Thursday, March 18, 2010
Russell Means: UN Listening Session is US Smokescreen
Statement by Russell Means, Republic of Lakotah
on the Occasion of the United States State Department “Listening Session” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 16 March 2010
Once again, the occupation government of the United States of America has trotted out its dogs and ponies to provide a smokescreen and diversion from its continuing crimes against the indigenous peoples and nations of the Western Hemisphere. The reason for today’s media spectacle is supposedly for the US State Department to “listen” to input from indigenous peoples and nations for inclusion in the U.S.’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, universal periodic review process.
As we can see, many indigenous people have been duped to participate, yet again, in a lying and duplicitous process of the United States. The United States has absolutely no interest or intention of admitting to the world its human rights record that is neither justifiable nor defensible. In particular, the record of the United States with regard to historical, and ongoing, violations of over 370 treaties that were negotiated and signed with indigenous nations must be, but will not be, addressed by the United States. Instead, as is its ongoing practice, the United States will use this session, and the one tomorrow on the territory of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, as its justification that indigenous peoples were “consulted,” and “listened to,” while the U.S. simultaneously lies to the world about its disgraceful human rights record.
The Republic of Lakotah will not legitimize this embarrassing process. Instead, we will submit our report directly to the UN Human Rights Council, not to be filtered or sanitized by the State Department. Let us be clear, our report will be scathing. The United States continues, on a daily basis to violate the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties with the Lakotah. Our report will indicate that the United States never intended to abide by the terms of the treaties, and has violated them consistently from the time of their signing to the present.
Our report will also cite the United States’ own language in acknowledging that “the treaties retain their full force and effect even today because they are the legal equivalent of treaties with foreign governments and have the force of federal law.” Periodic Report of the United States of America to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, April 23, 2007, paragraph 335. In light of the United States’ own admissions, in addition to reporting to the Human Rights Council on the egregious human rights record of the US towards indigenous peoples, the Republic of Lakotah will report to the Council and to the world, the exercise of its own rights under principles of international law. The United States has continually breached the treaties with the Lakotah, and international law allows the Lakotah to return to our status quo ante position prior to the signing of the treaties.
On March 30, 2010, the Republic of Lakotah will repeat its position to the United States, and will transmit its communication to the President of the United States and to the Secretary of State, demanding that the United States cease and desist it activities in Lakotah territory, and insisting that the United States withdraw its presence from our homeland.
Posted at Censored News http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com
“Hello my relatives. Today is NOT a good day…”
Russell Means speaks about Obama’s recent award of the Nobel Prize and the meaning of the prize, as well as its history.
1971-Henry Kissinger awarded Nobel Peace Prize after the conclusion of an 18 month B-52 bombing campaign of Cambodia, where an estimated 600,000 villagers were killed. The subsequent destitution and displacement were major factors in the rise of the Khemer Rouge, which the U.S. supported through continued arms sales.
I am Obama’s prisoner now
September 14, 2009
On August 21, Native American activist Leonard Peltier, one of America’s longest-serving political prisoners, was denied parole by the U.S. Parole Commission.
In 1977, Leonard was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the deaths of two FBI agents who were killed in a gunfight on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. His co-defendants Bob Robideau and Dino Butler were acquitted on the basis of self-defense, but the government managed to secure a conviction against Leonard, despite never producing any witness who could identify him as the person who killed the agents.
Leonard wrote the following after his parole was denied.
THE UNITED States Department of Justice has once again made a mockery of its lofty and pretentious title.
After releasing an original and continuing disciple of death cult leader Charles Manson who attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford, an admitted Croatian terrorist, and another attempted assassin of President Ford under the mandatory 30-year parole law, the U.S. Parole Commission deemed that my release would “promote disrespect for the law.”
If only the federal government would have respected its own laws, not to mention the treaties that are, under the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I would never have been convicted nor forced to spend more than half my life in captivity. Not to mention the fact that every law in this country was created without the consent of Native peoples, and is applied unequally at our expense. If nothing else, my experience should raise serious questions about the FBI’s supposed jurisdiction in Indian Country.
The parole commission’s phrase was lifted from soon-to-be former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who apparently hopes to ride with the FBI cavalry into the office of North Dakota governor. In this, Wrigley is following in the footsteps of William Janklow, who built his political career on his reputation as an Indian fighter, moving on up from tribal attorney (and alleged rapist of a Native minor) to state attorney general, South Dakota governor, and U.S. congressman.
