Friday, February 1, 2013
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Marx, Karl. "Critique of the Gotha programme". Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2012.
More, Thomas. "Utopia”. Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2012.
Friday, September 21, 2012
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it … These are people who pay no income tax," Romney said. "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
1) standing by the President "...no matter what," so they are obviously not critical thinkers. After all, if the President committed some "high crime or misdemeanor," those people would still stand by him.
2) they are "...dependent upon government." This gets a little confusing if in fact you are a critical thinker, because we are all dependent on government, even if only to make sure the shipping lanes are free so we can continue to get our petroleum fix, but of course, there is much, much more that government does for us— even the 1%. But Mitt's on a roll, and if he quickly moves on to the next point, these folks won't really analyze what he just said (not that he gave it any thought ether).
3) "who believe they are victims." I get the sense from the tone of this rant that Mitt believes the 1% are victims of these freeloaders, as well as being victims of big government, taxes, and regulations. I guess the 47% don't have a monopoly on victimization.
4) "who believe that government has a responsibility to take care of them" I can site literally dozens of instances where corporations and wealthy people have expected the government to take care of them. How about all those multimillion dollar oceanfront homes that get wiped out every hurricane season only to be rebuilt using government-subsidized flood insurance? Or how about the wealthy investor group that builds a stadium in the heart of the city in exchange for huge tax breaks and subsidies? How about huge federal subsidies to the oil industry even in years of record profits?
5) "who believe they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, you name it..." Well, OK. He's more familiar with his audience than I am. Maybe they really don't think health, food, and shelter are human rights. Maybe only 47% of the country does.
6) "These people who pay no income tax," Actually, many people in his audience probably don't pay any income tax either, because they live off of dividends. They pay capital gains taxes instead. Others exempt from income tax are those who are retired and receive less than $25K if filing singly and $32K if filing married (from the SS Web site). And those who are actually so low on the pay scale that they don't make enough to pay income tax are still paying payroll taxes, sales tax, state and local taxes... So here is an instance where Mitt is actually using language to "make unbalanced power relations and portrayals of social groups [that] appear to be commonsense, normal, and natural when in fact the reality is prejudice, injustice, and inequities" (McGregor 5).
7) "My job is not to worry about those people." THOSE PEOPLE. The workers. The laborers. The commoners. The peasants. The servants. The slaves. The other.
8) "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Because they aren't us.
So is he intentionally creating a scapegoat to encourage his wealthy prospects to part with some of their capital gains? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, like the ancient Romans in the Spartacus series, he just doesn't notice the slaves and servants around him.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
September 5, 2012
The meeting came our last evening of a 9-day delegation co-sponsored by Nicaragua Network and the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) with 20 participants from around the US, as well as from Canada and the UK. Among the participants were SOAW Council member Ken Hayes, long time SOAW activist Mary Anne Perrone and SOAW activantes Amanda Jordan and Alejandro Ramirez. The delegation visited Esteli and Managua and met with many sectors of society, rural and urban communities, women and youth organizations, health and education centers, cooperatives, religious and ex-pat organizations. We also met with government officials, human rights representatives, media and opposition leaders.
In the meeting with President Daniel Ortega we shared how impressed we were with the positive strides to alleviate poverty that were strikingly visible to us: new homes, roofs, roads, water systems, as well as in the very upbeat and positive spirit that seems to permeate the country, especially among women, youth and sectors which were formally marginalized. We also shared that we were concerned that Nicaragua had continued to send troops to the SOA under the current government. This is surprising given the fact that the Somoza dictatorship was held up in large part due to National Guards trained at the SOA. We did note, however, that since our previous meeting with Ortega in 2008 their numbers of Nicaraguan students had dropped dramatically from 78 in 2008 to 5 in 2011.
President Ortega shared with great honesty what a challenge it is to be such a small and impoverished nation with so much historic economic dependence on the US, while also lacking the natural resources that many nations of South America have. "We are a very fragile nation" he shared. He stressed the importance of the growing unity and support among Latin American nations, and expressed gratitude for their economic solidarity. This is, however, still not sufficient enough to allow Nicaragua to be totally independent of the US, a nation that continues to punish Nicaragua for any slight step out of line by withholding their funds while also blocking other international funds destined for Nicaragua.
In spite of these extraordinary challenges, President Ortega affirmed that his country was taking a stand for sovereignty and dignity in many of its decisions, such as their recent decision to withdraw from the military pact of the OAS known as TIAR (Spanish acronym for Interamerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance).
In regard to the School of the Americas, President Ortega said:
"the SOA is an ethical and moral anathema. All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror. We have been gradually reducing our numbers of troops at the SOA, sending only five last year and none this year. We have now entered a new phase and we will NOT continue to send troops to the SOA. This is the least that we can do. We have been its victims."After a long applause from the group, Alejandro Ramirez of Honduras asked if he could speak. With deep emotion, he thanked President Ortega in the name of his people of Honduras who continue to suffer grave repression under the regime that took power after the 2009 coup organized by SOA graduates. He passed the president a note that he had written before the meeting, saying that this was the greatest expression of solidarity that one Latin American nation could offer to another. He went on to tell him how his father had crossed borders from Honduras to Nicaragua to fight with the Sandinistas in the 70's, until the 1979 victory. Ortega was visibly moved and gently pocketed the note and sent warm saludos to his father. I asked Ale how he possibly knew that President Ortega was going to respond affirmatively and he told me: I never lose hope, pointing to his shirt. It was a well worn t-shirt with the face of Tomas Nativi, the disappeared husband of COFADEH director Bertha Olivia, the light that has given her the strength to stand up for human rights for two decades and counting.
