and offered an acting contract, which he declined in favor of continuing his life as a musician.

Baker's style of playing was unique, different from established jazz groups, and became known as being part of what was called the West Coast cool school of jazz.

Baker started using heroin in his 20s, and that habit eventually destroyed him and his career. He was known to have pawned his instruments to get money for a fix, and spent time in prison on a drug conviction. He was also later deported from West Germany and from the UK because of drug offenses. He settled in the San Francisco bay area and played in local clubs. He was beaten up one night and had many of his teeth knocked out, which destroyed his trumpet-playing style. He had to relearn how to play with dentures. After that, Baker left San Francisco and moved to New York City, then went to Europe again in the 1970s, where he lived for about the last ten years of his life. Although he continued to record, he did not receive the critical or financial support of previous years. Elvis Costello invited him to play on one of his recordings, and a younger generation began to discover the music of Chet Baker.

Baker died in 1988 as the result of an accidental fall out of the window of his second-story hotel room in Amsterdam. The autopsy found heroin and cocaine in his body.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Love Clouded Leopards.


Two clouded leopards just made their public debut in a zoo in Paris.

VoteVets? I Don't Think So.

I've been seeing commercials on TV funded by, and they always strike me as odd. I would think a veterans group would be actively campaigning to end the wars, for example. Or maybe campaigning to get better medical care and treatment for the wounded, better support for those unable to work or for the homeless alcoholic/drug addict veterans we create in every single war among those traumatized by their experience. Or maybe they would be campaigning to help the victims of Agent Orange from Vietnam -- help the Americans who have gotten sick or died because of exposure to Agent Orange, to help the poor Vietnamese who have a radical increase in cancer and birth defects because of the indiscriminate soaking of their nation by the U.S. with Agent Orange and other chemical weapons.

Or, a veterans group might even lobby to get help for the veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome from the first time we invaded Iraq. I think the veterans from that war include about 40% disabled, from mystery disease and illness that is killing them and their families. The government denies it is because of the war, but come on. Some think it is depleted uranium disease. But they certainly need help. And if our government is using chemical warfare (another international war crime) and exposing our troops in the process, don't we in the public have the right to know that? Do you think the macho young "I Want To Be A Marine" thick-necked 18 year olds who want to go to war and kill people might have second thoughts if you told them that when they get back, they're going to get cancer and give it to their wives, girlfriends, and children? Is it possible our country would rise up and shut down wars if they knew that we were giving cancer to our military people?

But no. That's not the concern of Instead, I see sponsoring very slick commercials about the need to get off of oil, and about how terrible Iran is, which is why we should get off of oil. What? What does Iran have to do with it? Next they'll be saying it's all Shirley Shirrod's fault. It's Iran's fault that we use oil? What type of thinking is that, other than extreme right-wing militaristic pro-war b.s.?

Who's really funding this group? That old man Pickens who is trying to get the government to buy his gas fields so he can get even richer? The nuclear industry that has apparently already bribed Obama to support their goal of One, Two, Three Chernobyls, public be damned.

As for electing veterans?? No, thanks anyway. I wouldn't necessarily vote against someone because they are a veteran. It's not like they're lawyers, for example, who should be prohibited by law from holding public office. Or the feeble-minded, like George W. Bush. But I wouldn't vote for somebody just because they're a veteran. Come to think of it -- that was Rahm Emanuel's strategy, just run veterans for office to continue the nation's commitment to neverending war. Maybe Rahm is funding this group. Personally, I think we need more women, school teachers, nurses, librarians, factory workers, carpenters, and moms in government, people who know how tough it is just to get by in our society, and a lot fewer of those who love war, and just want the chance to "do it right," as is apparently the goal of this crowd. Somebody needs to tell them there is no way to ever make a war "right."

VoteVets? I don't think so.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Here's How They Keep Us Divided.


Here's how it works. The right-wing attacks, demeans, humiliates women by saying they are stupid, incompetent, weak, emotional, incapable of rational thought or cool heads, not qualified to be in charge. And further attacks any ambitious woman based on her appearance -- she's not thin enough or pretty enough, she dresses too provocatively and is a slut or dresses too conservatively and is a lesbian. What kind of a woman is she that she does not stay home with her kids, or what kind of a mother is she that she can spend so much time on her career. It is a "you can't win" situation. They convince enough women and enough men that these cruel assaults are proper, even using religious quotes to justify them (the woman who works is evil and should be put to death) that eventually a lot of women just learn to stay quiet, try to avoid drawing attention to themselves, just get by as best they can. They give up any hope that our society will ever be fair in its dealings with women, and come to accept the lower pay, lack of promotion, lack of political representation, lack of respect.