Some might recall that Janklow claimed responsibility for dissuading President Clinton from pardoning me before he was convicted of manslaughter. Janklow’s historical predecessor, George Armstrong Custer, similarly hoped that a glorious massacre of the Sioux would propel him to the White House, and we all know what happened to him.
Unlike the barbarians that bay for my blood in the corridors of power, however, Native people are true humanitarians who pray for our enemies. Yet we must be realistic enough to organize for our own freedom and equality as nations. We constitute 5 percent of the population of North Dakota and 10 percent of South Dakota and we could utilize that influence to promote our own power on the reservations, where our focus should be.
If we organized as a voting bloc, we could defeat the entire premise of the competition between the Dakotas as to which is the most racist. In the 1970s we were forced to take up arms to affirm our right to survival and self-defense, but today the war is one of ideas. We must now stand up to armed oppression and colonization with our bodies and our minds. International law is on our side.
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GIVEN THE complexion of the three recent federal parolees, it might seem that my greatest crime was being Indian. But the truth is that my gravest offense is my innocence.
In Iran, political prisoners are occasionally released if they confess to the ridiculous charges on which they are dragged into court, in order to discredit and intimidate them and other like-minded citizens. The FBI and its mouthpieces have suggested the same, as did the parole commission in 1993, when it ruled that my refusal to confess was grounds for denial of parole.
To claim innocence is to suggest that the government is wrong, if not guilty itself. The American judicial system is set up so that the defendant is not punished for the crime itself, but for refusing to accept whatever plea arrangement is offered and for daring to compel the judicial system to grant the accused the right to right to rebut the charges leveled by the state in an actual trial. Such insolence is punished invariably with prosecution requests for the steepest possible sentence, if not an upward departure from sentencing guidelines that are being gradually discarded, along with the possibility of parole.
As much as non-Natives might hate Indians, we are all in the same boat. To attempt to emulate this system in tribal government is pitiful, to say the least.
It was only this year, in the Troy Davis case, that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized innocence as a legitimate legal defense. Like the witnesses who were coerced into testifying against me, those who testified against Davis renounced their statements, yet Davis was very nearly put to death. I might have been executed myself by now, had not the government of Canada required a waiver of the death penalty as a condition of extradition.
The old order is aptly represented by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who stated in his dissenting opinion in the Davis case:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.
The esteemed senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, who is now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, used much the same reasoning in writing that “our legal system has found Leonard Peltier guilty of the crime for which he was charged. I have reviewed the material from the trial, and I believe the verdict was fair and just.”
It is a bizarre and incomprehensible statement to Natives, as well it should be, that innocence and guilt is a mere legal status, not necessarily rooted in material fact. It is a truism that all political prisoners were convicted of the crimes for which they were charged.
The truth is the government wants me to falsely confess in order to validate a rather sloppy frame-up operation, one whose exposure would open the door to an investigation of the United States’ role in training and equipping goon squads to suppress a grassroots movement on Pine Ridge against a puppet dictatorship.
In America, there can by definition be no political prisoners, only those duly judged guilty in a court of law. It is deemed too controversial to even publicly contemplate that the federal government might fabricate and suppress evidence to defeat those deemed political enemies. But it is a demonstrable fact at every stage of my case.
I am Barack Obama’s political prisoner now, and I hope and pray that he will adhere to the ideals that impelled him to run for president. But as Obama himself would acknowledge, if we are expecting him to solve our problems, we missed the point of his campaign.
Only by organizing in our own communities and pressuring our supposed leaders can we bring about the changes that we all so desperately need. Please support the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee in our effort to hold the United States government to its own words.
I thank you all who have stood by me all these years, but to name anyone would be to exclude many more. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
–the preceding article first appeared in socialistworker.org:
President Barack Obama declared at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in April that there would no longer be junior and senior partners in the Americas–but his actions are sending a different message.
The most egregious case is Honduras, where the U.S. has played ball with the coup-makers who overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya earlier this month. The Obama administration also failed to speak out against last month’s Peruvian police massacre of more than 50 indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon who were protesting the incursion of petroleum transnational corporations into their territory.
In Bolivia, too, Obama failed another important test. On June 30, the Obama administration rejected renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) for Bolivia, citing the country’s alleged failure to cooperate in drug eradication efforts.
With this pronouncement, the administration ratified George W. Bush’s decision last November to suspend the trade agreement with Bolivia on the basis of supposed non-cooperation in counter-narcotics operations. In reality, the suspension was one of a series of tit-for-tat moves that began when Bolivian President Evo Morales declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg persona non grata after he advised opposition politicians plotting a coup last September.
