July 7, 2009 archive

We’d Better Learn

I read a story one day that caused me to think

That the history I knew was wrong.

The stuff that I learned made my heart sink

That my government would hurt us so long.

I read another story, then more and more,

Things started falling in place.

I owe my soul to the company store

Seemed to fit our national disgrace.

The CIA, the MIC, and the powerful banks

They all seem to own our politicians.

They steal our money and build more tanks

While we sit back and give them permission.

The wars we have fought, the people we’ve killed

The history I knew was untrue.

I learned that the rich while we foot the bill

Only use us as if we were fools.

It goes back to the time when this country was founded

The first war we herald as great.

When the rich had the poor fight for Indian ground

The rich won and opened the gate.

I try to tell people, they think that I’m nuts

They nod or they call me CT.

I tell them I’ve read alot and alot

But they can’t let their minds be that free.

I will keep reading because that’s what I do.

I don’t bowl or golf or watch TV.

I’ll learn what I can and pass it along.

To those that think like me.

Information is key, the more that we know

Will open our minds to the past

From what I have learned, the lessons it shows

This chance might be our last.


WSJ reports: White House Open to Deal on Public Health Plan

crossposted on Daily Kos

White House Open to Deal on Public Health Plan


WASHINGTON — It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday.


One of the most contentious issues is whether to create a public health-insurance plan to compete with private companies.

Mr. Emanuel said one of several ways to meet President Barack Obama’s goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own. He noted that congressional Republicans crafted a similar trigger mechanism when they created a prescription-drug benefit for Medicare in 2003. In that case, private competition has been judged sufficient and the public option has never gone into effect.

Mr. Obama has pushed hard for a vigorous public option. But he has also said he won’t draw a “line in the sand” over this point.


OH NO! Not that stupid Trigger Option again!

Enough Already!  

The empty arsenal of democracy

The question that haunts progressives in Internet forums is “What comes next?” What will break through the entrenched resistance of the corporate-owned political establishment and turn the Internet into a medium of democratic (small d) political action. I believe that many progressives have wrongly concluded that nothing further could be expected from Internet political phenomena than that they should function as helpful adjuncts to traditional clubhouse politics (e.g., the DKos model). I disagree strongly, and herewith explain what I think has gone wrong and how to put things right:

I.  What has gone wrong with political blogs

We have been disarmed by a focus on information. The notion that a properly informed citizenry will act in its interests is manifestly faulty, because it neglects the obvious psychological obstacle of a citizenry that has been frightened, narcotized, or otherwise manipulated into passivity. For example, almost every American knows that the Iraq war was a cruel joke played on our citizenry, our soldiers, and the people of Iraq, but the war continues, year after year after year.

As a thought experiment, pretend that the Internet existed in Germany in 1944 and that citizens could access reports of holocaust genocide being committed in Nazi death camps. Do you think the “good Germans” would have rebelled and brought down their government? Of course not, they would simply have ignored the evidence and carried on with the war, just as Americans have ignored the evidence of the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo and are allowing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to continue.

The Nazi concentration camps were not shut down by newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, informative pamphlets, or religious appeals. They were closed by the forcible defeat of Nazi Germany. In our era, rogue corporations will never modify their rapacious behavior because of information – no matter how sophisticated its composition and delivery. They will change only when they are forced to change by action that directly impinges on their profits or threatens their corporate existence.

You may think it a strong claim that I declare Internet political blogs to be impotent, but I would go further. To the degree that they act as energy sinks and emotional outlets for politically engaged individuals, they actually subtract from the potential for effective action. Think of how often you have enjoyed the cathartic process of reading of some fresh outrage against humanity, then posting your own amplifying comments. It may feel satisfying, but it is the equivalent of empty political calories, because nothing has been accomplished, other than generating a bit of traffic for a blog site.

II. How to make blogging politically effective

Political change does not come from enlightenment of the oppressed; it comes from defeating the oppressors. You can’t change the behavior of Goldman Sachs or Halliburton by explaining their mischief in elaborate and irrefutable detail. The American people already know that these are gangster organizations. But the people, and their elected “representatives,” are too intimidated and paralyzed to attack these monsters.

