Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Haiti's Political and Economic Earthquake "Made in the USA"

This morning, as political and financial leaders from around the world convene at the World Economic Forum, one of the central issues under discussion will be a strategy for Haiti's recovery. Bill Clinton and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have both advocated a Marshall Plan for Haiti whose goal would be to "restart private activity, rebuilding businesses and encouraging guarantees for the banking sector."

However, this kind of Western involvement in Haitian affairs represents the same approach that has been imposed on the country for more than twenty years. These policies have done nothing but perpetuate Haiti as the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere and as a source of cheap labor for American companies. If Haiti is to make a successful recovery the first step must be for Western leaders to acknowledge their role in the political and economic earthquake that residents of the island nation have suffered for decades, long before the ground gave way beneath them.

Since 1990 there have been two US-supported military coups, a series of economic "readjustments" at the behest of the World Bank, and a US corporate trade bill that have all served to return the former slave population to economic serfdom. Up until the earthquake on January 12, two-thirds of Haiti's exports were apparel products contracted by multinational companies such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart and the Walt Disney Company. And while the Magic Kingdom was stocked with goods made in Haitian sweatshops, 80% of the residents lived below the poverty line and earned less than $2 a day.

An Economy of Terror

US business interests have been heavily invested in Haiti ever since Woodrow Wilson invaded and occupied the island in 1915 (FDR didn't recall the troops until 1934). However, the present conditions were formed during the US-supported dictatorships of Papa and Baby "Doc" Duvalier. The Duvalier regimes had a horrific human rights record, including having the children of dissidents murdered in front of their parents, but they followed anti-communist policies and so were acceptable to the United States. Between 1946 and 1972, according to a study published in the Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, the United States sent $120 million in aid to Papa Doc, whom The New York Times referred to as "a man of principle with a desire to pacify his country." After Baby Doc seized power from his father, the enfant terrible was promptly visited by Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew. According to Harvard physician and UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer, in his 1994 book The Uses of Haiti, this visit put in place:

a new economic program guided by the United States, a program featuring private investments from the United States that would be drawn to Haiti by such incentives as no customs taxes, a minimum wage kept very low, the suppression of labor unions, and the right of American corporations to repatriate their profits.

But then something unexpected happened. After Baby Doc's ouster in the late 80s, widespread grassroots organizing in the slums and villages resulted in an overwhelming rejection of the US-supported candidate, former World Bank official Marc Bazin, and the election of the Haitian priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990. Aristide advocated a liberation theology similar to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Archbishop Oscar Romero and pledged to reject the US-backed policies of the past. These elections were considered "free and fair" by the US State Department, but the H.W. Bush administration immediately shifted economic aid from the democratically-elected government to "democratic forces" supported by the country's elite.

A Coup Regime

The US has long denied they had any role in the 1991 coup. However, this claim has been challenged by a series of investigative reports. It is known that the brutal leader of the FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti), Emmanuel Constant, was contacted by the CIA soon after the election and that the Agency worked closely with Constant during the buildup towards the coup d'etat eight months later (according to an investigative report entered into the US Congressional Record). This support continued afterwards, even when FRAPH attacked Aristide supporters and "staged a series of murders, public beatings and arson raids on poor neighborhoods" in 1993. Constant was then allowed to emigrate to the US a year later and international extradition requests were denied by both Presidents Bush and Clinton. Many of the other coup leaders were likewise protected by the United States. Others weren't so lucky as thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands fled overseas or across the border into the Dominican Republic as a result of the coup.

Immediately following Aristide's overthrow, the Organization of American States declared an embargo against the country to pressure the junta to allow Aristide's return. The United States signed on initially, but quickly moved towards "fine-tuning" the embargo to allow "individual companies operating in the assembly sector" to continue shipments (at that time about 80% of Haiti's international trade). Furthermore, an investigation by the General Accounting Office later found that both Bush and Clinton allowed Texaco to continue their oil shipments to the coup regime, effectively undermining the embargo. While the coup government maintained power, per capita income fell by one-third and unemployment sky-rocketed to 75%.

With widespread political instability wreaking havoc in the country, President Clinton brokered a deal to return Aristide to Haiti in 1994, so long as he signed onto a strict "structural readjustment plan" set up by the World Bank. According to the plan, leaked to the Multinational Monitor:

Haiti commits to eliminate the jobs of half of its civil servants, massively privatize public services . . . rewrite its corporate laws, 'limit the scope of state activity' and regulation, and diminish the power of President Aristide's executive branch in favor of the more conservative Parliament.