Now they've gotten rid of (silenced) half the population, so they start on the next group. Let's say non-whites. That would be another 20% of the country (half of the non-white citizens are female so are already excluded). And a similar approach is used on them.

Now we're down to 30% of the country, only white men. Lots of them are then marginalized, told they are stupid, given guns and sent off to war, given dead-end jobs and told they must stay home and control the women. So now we're down to what? 10% of the country, all white men, run everything, steal everything, dictate everything, destroy everyone else's life, keep everyone divided against each other.

These attacks on women and minorities are not done without thought, they are not just the crazy rantings of lunatics. They are part of a carefully-planned program of people like KKKKarl Rove, Dick-In-A-Dress Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, the deaf drug addict on the radio, the teabaggers, most of the Republicans, to take over the country, steal all the money for themselves, and keep everyone else paralyzed with self-doubt and a hatred of their neighbors which prevents them from working together to fight the real enemy: the people who have stolen all the money and sent our jobs to other countries, the people who are selling off our nation's future to corporations and letting them destroy our environment.

We are smarter than that, and we need to begin calling these people out, fighting back. The real problem with the Democrats' non-response this week is that it shows they do not want the public organized, they do not want us to fight back, they do not want us to stand up for our own rights. They think we should silently accept vicious assaults on innocent people based on race or gender, to avoid conflict.

But there already is conflict in this society. It is a war being waged against most of us. We need to start standing up and fighting back. And here's the good news: there are more of us than there are of them. And we've got right on our side.

Because We're Women
Joyce Stevens (1975)

Because women's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious
and we're the first to get the sack
and what we look like is more important than what we do
and if we get raped it's our fault
and if we get bashed we must have provoked it
and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches
and if we enjoy sex we're nymphos
and if we don't we're frigid
and if we love women it's because we can't get a 'real' man
and if we ask our doctor too many questions we're neurotic and/or pushy
and if we expect community care for children we're selfish
and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and 'unfeminine' and if we don't we're typical weak females
and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man
and if we don't we're unnatural
and because we still can't get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon
and if we can't cope or don't want a pregnancy we're made to feel guilty about abortion
and ….. for lots and lots of other reasons we are part of the women's liberation movement.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's Rescind The "Free" Trade Deals And Get Our Jobs Back!

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is just a corporate front-group, just like the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are corporate financial arms. They are not independent, they do not represent the citizens of any nation, they do not want anything better for the world. Their goal is to put corporations in charge of everything in the world so they will own all the resources and dictate all the laws that govern most issues affecting peoples' lives. The draft version of the treaties that leaders of governments sign -- like Nafta, for example -- are prepared by corporations to solidify their stranglehold, expand their rights, and prevent the citizens of countries from being able to legally do anything stop WTO and corporate control.

Bill Clinton signed nafta knowing full well it would cause millions of good paying jobs to leave this country (Ross Perot told him it would), and that there would be no new jobs created to replace them, which means a new condition of lower wages (because of competition in the workforce) and higher permanent unemployment. In other words, the majority of people in this country, the working people, would be crushed. When Bill Clinton left office he supposedly had a net worth of under $1.0 million. But he and the Mrs. invested in India, one of the nations that benefited enormously from Clinton's trade agreements. And Clinton received hundreds of millions of dollars after he left office from Wall Street, the banks, and the wealthy controlling elite from countries around the world. Why did they give him all that money? Because his actions in signing onto the "free" trade scam made these foreigners even richer, put Wall Street and the banks into a position to begin a looting spree in this country to steal everything not nailed down.

Given this background of betrayal, the only reasonable response is to rescind all these agreements and start over, with protective barriers in place to allow new businesses to start up without being undercut by overseas (i.e. American money that has been hidden oveseas) companies flooding the markets to drive the new industry out of business. We need to make everything here: clothes, shoes, coats, grow our own food, catch our own fish. Stop all food imports. We need to make furniture and computers, and we need to have an environment in which creative software businesses can develop new products without being crushed by predatory monopolies like Microsoft, which means Microsoft and all the other bloated businesses in this country need to be busted up in anti-trust lawsuits, broken down into smaller businesses that do not have the resources to dominate the market. This would include every business on Wall Street.