We left the meeting both exuberant for this new victory and mindful that this is the first Central American country to withdraw its troops from the SOA. Once again in history, tiny Nicaragua sends a message of hope, of tenacity of integrity of solidarity and deep courage to Latin America and to the world. Nicaragua, Nicaraguita, ahora que vos sos libre te quiero mucho mas*
* famous song that says: Nicaragua, little Nicaragua, now that you are free, I love you even more
Note: Today Daniel's wife Rosario is going to make the announcement by radio on her show. He asked Miguel D'Escoto (at whose home we met) to help prepare the statement.
Also, Elane Spivak Rodriguez recorded the entire meeting.
It was excellent.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Not having paid attention to the Bible in general and Genesis specifically since my days in Sunday school (I was probably about 10 then), I was intrigued to revisit these stories. The first impression after all these years is I'm not sure where the whole omnipotent God myth came from. It seems to me that God had some major flaws in his plan from day one. These are just the observations of an uninformed agnostic who is less familiar with the text and all the collateral assumptions that go along with it.
First, there's the whole idea of putting the tree of knowledge in reach of Adam and Eve. Shouldn't God have known that "human nature" would make tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil inevitable? He designed Adam and Eve, didn't he? It's kind of like the mind reader who has to ask you your name. Shouldn't she just know?
Then, flash forward to the Noah story in chapter 6 when God decides to "reboot" the whole thing. In golf terms, he's taking a mulligan— a do-over. He made a mistake. But I thought God didn't make mistakes. Blame it on the "giants?" If he is the one God, then aren't they part of his creation, too?
Then in chapter 11. Man gets too "uppity" so God makes different tribes speak different languages. He couldn't see that one coming? Part of God's plan? He is making it up as he goes along.
And what's this about Abram pimping his wife off to the Egyptians in chapter 12. Why would God look favorably on someone who exhibits that sort of behavior? When Abram/ham pimped his wife in Gerad, (is this the same story as in chapter 12 with different names, or was this a scheme Abe used whenever he needed to add to his wealth?) God punished the guy who thought he was dating Abe's sister, and rewarded Abraham. Again, I question his reasoning.
Then in chapter 19, when the citizenry from Sodom decide they want a chance to meet the three newcomers (angels), Lot offers them his virgin daughters instead. And God doesn't raze the city with him in it? Seems to me that God had a serious lapse in judgement when he let Lot leave with his family. The daughters? Sure. The wife? I didn't hear her defending her daughters. She gets hers when she turns to see what happens to Sodom, but Lot not only gets a pass, his daughters get him drunk later on and sleep with him. Apparently they didn't know he was going to entrust the preservation of their virginity to the good people of Sodom. Had they known, perhaps they would have had other plans for him once he passed out.
I suppose my observations could be taken as offensive to some. But think of me as the proverbial alien dropped down among you trying to make sense of it all. After reading Gilgamesh first, it puts the Bible in a different perspective. I guess maybe it is just a random sequence of events that made it so that when you open the nightstand drawer in a hotel room, there is a copy of the Bible and not a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Friday, July 27, 2012
New-original stories in my area of interest? Hardly. I am reminded of that Bill Murray movie Ground Hog’s Day. The following are two extremely summarized accounts contained in Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. I interviewed Bill Blum, the author back in 2003 for a paper in one of my classes in my Master’s program. Each of the 56 chapters highlighting individual US intervention in the affairs of foreign, mostly third-world states is all well documented.
Iran, 1953: Two years after Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister nationalized the oil industry, the CIA staged a campaign to vilify the Prime Minister as a mad man and a puppet for the Soviet Union. Their covert actions and active support of opposition forces within Iran lead to a coup and the installation of the Shah. This lead to years of brutality against the Iranian people, which lead to… well, you know the rest of the story (Blum, 64-72).
That same year in Washington, the legally elected government of Guatemala was branded “communist” by the Eisenhower administration and was targeted for overthrow. “In the midst of the American preparation to overthrow the government, the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello, lamented that the United States was categorizing ‘as communist’ every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, and any desire for social progress, any intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive liberal reforms” (Blum 73). Post-colonial independence apparently has strings attached.
Once again, the CIA ramped up it’s propaganda machine and flooded the media with stories of a Soviet-sponsored, Communist dictatorship. But this time, as US Ambassador to Guatemala John Peurifoy noted, it was located “between Texas and the Panama Canal” (Blum 73). Unlike what triggered events in Iran, the motivation for this coup wasn’t oil. This time it was fruit. “The United Fruit Company, much of whose vast and uncultivated land in Guetamala had been expropriated by the Arbenz government as part of [a] land reform program” (Blum 75) put significant pressure on both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations to defend their interests. The Eisenhower administration did and after a bloody coup, installed the much more agreeable Castillio Armas, who until his assassination in 1957 ruled through terror and torture. But the United Fruit Company got their land back.
The same basic story plays out again and again throughout the second half of the 20th century and beyond. Costa Rica, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Haiti, Guatemala (again), Dominican Republic, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti (again) Venezuela… The names of the players, the locations and some of the situations change but the story is essentially the same.
It’s a tired old story, but you can bet somewhere in the world, the alarm clock flips over to 6:00 AM and Sonny and Cher begin singing I Got You, Babe and a leader of a post-colonial, third world country is about to walk into an all-too-familiar nightmare.
Blum, William. Killing hope: U.S. military and CIA interventions since World War 2 . London: Zed, 2003. Print.