This was called "restoring democracy."

Programs such as this, and a series of other World Bank and IMF initiatives, "tightened monetary policy" for the next fifteen years and dictated how and where Haiti would be allowed to spend Haitian funds. On the eve of Aristide's reelection in 2000, an IMF Letter of Intent dictated how the new government's social policy would be run. Haiti was not allowed to hire any additional civil servants and had to "abstain from granting wage increases" to government employees. The IMF also mandated "spending on education relative to GDP" and insisted that Haiti would not be allowed to "impose restrictions on payments and transfers for international transactions." In other words, Haiti wasn't allowed to spend any money domestically without IMF approval and they had to open their borders to foreign goods without restriction. The Haitian population was kept alive because of the development loans that were dispensed, but they were unable to break free from their cycle of debt and dependency.

Establishing HOPE

Fast forward to 2004. With armed forces in the streets (many of them former FRAPH militants) President Aristide is loaded onto a US military transport, in what he referred to as a "kidnapping," and airlifted into exile in the Central African Republic. Vice President Dick Cheney then appeared on FOX News and explained that the US had intervened because Aristide had "worn out his welcome." Despite maintaining widespread support by the majority of Haitians, The Washington Post had earlier informed their readers that regime change was looming:

Aristide has pushed with mixed success a populist agenda of higher minimum wages, school construction, literacy programs, higher taxes on the rich and other policies that have angered an opposition movement run largely by a mulatto elite that has traditionally controlled Haiti's economy.

Perhaps the cardinal sin, however, was not selling off state infrastructure to foreign investors. As part of the agreement for his 1994 return to Haiti, Aristide had to promise to open up the electrical grid, phone lines, flour mills and banks to privatization. As The New York Times reported, the US and other international donors refused to grant any promised aid until Haiti followed through on these commitments.

Soon after Aristide was removed the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through
Partnership Encouragement Act of 2004 was first introduced before Congress. The HOPE Act, and later HOPE II, allowed duty-free transport of textile goods to be exported to the United States from Haiti as part of a new "special relationship." In this arrangement, raw materials such as yarn and fabrics are imported to Haiti from the United States or Latin America, assembly line workers piece together the products to the specifications of US companies for pennies each, and then they are shipped back to the US and sold at several hundred times their production cost. In exchange for this privilege the United States only asked that Haiti further privatize their economy.

Despite the obvious hope in this arrangement, a 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service found that "assessments of the effectiveness of Hope I, however, were disappointing." Since 2004 Haitian exports to the United States increased by 32% while, during the same period, the Haitian minimum wage declined by 36%. Haiti's current trade imbalance is enormous and the country relies exclusively on foreign sources for basic commodities such as food and oil. Then there's the debt, which is estimated at $1.7 billion (half of which was accumulated by the Duvalier regimes, but which Haitians today must pay for). This debt has served to indenture the country to international financiers and obligates them to accept whatever economic programs are demanded. The CRS report acknowledges, but significantly understates, the severity of the problem when they affirm that:

Haiti has a historically unhealthy dependence on foreign commerce and finance, from the colonial days of the sugar trade to the current assistance provided by developed countries. . . Haiti's trade relationship with the world is dominated by the United States, with which it ran a $494 million deficit in 2008.

Now the same politicians and financial elites that helped create this mess are proposing an even larger program following the same model. The people of Haiti are in dire need of immediate aid and support as they piece together their shattered lives. They require an elimination of this odious debt and an economic program that benefits local organizations and businesses rather than multinationals. With all eyes and hearts currently focused on Haiti it is our responsibility to demand justice for this poor nation. Given the history of Western meddling in Haitian affairs, one fears that the earthquake will be the least of their problems if we don't.

UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that only one penny out of every dollar makes it to the Haitian government during the current relief operation.

Each American dollar roughly breaks down like this: 42 cents for disaster assistance, 33 cents for U.S. military aid, nine cents for food, nine cents to transport the food, five cents for paying Haitian survivors for recovery efforts, just less than one cent to the Haitian government, and about half a cent to the Dominican Republic.

UPDATE II: At The Primate Diaries I review a recent study suggesting that farm subsidies could help reverse decades of forest degradation in Haiti. This, of course, would require a rejection of current World Bank policy.
[B]y providing a 25% subsidy for seed and a 75% subsidy for fertilizers both large and small farms would improve their income while at the same time improving the conditions of their environment. These subsidies would also be less expensive than the current practice of punishing infractions.

