Posts Tagged ‘Flint’

Jimmy Dore: Pentagon-Backed Rebels Fight CIA-Backed Rebels in Syria

April 20, 2017

Here’s another brilliant little video from the Jimmy Dore Show, which casts further light on the US’ role in spreading the carnage and chaos in Syria. In this clip, the comedian, with his co-hosts Steffi Zamora and Ron Placone, talk about a story which appeared in March, 2016, in the Los Angeles Times. The Pentagon and the CIA are backing different rebel factions in Syria. The Pentagon is backing one bunch as part of their campaign against ISIS, while the CIA is arming another group in order, the paper claimed, to bring Assad to the negotiating table. As Dore points out, this isn’t what the CIA and its government paymasters want. They want to oust Assad altogether. He reminds his viewers how the United States was approached by Saudi Arabia and Qatar several years ago. The two Arab nations offered to pay if America invaded Syria and overthrew Assad. They want to put an oil pipeline from their countries through Syria into Turkey, but Assad, an ally of Russia, is opposing it. This is the real reason behind the concerted military campaign against Assad, loudly supported by the American media. It has absolutely nothing to do with humanitarian atrocities by the Syrian leader. It’s just about oil, and corporate profit.

But the different rebel factions are turning their guns on each other, fighting over the territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border. Not only have they been fighting in the northern suburbs of the city of Aleppo itself, but in February 2016 the Fursan al-Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, a militia backed by the CIA, was thrown out of the town of Marea, 20 miles north of the Aleppo, by the Syrian Democratic Forces advancing from Syria’s Kurdish areas, backed by the Pentagon. The paper stated that this shows how little control US intelligence has over the various factions it funds and arms in the Syrian civil war.

Dore makes the point of comparing this to the chaos of Iraq and Libya. Both are now failed states, and the latter is riddled with terrorist factions. The politicians and military had absolutely no clue how to run these countries, or what to do if they ousted the dictator. And now they’re doing it again. He goes further and states that America shouldn’t be trying to overthrow other governments, when it can’t even supply its own people with clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan.

Dore states that this shows that these stories do get into the news. He was moved to talk about this story because a person he was talking to about the situation in Syria not only didn’t believe him, but called him a conspiracy theorist, like Alex Jones. So Dore decided to present this piece of news, to show how bonkers he must be to get something like this from the mainstream press. He cites the example of another American news commenter, who used to come on his show with a stack of papers to show that the items he was talking about really had happened, and were in the press. However, they weren’t on the front page. They were buried on page 18, and only appeared every one in a while. But as George Bush said, the essence of lying is to keep repeating the lie. So the American press puts on the front page stories about how Assad is a butcher, who must be overthrown. He then goes on to say that if it was up to him, the New York Times would have on its front page the news that 45 million Americans were now living in poverty in the richest country in the world. And 33,000 people every year die from lack of healthcare, although he qualifies this by saying he’s not sure if its the real figure.

Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution – A Future to Believe In

April 2, 2017

London: Profile Books 2016

Bernie Sanders is the ‘democratic socialist’ senator for Vermont, who ran against Hillary Clinton last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. He didn’t get it. Although he had more grass roots support than Killary, he was cheated of the nomination through the intervention of the Democrat superdelegates, who massively favoured her. He is the man, who should now be occupying the White House, rather than the gurning orange lump of narcissistic Fascism now doing his best to drag the country back to before the Civil War. The polls show that Bernie could have beaten Trump. But he wasn’t elected, as Bernie’s far too radical for the corporate state created by the Republican and mainstream, Clintonite Dems.

How radical can be seen from this book. It’s part autobiography, part manifesto. In the first part, Sanders talks about his youth growing up in Brooklyn, how he first became interested and aware of politics as a student at Chicago University, his political career in Vermont, and his decision to run for as a presidential candidate. This part of the book also describes his campaigning, as he crisscrossed America holding rallies, talking at town hall and union meetings, appearing on TV and social media trying to get votes. A strong feature of the book is Bernie’s emphasis on his background as one of the country’s now threatened lower middle class. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who worked as paint salesman. He and his family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where conditions were cramped so that they often slept on couches. He freely admits that his parents were also relatively affluent and had more disposable income than others.

