The Invasion of the Dominican Republic
43 years ago today, in order to protect the world from "a second Cuba", US President Lyndon Johnson -- obviously not distracted enough by losing the Vietnam War -- ordered the US Marines to invade that Caribbean superpower, the Dominican Republic. Operation Power Pack was launched on April 28th, 1965 and the occupation by the imperialist forces lasted until September 1966 after a pro-Trujillo, pro-American president was elected. About 3,000 civilians are thought to have died to save the American Empire.
Lest we forget.
Free Enterprise My Ass
The true free enterprise economic system has been moribund in the US for decades. When so much of the economy is tied up in the anti-competitive government-managed military-industrial-financial complex, then "free enterprise" becomes no longer a part of reality, simply a useful rhetorical tool. This has been going on since before World War Two. But we may soon have a real date to hang on to as the "Death of Free Enterprise Day".
Within the next week or so, we expect the Bush Administration to enact regulations that will fix (i.e., mandate) low interest rates for those house buyers who are classed as sub-prime even when their contractual obligations call for those interest rates to rise steeply in the next months. In other words, house buyers in the US are being told that it doesn't matter that they purchased a house they could not afford; someone else will come along and help them pay the bill. No worries. Of course, for those tax-payers (and their grandchildren) who will be told to pay these bills there might be some worries.
The Democrats are pushing much the same interest-rate freeze proposals. Hillary Clinton, for example, came out with hers this morning.
Both the Democrats and Bush will say they are doing this to help the poor Americans who dug this hole for themselves, to help save them from inevitable foreclosure. They will say it is the duty of hardworking American taxpayers to pay up to help this unfortunate group save their homes. Such bullshit this all is. Both plans in reality seek to save the grasping financial markets from meltdown.
Both the Democrats and the administration know that the real losers in any genuine sub-prime meltdown are not the new homeowners (who will simply return to their lives in low-rent apartments) but the finance companies who will never be able to sell the repossessed houses at the prices the companies paid for them. It is the finance companies the American taxpayers will be bailing out -- again!
The Normalization of Totalitarianism
Do you ever watch "Without A Trace"? Every week, Anthony LaPaglia (Agent Jack Malone) and his crack crew of FBI investigators track down people who have been reported missing by relatives or friends, solving mysteries and crimes as they go.
In other words, an adult American crime-free citizen decides to go silent for a while. By having someone report them as "missing", this apparently gives the FBI the right to tear that missing person's life apart: tracking bank accounts, credit cards, travel records, phone lists, interrogating friends and colleagues, interviewing doctors and psychiatrists. And we cheer on their successes .
By what law can they do this? Is a judge supervising them? Isn't this the basest form of warrantless surveillance?
We applaud Jack Bauer in "24", as he uses whatever form of interrogation technique (i.e., torture) that he feels is required to obtain the information he thinks he needs. The last Bourne movie was about nothing but the government's abilities to track individuals anywhere in the world. Wherever we turn, there are attractive images of lawmen breaking the rules to ensure that "justice" wins in the end.
As Chomsky and Herman's "Propaganda Model" of media shows, this is the normalization of totalitarianism. If we accept -- neh, applaud -- these illegal actions on entertainment TV, we are more inclined to accept them in real life. This is a not an accident. This is what they want to see happen. This is what they need to happen if their plans for control are to be accomplished.
We need to fight back. Write to each network and studio and ask them to explain how the law enforcement officers in their series and movies can operate so wildly outside the laws required for you and me. Write, and write again. It is the least we can do, to show that we care about our loss of freedoms.
9/11 -- Thirty Four Years On
Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of the coup in Chile; a coup in which a terrorist superpower brutally overthrew a democratically-elected government.
Few Americans will remember this anniversary, they'll be solemnly remembering one of their own -- an anniversary brought about, in part at least, because of the kind of imperialist despotism that September 11, 1973 so clearly reminds us.
Long live the memory of Salvador Allende and the brave Chilean people!
Cause and Effect?
The following is part of the front page of the Los Angeles Times Online this morning.
Nothing clever to say here; I was just struck by the positioning.
The Sad Truth About American Medicine
If anyone still thinks that Michael Moore's "Sicko" was an inaccurate portrait of the state of health care in the United States, they better read this incredibly sad story and think long and hard about its meaning.