(Link for this article)

Why health care won't work, and why we are screwed

This weekend, Republican leaders will convene at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore to plot strategy, socialize, and plan both legislative and campaign themes for the year. Yesterday morning, ThinkProgress caught up with House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who confirmed that the Congressional Institute — a nonprofit run by Republican corporate lobbyists — is sponsoring the retreat. Normally, such lobbyist-sponsored soirĂ©es would be illegal under House ethics rules. But by forming an ostensibly nonpartisan educational front called the Congressional Institute, lobbyists are able to skirt any such oversight. However, Boehner told ThinkProgress that he did not know if any lobbyists would be present at the retreat:

More from Think Progress

(remember democrats are different they just have some different corporate lobbyists-- oligarchs.)

"dig America out of the many faults in its policy toward Haiti."

On Wednesday, the United Nations and U.S. aid officials announced that "urgent" relief operations in Haiti have ended and that "aid deliveries are now meeting the most immediate needs." Nonetheless, the needs of those who survived the earthquake have not diminished. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told delegates at a conference aimed at securing long-term aid for the devastated nation that Haiti "will need to be helped to face this colossal work of reconstruction." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned that rebuilding Haiti could take "at least 10 years of hard work." Vice President Joe Biden has also acknowledged that the relief effort "will still be on our radar screen long after it's off the crawler at CNN. This is going to be a long slog.'' Meanwhile, a recent poll shows that six out of 10 Americans support the U.S. playing a continued long-term role in Haiti's relief effort. Yet, exactly what form, if any, America's continued efforts should take is still a matter of public debate.

BEYOND URGENT RELIEF: As of last Friday, the U.S. had already contributed $130 million in aid, 12,000 military personnel, 265 government medical personnel, 18 Navy and Coast Guard ships, 49 helicopters and seven cargo planes to assist in aid delivery, support, and evacuations. The American Red Cross has received over $137 million in Haiti-inspired donations, and last weekend's "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon raised more than $61 million. However, the vice president for public policy at the U.N. Foundation has stated that President Obama must develop a strategy for making sure Congress is "on board" for the additional aid Haiti will need in the long run. Homi Kharas at the Brookings Institution advises Western countries to play an integral role in providing technical expertise during the reconstruction of Haiti's infrastructure. Many have further pointed out that the quake has provided an opportunity for the international community to shift away from policies that have perpetuated Haiti's development challenges. More specifically, Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe writes that Obama has a chance to "dig America out of the many faults in its policy toward Haiti." Despite an outpouring of generous donations, Haiti remains saddled by $1 billion in international debt it accumulated before the quake. This week, the U.S. looked at plans outlined by international lenders to forgive Haiti's debt, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton optimistically describes as "feasible." Yesterday, the Dodd-Lugar bill was introduced to forgive Haiti's foreign debt, increase trade, and create an infrastructure fund to help the quake-hit country rebuild. While some have suggested further liberalizing trade policies towards Haiti, critics have pointed out that trade liberalization decimated Haiti's sugar and rice industries and that a shift in U.S. agricultural policies would be more appropriate.

HARD-HEARTED RIGHT: Despite the generosity of the majority of the American people, some right-wingers aren't feeling very charitable. Radio host Rush Limbaugh argued against government aid for Haiti and crudely predicted that Obama was going to try to use the devastating earthquake to boost his credibility with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community" in the U.S. Fox News host Glenn Beck accused Obama of "dividing the nation" by reacting "so rapidly to Haiti"; conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt argued that Obama had "invaded Haiti." Rep. Steve King (R-IA) described those calling for Haitian TPS as "open borders advocates exercising the Rahm Emanuel axiom: 'Never let a crisis go to waste.'" King further suggested undocumented Haitians living in the U.S. should instead be deported back to their country to serve as much-needed "relief workers." The anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has taken the lead in opposing further Haitian immigration. CIS Fellow David North has attacked the idea of waiving TPS fees for poor Haitian "illegals" and suggested that Haitian refugees would be best culturally absorbed by other Caribbean countries. Any refugees accepted by the U.S., according to North, should be directed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which "have never lifted a finger to help America to resettle refugees." CIS director Mark Krikorian further remarked that the reason Haiti is "so screwed up" is because it's home to a "progress-resistant culture" that simply "wasn't colonized long enough." Right-wing criticisms aside, the nation's capacity to rebuild Haiti is limited and the U.S. does ultimately have an obligation to clearly "assure [the Haitian] people we will do what we can, but we cannot do what we can't."