After having left uni, he began his political career in Vermont in 1971 when he joined and campaigned for the senate in the Liberty Union party, a small third party in the state. During the same period he also ran a small company producing educational films on the history of Vermont and other states in New England. Finding out that none of the college students he spoke to had ever heard of Eugene Victor Debs, he went and brought one out on the great American labour leader and socialist politician. On the advice of a friend and college professor, Richard Sugarman, Sanders ran for election as mayor of Burlington. He won, introducing a number of important welfare, educational and municipal reforms he called ‘socialism in one city’, a play on Stalin’s slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. He was strongly opposed by the Democrats. A few years afterwards, however, he was elected to Congress as an Independent, where, despite some resistance from the Democrats, he was finally admitted to the Democratic Caucus. In 2006 he ran for senator, contested the seat vacated by the Republican, Jim Jeffords, who had retired. By 2013 he was being urged by his supporters to campaign for the presidential nomination. To gauge for himself how much support he was likely to receive, Sanders went across America talking to ordinary folks across the country. After this convinced him that he had a chance, he began to campaign in earnest.

At the beginning of his campaign for the nomination, Sanders was very much the outsider, getting 15 per cent of the votes polled to Clinton’s 60 per cent. Then he started winning, climbing up the ladder as he took something like seven out of eight states in a row. The corporatist wing of the Democrats did everything they could to block his rise, culminating in the theft of the nomination through the intervention of the superdelegates.

Sanders is a champion of the underdog. He garnered much support by going to communities, speaking to the poor and excluded, often in very underprivileged neighbourhoods where the police and security guards were worried about his safety. He spoke in a poor, multiracial community in New York’s South Bronx, and to poor Whites in rural Mississippi. The latter were a part of the American demographic that the Democrats traditionally believed were impossible to win. Sanders states that actually speaking to them convinced him that they were way more liberal than the political class actually believe. During a talk to a group of local trade unionists, Sanders asked why people in such a poor area voted Republican against their interests. This was one of a number of counties in the state, that was so poor that they didn’t even have a doctor. The union leader told him: racism. The Republicans played on Whites’ hatred of Blacks, to divide and rule the state’s working people.

Sanders makes very clear his admiration for trade unions and their members, and how frequently they know far better than the politicians what is not only good for their members, but also good for the industry, their customers, and their country. He praises the nurses’ unions, who have endorsed his campaign and backed his demand for a Medicaid for all. He similarly praises the workers and professionals maintaining America’s infrastructure. This is massively decaying. 25 per cent of American bridges are, according to surveyors, functionally obsolete. Towns all over America, like Flint in Michigan, have had their water poisoned by negligent water companies. The electricity grid is also unspeakably poor. It’s ranked 35th worst in the world, behind that of Barbados. Yep! If you want to go to a country with a better electricity network, then go to that poor Caribbean country.

He describes how the poor in today’s America pay more for less. Drug prices are kept artificially high by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, so that many poor Americans can’t afford them. In one of the early chapter, he describes leading a group of women from Vermont over the Canadian border, so that they could buy prescription drugs cheaper. These same companies, like the rest of the big corporations, do everything they can to avoid paying tax. In some cases, these big corporations pay absolutely none. This is because of the corruption of American politics by donations from big business. As a result, the country’s politicians don’t represent the ordinary voters. They represent big business. He makes it clear he respects Hillary Clinton, but ran against her because you can’t combine representing ordinary people with taking money from the corporate rich. And at the heart of this corruption is the Koch brothers, oil magnates with a personal wealth of $82 billion and a corporate wealth of $115. They are not, explains Bernie, small government conservatives, but right-wing extremists. Their goal is to dismantle taxation completely, along with Medicaid and what little the country has of a welfare state. All so that the 1 per cent, who own as much as the poorest 90 per cent of the American population, can get even richer.

Sanders goes further to describe the massive inequalities that are now dividing American society, including the racism and sexism that ensures that women, Blacks and Latinos are paid less than White men. The notorious drug laws that have ensured that more Blacks are jailed for marijuana and other drugs than Whites. The crippling debt that faces more and more Americans. 48 million Americans are in poverty. 24 million have no health insurance. Many of these are people, who are in work, and frequently working their rear ends off just to make ends meet. He describes talking to a charity worker, who purchases just out of date food to give to the local food bank. According to the young man he spoke to, 90 per cent of the people using the bank are working Americans, whose jobs pay so little that they literally can’t afford to eat. In this section of the book he quotes a letter from a woman, who states that she and her husband are work 2 and 3 jobs each, but still can’t make a living. As a result, the young can’t afford to buy their houses, or go to university. He contrasts this with the situation in the 1950s. It wasn’t utopia, and there was still massive inequalities in wealth according to race and gender. But the economy was expanding, more people had the prospect of good, well-paying jobs, owning their own homes, and sending their children to college. This America is disappearing. Fast.

