Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Howard Zinn on "The People Speak," the Supreme Court and Haiti
By Joan Brunwasser
Howard Zinn is a historian, author, social activist, and American icon. His book A People's History of the United States has sold over two million copies. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Howard. The dust has had a chance to settle a bit since last month's airing of your documentary "The People Speak." What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
We've received lots of nice messages on "The People Speak." The History Channel tells us that eight million people have seen part or all of the film, and two million on the first night it was shown (apparently they have no way of telling if a viewer cuts out on the program). It will be on the History Channel again February 22nd and March 1st.
That's impressive and must be gratifying for all of you involved in the project. There's still another half hour of new material in the DVD that is being released next month, correct? What haven't we seen yet?
I'm sure that generated some lively discussions. In the film, you touched on the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, penned only a few years later. I'd like to know more. Why was there a shift in the attitude of the framers of the Constitution?
No change of attitude. One was a manifesto, rhetoric to rally people. The other a legal document, expressing their real desires.
This small but important difference seemed to signify something larger. The Declaration's original phrasing "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was tweaked, becoming "life, liberty and property" in the Constitution, neatly encapsulating the tension between democratic and aristocratic principles. That tension continues to this day. We may not have landed gentry and inherited titles on these shores but we do have Big Business, which consistently rides roughshod over the interests of the rest of society. On that note, would you like to comment on the Supreme Court's decision last week to strike down corporate campaign finance limits?
Liberals get excited about things like that as if they signal a dramatic change. No, the corporations ran our elections before the decision and will do so now -- just with a fig leaf of "legality." The designation of corporations as "persons" which started in 1886 is just proof of how our legal system, the Constitution, the courts have always been tools of the wealthy classes.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. You lived through WWII. Although you were fighting overseas, your family and everyone else were part of the American war effort. They had ration cards, did metal drives, planted Victory Gardens. There was a real feeling that we were all in this together. What we have now is something else entirely. It started when Pres. Bush told everyone to help the fight against terrorism by going shopping. Something vital has been lost. Can you comment on that?
Of course, both soldiers and civilians at that time had either a strong (mine) or a vague (my fellow crew members) sense of a just war. Yes, it was much different from now. But as you probably know, in retrospect, our view was simplistic - (you know my talk THREE HOLY WARS and my view of WWII expressed in my writings?)
[Note: I wasn't familiar with "Three Holy Wars" so I just went and read it. I recommend it to our readers, who can also watch the video of this 2009 speech. In it, Zinn says that we can't even give what we consider "just wars" (the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII) a pass. That there is a distinction between just causes and just wars. We need to be willing to ask hard questions like: was there another way, other than war, to achieve that goal? What was actually achieved? And, at what cost? As time passes, it becomes harder and harder to do that. Trust Howard to give us a fresh way to look at old, accepted ideas. Now, back to the interview...]
On the international front, Haiti recently suffered a devastating earthquake. At this point, we still don't know how many people died as rescue and medical efforts continue. Americans have a notoriously short attention span and aren't generally interested in other nations' history. If we were to look beyond the corruption of Duvalier father and son, we would see that America had a hand in making Haiti what it is today, wouldn't we?
Haiti is one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. foreign policy because Haiti is a neighbor (as is Cuba, where a similar relationship has persisted) and we have treated Haiti with cruelty all through our history. When it became the first independent black Republic in this hemisphere, defeating the Napoleonic army, the administration of Thomas Jefferson (ironically, author of our Declaration of Independence) refused to recognize it.
And in the early 20th century, repeated Marine excursions to put down rebellions, and in 1916, the supposed "idealist" and proclaimer of "self-determination" Woodrow Wilson sent an occupation army, killing several thousand Haitians who would not accept our rule. The occupation lasted eighteen years.
And since then, as you note, support of the Duvalier dictatorship. And hostility to Aristide the first democratically elected president. And for some time now, strangling Haiti economically, and ruining its rice crop for the benefit of U.S. exporters. If we weren't spending hundreds of billions on stupid wars, we could have made much of Port-Au-Prince less vulnerable to natural disasters.Interesting last point, Howard. I guess the question to ponder is, even if there were no wars, would Haiti be a priority for the US? Sadly, I see no evidence pointing in that direction. Thank you for talking with me again, Howard. It's been a pleasure.
