January 2, 2006A good thought for the beginning of the New Year, see Marc Ash, founder of Truthout: "I Have a Hammer." Quoting Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes:
Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land
Message to the Blogosphere -- On Tomorrow, January 3, I will depart of a trip to the most remote place to which I have ever been: Antarctica. It may be the first time I've been to a continent on which there is no national government controlling. There's some semblance of international cooperation there, God knows how long that will last when the ice melts far enough to make the continent's resources accessible. It is the austral summer, and it will be daytime pretty much around the clock. It is referred to as the bottom of the world, but when you are there, I'm sure it feels like the top, just like everywhere else. It will be the most novel environment I've ever experienced, the closest to interplanetary travel. If I can, I'll post dispatches, but it will most likely be impossible. I'll pass on what I learn.
[A series of Dispatches on the trip to Antarctica starts here]
January 24, 2006
North America's New Dark AgeThe trip I took to Antarctica was a two-week itinerary, but it only spent four days actually in Antarctica. Most of the rest of the time was in Latin America, including Santiago, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina; and the Falkland Islands. It was a wild combination, like a drink with many different kinds of liquors.
When we were actually in Antarctica, many of the naturalist guides were Latin American, mostly from Brazil and Argentina. Even when we were on the Antarctic Peninsula, one of our stops was at Argentina's Esperanza Station. So in the end, despite the magnificent power of the Antarctic continent, it was very much a Latin American journey.
This was very exciting, because those countries and those cultures are marvelously vibrant, but particularly now when a whole new sociopolitical climate is sweeping the region.
A huge front page article in Sunday's New York Times ("Bolivia's Leader Solidifies Region's Leftward Tilt") discussed the changes. Bolivia's new president Evo Moralis, an indigenous Aymara Indian, a former llama herder and former head of the coca grower's union, is "at least the seventh Latin American leader to take power since 2000 from the left, a varied crop that ranges from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador to Venezuela, with strong leftist contenders surging in Peru and Mexico, both of which will also hold elections this year," the Times reported.
"His success is also the most prominent example of Latin America's recent democratic revolutions," the Times continued. "Throughout the region, the indigenous and the poor, increasingly mobilized by frustration with Washington-backed economic prescriptions, have used the ballot box to put in place a group of leaders more representative of their interests for the first time in nearly five centuries."
Bush, the Great Uniter, has united practically all of Latin America in bitter and determined opposition against the U.S. and the multinational corporations that in effect run the U.S. government. "Part of that solidarity," the Times says, "stems from [Morales'] role as representative of a new Latin American pole in global politics, as the region coalesces as a counterpoint to unpopular United States policies. More and more Latin American countries are taking exception to Washington's economic prescriptions and those of the International Monetary Fund. Some are strengthening ties with China, which is investing heavily in the region.
"Many have refused to go along with Bush administration demands to exempt Americans from criminal prosecutions at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. No South American countries have sent soldiers to support the war in Iraq. And anti-American criticism has become political sport, as opinion surveys give President Bush the lowest standing in Latin America of any American president in the region's history. As varied as the region is, no other part of the world has seen as uniform a shift in its political landscape."
Morales called Bush a "terrorist" last December, no doubt a winning tactic in a region so mobilized by loathing of Bush, whom they dislike even more than the much-despised Nixon.
I was in Santiago, Chile, less than two weeks before the election of Michelle Bachelet, a socialist who defeated a billionaire, and on the way back I passed through on the day her triumph was announced. The excitement was palpable. Bachelet calls herself a socialist, the BBC says she "was politicised by the military coup of September 1973 that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Her father was a general in the Air Force who was opposed to the military government and died in prison. She worked undercover for the Socialist Youth and she was held for weeks with her mother, Angelica, in torture and detention centres before being allowed to flee the country in 1975."
When I was in Santiago, a local guide led us to the presidential palace, which Pinochet bombed from the air on September 11, 1973, when he launched a coup to take over the country and turn it from a democracy to a brutal dictatorship.
The local tour guides are not allowed to bring "politics" into their descriptions when talking to Americans, which means they must suppress the historical fact that U.S. government and business, pushed for that coup, supported it, gave money to bring it about, and helped to destabilize the economy to set the stage for it. Americans, clueless and thinking that their government is benign, walk into lion's jaws around the world, in a sense, because they do not know the answer to the question, "Why do they hate us?"