Sanders has given his support to women’s groups, and is a very staunch anti-racism campaigner. Amongst those who backed his campaign were Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, among other Afro-American intellectuals, performers and politicians. He also received the support of a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Seth MacFarlane and Danny DeVito. And comic book fans everywhere with genuinely progressive values will be delighted to here that his campaign manager ran a comic book store in Vermont. Presumably this guy is completely different from the owner of the Android’s Dungeon in The Simpsons. Sanders talks about his support for the Civil Rights movement, and Selma march, paying due tribute to its heroes and heroines, including Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s also a keen supporter of Black Lives Matter, the Black movement to stop cops getting away with the murder of Black people. As part of his campaign against racism, he also actively supports the campaign against the demonization of Muslims and rising tide of Islamophobia in America. When he was asked whether he would support this by a Muslim American, Sanders replied that he would, as his own father’s family were Jewish refugees from Poland.

Sanders is also strongly opposed to the current wars in the Middle East. He was not in favour of Gulf War 1 in the 1990s, and has attacked the invasion of Iraq under Bush for destabilising the country and region, and causing massive carnage. But he was no supporter of Saddam Hussein, and is also a staunch supporter of veterans, adding his political clout to their campaigns to stop the government cutting their benefits. He points out that the blame for these wars lie with the politicos, not the soldiers who had fight.

Bernie also takes worker ownership very seriously. Among the policies that he recommends for saving and expanding the American middle class are strengthening workers’ cooperatives and allowing workers to purchase their companies. One of the measures he states he will introduce will be to establish a bank to lend funds to American workers so that they can buy their own companies. He also wants to end the ‘too big to fail’ attitude to the big banks and start regulating them again. And as part of his campaign to strengthen and expand American democracy, he is a very harsh critic of the various laws the Republicans have introduced in states across America to stop Blacks, Latinos, the poor and students from voting. He also asks why it is that European countries can afford free medical care, but America can’t. And why Germany can provide college education free to its students, while Americans are faced with a mountain of debt.

Sanders is a genuine American radical in the tradition of Eugene Debs. It’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful now trying to pull the country back into the colonial era, when it was ruled by coterie of rich White men. He states that his country is now an oligarchy, and even a ‘banana republic’. He’s right, and right about the ways these issues can and should be tackled.

The Republicans have also tried to deter people from voting for him based on his apparent lack of interest in religion. They couldn’t attack him for being Jewish – although with those monsters Spencer and Gorka in the White House, I don’t know how long that will hold – so insinuated that he was an atheist. Well perhaps. But Sanders does have religious supporters. His friend and support Richard Sugarman is an Hasidic Jew and Sanders himself several times states how impressed he is with Pope Francis’ support for the global poor. He also made it clear in a speech he gave to the very Conservative Liberty University that he was impressed with the good in all religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever. So he’s secular, but not anti-religious. Just anti-bigotry, and the way the right is trying to use religion to divide America.

It’s also remarkable that Sanders was the focus of a popular phenomenon far beyond his own campaign team. He states in the book that he wanted to control the campaign, and not have a SuperPAC telling people what he didn’t or didn’t believe. But he also found that up and down America, people at the grassroots were organising independently of his campaign team to support him. Unlike the astroturf fake populist campaign the Republicans and Libertarians have set up, Bernie’s genuinely popular with a growing number of American working people.

America desperately needs him. And so do we in Britain. The predatory, parasitical capitalism at the heart of American society has also been exported over here by the Conservatives. Just like the Americans need Bernie, we need Corbyn. And we need the two together, because if Bernie can do anything to stop the current political degeneration in America, it will also help stop the process over here.

Incidentally, Bernie has a personal connection with Britain. His brother is a member of the Green party in Oxfordshire, and campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS. Sanders also has a strong interest in protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

I also recommend this book to aspiring young politicos because of the chapters in which he talks about running a campaign, funded by your own supporters, not corporate backers, and what you need to do when running about the country. Like making sure you can get there in time and aren’t double-booked. It’s good advice, and although the latter seems obvious, he talks about a number of incidents in which he disastrously failed to follow it.