Bush overrode the decision of Congress to extend the agreement for six months just a few weeks after Morales announced that the Drug Enforcement Agency was no longer welcome in Bolivia. A few months earlier, Morales had supported the decision of coca growers in the Chapare region, where Morales was a union leader before becoming president, to expel the United States Agency for International Development from the area.
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According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the law was intended to help Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia “in their fight against drug production and trafficking by expanding their economic alternatives. To this end, the ATPA provided reduced-duty or duty-free treatment to most of these countries’ exports to the United States.” It was renewed in 2002 under the ATPDEA name.
The criteria for continued participation fall into four categories: investment policies, trade policies, counter-narcotics operations and workers’ rights.
While the decision cited Bolivia’s supposed failure to meet its counter-narcotics commitments as the reason for non-renewal, it is clear from the text of the U.S. Trade Representative’s report that Bolivia had offended the U.S. in other areas as well. The report cites Bolivia’s nationalization of hydrocarbons, the country’s withdrawal from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a “difficult investment climate,” and increased tariffs. These are described in matter-of-fact language–but it’s clear that the U.S. is none too pleased.
In the area of counter-narcotics, the trade representative’s report claims that the “loss of the DEA presence and its information network has severely diminished Bolivia’s interdiction capacity in both the short and the long term.”
The report concedes that the Bolivian government has “maintained its support for interdiction efforts” and that “interdiction of drugs and precursor chemicals continues to rise,” and that “the Bolivian counter-narcotics police and other CN [counter-narcotics] units have improved coordination effectiveness.” Yet even Bolivia’s success in these efforts is seen as a problem–the U.S. report concludes that Bolivia’s increased drug interdiction is evidence of “increased cocaine production and transshipment.”
While it appears that cocaine production has, in fact, increased in Bolivia, this is being used as an excuse for the U.S. to punish a government that is challenging American interference within its borders.
If the U.S. government was truly concerned with stopping the production and distribution of illegal drugs, and believed that ending trade preference agreements could have such an effect, it would refuse to extend trade preferences to U.S. ally Colombia, a country at the heart of cocaine production.
According to the Andean Information Network, coca production has risen in three of the four Andean countries participating in the ATPDEA: Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that land area under coca cultivation in the region grew by 16 percent from 2006 to 2007. Colombia led the way with a 27 percent increase, while growth in Bolivia was 5 percent and in Peru 4 percent. “Overall, Colombia accounted for 85 percent of the net 24,700 hectare increase region-wide, while Peru accounted for 9 percent and Bolivia for 6 percent,” the UN agency reported.
Despite this region-wide spike in cocaine production, only Bolivia faces non-renewal of trade preferences. The U.S. recently renewed the ATPDEA for Peru and Colombia, and renewed it for Ecuador the same day it denied renewal to Bolivia.
The suspension of preferred trade status as of December 2008 had already led to a 14 percent decline in Bolivian sales to the U.S. and the loss of more than 2,000 jobs in the country’s largest textile exporter. The textile industry had benefited the most from trade preference and is being hit the hardest by its suspension.
According to AmericaEconomic.com, “Bolivian exports to the U.S., in large part due to the ATPDEA, reached $171,920,000 dollars in the first five months of 2008. In the same period in 2009, exports fell 19.5 percent to $138,370,000. The textile industry has protested that the suspension of the ATPDEA will lose the sector close to 9,000 jobs.”
The Agencia de Noticias Fides (ANF) estimates that 46,000 jobs will be lost nationally and between 5,000 and 7,000 businesses will be affected in the department (region) of La Paz alone. The Santa Cruz Chamber of Exporters estimates that exports from its department to the U.S. will decline 60 percent by the end of the year.
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IN THE lead-up to the decision on ATPDEA, President Morales appealed to the U.S. to renew the agreement, even sending a delegation to the U.S. to make the case. “If President Obama wants to have good relations,” Morales said, “I want to publicly tell him that hopefully he can mend the ways of ex-President Bush.”
When Obama followed Bush’s lead and refused to renew Bolivia’s status as a cooperating government in anti-drug efforts, Morales said the decision was “clearly political.” “I feel deceived by the suspension of the ATPDEA because the Obama government has lied and made slanderous and false accusations against the Bolivian government to suspend the trade preferences,” he told reporters.
So much for the Obama administration’s stated aim of improving relations with Latin America by establishing mutual respect and cooperation. Rather, recent events indicate that Obama is committed to re-establishing U.S. hegemony in the region in order to counter the “pink tide” of center-left governments that have been elected from Central America to the Southern Cone.