(Article courtesy of the Progress Report)

Orangutan and the Hound: Sharing is Natrual

Animal's Can have Friends.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tear Gas Fired at Haitians Seeking Food Aid

In Haiti, starving Haitians were tear-gassed Tuesday after crowding a relief center with scarce food aid. Desperate earthquake survivors had rushed to grab bags of dried grains after the center ran low on supplies for a second consecutive day. Brazilian forces with the UN mission to Haiti fired tear gas at the crowd. The UN says it will need enough food to feed some two million people for at least fifteen days. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said the aid effort is making incremental progress in meeting humanitarian needs. (

Georgen Keenan predicted this:

"we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population....In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity....To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives....We should cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."

The land of plenty, teargassing the ones who need it. This is just a dramatized portrayal of everyday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mountain Top Removal: Tree Sitters

Note: For more info, see,

PETTUS, W.Va.–Benard Fiorillo, 21, was arrested on the Bee Tree Strip Mine site while attempting to offer aid to Eric Blevins and Amber Nitchman, two tree sitters taking action to halt blasting on Coal River Mountain. He was trying to send bags up to the platforms with more supplies, but was apprehended by Massey security before he could do so. Yesterday, David Aaron Smith, 23, descended from a third tree. He is being held on a $2500 cash-only bail and is charged with trespass asked to leave, conspiracy and obstruction.

Since the sitters began their occupation of the trees on Thursday morning, the security guards for Massey Energy – the coal company who owns the Bee Tree Mine – have been blasting air horns mounted just below the sitters’ platforms. At night, the horns are accompanied by flood lights.

Contrary to Governor Manchin’s assertion in yesterday’s press conference that, “We will not in any way, shape or form in this state of West Virginia tolerate any violence against anyone on any side. If you’re going to have the dialogue, have respect for each other,” at least nine attempts to notify the state police by Blevins and other representatives of Climate Ground Zero have been met with silence.When the police arrived to arrest Smith, Blevins asked if they would help stop the noise. Massey security denied using horns; the police accepted this without further investigation and drove away with Smith. About ten minutes later, the air horns were turned back on. The police were shown the appropriate West Virginia legal statute, §61-3E-10, acknowledged the felony endangerment, and declined to take any action.

“Massey’s abuse of the tree sitters fits with the disregard they have shown for human life through their neglect of EPA regulations and worker safety laws,” said support team member Josh Graupera. Massey Energy has over 4,500 recorded violations of the Clean Water Act and the permitted site on which the sitters have occupied trees is one of two located near to the Brushy Fork Impoundment. Blasting near the dam imperils its foundations, and a frontal breach would, by Massey’s own estimate, result in 988 deaths.

Massey has accused the sitters in a formal statement of endangering workers on this site. The horns are certainly louder than 90 decibels, the legal threshold for unacceptably damaging. The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training handbook says “Many miners are exposed to loud and sustained noise levels. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has determined that approximately 13.4% of miners will suffer material hearing impairment during their working lifetime unless preventive measures are taken to reduce overexposures.”

The sitters’ resolve remains strong. With Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice, they are taking action to prevent mountaintop removal and its negative effects on the communities and environments of Appalachia. The sitters plan to remain in their trees for as long as possible, or until blasting is halted on the mountain. Coal River Mountain is one of the last intact mountaintops in the Coal River Watershed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


The Chamber of Commerce hoax was perpetrated by the Yes Men, in tandem with a group of activists known as the Avaaz Action Factory.
Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum showed up at the 11am press conference that had earlier been announced by a "Chamber of Commerce" press release, and, impersonating a Chamber executive, declared:
We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business.

(full article)

The Chamber of Commerce is trying to profit from this action... they claim they need help to def fend themselves from being attacked by evil, evil environmental activists.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Yesterday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend freely in federal elections.

It's a green light for a new stampede of special interest money in our politics, giving their lobbyists even more power in Washington. Now, every candidate who fights for change could face limitless attacks from corporate special interests like health insurance companies and Wall Street banks.

While the GOP is celebrating a victory for its special interest allies, President Obama is working with leaders in Congress to craft a forceful response that protects the voices of ordinary citizens.