Sanders talks about the way people are being turned off politics in America, thanks to the massive corporate corruption. This also reaches into corporate media. Sanders also has a few ideas how they can be reformed. He himself was the subject of a media blackout, as the TV and news companies definitely did not want to cover him, and very much favoured Killary. Hopefully Bernie’s book will reach more of the alienated folk now being excluded from American politics, and show them that there is someone actively fighting for them. And so encourage them to get involved for themselves.

Secular Talk on VICE Movie about Coal Pollution Navajo Nation

February 16, 2016

A few days ago I reblogged a meme about the horrendous pollution of the Navajo reservation by the local coal mining operation. Unlike the much better publicised pollution of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, this is not so nearly well known. In this piece from Secular Talk last year, Kyle Kulinski discusses the trailer of a new documentary by the VICE news network reporting on this scandal. This details the pollution caused by the Four Corners coal mining plant. The video includes a clip from the movie, Cursed by Coal, in which the interviewer talks to a Navajo man about the pollution in his country. Arsenic and mercury as well as coal dust are pumped into the atmosphere and pollute the land after being dumped in pits. These pits are unlined, so the pollutants seep into the water system. High levels of these contaminants have been found in the Chaco river.

Kulinski puts this into historical perspective of the long history of abuse of the Native American – the Indian Removal Act, the genocides, the Trail of Tears. But everything’s supposed to be all right now, because the Amerindians have casinos. ‘For once,’ he says, ‘can’t we just treat the Indian properly?’

He also points out that this is part of the general corruption caused by the influence of industry in politics. The air quality in poor areas has been shown to be massively worse than in the rich areas. Why? Because the polluting industries are located there, because the rich obviously don’t want them on their door step. And so it’s poor, coloured populations that get hurt from pollution.

I’ve already said that the Hanson Trust, based in Britain, was responsible for the pollution of the Sioux Reservation through its cement factory on their land. And you can bet that these same people will be lining up to trash Britain’s Green and Pleasant land when fracking gets going.

Meme on the Poisoning of Navajo Land by Mining Corporations

February 10, 2016

The big environmental news in America over the past few weeks is the massive poisoning of the local water supply in Flint, Michigan. This has been going on for years, and the water is seriously contaminated with lead, even in the local hospitals. The authorities did absolutely nothing, and continued to ignore the problem despite coverage from the local press. After about a year, the story’s managed to get through to the national American media, and it’s became a major scandal.

This is another scandal involving the poisoning of a people’s water supply, but it’s one that hasn’t made the news yet. It’s the contamination of the water supply of the Navajo First Nation by abandoned uranium and coal mines. The meme states that 75 per cent of all abandoned uranium mines are on tribal lands, which might indicate that other Native American peoples are affected.

Now this is very much an American issue, but it’s also part of what’s happening globally. Way back in the 1980s the Telegraph over here was moaning about how environmentalists weren’t letting the uranium mining corporations dig out the fuel from Aboriginal tribal lands in Oz. I’ve got a feeling there’s still a scandal and controversy going on about it, which centres around proper payment for the Aboriginal owners and clean-up operations afterwards. I have a feeling – though I don’t know – that the same is being done to the Aboriginals Down Under. Their land is being trashed, and not cleaned up afterwards.

And I have a horrible feeling that some of those corporate vultures involved may be British, or will want to come to Britain to do the same thing to our Green and Pleasant Land. If they aren’t doing it already, thanks to Bliar and Cameron. One of the companies that poisoned another Amerindian people’s land decades ago certainly was. Way back in the 1980s the Hanson Trust was in the Sunday Express. It was being sued by the Sioux, because their cement works was polluting their reservation. And this didn’t surprise me at all.

Lord Hanson was an asset-stripper, who bought up other companies, only to strip them and sell them off at a profit, before going on to carve up the next one. He was the Thatcherite dream. And he did it to W.H. and H.O. Wills in Bristol. Wills were a booze and cigarettes combine. They had several tobacco factories in Bristol, one of which was a huge construction that was used as a location in the Tom Baker Dr Who story, ‘The Sunmakers’. They also owned Courage’s brewery in the centre of the city. These both went their separate ways when Hanson got hold of them.