Morales put it well:
In the U.S., the appearance of the leaders has changed, but the politics of empire have not. When he told us in Trinidad and Tobago that they are no longer senior and junior partners, President Obama lied to Latin America. Now there is not only a senior partner, there is a patron [boss], a policeman…
They told me not to trust Obama–that the empire is the empire. To those who made this recommendation to me, I thank you. Truly, the empire is the empire. But thankfully, the battle will continue with the consciousness of not only the Bolivian people, but all of the peoples of Latin America.
In a discussion with a New York audience in May, Uruguayan author Eduardo Galleano urged Obama, instead of restoring U.S. “leadership” in the region, to leave Latin America alone. While Obama would win a lot more favor with Latin American governments and populations were he to follow this advice, all signs point to an empire that is gearing up to reassert control in what it has long considered its backyard.
But the increasing consciousness, organization and mobilization of Latin America’s popular classes–there to see on the streets of Honduras in recent weeks–means that the U.S. won’t be able to re-establish hegemony in Latin America without a fight.
Sarah Hines writes from Bolivia
Originally Appeared on Socialistworker.org: http://socialistworker.org/2009/07/22/obamas-latin-america-policy
The following first appeared in the Rock Creek Free Press, June 2009
What do you suppose it is like to be elected President of the United States only to find that your power is restricted to the service of powerful interest groups?
A president who does a good job for the ruling interest groups is paid off with remunerative corporate directorships, outrageous speaking fees, and a lucrative book contract. If he is young when he assumes office, like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it means a long life of luxurious leisure.
Fighting the special interests doesn’t pay and doesn’t succeed. On April 30 the primacy of special, over public, interests was demonstrated yet again. The Democrats’ bill to prevent 1.7 million mortgage foreclosures and, thus, preserve $300 billion in home equity by permitting homeowners to renegotiate their mortgages, was defeated in the Senate, despite the 60-vote majority of the Democrats. The banksters were able to defeat the bill 51 to 45.
These are the same financial gangsters whose unbridled greed and utter irresponsibility have wiped out half of Americans’ retirement savings, sent the economy into a deep hole, and threatened the US dollar’s reserve currency role. It is difficult to imagine an interest group with a more damaged reputation. Yet, a majority of “the people’s representatives” voted as the discredited banksters instructed.
Hundreds of billions of public dollars have gone to bail out the banksters, but when some Democrats tried to get the Senate to do a mite for homeowners, the US Senate stuck with the banks. The Senate’s motto is: “Hundreds of billions for the banksters, not a dime for homeowners.”
If Obama was naive about well-intentioned change before the vote, he no longer has this political handicap.
Democratic Majority Whip Dick Durbin acknowledged the voters’ defeat by the discredited banksters. The banks, Durbin said, “frankly own the place.”
It is not difficult to understand why. Among those who defeated the homeowners bill are senators Jon Tester (MT), Max Baucus (MT), Blanche Lincoln (AK), Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA), Tim Johnson (SD), and Arlen Specter (PA). According to reports, the banksters have poured a half million dollars into Tester’s campaign funds. Baucus has received $3.5 million; Lincoln $1.3 million; Nelson $1.4 million; Landrieu $2 million; Johnson $2.5 million; Specter $4.5 million.
The same Congress that can’t find a dime for homeowners or health care appropriates hundreds of billions of dollars for the military/security complex. The week after the Senate foreclosed on American homeowners, the Obama “change” administration asked Congress for an additional $61 billion dollars for the neoconservatives’ war in Iraq and $65 billion more for the neoconservatives’ war in Afghanistan. Congress greeted this request with a rousing “Yes we can!”
The additional $126 billion comes on top of the $533.7 billion “defense” budget for this year. The $660 billion — probably a low-ball number — is ten times the military spending of China, the second most powerful country in the world.
How is it possible that “the world’s only superpower” is threatened by the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan? How can the US be a superpower if it is threatened by countries that have no military capability other than a guerrilla capability to resist invaders?
These “wars” are a hoax designed to enrich the US armaments industry and to infuse the “security forces” with police powers over the American citizenry.
Not a dime to prevent millions of Americans from losing their homes, but hundreds of billions of dollars to murder Muslim women and children and to create millions of refugees, many of whom will either sign up with insurgents or end up as the next wave of immigrants into America.
This is the way the American government works. And it thinks it is a “city on the hill, a light unto the world.”