Semi-Bull shit link, Sorry

I think it it i wise to capture the current attention that is being spent on Haiti and create conversation(s) and understanding of the reality of the factors that have historically, politically and Economically contributed to Haiti becoming the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere . Learning about U.S. intervention and exploitation via our hemispheric hegemony and Economy in the region gives the context for this disaster severity and sheds light on what makes true and holistic "earthquake relief efforts
". We need to take responsibility and ownership of what we have done, this is what U.S. Foreign policy looks like, it goes beyond documents and cheap goods, but that message is not found on the T.V.

Not very often is the world, especially the United States, concerned with Haiti, and i am talking about humanitarian/social concern. It is tempting in the midst of Emergency, and this is most certainly one, to respond via active means (i.e. donating, fund-raising). But i think we need to venture further down river and not simply define the problem as "the earthquake"-- all though there is obvious need for this type of work, and the earthquake is undoubtedly a priority to deal with, quickly; not that we have (but we did send the military cause that's what we do best). The problem lies not just in natural disaster but the Western policies of military intervention and economic exploitation that has speckled (may seem more like bullet-holed) Haiti's history. I think the situation Haiti is in now would of been greatly reduced if they had better infurstrcutre; more roads, hospitals, communication, buildings codes, an sovereign people's government, and independent, for country, economy. Had the country been able to develop and grow for itself and its people there would have been less destruction, better rescue potential and less death. For intervening and exploiting via our hemispheric hegemony in the region we are guilty of setting the context for this disaster. It is CRUCIAL to recognize the reality of consequence of our Foreign Policy; it is not something that happens but something that is happening. Th character of the U.S.: how it interacts with the world, especially the poor, the effects of this interaction, has to be made known. We need to define the problem not as the "the earthquake" but the "hegemony and carelessness of the United States and its people toward the rest of the world. We need to understand that natural disaster are rarely natural, often they are human induced.

Please take the time and effort to learn about the problem, at its roots-- for that is true earthquake relief.

and please donate and respond, but there is more to this than reacting, starting thinking. And know who you are giving your money too.

I will post links as i see them, but please check out this book it is written by Paul Farmer, and has a introduction by Noam Chomsky, the book is titled "The Uses of Haiti" , and a summery can be found here.

Think Haiti

Haiti: NGOs and Relief Groups call for immediate and Widespread Distribution of Water and Other Aid upplies.

Doctor: Misinformation and Racism Have Frozen Recovery Effort at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Holy" Wars

Howard Zinn:
"Holy Wars"
University of Boston
Nov. 11, 2009
Howard Zinn makes a persuasive case for questioning even the good wars, such as the “three holy wars” of US history. Zinn argues in light of Obama’s Nobel Prize lecture, in which Obama said “Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed.” is that the American Revolution, the Civil War or The Second War may not be the one-sided moral 'victories' that conventional history teaches. Zinn in his enigmatic manner...spiced with jocularity, compelling logic,and passion leaves doubt that there is ever a 'just war'.

Bull Shit

Todd Stern: “We fully recognize our historic role in putting emissions up in the atmosphere, and we also fully recognize our responsibility to be part of an overall global effort to help poorer countries, both with regard to the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and the need to help them develop on a sustainable path, which at this point in our collective history means low carbon path. Reparations, to me, conveys a sense of culpability, guilt, that kind of thing. I just—I don’t think that that’s a legitimate—a legitimate way to look at it.”

Lieberman Confident of Defeat of Medicare Expansion, Public Option

On Capitol Hill, healthcare reform negotiations are intensifying as Senate Democrats pursue the sixty-vote threshold needed to avoid a Republican filibuster. President Obama emerged from a meeting with Democratic senators Tuesday to call for the bill’s passage before the Christmas holiday.

President Obama: “I am absolutely confident that, if the American people know what’s in this bill and if the Senate knows what’s in this bill, that this is going to pass, because it’s right for America. And I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we can get this done and start rolling up our sleeves and getting to work improving the lives of the American people.”

Democrats are expected to finalize a significant revision to the measure to appease Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman. On Sunday, Lieberman announced he would oppose the healthcare bill unless Democrats removed a provision lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to fifty-five. The Medicare expansion had been added in exchange for meeting the demands of senators, including Lieberman, who have opposed the public option. On Tuesday, Lieberman said he’s now confident both the Medicare expansion and the pubic option have been abandoned.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman: “If, as appears to be happening, the so-called public option, government-run insurance program is out, and the Medicare buy-in, which I thought would jeopardize Medicare, cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the long haul, increase our deficit, is out, and there’s no other attempts to bring things like that in, then I’m going to be in a position where I can say—I’m getting toward that position where I can say what I’ve wanted to say all along, that I’m ready to vote for healthcare reform.