Here is a man who cares deeply about his wife and cannot bear to see her suffer. He could no longer afford the $800 per week her medications were costing. All the system could offer was a long drop off the balcony for her, and a lifetime in jail for him. Truly sickening.
Earlier this evening, I finished reading The Tyee's fascinating series on one of my favourite topics -- free transit. The series and the reactions to it -- in comments, additional articles in The Tyee, and in blogs such as Stephen Rees -- have given me a lot to think about; and I will certainly be writing a detailed response myself.
However, while that was foremost in my mind, the TV happened to be playing the end of a "Wheel of Fortune" episode. The all-American-pretty young woman won an SUV. The genuine almost overwhelming excitement she and her friends expressed at winning a vehicle (I really thought she was going to faint!) showed just how deep the auto culture has bred itself into the very DNA of most North Americans. And in that moment I recognised once again how hard it is going to be to argue against the car, and why most people look at me as if I am crazy for not having had a car for so long.
Bravo To Cuba's Revolution Day!
Fifty-four years ago today, Fidel and Raoul Castro, along with about 150 supporters, attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack was a miserable failure but this action was the formal start of the revolution in Cuba.
Bravo to the Cuban people for surviving fifty years of vicious military and economic attacks by the world's major superpower! Bravo to those countries (including Canada for a change) that simply ignore America's outrage at the business and tourism links that have grown over the years! Let us all smoke fine Cuban cigars in celebration.
Our mayor Sam Sullivan and the self-styled leadership of the municipal workers' union have between them cocked up contract talks.
We find ourself on day two of a long-anticipated and anticipated to be a long strike. Some libraries are closed, along with community centers, swimming pools, some daycare facilities, and a range of inside services such as land titles and permit applications. The temperature is cool right now, and it is wet. But the summer is expected to return in full force soon. And with that will come piles of stinking household rubbish clogging the lanes (tell me again why household garbage collection isn't an essential service?)
I'm an anarchist, not a syndicalist, not even a Wobblie. Most unions are just as concerned with controlling the working man and woman as are any board of directors or tyrannical owner. The municipal workers' union is no different. Meanwhile, Sullivan and his cronies have proven themselves incapable of managing the situation to anyone's benefit. Technocrats rise or fall on the success of their compromises; -- here, they have failed completely.
For us it is all just a bloody mess that we have to live through.
Jackboots On The Bus
I was going to wait until I'd seen the BC Transit Police in action on my regular bus routes before commenting. However, they haven't shown their faces yet -- and the bastards their bosses raised the fares! So I'll say my piece now.
As of last Monday, Translink -- our local transit, ferries and roads operator -- has declared all buses to be officially "Fare Paid Zones". That means it is an offense to be on a bus without proof of purchase of a ticket or ticket-equivalent such as a bus pass. It's been that way forever on Sky Train and the Sea Bus, but they are aware the rate of fare avoidance is infinitely higher on the bus system; and so, the new policy may meet stronger resistance.
To cope with anticipated problems, the onus of refusing or sanctioning non-paying passengers has been taken off the shoulders of the already-stressed-by-traffic bus drivers. Instead, the newly beefed-up BC Transit Police will enforce the rules. Just what we need on our streets -- a posse of wannabe failed cops with guns. Yes, guns! Christ, anyone would think we were Detroit or Atlanta or Camden, New Jersey.
Armed police to make sure we all pay our two dollars and a quarter, or the hundred and seventy five buck fine if we don't. What a stupid and dangerous idea. And to make this week even more perfect, the Translink Board approved a twenty-five cent increase in fares!
My position has always been that transit should be free, so long as it is run by the government. There are so many reasons why, besides the fact that it is just the right thing to do. Economically, I bet it is easy to prove that the net revenue from fares after all costs of fare production, sale, enforcement and accounting have been removed, is minimal. Certainly less than the economic bounce the region would get from the additional discretionary spending of those who previously paid fares. Not to mention the political goodwill that would be generated.
It would encourage beneficial environmental changes by significantly reducing the number of private cars on the road (transit ridership would doubtless increase with a zero cost); and will reduce the cost of expensive medical care over time as the general health of the population improves with an increase in walking.
It would encourage Translink directors to focus on improving services instead of trying to manage an armed militia for the sake of a few bucks. With the elimination of the need for payment enforcement, the Transit Police can be shrunk to a reasonable size and the armed guards removed from the streets.
Its a win-all-around idea. And about time.