We don't need to fiddle with these treaties. Some people insist that if we enforce environmental and labor regulations, that would change everything. But honestly, unemployed Americans don't benefit just because Chinese workers get a fifteen minute break twice/day, or if their wages are increased from $1.00 to $2.00/day. This is backwards liberal thinking. It is not our job to control business in China -- they've got their own situation, let them take care of it. We need our own businesses here in this country, and that will not happen just by having environmental or labor standards enforced in China. Bring the jobs back here.

I would also ban imports from any American business that claims its principal place of business is in the U.S., but most of their products are made overseas. If they are made overseas, the business should permanently move overseas. Adios traitors. Or, if they want to stay here, they will have to begin making their products here in the U.S.

We, the working people of this country, have been betrayed. We have been betrayed by both major political parties, Democrat and Republican, which have sold us out for money. The politicians sell their votes, solicit bribes, get rich, and destroy our lives. They have more in common with each other and with foreign rulers than they do with the citizens of this country. We need to start telling them what to do, beginning with rescinding every trade agreement, and investment in new (worker-owned) businesses in this country.

Who Says The Teabaggers Are Racists? I Do, I Do!


"Teabaggers" is a cruel nickname used by most people to describe a group of Americans, many of them old, all of them feeble-minded or suffering from mental illness and incapable of rational thought or responsible behavior, most of whom should be institutionalized and probably medicated to keep them calm. But the authorities periodically allow them to have little "outings" to their local parks, where they wander aimlessly and shout things that make no sense at all.

They like to draw pictures with crayons, like little kids, so local communities often have little craft play-activities for them to make signs for their outings. What they write on their signs makes no sense, it's completely irrational, just the mindless ramblings of the criminally insane.

Sometimes they take individual teabags and tie the strings around their ears, then when they shake their heads, they like to watch the teabags swing around and hit them in the eyeballs. It's very disturbing to watch. The poor things. They are a pitiful group. There may be a genetic link that causes this, because it seems to be confined to "white" people, many of them from the southern part of our country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Not Your Fault.

Being unemployed is a unique condition because our society teaches us that anyone who is out of work, or who does not earn money, is getting what they deserve. They didn't try hard enough, they didn't work enough hours and keep their mouth shut about illegal working conditions. So what if wages in the field were cut in half -- they should have gotten a second job. They should have gotten more education, gone to one of those schools that advertise on TV where you can get "specialty training" so you can become a receptionist in a doctor's office and earn $18,000/year, which will not be sufficient to ever pay off the tuition of $25,000 charged by the TV school. You should have, could have, might have, must have, done something to end up like this. It's your fault. Get a job, bum.

It's a lot like the social reaction to women who are beaten or raped. Lots of questions have to be answered before anyone will express even an ounce of sympathy. Why did she stay with him? Why did she move in with him? Why did she have kids with him? Why didn't she leave? She should have known better, her mother did not raise her like that. She had options, she didn't have to stay. She must have liked it. Or, for the rape victim, what was she doing out at 10:00 at night? Why did she go to THAT ATM machine in THAT part of town? Why didn't she go get money on her lunch break if she needed money? Why was she dressed like that? Why did she ALWAYS wear tight sweaters or short skirts or high heels or eyeshadow or dangly earrings or perfume.

We need a radical re-education. "We" are not the enemy, contrary to the cartoon, contrary to what the ruling class and politicians try to tell us. "We" didn't cause the looting of this country -- that was Wall Street. Wall Street told the local banks to loan money to anyone regardless of whether the borrower could repay, because Wall Street would buy those loans, slap a coat of cheap paint on them and re-sell to the world and claim they were the best loans ever. That's why the country's economy collapsed and that's why we had gross overbuilding of homes and now massive foreclosures across the land. It wasn't "us" who did it -- it was Wall Street. And they paid off the cops, too. The cops would be the government, which is supposed to monitor and control these predators on Wall Street but instead the politicians decided they'd rather take bribes and look the other way. "We" didn't cause this -- our politicians are corrupt, and they not only allowed it to happen, but they actually profitted from it.