-Dem Now

Friday, January 8, 2010

In recent days, conservatives have been attacking President Obama for deciding to try the alleged Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in civilian courts, ignoring the fact that President Bush did the exact same thing for "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and other terrorists. Former Vice President Cheney has led the charge, telling Politico that Obama "seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war." "We allow him to lawyer up. And so rather than saying okay, you are a enemy combatant and we're going to put the FBI and the CIA in your face and interrogate you. ... I mean we've now lost a valuable [informant]," former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove said on Fox News last month. Last week, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on CNN, "I think the President made a very big mistake by not making him a enemy combatant. Because the minute you make him a criminal justice defendant, you cut off the ability to question him." The critics are calling for Obama to use the military tribunal system, arguing the method is more fitting for enemies of the U.S. But as White House homeland security adviser John Brennan explained on Fox News Sunday last week, "[W]e have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals. ... Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that...we don't have other opportunities to get information from them."

SAME INCIDENT, SAME RESPONSE: A federal grand jury in Michigan indicted Abdulmutallab on Wednesday on six criminal charges, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The critics of the Obama administration's approach must have short memories, because Bush handled a similar incident -- when Reid attempted to ignite a bomb in his shoes on a plane in December 2001 -- in a nearly identical manner. Federal authorities initially charged Reid "with interfering with the performance of the duties of flight crew members by assault or intimidation." The decision to try Reid in a criminal court, according to Bush attorney general John Ashcroft, wasn't debated much. Asked if he considered using a military tribunal, Ashcroft said, "People were alert, and that created a factual basis for the kind of court case that we've alleged. I did confer with the...Department of Defense and with their general counsel, and they had no objection to our proceeding in this matter." At a press conference on Oct. 4, 2004 announcing the indictment of Reid's co-conspirator, Saajid Mohammed Badat, Ashcroft praised the law enforcement method of dealing with terrorists: "This case is another example of the successful cooperation between American law enforcement and its counterparts around the world. ... Thanks to these efforts, today an alleged terrorist bomber faces the prospect of life in prison, endanger the public."

MOUSSAOUI: Reid was not the only terrorist tried in civilian courts under Bush. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker, was tried and convicted in federal court in Alexandria, VA. Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary at the time, gave a strong defense for not using a military tribunal to process Moussaoui: "During his meeting with the attorney general, the president asked a series of questions about civilian versus military trial, and asked, if this were to be decided in a civilian court, civilian criminal court, would national security be endangered, would sources or methods be compromised? The president was satisfied that the answers to those questions were no." Giuliani similarly said, "I was in awe of our system. It does demonstrate that we can give people a fair trial. ... We are a nation of law. ... I think he's going to be a symbol of American justice." The Washington Times reported on Jan. 3, 2003, "The decision to try the case in federal court instead of before a military tribunal was made by President Bush, based on what Vice President Richard B. Cheney said was the strength of the case and an assessment that an open trial would not hurt national security." "There's a good, strong case against him," Cheney told The Times. Then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist praised the system after Moussaoui's conviction, saying, "Zacarias Moussaoui received what he would deny all of us. Today justice was served."

WHY THEN AND NOT NOW?: Former Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen attempted to explain in the National Review Online why it was acceptable for Reid, and not Abdulmutallab, to be tried in civilian court, writing, "The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement." He then cited the case of alleged terrorist Jose Padilla, who was "on a mission from [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] to blow up apartment buildings," and designated an "enemy combatant" as an example of the military courts working. But the military tribunal system was created on Nov. 13, 2001 -- over a month before Reid's attempted attack -- and Padilla was ultimately convicted in federal court because the commissions are not an option for American citizens. Critics claim that Abdulmutallab won't share his intelligence if he is processed through the federal court system, but "Abdulmutallab spent a number of hours with FBI investigators in which we gleaned usable, actionable intelligence," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday. And as The Progress Report has noted, right-wing claims that trying Abdulmutallab in federal court means Obama believes the U.S. is not at war are baseless, considering Obama has repeatedly acknowledged such. Just yesterday Obama said, "[W]e are at war. ... And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them." As Judge William Young, who presided over Reid's trial said rebutting Reid's claims that he was a "soldier" of Allah, "You are not an enemy combatant. You are not a soldier in any army, you are a terrorist. To call you a soldier gives you far too much stature.'' [ I am not sure i agree with this last part. First off by this logic Blackwater, or Xe are also terrorists; but beyond this i think an argument can be made that either all soldiers are terrorist or that all terrorists are soldiers.]