Americans elected Obama because he said he would end the gratuitous criminal wars of the Bush brownshirts, wars that have destroyed America’s reputation and financial solvency and serve no public interest. But once in office Obama found that he was ruled by the military/security complex. War is not being ended, merely transferred from the unpopular war in Iraq to the more popular war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Obama, in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, continues to attack “targets” in Pakistan. In place of a war in Iraq, the military/security complex now has two wars going in much more difficult circumstances.
Viewing the promotion gravy train that results from decades of warfare, the US officer corps has responded to the “challenge to American security” from the Taliban. “We have to kill them over there before they come over here.” No member of the US government or its numerous well-paid agents has ever explained how the Taliban, which is focused on Afghanistan, could ever get to America. Yet this hyped fear is sufficient for the public to support the continuing enrichment of the military/security complex, while American homes are foreclosed by the banksters who have destroyed the retirement prospects of the US population.
According to Pentagon budget documents, by next year the cost of the war against Afghanistan will exceed the cost of the war against Iraq. According to a Nobel prize-winning economist and a budget expert at Harvard University, the war against Iraq has cost the American taxpayers $3 trillion, that is, $3,000 billion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs, such as caring for veterans.
If the Pentagon is correct, then by next year the US government will have squandered $6 trillion dollars on two wars, the only purpose of which is to enrich the munitions manufacturers and the “security” bureaucracy.
The human and social costs are dramatic as well and not only for the Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani populations ravaged by American bombs. Dahr Jamail reports that US Army psychiatrists have concluded that by their third deployment, 30 percent of American troops are mental wrecks. Among the costs that reverberate across generations of Americans are elevated rates of suicide, unemployment, divorce, child and spousal abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and incarceration.
In the Afghan “desert of death” the Obama administration is constructing a giant military base. Why? What does the internal politics of Afghanistan have to do with the US?
What is this enormous waste of resources that America does not have accomplishing besides enriching the American munitions industry?
China and to some extent India are the rising powers in the world. Russia, the largest country on earth, is armed with a nuclear arsenal as terrifying as the American one. The US dollar’s role as reserve currency, the most important source of American power, is undermined by the budget deficits that result from the munition corporations’ wars and the bankster bailouts.
Why is the US making itself impotent by fighting wars that have nothing whatsoever to do with its security, wars that are, in fact, threatening its security?
The answer is that the military/security lobby, the financial gangsters, and AIPAC rule. The American people be damned.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
The Imaginary War
“Will the United States bomb itself?” ~Eduardo Galeano
With three months and change in office, its a fair time to take a look at the record of the 44th president of the United States. The leading deceptions of Barack Obama to date has been made capable by his understanding of the American psyche, and his misuse of the public’s desire for genuine change.
The best example of the psychological malfeasance of Obama is the Iraq war. In June of 2008, while campaigning, he stated that on day one of his presidency he would immediately begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and ship them instead to the good war in Afghanistan. Somehow, it is more acceptable to capture civilians and torture them for bad intelligence that then leads to more arrests and more torture in Afghanistan, than to perform the same practices in Iraq. But the goal of beginning the removal of troops was, after the election, immediately subverted by Barack Obama. The immediate withdrawl of troops became an 18-month drawdown, with now no end in sight.
If this is the case, what was the net effect of taking a position and then changing it? With this practice, the public gets the false impression that things are changing, that their opinion is valued and that their trust is sacred. In the current age, it is of central importance for most Americans to not feel offended. Perceived offense is taken as seriously as physical harm. With this mindset, all persons who lead guarded lives of safety feel just as at risk as those who are living from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, in an economy that keeps people permanently displaced, on the move from job to job. An economy that sees 22% of American children grow up in poverty. An economy that is seeing record foreclosures, massive unemployment, evaporating wages for the poor and coming epic inflation. In such an environment, ownership becomes rentership, and interpersonal trust becomes a matter of commerce.
The nation wanted universal, single-payer healthcare, and at first Barack Obama claimed he would provide it. But demanding a new plan was not a priority for him. The goal of universal coverage is now being kicked further down the road to a place where no one actually believes it will be picked up. There is a word for all of this, deceit.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency as well took the applauded position of halting mountaintop coal-removal, that process that blasts entire tops of the oldest mountains of the Eastern Americas for a finite, polluting resource. This after 400 acres of Tennessee was covered in up to 6 feet of coal sludge in December 2008. However, after the permits were delayed for one month, Obama’s EPA stated that 42 of 48 sites, including two dozen mountaintop sites, were A-OK, and that business could proceed as planned, by business, for business, for profit.