"We" are not the enemy. "We" are part of the same team. We need to get T-shirts printed up that show which team we're on -- our team. Unemployed, broke, homeless, hungry, crime victims, sick, uninsured, denied healthcare, sent to illegal wars, had our family members murdered by the corporate effort to steal everything in the middle east, denied jobs, denied opportunity, denied fair wages, denied job security, replaced by slave labor, sold inedible garbage labeled as food, children denied education, parents denied retirement. That's us. That's our team. And if our team ever gets organized, we will be unstoppable.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Build An Anti-War Movement.


How do we build an anti-war movement? Obviously whatever has been done isn't working. I'm guessing people are overwhelmed just trying to survive.

A "movement" does not consist or arise out of one person saying there should be a movement. Even Rosa Parks wasn't really Rosa Parks. She did not start the bus boycott. Lots of people around the country, in small groups, on college campuses, in churches, inside unions, in political party meetings, had begun to organize around the idea of civil rights. Thurgood Marshall's legal guidance was inspired and brilliant, which is why the Republicans hate him to this day. The NAACP, the lunch counter sit-ins, the freedom riders, of course Martin Luther King, Jr. , voter registration -- thousands of people worked on these issues. Rosa Parks was without question an incredibly brave woman who risked her life to sit in the front of the bus, but she was not alone. She had a solid group of people ready to come to her defense once she sat down.

I think the anti-war movement would have to be in combination with labor issues, for example, maybe vet issues. There are groups in existence already who would be likely to get out and demand the wars end, but the issues will have to be tied together.

But I suspect it would require lots of little groups -- 6 people here, 4 there -- maybe teach-ins, maybe speakers going to churches and talking about the money, the waste. It can't be mostly an angry invitation. It will not work if it is "what's wrong with you losers?" It has to be presented to people in a way that lets them decide, in their own group, that they want to do something to help.

I think unemployment and layoffs and state and city bankruptcies are ripe for organization. And they tie in logically with anti-war.

Maybe the unions, or what's left of them. Maybe organize at unemployment offices.

I've gotten out on street corners with other people, holding signs, and surprisingly we get mostly thumbs up from people driving by. Polls show the majority want the wars ended. How can we turn that into a demand instead of just a "hope."

I also don't think that screaming hatred at Obama is the way to go. The right has that position covered. Maybe another approach, something like "for the benefit of us all, to save the country, to stop the money, to bring the resources back home and create jobs for our own people." That has a certain appeal.

I also don't think one person can figure this out. Again, it needs to be a group organized around something, then group discussions, reach out to other groups. With the internet, it certainly should be possible to do research and develop a talking points (or maybe a monthly memo that people could put their own city's name on top of it, call it a blog). Let's say National Anti-War Blog, for example, then St. Louis Missouri Anti-War Blog. The basic information would be provided for use for whoever wanted in monthly blog or more often, but then local people would have to update to include local information.

Then put letters in the local paper with the updated information, send people to the blog. Make it local. How many people from your community are in the war, how many have died, how many injured, how many not receiving the services they need. How many unemployed, how many foreclosures, how many teachers and cops fired. No hope at all -- the federal government occasionally admits there is no hope, double-digit unemployment is the new norm, and if we don't like it, too bad. But if we weren't spending all that money on the wars, we could create our own jobs.

I would add in that we need to rescind every trade agreement, create worker-owned industry and pass protective laws to prevent imports. Period. No imports until our country is back on its feet. I would say no visa workers until our own unemployment is down to 3%.

People are terrified. They can't focus on the wars, which are far away, and rarely covered in the news, when their mortgage is in foreclosure. It all ties together, but different groups can provide part of the answer to the puzzle.

People do not hate Obama, except for the racist rednecks. It's possible, and I would say preferable, to create an anti-war movement that is not centered around saying Obama is a pig. Most Democrats won't accept that type of attack on him, would be embarrassed to be associated with that. The guy's got enough attacks from the right. Push, yes, disagree, yes, but attacking him, or attacking other people who are likely supporters, is not the way to build a movement.

Maybe reach out to some of the groups that have experience in organizing people, talk to them, see if they would get on board. Try to get groups in every state, have meetings, come up with a name (coalition to end the wars sound good), start with local activities and education programs, go from there.

As a last issue, the Democrats and their major supporting groups will argue that this is not the time, not now with the 2010 elections coming. After then it will not be the time because the 2012 elections will be coming. By corralling people into elections work, the democrats prevent us from doing the work that would actually help our country, focusing on the issues that might just save it. Obama has quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt in saying that if the citizens want him to do something, we need to get organized, get out in the streets, and make him do it. Let's take him at his word

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Naomi Klein - G20 - We Need Global Justice.