No less conservative a website than that of the U.S. State Department describes how the U.S. government spent millions to take out the democratically elected President Allende, first to influence the elections, and failing that, to support a coup.
After Allende won, "Nixon, Kissinger, Helms, and John Mitchell met on September 15, 1970," writes Daniel Brandt. "Helms came from that meeting with the impression that 'Nixon wanted a plan for action that would include a military coup and a broad-based destabilization effort that would "make the economy scream."' Helms' notes of the session read, 'Not concerned with risks involved. Full time job -- best men we have.' An additional $6 million was spent over the next three years, including $1.5 million to rightist candidates in the March, 1973 congressional election. The grand total of $8 to $11 million spend by the CIA since 1970 may have been worth $40 to $50 million after being funneled through the black market. (See Daniel Brandt's "U.S. Responsibility for the Coup in Chile" for many figures and details.)
The millions put out on the record by the U.S. government was only part of it. A confluence of major U.S. corporations working with the government provided more than enough power to effectively destabilize Chile's economy and throw the country into a desperate condition.
As soon as the brutal dictator Pinochet was in power, the major corporations came to the aid of Chile and supported the government and helped it to survive. This was a regime of the most savage kind, sponsoring murder, torture, disappearances, the whole range of activities Americans are now learning are long associated with U.S. power.
I chanced to talk to a woman whose father was one of Allende's top people. He was in South Korea at the time of the coup, so was out of Pinochet's reach. But as an official in Allende's government, he was on Pinochet's A list, which meant that if the dictator couldn't get you, he'd get your family. On September 18, someone came to the door and told the family that if the children were not taken out of the country, Pinochet would kill them. Within two months they had fled the country.
Brazilian's feel much the same about the U.S. as Chileans, because the U.S. was behind the coup that turned Brazil into a dictatorship in 1964. (See globalpolicy.org) You could go down a long list of tyrannical regimes and find the same story. (See Third World Traveler, betterworldlinks.org, CATO Institute, Chomsky's The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism )
The people in those countries know the U.S. was behind these coups and tyrannical regimes. But Americans don't know. They are the most effectively conditioned people in the world, at least in regard to the criminal activities of their own government. They think the "foreign aid" was a nice, friendly thing, not military support for tyrants. It's an exceedingly dangerous form of ignorance.
But while the U.S. population continues to sleep, the rest of the world is waking, going through revolutionary change.
When I was in Antarctica, a naturalist giving a presentation was stymied by a recurrent problem with his PowerPoint and after several frustrated attempts to make it work, he inadvertently muttered "Jesus Christ!" One of the Americans in the audience (There were people from many countries there) publicly took him to task for it. "Why do you talk about Jesus Christ?" he drawled. The presenter said, "It was just an expression. I was trying to solve a problem."
Most of the people, including most Americans, were appalled by the display. But such behavior by Fox-News-addled Americans does go on in places as far away as Antarctica, and it's more than embarrassing, it's frightening.
In the library on the ship I found a book about Antarctica published by Reader's Digest. Casually perusing it I came upon a part that said that the Greeks had theorized that the Earth was round. Ptolemy had measured it. Then the Christians came along and said, "That's ridiculous. Who ever heard of such a thing. Can you imagine people on the other side standing upside down?" And Europe went into a Dark Age.
More chilling than the Antarctic wind was the thought: What if this is not just a regressive 10 or 20 or 40 years? What if this anti-science, anti-humanist, anti-democratic fundamentalist trend takes hold and continues, sustains and perpetrates itself, gains momentum and we find ourselves in a new Dark Age?
January 18, 2006Back in the USA after being in Chile, Argentina and Antarctica. Landing at JFK, dawn sun streaming through a wall of glass windows as people file into the lines at immigration, American citizens on one side, visitors on the other. The area is roped off to direct people into lines that fold onto each other like wires. CNN blasts into the room, one story about every 20 seconds. You are blitzed into the new USA reality very quickly, hostage drama in Atlanta, Russia warns against sanctions on Iran, Californian executed in second execution in two months, prison escape -- this will cause some trouble for critics of The President's wiretapping policies, but of course! Golden Globe award winners reeled off breathlessly. By the time you get to the counter you've heard a hundred stories. Dogs are yipping, sounds like a whole pack of them, eager to be let loose to smell the luggage for contraband. I'm thinking twice about that kilo of cocaine I brought in. Damn! Was that a good idea! The news reporting is run without spaces, obliterating gaps in which one might have an original thought.