In addition, Obama promised and immediately acted to close the torture facility known as Guantanamo Bay. There were no words spoken as to whether Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or other sites further afield known for torture as well would be closed, and it mattered little as the immediate order was allowed to air for a few weeks, then was quietly shelved. A public debate then ensues about whether the prisoners are allowed the rights of human beings, with no one seeming to notice that to date there are over two hundred people who have been held without due process, in massive isolation, for almost a decade now, in order to prove that the United States is a country of laws. To date, the only persons to be tried are Osama Bin Laden’s driver, and his cook. The gravest crime between the two is the forging of a passport. The matter of closing Guantanamo now proceeds toward the ever less likely for a public that is having its will publicly eroded.
To speak for a moment of the importance of location; in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iraq, to be a young man between the ages of 18 and 35 is to be a target. US reports of deaths of men between the ages of 18 to 35 proceed with the presumption that all men of this age group are presumed to be ‘terrorists’. For the United States, a country which has never had active on-going military bombardment, the use of robotic planes to eliminate the risk to the precious flesh of our soldiers while bombs are dropped on villagers and random mud huts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, surely indicates that our country has crossed a line into the realm of pure fantasy.
A young man, born into the country of Iraq, sees his neighborhood destroyed and his neighbors killed, tortured or forced to flee the country, and he has a choice. Leave, become a passive target for an unaccountable U.S. Military or Iraqi militia, or join the resistance. An entire population of people is considered, in the eyes of the American Media, guilty by age and location of birth and is pushed toward desparation. War does not even exist on television screens, apart from the sterile discussion of tactics. More time of televised discussion is focused on one sporting game than the active US military bombardment of three nations. We are at a sad point of dislocation from reality. The estimated 1 million people killed in Iraq are proportionally equal to the country of Iraq invading the U.S. and killing the entire population of the state of Michigan. The US has displaced a populace equivalent to the state of California.
All of this though isn’t altering the public’s ability to believe Barack Obama. The reason is a very straightforward trick of mnemonics. If the brain remembers something, anything, and if the brain then tries to remember that same thing later, the brain can literally not tell the difference between whether something occurred in reality, or if it is a memory of a memory. So when Barack Obama says the right thing, the moral thing, the thing the public believes in, he is able to give people the illusion of having made a difference, while deferring to their sloth and refusal to check-up on stories greater than 2 weeks old. All of this in order to have business continue unabated, unbridled, slightly reorganized, but funded, as the military is, at the same or greater levels, funding the same entities, with the same lack of oversight, for the same duration, forever.
In a world that is moving exponentially closer to economic, agricultural, environmental and inter-national collapse, one thing has been made very clear. The saving of the financial institutions, including Wall Street primarily, but secondarily the finance arms of GM and Chrysler, have shown that Obama is not interested in reviving the sections of the economy that produce a single thing. Bold change, bold leadership, would have seen Obama ban the sale of domestic automobiles for a year, two years, in order to have the plants retool for wind turbines and massively decrease the number of automobiles available while increasing the number of hybrids and electric autos on the road. Bold leadership would have followed through on what Obama said when he stated, “If I were designing a system from scratch, then I’d probably set up a single-payer (healthcare) system.” There will never be a better time to confront the insurance giants, the megalithic healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical corporations than right now. Bold leadership would have followed the advice of Major General Paul Eaton’s son, currently in Afghanistan, “I don’t need any more combat power. I need agriculture experts, I need water engineers, I need doctors, nurses, dentists .”
And so it is with Barack Obama. He has made it clear that the production economy is not his priority. The non-producing economies, the banking system, and the destructive economies, the war machines, are the priority. These are the areas that are being supported by the administration. These are the areas for which priority speed has been granted. Torture will continue under a different name. The American Public will continue to pay its tax money to be spied on by its own government, to risk random arrest, to be fed to another non-productive system, the prison system. At what point will the American Population begin to realize that a few more plastic baubles from Wal-Mart, a few more cheap poisoned tangerines, are not worth the amount of destruction we are leaving our children, are not worth the wreckage we are visiting upon our fellow human beings, do not amount to more than a hollow, ransacked way of doing things that we shouldn’t be saving in the first place?
On the day the American Populace figures that out, there will be revolution in this country, and it will be needed.
Madoff Is a Convenient Distraction for a Bunch of Crooks Who Aren’t in Jail
Had Madoff just followed the example of his fellow tycoons, he could have legally multiplied his wealth many times over, legally.
Friday, May 1st, 2009
“Bernie Madoff, Scapegoat” by Michael Moore (for Time magazine)
The following piece written by Michael Moore appears in this week’s Time magazine (and in full at Time.com) as part of their annual “Time 100″ issue highlighting their choices for “The World’s Most Influential People.”