Political activity on the Internet needs to be “weaponized” in order to change the power relationships in world society. There is no “arsenal of democracy” in the political forums of the Internet. The armory is empty. All we have are crumpled informative handbills blowing in the wind of irrelevance. How do we build an arsenal of democracy on the Internet? Here are some ideas:

1. The Burning Lens. Every child has seen how a simple magnifying glass can concentrate the rays of the sun to create a spot of intense heat that can set things afire. This is the crucial metaphor for using the Internet as a political weapon. Only a small fraction of the population is politically active and willing to devote more than a fraction of their time to securing political change. The advent of the Internet substantially increased the power of this activist minority, but the evolution of organizational structure to concentrate Internet activism on a SMALL NUMBER OF TARGETS has lagged. Like children in a candy store, today’s Internet political activists are so dazzled and disoriented by the array of issues before them that their efforts are widely scattered and diluted into insignificance. Consider what would happen to Goldman Sachs if 50,000 people devoted a significant portion of their time to a collective effort to curb the pernicious behavior of this corporation. Without focus and convergent effort on selected targets of direct action, political action on the Internet will remain feeble and irrelevant.

2. The People’s Charter. Corporations have already set up world governments. They operate globally and play off nations against each other to advance their interests. They use nation-states and their thickets of jurisdictional legal obstructions as weapons against the people of the world. Political activists must accept that there is only one standard of health for the world; there is only one value of human life for the world; and there is only one definition of personal freedom for the world. Just as the Magna Carta secured fundamental liberties for the English people centuries ago. A single global people’s charter must be developed to present a common political platform for humanity against the rapacity of the corporations.

3. The Corporate Death Penalty. Corporations do not enter the world through immaculate conception. They are chartered by political bodies for the good of society. What is chartered can be un-chartered. Removing a corporation’s charter is the equivalent of sentencing it to death. If politicians cannot be persuaded to de-charter a corporation, then the corporation can be killed by free market means, through boycotts, strikes, and customer-directed and supplier-directed campaigns. Capital punishment advocates have long argued for the deterrent value of the death penalty. Although this deterrence has not been proven for individual criminals, it is very likely to be an effective mechanism in curbing destructive behavior of rogue corporations.

How are these political weapons to be wielded? In this sequence:

I. A rogue corporation is identified as being in violation of the People’s Charter.

II. The rogue corporation is selected by Internet progressives as an exemplary target.

III. Burning Lens sanctions and direct actions are conducted against the rogue corporation until its business fails or it is de-chartered.

IV. Other corporations observe the outcome of this process and modify their behaviors accordingly.

We can shout the truth from one hundred million web sites forever, and not one corporation mercenary will lift a finger to trade profit for ethical conduct. Yelling louder does not work when malefactors are ethically deaf. Rogue corporations can be defeated only by weapons designed to injure them, not by words meant to cajole them. The empty arsenal of Internet democracy must be filled with arms that can change the world, not with impotent cries of rage.

Howard Zinn On Creating A Movement To Pressure Obama

I originally posted this video interview with Zinn back on April 10, 2009 following the then recent revelations of President Obama’s DOJ under Eric Holder betraying Obama’s campaign promises to instead embrace the Bush administrations claims for immunity and “states secrets” in the case of clear FISA violations and illegal wiretapping.

So much more has gone down since then, and Obama has turned his back on so many of his campaign pledges to make his administrations policy decisions so far essentially a direct extension of the policies of the past eight years, with most of the bigger points outlined in Paul Street’s recent article The Dawning Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left that I wonder if it is time for revisiting what Zinn had to say in this interview now…

In part three of what was a series of interviews, historian, political scientist, social critic, activist, author and playwright Professor Howard Zinn talks here with Real News CEO Paul Jay about why so many people seem to be convinced that Obama is anything more than what he appears to be given his actions and policies implemented since inauguration, and about how to create a mass popular movement to pressure Obama for progressive results in a supportive way, and concludes that social turmoil is not only not bad but necessary if it leads to something good in the sense of creating real change.