I hit a nice, human immigration agent. At customs I'm not so lucky. I walk up to one of several desks occupied by a light skinned Afro-American woman. Her eyes are wide. She looks very intense. Maybe a little angry. Ready to snap. She looks at my customs form. Her eyes widen in a suspicious fury. "What were you doing in Chile?" She asks.
"I work with a travel publication. I was reporting on a trip down there."
She puts a red mark on some document, sticks it in my passport and says, "Go to line A. Over there!" The guy at line a asks me some questions. "Who do you work for?" I tell him. "Do you have an ID?" He's holding my passport. "You mean besides that?" I ask.
"Like a card," he says.
I start pulling everything out of my bag, things I took for overnight: my deodorant, a calculator, glasses case. Finally find my cards, fish him out one. He was never picking up much on the vibe of the woman who referred me to him. He lets me go. Great to be back in the USA.
I haven't turned on Air America. Haven't looked on the Web. I'm delaying my re-immersion. It's great to experience that joy of living that the Latin countries have, without that uptight Puritan element. I'm going to dig that for another day or so before I really come back.
January 21, 2006Scrambled brains as I try to reassemble myself for the U.S. war zone after a mind-altering trip to Antarctica, which I would love to share more about with you ... in time. I did send back a descriptive blog from the scene, which you can find at travelweekly.com. But there is much more to tell, of course. There's always the part that's not fit for prime time.
Judge for Yourself -- Meanwhile, there are many loose ends to catch up on. I just found a notice that John Judge will be speaking in New York tomorrow, January 22 at St. Mark's Church, 10th Street and Second Avenue at 6:30 p.m. for a $5 suggested donation. Mr. Judge is no preacher, but an amazing researcher and now the co-director of the 9/11 Research Project. Judge: "Just a heads-up about my upcoming lecture on 9/11 issues others are not talking about. I'm hoping fellow researcher Mike Zmolek will join me but he may have to be in New Orleans that weekend. Hope you can attend or let others in the NY area know who might be interested. Please spread the word. Also, my new website is up now and you should take a look: judgeforyourself.com. John Judge in Washington, DC." Judge's talk is: "Putting 9/11 in Context: Hidden History, Covert Operations, Srategy of Tension, Permanent War Economy, National Security State, Continuity of Government, Martial Law and the Flawed Conclusions and Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission"
Grounded -- James Moore, the Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and the co-author of the bestselling, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, who has been writing and reporting from Texas for the past 25 years on the rise of Rove and Bush and has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976, has been placed on the no-fly list. See huffingtonpost.com for details. The message is, if you mess with the masters, if you say something disagreeable, you have no rights. Welcome to the free world.
Leaning Left -- According to political prostitute Dick Morris, the nation is shifting leftward. American Gestapo -- A note from Mark Crispin Miller: "What BushCo wants, according to the fine print (Sec. 605) of the new PATRIOT Act, is a permanent Praetorian Guard, or Cheka, or Gestapo. It's all too easy to come up with apt historical analogies--but not with any from this nation's history. 'A permanent police force, to be known as the "United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,"' empowered to 'make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence' (what is 'an offense against the United States'?), 'or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony' (what are 'reasonable grounds'?). I'm not making this up. See the text and URL below. What will it take to get the press to notice this? MCM" Rove's plan for winning the next elections: War, war and more war! Salon Watch Out -- "House Democrats warned President Bush, top leaders of his administration and officials of the National Security Agency on Friday that if the political climate changes they could face criminal prosecution for ordering and carrying out warrantless domestic eavesdropping. 'These are clearly crimes and the statute of limitations extends beyond this president's term,' which will end in January 2009, said Rep. Jerry Nadler D-N.Y., at an ad hoc hearing called by House Judiciary Committee's Democrats to assail Bush's contention that his order for warrantless domestic wiretaps on American citizens is legal." SF Gate Desperate for Leadership -- Great article by Molly Ivins. This really says it: "I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president. Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone... It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief." workingforchange.com