Elie Wiesel called him a “God.” His investors called him a “genius.” But, proving correct that old adage from the country and western song, you never really know what goes on behind closed doors.
Bernie Madoff, for at least 20 years, ran a Ponzi scheme on thousands of clients, among them the people you and I would consider the best and brightest. Business leaders, celebrities, charities, even some of his own relatives and his defense attorney were taken for a ride (this has to be the first time a lawyer was hosed by the client).
We’re clearly in one of those historic, game changing years: up is down, red is blue and black is President. Aside from Obama himself, no person will provide a more iconic face of this end-of-capitalism-as-we-know-it year than Bernard Lawrence Madoff.
Which is too bad. Yes, he stole $65 billion from some already quite wealthy people. I know that’s upsetting to them because rich guys like Bernie are not supposed to be stealing from their own kind. Crime, thievery, looting — that’s what happens on the other side of town. The rules of the money game on Park Avenue and Wall Street are comprised of things like charging the public 29% credit card interest, tricking people into taking out a second mortgage they can’t afford, and concocting a student loan system that has graduates in hock for the next 20 years. Now that’s smart business! And it’s legal. That’s where Bernie went wrong — his scheming, his trickery was an outrage both because it was illegal and because he preyed on his side of the tracks.
Had Mr. Madoff just followed the example of his fellow top one-percenters, there were many ways he could have legally multiplied his wealth many times over. Here’s how it’s done. First, threaten your workers that you’ll move their jobs offshore if they don’t agree to reduce their pay and benefits. Then move those jobs offshore. Then place that income on the shores of the Cayman Islands and pay no taxes. Don’t put the money back into your company. Put it into your pocket and the pockets of your shareholders. There! Done! Legal!
But Bernie wanted to play X-games Capitalism, run by the mantra that’s at the core of all capitalistic endeavors: Enough Is Never Enough. You have the right to make as much as you can, and if people are too stupid to read the fine print of their health insurance policy or their GM “100,000-mile warranty,” well, tough luck, losers. Buyers beware!
It would be too easy — and the wrong lesson learned — to put Bernie on TIME’s list all by himself. If Ponzi schemes are such a bad thing, then why have we allowed all of our top banks to deal in credit default swaps and other make-believe rackets? Why did we allow those same banks to create the scam of a sub-prime mortgage? And instead of putting the people responsible in the cell block in Lower Manhattan, where Bernie now resides, why did we give them huge sums of our hard-earned tax dollars to bail them out of their self-inflicted troubles? Bernard Madoff is nothing more than the scab on the wound. He’s also a most-needed and convenient distraction. Where’s the photo on this list of the ex-chairmen of AIG, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup? Where’s the mug shot of Phil Gramm, the senator who wrote the bill to strip the system of its regulations, or of the President who signed that bill? And how ’bout those who ran the fake numbers at the ratings agencies, the lobbyists who succeeded in making sleazy accounting a lawful practice, or the stock market itself — an institution that’s treated like the Holy Sepulchre instead of the casino that it is (and, like all other casinos, the house eventually wins).
And what of Madoff’s clients themselves? What did they think was going on to guarantee them incredible returns on their investments every single year — when no one else on planet Earth was getting anything like that? Some have admitted they did have an inkling “something was up,” but no one really wanted to ask what it was that was making their money grow on trees. They were afraid they might find out it had nothing to do with gardening. Many of Madoff’s victims have told investigators that, over the years, they have made much more than the original investment they gave Bernie. If I buy a stolen car from the guy down the street, the police will take that car from me regardless of whether I knew it was stolen. If I knew it was stolen, then I go to jail for receiving stolen property. Will these “victims” give back their gains that were fraudulently obtained? Will the head of Goldman Sachs reveal what he was doing at the meetings with the Fed chairman and the Treasury secretary before the bailout? Will Bank of America please tell us what they’ve spent $45 billion of our TARP money on?
That’s probably going too far. Better that we just put Bernie on this list.
Moore’s new documentary on the wonders of capitalism will be in movie theaters this fall.
In the current economic times, how much does truth sell for?
In the recently concluded UN Forum on Racism, the world got a firsthand look at how racism operates. You are welcome to attend if you verbally denounce racism. If, however, you speak directly to current acts of racism, you face the barbed tongues of the media for divisive speech. If you speak of a people who have been dispossessed of their land, those who dispossessed them will walk out of the building. And, if you speak of the history of slavery and the possibility of reparations for the descendants of those people who were forcibly abducted from their homes, then, like the US, you neednt bother to even attend.