In late June, there was a meeting in Toronto of a group of nations which call themselves the G20. The streets in Toronto were filled with people protesting the G20, being chased, beaten, jailed by the police, amid scenes of general chaos.

What is the G20? It is a group of people, leaders of certain nations and their representatives, plus the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) who meet regularly and agree about how to control the economy of the world. When unemployment benefits in the U.S. are not extended despite double-digit unemployment and no jobs, you can look to groups like the G20, IMF and WB who, through the World Trade Organization (WTO) have taken over the control of the entire economy of the world. Who do they represent and in whose interests do they act? They represent rich people and corporations, and act in their interests. They do not represent the citizens of any nation. That's why they are so unpopular.

What did the G20 say after their little summer get-together in the beautiful city of Toronto? They said of the citizens, the poor, the unemployed, the children, the old, they said the same thing: "Let them eat cake." Or today's version of it, which is "We must pay down deficits."

What does that mean? Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine (if you never read another book in your life, you've still got to read this one) explains how the system works. First the wealthy loan money, cheap, to a country, inflate the value of assets (like they did to housing in this country), then pull all their money out and watch the market crash and, as it does, create massive widespread unemployment. People lose their jobs, homes, savings, and pensions. Then they lose hope.

Once the people are broken, then the wealthy, through their corporate ownership and control of the governments of the major nations, move back in and take over everything. They have the government tell the citizens that the country can no longer afford public education, so the schools must be closed. That's happening right now. They say that we cannot afford cops, so they are laid off. They say that we cannot afford Medicare and Social Security, so those programs will be eliminated (and the money which was paid into those programs for decades by working people will be stolen by the rich). They say that the nation must sell off its assets to private investors (the rich) -- sell the lakes, sell the oceans, sell all the water to corporations who will turn around and sell it back to us for a lot more money. Sell the freeways and the ports and the airports to foreign investors who will charge each of us a bundle every time we drive our car, or need to fly somewhere.

That is the role of the G20: to work on behalf of the rich and powerful to bust the people of the world, take away everything they have and crush them into submission.

The G20 and the IMF and the World Bank all work together as representatives of corporations. They make decisions that help corporations maximize their theft and minimize their liability. For example, the "free" trade agreements this country has signed often include provisions that would prevent our country from imposing restrictions on businesses operating inside our country. We lose the ability to control our own nation. The citizens have no say, because the government signed a treaty and took away our rights. That's why we need to demand that all trade treaties be rescinded.

Here are some brief comments from Naomi Klein about the G20.

Here's the link to the Toronto Globe & Mail article that Naomi Klein is discussing, about the origins of the G-20.

There is a link below to another article about the G20, this one posted at Counterpunch, excerpts below:

The Toronto Sixteen
Supporting the Prisoners of the G20 Police State

This week, my mind is with the sixteen Canadians who will be transported between their maximum security jail cells and the court to determine whether they will be held in prison until trial or released on extremely restrictive bail conditions. They are accused of organizing the protests against the elite G20 summit of world leaders that took place in Toronto at the end of June. At these protests, thousands of people took to the streets in opposition to specific policies of these twenty leading world governments or in negation of the global political and economic system in its entirety. ...

In all, over 1000 people were arrested during three days of protest, many of them detained based on their appearance, put in cages, sexually harassed or assaulted, injured, denied food, water, legal and medical attention, and otherwise abused. ...

Some of them were arrested in early morning raids, forced half-naked out of bed at gunpoint, assembled on their lawns and handcuffed in the pre-dawn darkness, and hauled off to jail. Others were picked up while biking or walking around town, sometimes by plainclothes cops making lightning grabs, a tactic perfected by the Stalinist police (the cops are internationalists, you see, and their methods for control travel across borders with much greater ease than they allow the rest of us).

None of this should be surprising. Powerful men in suits convening to discuss world problems; heavily armed police kicking down a door and sticking a gun in your face—this is the most ordinary juxtaposition imaginable in a democratic society.

The G20, just like the G8 and just like the International Monetary Fund or World Trade Organization and just like capitalism as a whole, is an act of exclusion, and when the stakes are this high, exclusion is always a violent thing. The governments that compose the G20, like all governments everywhere, base their power on forcibly excluding anyone else from making decisions that affect their lives. When the G20 convene to talk about global warming or financial crises—problems which they largely created, which they profit from immensely, and which they will escape the worst effects of—they are not making decisions in any positive sense, so much as preventing all the rest of us from addressing teose problems....