Howard Zinn Talks with OpEdNews about "The People Speak"
Author's Bio: Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which exists for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. We aim to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Electronic (computerized) voting systems are simply antithetical to democratic principles.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Tell CNN to stop hyping fears of violence in Haiti. For shame.
I just checked the front page of CNN. The lead reads:
In the shadow of Haiti’s wrecked presidential palace lie the new homes of the capital’s 500,000 displaced residents. But with 4,000 convicted criminals on the loose, nothing and no one is safe.
They started pushing the violence meme the day after the earthquake. I was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer that evening via Skype. Part way through the interview, they cut to their correspondent for a live chat from the airport.
He spoke briefly with Mario Andreso, the chief of Haiti’s national police, who warned of out-of-control violence from all the prisoners who escaped the penitentiary the day of the quake. The CNN reporter repeated the claims uncritically.
When they came back to me, I began to explain that I had walked through the remains of the jail (here’s the video). That many of the prisoners were reportedly shot dead by police as they tried to escape. And that I had not seen or heard of violence so far.
The prison was a hellish place, with almost no medical facilities. Did it contain some genuine thugs? Yes. But it also contained many political prisoners and people who never received a fair trial from Haiti’s flawed courts. These are simple facts that CNN is too happy to overlook. I was quickly interrupted by Blitzer and they went to commercial break.
Haitians on the streets are not worried about the jail. Food, water, fuel, medicine, and shelter is all I hear. I received five calls yesterday from friends with 200 children here, 300 people there huddled in schools, with nothing to live on. I sent the info on to a few contacts in the aid community.
The linked CNN article describes no violence from eye-witnesses. It quotes the police chief again, warning of possible rape and murder in the tent camps.
To date, since arriving in Haiti in September – including the earthquake’s aftermath – I have not seen a single incidence of violence. The tent camps through the city, whether in Chanmas or near Delmas, are destitute but totally peaceful.
US Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said that while security is a concern he knows of very little ongoing violence, in an interview last night with PBS that I helped arrange. “I think people should be aware that the vast majority of Haitians here are behaving in a calm and peaceful manner.”
The images collected here show what look like scuffles. I’ve seen a few Haitian scuffles – they are not brawls, not like the vicious punches thrown by drunkards every night in the streets of Austin, Texas, my hometown. It’s shoving and grabbing what you can. You’d do the same if you were hungry.
As I ride around the city on a motorbike taxi, camera in hand, everyone is helpful. I exchanged $250 USD on the streets without incident. No Haitian I’ve spoken with has witnessed violence themselves. It may be happening but it is not widespread.
One picture shows a man killed by the National Police, not by an ordinary Haitian. What the captions describe as looting looks to me like the retrieval of life-saving resources going unused.
Tell CNN, the BBC, and other media to stop being alarmist fear-mongers. They are not reporting facts. They are not authentic journalists. They are not with the Haitian people.
Update 1/21: The few times I have checked the CNN front page since then, I have not seen articles hyping security fears. Liza McAlister, a professor at Wesleyan University who is writing essays about Haiti for CNN, said she forwarded this post to her editor. Maybe it had an effect. Thanks to everyone spreading the word, keep it up.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
URGENT CALL TO ACTION FROM HOWARD ZINN, THOM HARTMANN, MEDEA BENJAMIN, FRAN& DAVID KORTEN, BILL MCKIBBEN, BILL FLETCHER, JIM HIGHTOWER, TOM HAYDEN,REV. YEARWOOD, & MORE . . .
*Subject: **OUTRAGE: Court says corporations are people: move to amend!*ACT NOW: http://www.movetoamend.org/motion-amend
"We the corporations"
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.
We Move to Amend.We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:
Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.
listen to the interview here:
Amy Goodman files a report from the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince; an interview with one of the Doctors from Partners in Health, DR. EVAN LYON. in his words:
"This question of security and the rumors of security and the racism behind the idea of security has been our major block to getting aid in. The US military has promised us for several days to bring in—to bring in machinery, but they’ve been listening to this idea that things are insecure, and so we don’t have supplies.