At the UN World Forum on Racism in Geneva, The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took advantage of another chance to flummox the feathers of Israel and called frequently for the disempowerment of that nation. But less focused on in his speech were a few other points. He spoke of the need to dissolve the veto power of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, who at last tally, had quashed some 40 resolutions on the subject of Palestine by the veto of the United States. He spoke of the million souls killed in Iraq and the several million who have been forced out of their homes in that country.
He also gave voice to the deathly silence of genuine action from the UN Security Council beginning in December of 2008 to January 09, when the UN spoke sternly but did not act to stop the slaughter of an estimated 1100 civilians in the Gaza Strip. He called these acts by a name, racism.
Speaking of violence in today’s society is often equated with actual violence. The difference between the two is very real though. Consider, since the year 2000, there are around 6000 fewer Palestinian souls on the planet, and around 1000 fewer Israeli. Taking into account the fact that almost every aspect of Palestinian life is under curfew, that family members often begin decomposing before they can be taken across checkpoints to burial, that women often die in childbirth for the same reason and that upwards of 70% of the citizens lack clean drinking water, one can sense that there might be a perception of racism toward the Palestinians by the Israeli government. Israel has been given material support since its inception by the United States to perform acts of dispossession on a native population. In recent times, they have expanded the ‘settlements’, tripling their inhabitants in a little over a decade and a half.
But as with America, the push for expansion of lands and displacement of native people has no term other than racism, and such crimes seep in to the consciousness of a country, as much as it wishes to shield itself from it.
That Ahmadinejad spoke so in public is of course anathema to systemic racism, which prefers not to have its name called out in the polis. To be fair to the conference attendees, Ahmadinejad’s statements were in some respects the least eloquent of the conference. The work to address the muliplicity of slave trades between Africa, the Middle East and India is laudable, as is the work to improve human rights and dignity for migrants and modern day slaves. The fact that defamation of religion has for the time being been labeled as a matter of freedom of speech is as well commendable. But Ahmadinejad’s speech still captures something that won’t sit still, even after it has left Durban in 2001 or Geneva in 2009, namely, a striving to create a world which is more just and more humane for the future, starting with an honest admission of the crimes of the past, the crimes of the present and what can be done to best help the future. A good start would be the demanding equity for the Palestinian people, many of whom currently live in isolated camps, are subject to random arrests and are forced further toward hopelessness by a policy that is by now at least two generations old.
Considering that the population that lives in Israeli Settlements in the West Bank has tripled in the last 18 years, with an estimated 40% of the settlements and ‘outposts’ existing extralegally on Palestinian land, it would seem that now would be an opportune moment for reconciliation.
Also recently, was the Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change, which captured fewer headlines than Hugo Chavez’s timely gift of a book to Barack Obama. The present, Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”, puts forward the notion that if Latin America had been and was now fully reimbursed for all of the land and natural resources stolen from them, from the past up until the present day, they would be the keepers of the keys of the world economy, instead of its most frequent beggars. Indeed if the human species is to gain a footing that would walk it away from self-imposed annihilation and closer to sustainability, taking Native People’s perspective into account would seem to be a good start. The 400 indigenous people from 80 nations making up the Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change were in the end divided over whether to call for an immediate moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling on native lands in preference for alternative energy.
Though unresolved in the end, such a call is to date not even conceived of being mentioned in the wider populace of any country. They as well called for a stop to ‘false solutions like forest carbon offsets and other market based mechanisms that will benefit only those who are making money’ as Tom Goldtooth stated. With grain prices having doubled in the last 2 years, with ethanol consuming 25% of the US grain supply and with 18,000 children dying each day from starvation, we are fast approaching the day when it will be more profitable to put gas in a car than to feed people.
All of this, and Javed Iqbal, a Staten Island resident originally from Pakistan, was sentenced last week to six years in prison for airing an Arabic television channel and Dov Zakheiv, the rabbi who somehow lost 2.6 trillion dollars while working for the Pentagon from ’01 to ’04, is writing columns for ‘shadowgovernment’ of foreignpolicy.com. Yes, Virginia, there is a racism in the world still.
In an hour long interview with Steve Scher, Russell Means speaks to the current economic situation and the fall of the dollar. He speaks as well of the deceitfulness of the Federal Reserve and how the U.S. Government, in collusion with the Federal Reserve, is printing money out of nothing.
Russell Means points the way out of the current debacle by calling for a return to matriarchy, rule of consensus and how, once again, small is beautiful.
(click triangle below to play)