The fact that the global economy functions simply to keep capital moving, regardless of who is harmed in the process, the fact that elite institutions and politicians can respond to capitalist crisis by funneling billions to the banks and kicking normal people out of their houses, and the fact that people who protest this are surveilled and brutalized through a program of counterterrorism, are all aspects of the same truth: being robbed of our ability to live with health and dignity and being prohibited from intervening in our own lives are the same thing. The gun in the face and the televised speech are two motions in the same process....

British Petroleum can kill their workers and destroy the Gulf of Mexico, ... but if protestors smash a bank window or light a cop car on fire, they are denounced as violent. ...

What matters is that when all those workers died, when all those people were evicted, when all that money was taken from us by the banks, when all those bombs fell, when all that air and water were poisoned, no one in power was punished and it didn't matter whether rules were broken or followed. To speak of rules and laws is to perpetuate one of the greatest lies of our society.

This is their vision of the future: cops and security cameras everywhere, preemptive arrests for simply planning or talking about resistance, people with masks or spraypaint or eye wash for the teargas being treated as terrorists.

Peter Gelderloos is the author of How Nonviolence Protects the State.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nathans Hot Dogs - Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York


Nathan’s Hot Dogs is a hot dog stand that was started in 1916 in Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York, by an immigrant from Poland named Nathan Handwerker. Nathans has been in business now for over 90 years, and the name Nathans Famous Hot Dogs is recognized throughout the world.

Nathans Hot Dogs was popular from the outset, but over the years has gained celebrity-level popularity with stars, international visitors, and politicians from throughout the country, all of whom want to have their picture taken at Nathans, eating a hot dog. It's just a very American thing to do. Nelson Rockefeller, one-time Governor of New York, made the statement that nobody could get elected to any office in New York unless they had a photo of themself eating a hot dog at Nathans.

Among the people who ate at Nathans Hot Dogs in Coney Island, Brooklyn, are Al Capone, Eddie Cantor, the Queen of England, Jimmy Durante, Jerry Lewis, Sandy Koufax, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Princess Grace, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cary Grant. In 1939, still in the midst of the great depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt served Nathans Hot Dogs to the King and Queen of England. Jackie Kennedy loved Nathans hot dogs, and also served them at the White House. Nathans Hot Dogs were flown to Yalta and served in the famous meeting at Yalta between FDR, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Barbra Streisand flew a package of Nathans to London and served them at a dinner party.

The man who started it all, Nathan Handwerker, was eventually named one of the 100 top people of New York City, joining such luminaries as Joe DiMaggio and Irvin Berlin. The noted actor Walter Matthau had requested that Nathans Hot Dogs be served at his funeral, and they were.

Nathan's branched out, and today they are sold in all 50 states, with 360 million Nathans Famous Hot Dogs sold last year.

Of course Nathans is also well-known for the annual hot dog eating contest held each 4th of July at Nathans in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. In 2010, there were 40,000 people who went to the hot dog eating contest as fans, and it was broadcast on ESPN live to over a million viewers on TV. The winner ate 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. (Burp).

Bob Sheppard (1910-2010) New York Yankees Announcer, RIP


Robert Leo Sheppard, aka "Bob" Sheppard, died this week-end. He was a much-beloved figure in the world of Major League Baseball. Sheppard was the announcer for the New York Yankees from 1951-2001. He announced over 4500 Major League Baseball games. While he was with the Yankee organizations, his team won 22 American League Pennants and 13 World Series Championships.

Yankees players and fans sometimes called Bob Sheppard the "Voice of God." Derek Jeter, shortstop for the Yankees, loved Sheppard's work so much that even after Sheppard retired, Jeter asked that a recorded version of Sheppard's annoucement be used whenever Jeter came to bat.

Bob Sheppard was 99 years old, just months shy of 100. RIP Bob Sheppard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan: Scapegoats Of The Day.


Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan have a lot in common. They both have foul-mouths, both are alcoholics, both are involved in a series of public scandals, can't seem to keep their mouths shut. We hear about both that this time they're done, nobody will hire them. But we know that's not true, and it should not be true. If they clean up and apologize, they should be allowed to work just like everyrone else.