[Justice: due process and courts.]
-Via Think Progress

links to further articles

3 Children Die Every Day Beacuase of U.S. War in Afghanistan.

New figures show children account for the most deaths in the over eight-year US-led war. The Afghanistan Rights Monitor says over 1,050 people under the age of eighteen were killed in Afghanistan, an average of at least three every day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Avatar: Real Beyond Graphics

The impressive realness of the movie avatar is not in its incredible graphic technology and C.G.I. but in its story. One needs only a brief survey of history to see the legacy of this theme; look at Tasmania, Australia, Congo, South Africa, North America, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Japan, Chile, Brazil and Iraq just to name a random few. Indigenous populations who, like the Na’vi, are poor (in the way we understand value, mainly income and material-wealth), less militarized, more communal and whose knowledge is devalued, for it’s not empirically backed are taken advantage of. One can't compete with the resources of the powerful. Within Inequality and power Democracy does not function nor exist, especially in the presence of a military state. How do you stand up for yourself your people your cause in the midst’s of 771 Billion dollars of military spending a year? (41.5% of the world’s total military spending distantly followed by the China with 5.8% of world share, France with 4.5%, the U.K. with 4.5% and Russia with 4%. Or how do you stand up for yourself your people your cause in the midst’s of a monopoly on all economic activity (World Bank, World Trade Organizations…structural adjustments and the free market). How do you stand up for yourself your people your cause in the midst’s of though control on that can make you, your people and your cause anything they want (Savage, Communist, Terrorist ect. FEAR, FEAR, FEAR!)…and how do you stand up and fight for yourself your people your cause while your children go hungry and your environment is depleted?

It would be nice to pretend that that the Avatar story was just mere story on a screen: to enjoy, experience and be wooed by but it is a story that continues:

La Via Campesina
Durban Shack Dwelers
The National Family Farm Coalition
Movimento dos Trabalhadores sem Terra
Argentina Kraft Unions
The Indigenous Peoples Network
Indigenous Activists Criticize Proposed deal to save Rain forests.

Peruvian Police Accused of Massacring Indigenous Protesters in Amazon Jungle
Yaqui Indian pueblo of Potam in Sonora, Mexico and Petrochemicals
No Olympic Games on Stolen Ground
Australian Aborigines Nuclear Ground
Native American Land struggle.
Detailed List of Peasant Movements world wide

Book: new world on indigenous resistance

( This is a short list I generated off the top of my head...plenty more struggles to discuss these are just resent ones

Sadly when people leave the movie theater, deposit there 3D glasses and pitch their bags of butter and un-popped kernels they will think little of the story at large. We can find it in our hearts to care and be moved by the struggle of blue people but shades of brown (and white) we don't care for so much.

Body Scaners?

Body scanners at airports: body, safety, pornography?

(This photo is slightly misleading for they have not
yet developed nor implemented the technology to blur
genitalia.Faces are currently blurred but easy to
de-blur; it is just a matter of undoing the software.)

whats wrong with body scanners?


After Pittsbrugh G20,An Anarchist Asks, Are We Addicted to Rioting?,

Article taken from Politics from the zero blog

Big media and the police have vested interests in inflating what happens at protests, either to get better ratings or to justify increased funding. Anarchists can do the same. But does this accomplish any actual political goals?

To match these two forces, the protest groups, especially my own comrades in the anarchist groups, inflate their stories, numbers, and actions to try to gain support and build momentum, and to make them feel better. So a dumpster getting rolled down a street into an intersection will be heroized in well-designed pamphlets to come and talked about for years.

What is so crazy about all of this, this inflation is that it doesn’t seem to help. As an organizer with a decade of experience in all types of work, from anarchist organizations to peace groups to labor organizing, I don’t think over-hyping our actions does anything for us. In fact, I think it works to our disadvantage.

Further, he says anarchists sometimes talk tough before the event but aren’t anywhere nearly prepared for the police overreaction that then inevitably occurs. Like in Miami when he saw a middle-aged woman get hit in the mouth with a rubber bullet.

After that incident I began a long reflective process, one that started in the bloodstained streets of Miami and hasn’t stopped yet, hopefully it never will. Something clicked when the blood poured out of this woman’s mouth; this is for real. I am really here and we are really getting the shit kicked out of us. What before seemed sort of fun, sort of therapeutic, sort of educational, now seemed totally dangerous, serious, and life-threatening.