I’m living here in the neighborhood with a friend. I’m staying with some of my Haitian doctor colleagues. We’ve been circulating on the roads to 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, moving patients, moving supplies, trying to get our work done. There is no security. The UN is not out. The US is not out. The Haitian police are not able to be out. But there’s also no insecurity. I don’t know if you guys were out late last night, but you can hear a pin drop in this city. It’s a peaceful place. There is no war. There is no crisis except the suffering that’s ongoing.
The concern for militarization, the concern for occupation is very real. There is capacity that we don’t have that the military will help us with, and that is urgently needed, because we’re losing patients minute to minute. But the first that listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be. "
THERE IS NO VIOLENCE...REPEAT THERE IS NO VIOLENCE.
HELP THE PEOPLE. STOP THE DRAMA.
Shortly after Haiti was hit by a 6.1 aftershock earlier today, Amy Goodman and Kim Ives of Haiti Liberté report from the Port-au-Prince airport. Amy and Kim discuss how centuries of Western domination of Haiti has worsened the impact of the devastating earthquake, from the harsh reaction to Haiti’s independence as a republic of free slaves in 1804 to the US-backed overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Ives says, “This quake was precipitated by a political earthquake—with an epicenter in Washington, DC.”
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
WAKE UP. We have come full circle....
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.:
It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”
A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft-misunderstood, this oft-misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.
When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response, I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says, “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word,” unquote.
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam writes, “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now, let us begin. Now, let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation Comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth and falsehood, For the good or evil side; Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, Off’ring each the bloom or blight, And the choice goes by forever Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong; Though her portion be the scaffold, And upon the throne be wrong: Yet that scaffold sways the future, And behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow Keeping watch above his own.
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Journalist and author Naomi Klein spoke in New York last night and addressed the crisis in Haiti: “We have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy—which is part natural, part unnatural—must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interest of our corporations. This is not conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.”
“Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the image of the United States in the region.” And then goes on.
Now, I don’t know whether things are improving or not, because it took the Heritage Foundation thirteen days before they issued thirty-two free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. We put that document up on our website, as well. It was close down the housing projects, turn the Gulf Coast into a tax-free free enterprise zone, get rid of the labor laws that forces contractors to pay a living wage. Yeah, so it took them thirteen days before they did that in the case of Katrina. In the case of Haiti, they didn’t even wait twenty-four hours. Now, why I say I don’t know whether it’s improving or not is that two hours ago they took this down. So somebody told them that it wasn’t couth. And then they put up something that was much more delicate. Fortunately, the investigative reporters at Democracy Now! managed to find that earlier document in a Google cache. But what you’ll find now is a much gentler “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti.” And buried down there, it says, “Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.”
Monday, January 18, 2010
Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights
Bill Quigley: “Ten Things the U.S. Can and Should Do For Haiti”
One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.
Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief – but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.
Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.
Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.
Five. President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians with the stroke of a pen. Do it. The US has already done it for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia. President Obama should do it on Martin Luther King Day.
Six. Respect Human Rights from Day One. The UN has enacted Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced People. Make them required reading for every official and non-governmental person and organization. Non governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are extremely powerful in Haiti – they too must respect the human dignity and human rights of all people.
Seven. Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.
Eight. Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any crimes. Thirty thousand people are facing deportations. No one will be deported to Haiti for years to come. Release them on Martin Luther King day.
Nine. Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.
Ten. Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated.
What the Mainstream Media Will Not Tell You About Haiti: Part of the Suffering of Haiti is "Made in the USA"
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Part of the suffering of Haiti is indeed "Made in the USA." While the earthquake would harm any country, actions by the United States have absolutely magnified the harm from the earthquake in Haiti.
How? In the last decade alone, the U.S. slashed humanitarian assistance to Haiti, blocked international loans, forced the government of Haiti to downsize, ruined tens of thousands of small farmers, and replaced the government with private non-governmental organizations.
The result? Small farmers are starved out of the countryside and migrate by the tens of thousands to the cities where they built cheap shelters on hills. International funds for roads and education and healthcare are halted by the U.S. The money that does come into the country goes not to the government but to private corporations. Thus the government of Haiti is nearly powerless to provide assistance to its own people on regular days - much less in the face of a real disaster like this one.
Some specifics from recent years.
In 2004, the U.S. assisted in a coup against the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. This continues a long tradition of the U.S. deciding who will rule the poorest country in the hemisphere. No government lasts in Haiti without U.S. approval.