If you read comments from people in Hollywood, and even some in the national political scene, they're fairly ridiculous. Ari Emanuel called for Mel Gibson to be "shunned" by everyone in Hollywood. Sounds Biblical, doesn't it? Who did Mel Gibson kill? Why, nobody, that's right. I wonder if Ari Emanuel has ever called for the public to shun his brother Rahm Emanuel who is a big supporter of the U.S. slaughter of citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan? No, I don't think that killing Muslims rates a shunning from him. Ari Emanuel, by the way, is a big agent in Hollywood. He probably was hoping others would shun Mel so he could sign him.

I'm reading others trying to rally the public, saying this is it for Mel, we must act in a unified manner, as if Mel Gibson was the Boston Strangler, and we needed to organize teams to walk the city streets and warn old ladies to keep the latch on their doors.

What is it he did again? What's the story of Mel Gibson? His father's a Nazi, we know from public comments made by Herr Father. Mel was raised in some cult religious group that claims to be Catholic although the Catholic church denies it. Mel Gibson is an admitted alcoholic, chain-smoker, addict with significant impairment throughout his life. He suffers from chronic depression and has been suicidal at different times. He's fanatically religious and has a rather odd obsession with violence which could arise from a childhood of acting as punching bag for some psychotic authority figure. His movies, notably Braveheart and the Jesus Slasher Film, focus on violence and suffering as if that was a good thing. Backwards, for sure. He was married for many years to some poor (but rich) woman and impregnated her at least 7 times. We know that much.

We also know that as soon as he and the Mrs. split, he hooked up with some pretty young babe who seemed to get pregnant on the first date or soon therafter. I'm guessing that Mel Gibson, a 50-something year old drunk with lots of money but publicly a disgrace, wanted to believe the young babe was in love with him, but recently learned that the pregnancy is the same as a lottery ticket. I want to know how much money her attorney demanded. Given that it's Hollywood, my guess is $20-30 million. For having sex with the guy. And now Mel is furious because he realizes he's been had. So he calls up the babe in a (drunken?) rage and rants, and she tapes it. And I would not be the least surprised if the tapes are being released to put pressure on him to settle, to give her the amount of money she's demanded. Sorry, but this lady is 40 or close to it, and I don't buy the "I'm just a sweet innocent victim" act she's putting on. Mel screwed her, and now she's screwing him.

In the process of screaming at the babe, Mel used the n-word. She taped it. He previously used the J-word (not Jesus, but Jews) when he said that the Jews started all the wars in the world. Okay, I've never heard that one, but okay. Stupid, but not the worse thing I've ever heard. Not as bad as all the "towel-head" and "rag-head" slurs we regularly hear from Hollywood insiders, not even close to the B*tch and C*nt words we hear from the Hollywood insiders every day when they talk about women. I wish somebody, somewhere, would stand up and demand that somebody "Shun" a major actor because he called a woman a B*tch! That'll be the day.

As for Lindsay Lohan, her crime apparently is that she is a drunk and/or a drug addict, she had a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend, her mother is skanky and wear skirts way too short for her age, her dad used to be a drunk, she hasn't had a successful movie in a few years, and she painted F-You on her fingernail and held it in front of her face in court, like she was saying that to the judge. Well I can sympathize with her on that one. I've known some judges who should be told that on a regular basis. But what is the serious, significant wrong she has done, other than being a substance abuser like so many others? She didn't start any wars. She didn't rob the country blind like the criminals on Wall Street did. So is she really Top 10 Most Wanted material? Or is this just silliness?

\What bothers me about the self-rightous gang-banging quality of the unified condemnation from those paragons of virtue in Hollywood is that they are so obviously disconnected to the real world. There are calls to boycott, condemn, shun Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan. Really? Because they are drunks and say bad words?

How about this, Hollywood insiders. How about shun every person who works on Wall Street, how about condemn them for destroying this country? How about shunning the people who support these wars of aggression, and shunning businesses that throw Americans out of work. Shun rich people who use tax dodges to bankrupt our nation and use slave labor to make themselves richer. Shun the politicians who take money and sell their votes.

I'm not saying Mel Gibson or Lindsay Lohan should be admired. Just put into context. They don't matter. Not nearly as much as the unemployed Americans who can't find jobs, and who can't afford healthcare, housing or even food. And for heaven's sake, if the elite and those drawn to the limelight want to call on the world to shun two drunken actors, they should at least take that arrogant condescending tone out of their voice before they say it, because all they're really doing is getting together with other rich and powerful people and gang-jumping a couple of drunks.