Are we looking to create real political change by being in the streets or just to get an adrenaline rush then go back home proud that we struck a mighty blow against the state when in reality it was just a Starbucks window that got smashed. Real change comes from serious tactics, strategy, and goals, supported by genuine masses of people. And not by playing acting at being a street fighting man.

Let’s take anarchism out of the streets for a while and put it back in the communities where it was born.

Pittsburgh Police State: Giving the First Amendment a beating at the G20--ACLU

JURIST Guest Columnist Witold ("Vic") Walczak, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, says that the First Amendment took a serious beating at the recent G-20 summit in Pittsburgh when police and National Guard troops silenced demonstrators using tactics reminiscent of repression methods used in martial law-era Poland in the early 1980s...

Law enforcement officials have, over the past decade, used gatherings of national and international leaders as license to suspend civil liberties. During the recent G-20 Summit, Pittsburgh proved to be no exception. The city was transformed into a police state where our most cherished freedoms, especially the freedom to dissent, were subject to the martial law-type tactics I witnessed behind the Iron Curtain.

While world leaders were quietly secluded behind closed doors, 8-foot-high steel and mesh fences lined most downtown streets. Six thousand police and National Guard troops manned checkpoints, roamed the streets in armored humvees, and were visible everywhere in large groups. In this militarized ghost town, neither common folk nor demonstrators ever got close to the dignitaries.

Before the Summit, local officials paid lip service to the First Amendment. But just as in Poland under martial law in the early 1980's, where only carefully controlled demonstrations sanctioned by communist-party bosses were allowed, protesters who lacked political ties to the establishment in Pittsburgh last week were threatened, harassed, and outright prohibited from peacefully expressing their opposition to G-20 policies.

The gamesmanship began early. Initially resistant to allowing any demonstrations during the Summit, the City eventually relented and permitted several mainstream groups, including former Vice President Al Gore’s climate group, to hold events in a local park.

But when two less politically-connected groups, Codepink and Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC), renewed their requests to use the same park, the City refused. The rich and powerful were welcome in Pittsburgh, but those with edgier critical messages were not.

A federal judge eventually ordered the City to issue permits to Codepink and 3RCC, ruling that no good reason existed for precluding them. Unfortunately, the mistreatment and harassment of 3RCC and other protesters didn’t end with the judge’s order.

Police vehicles blocked 3RCC’s educational and food buses, preventing them from going to the demonstration. City officials permitted the group to leave its tent, artwork, and literature in the park overnight, but would not allow anyone to stand guard- claiming that standing guard would constitute illegal camping. The next day everything was gone. In a moment of surprising candor, the City’s spokeswoman admitted to a local reporter that the Public Works department had confiscated 3RCC’s property. With all necessary props gone, the climate-justice demonstrations never materialized.

Despite this intensive scrutiny, which included dozens of warrantless raids on activists’ homes and meeting places and countless pretextual traffic stops, only one person was arrested prior to the Summit – for giving a nickname instead of her birth name.

In the eeriest parallel to my experiences in martial law Poland, on two consecutive evenings the police inexplicably deemed assemblies of people peacefully gathered in a large, grassy University of Pittsburgh plaza to be “unlawful” and ordered everyone to disperse immediately. Police used an “LRAD” (first-ever civilian use of a military sonic weapon that can cause permanent hearing loss), shot pepper spray into dormitory stairwells, and fired rubber bullets and beanbags at fleeing students and curiosity seekers.

When those assembled tried to follow dispersal orders, many ran into the nearly 1000 riot police that encircled the group. The 100-plus arrestees included many curious, non-participating Pitt students and a few journalists. In this police state, apparently, government-sanctioned assemblies are allowed, but spontaneous demonstrations or gatherings, even peaceful ones, are not.

During the Summit, as expected, a few out-of-town kids broke a dozen windows. Police presence at the crime scenes were minimal, primarily because just a few blocks away the massive manpower surge was suppressing the peaceful gathering at the University. If a few of those police officers had simply stood on street corners around the area, even that little damage would have been minimized, Officers who happened to be standing in front of a targeted coffee shop during the two-person rampage discouraged any vandalism.

Pittsburgh’s use of harassment, intimidation, trickery, and indiscriminate arrests against demonstrators was fairly typical of the recent handling of other large important gatherings at the hands of various groups of law enforcement officials. At times when the imperative to allow freedom of speech and assembly is greatest – when national and international leaders convene – we impose martial law. Surely a more balanced model that provides security and respects civil liberties is possible.