In 2001, when the U.S. was mad at the President of Haiti, the U.S. successfully led an effort to freeze $148 million in already-approved loans and many hundreds of millions more of potential loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti. Funds which were dedicated to improve education, public health and roads.
For much of 2001-2004, the U.S. insisted that any international funds sent to Haiti had to go through non-governmental organizations. Funds that would have provided government services were re-routed thus shrinking the ability of the government to provide aid.
For years the U.S. has helped ruin small farmers in Haiti by dumping heavily subsidized U.S. rice on their market making it extremely difficult for small farmers to survive. This was done to help U.S. farmers. Haitian farmers? They don't vote in the U.S.
Those who visit Haiti will confirm that the biggest SUVs in Port au Prince are plastered with decals of non-governmental organizations. The biggest offices are for private groups doing the basic work of government - healthcare, education, disaster response. And all are guarded not by police but by private heavily-militarized security.
The government was systematically starved of funds. The public sector shrank away. Poor people streamed to the cities.
Thus there are no rescue units. Little public healthcare is available.
So when disaster struck, the people of Haiti were on their own. We can see them pitching in. We can see them trying. They are courageous and generous and innovative, but volunteers cannot replace government. So people suffer and die in greater numbers than necessary.
The results are on display for all to see. Tragically, much of the suffering after the earthquake is "Made in the USA."
Friday, January 15, 2010
There is no doubt that we are now in a state of global emergency. This unprecedented worldwide crisis is a symptom of a much deeper problem - the current state of our consciousness: how we think about ourselves and our world. We have the urgent need, and now the opportunity, for a complete rethink: to reconsider our values and priorities, to understand our interconnectedness and to begin a new direction - living in harmony with nature and each other.
The Alliance recognises at the core of its vision the unity of all life, and a wholehearted adherence to the noblest aspirations of humankind, as proclaimed in all spiritual and humanist traditions that call for compassion and the celebration of life.
The values and principles of the emerging movement for a new humanity, and of the Alliance, which is trying to serve it, are based upon the support of policies, causes and actions that favor respect for life, human dignity, freedom, ecological sustainability and peace.
The basic tenet of the Alliance is a consciousness based on the inseparability of all life, i.e., that everything is connected and that therefore our well being is the well-being of everyone. This consciousness we believe cannot be just passive, otherwise it would remain irrelevant, it has to be expressed for the benefit of all through service that improves life for all mankind.
For more, see http://www.anhglobal.org/
opening their hearts and their wallets to help. But credit card companies see this as an opportunity to turn a profit.
They take a cut every time Americans use their credit card to make a
charitable contribution. Isn't that outrageous?
I just signed a petition to the CEOs of all the big credit card companies
telling them they need to refund this fee for all the donations to aid
organizations working in Haiti and get rid of the fee for all charitable
contributions going forward. Will you join me?
This is sickening, disgusting, and utterly disgraceful.
This country has been beaten into submission again and again.....the world should be ashamed.
Listen to the interview by the Randall Robinson.
In An Unbroken Agony, bestselling author and social justice advocate Randall Robinson explores the heroic and tragic history of Haiti. He traces the history of a people forced across the Atlantic in chains; recounting their spectacularly successful slave revolt against France and the two hundred years of reprisals that would follow. The fate of Aristide’s presidency is tied to this people’s century-long quest for self-determination and his removal from power exposes the apartheid-like forces that frustrate these aspirations even today.
Robinson majestically chronicles the convulsive history of this island nation—from Columbus’s arrival to the fearlessness of the slave revolutionaries who defeated the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804, wresting from France the most valuable colony of any European power anywhere in the world; from the ideals of the young republic, to the foreign backed dictators who corrupted those ideals, culminating in the American led operation removing from power Haiti’s first democratically elected president and his entire government in 2004.
Robinson captures the pride and courage of the Haitian people in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. With his passionate prose, Robinson brings alive the powerful memory of the Haitian revolution in the souls of ordinary citizens and shows the boundless desire of all Haitians to chart their own destiny—free of foreign interference.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
In an extended interview, award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn looks back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions over the last twelve months. “I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism,” Nairn says. “But once he became president…Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off…but he chose not to do so.” He continues, “In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year.”