Real News – April 10, 2009

Send a message to Obama

Howard Zinn: Social turmoil is not bad if it leads to something good

Overnight Caption Contest

Some questions after an interesting few weeks.

It’s been quite interesting the past few weeks as far as what’s been going on and the blogosphere’s reaction towards the happenings. I thought it might be a good idea to ask some questions and see what the responses are. I have my own thoughts, of course, but it would be interesting to see yours and the reasoning behind them.

‘Charlie Don’t Surf!’ McNamara, Kurtz, and the Only True Freedom

I wrote this in 2007 for a conference in Nice, France. Reposting it to commemorate the death of Robert McNamara. At times like this, I find myself wishing that the afterlife existed. Hell, specifically …


What was Indochina? What did it mean? And what visual images suggest themselves? For me, I have never been able to shake the image in Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now” of the American Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) who tells his staff that a seaside village with wonderful surfing conditions is to be bombed flat so that he and his staff can get a bit of surfing in before dinner. When one of his offers warns him that Charlie controls that village, Kilgore screams: “Charlie don’t surf!” It is self-evident and rational that he has a RIGHT to that beach because he can make better use of it. Kilgore’s proclamation is the paradigmatic image of one type of rationality, the type of rationality that manufactures sensible alibis for horrific acts. The rationale he manufactures to justify his right to a particular stretch of beach is really no more or less dubious than the alibis that our first protagonist, Robert McNamara, offered during the American misadventure in Indochina. Our other protagonist, Coppola’s fictional Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, faces the same conditions as does McNamara, but Kurtz’s refusal to tolerate what he calls “the stench of lies” drives him insane and then kills him.

Honduras: Please Help With This


Today I read that many poor people from Honduras have been fleeing the country, passing through Guatemala, and are landing in shelters in Oaxaca, Mexico:

The military coup in Honduras is providing an unexpected test of Mexico’s immigration and refugee policies. On Friday, July 3, dozens of Honduran nationals arrived at a church-run migrant shelter in the southern state of Oaxaca seeking refugee status because of the political situation in their country.

Alejandro Solaline Guerra, spokesman for the Mexican Episcopal Conference, said a group of Hondurans sought assistance at the House of Mercy in Ciudad Ixtepec on the Tehuantepec Peninsula. The migrant advocate said the bishops’ organization will contact the National Migration Institute to request refugee status for the Hondurans under international law.

“Migrants from a country in a state of war should not be denied refugee status,” Solaline declared.

The Honduran political crisis could aggravate an already conflictive situation in Mexico’s southern border region. Despite the international economic crisis, thousands of Central Americans and other Latin migrants continue to cross the country’s southern border en route to the United States. Along the way, migrants remain a favorite target of corrupt Mexican officials and bands of organized criminals.


I think that as the golpe de estado continues in Honduras and as the instability and repression grow, and the economy continues to be disrupted, more and more poor Hondurans will have to pick up and leave, fleeing across Guatemala and into Mexico.

I suspect that those who are running shelters all along the well traveled route from Honduras and across southern Mexico could help these refugees if they had money to do so.

That’s where I need help.  El Hogar de Misericordia en Ixtapa does not have a web site.  La Conferencia del Episcopado Mexicano has a site, but no way to donate.  I don’t find on line anywhere to donate to support these refugees on their journey away from Honduras and into Mexico, though I am well aware that there are shelters along the route.

Long story short: I need your help to find a way to get funds to those who are helping the refugees from Honduras who arrive in Mexico.

This seems particularly important to me. Those fleeing Honduras are preyed on by gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha and their rivals, by coyotes, by the police.  Their journey is precarious even when it is motivated purely by economics.  And now, I fear the golpe de estado and the lockdown in Honduras and Honduras’s economic isolation will drive even more poor people from their homes into the snares set by waiting gangs and police.  The shelters are essential to protect these refugees, to feed them, to give them an opportunity to stop in a safe place.

It would be a service to provide financial help to the shelters.  The question, dear Dharmanics, is how we can do that.  I ask your assistance in finding a way.

h/t to Mariachi Mama for the Mexidata article

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