And he also tried to get his mitts, Maxwell-like, on the company’s pension fund. However, he found the pensioners’ lawyers were too good for him, and ended up selling the company off a few years later. Although that kind of corporate theft is associated with Robert Maxwell’s looting of the Mirror pension fund, the legislation that allowed it was Tory. It was passed by one Margaret Thatcher. You could also tell how grotty the Hanson Trust was because they also launched a PR campaign on TV. This bent your ear about how many times the plastic chairs they made would go around the world, if you lined them up one by one. It ended with the slogan ‘A company from over here, doing rather well over there’. ‘Over there’ meaning America. Well, God help our American cousins. Ben Elton recognised what they were and sent them up as the archetypal nasty corporation in his stand-up tour, Motorvation.

It doesn’t matter what colour the ordinary man or woman’s skin is to these vultures, whether your White, Black, Asian, Amerindian, whatever – companies like the Hanson Trust just loot, pollute and move on. They’re everywhere, and we need to stand up to them, no matter where in the world they’re operating. Because if the do it to one of us, they’ll do it to all of us.

Navajo Water

If you want to see the original, it’s on the over 18 Tumblr site, 1000 Natural shocks at http://greybeard55.tumblr.com/image/138997619025.

Beyond the affect on the Navajo people’s own health, and the global politics of the situation, there’s also the issue of the destruction of the ancient heritage of the American people as a whole. The Navajo reservation contains some of the most stunning and beautiful scenery in the US. The sand paintings made by the tribal shamans during their healing ceremonies are highly regarded by art connoisseurs. And the area possesses some of the most enigmatic and fascinating indigenous American archaeology in the US. From the 12th to 14th centuries AD the area was the centre of several highly developed civilisations. They built brick fortress cities high up in caves in the canyon walls, and a system of irrigation canals. They also had a peculiar system of roads. These appear to have been cut straight through the landscape, like the Romans. They also made them double, so that there was a pair of roads running parallel to the same destination. No-one quite understands why, though it’s thought that there might be some ideological or religious reason for it. I also think that, like many of the other Native American civilisations in the South West, they had extensive trade contacts with Mexico and the great civilisations there, such as the Aztecs. But it’s another mystery how those trade systems operated. Mesoamerican goods and motifs appear in the remains of the peoples of the Southwestern US, but they don’t appear in the material record of the peoples in between. What was going on? Why not? How were these items traded, and why?

And the history of the area also bears witness to the devastation caused by climate change. Many of the civilisations in what is now the Navajo reservation vanished in the 14th century as drought finally dried up their water supplies, and they were forced to move out of the area. Their cities and crops were abandoned. Now there’s a lesson relevant to today, and the contemporary crisis surrounding climate change and global warming.

There are still many unanswered questions, and vital lessons to be learned from the Navajo and similar peoples. The poisoning of them, and the destruction of their land are an attack both on their people and civilisation, and that of the wider American people. And needless to say, they and the people of Flint, deserve better.

The Disgusting State of Detroit Schools

January 23, 2016

Okay, I know this is another American story, but it mirrors the way our state schools in the UK are being run down by the Conservatives. I’ve got a particular interest in teaching, as my mother was a teacher, and I took my first degree at what was an Anglican teacher training college. The school, in which Mum taught was also part of an exchange programme with an American school. As part of this exchange, one of her teachers went to the Land of the Free, while one of theirs also crossed the Pond to Blighty.

Last Wednesday school staff in Detroit went on strike because of the disgusting conditions in the schools, in which they were expected to teach. The photos from the twitter site @Detroitteach, show a very grim story: mouldy bread given to pupils for breakfast, mushrooms growing on class room walls, and cockroaches and other insects infesting the floors. These are the conditions, which the authorities want the future citizens of American brought up and educated in. As you can see, they had the support of parents and pupils. As for the last pic, which shows the gentleman responsible for this mess, there’s now a massive scandal in Flint, Michigan, after the local water company poisoned the water supply with massive amounts of lead, including water at the local hospital. This guy was also responsible for that debacle.

Detroit School 1

Detroit School 2

Detroit School 3

Detroit School Protest 1

Detroit School Protest 2

This is also an issue that has its counterpart in British politics. The Tories do not like teachers and state education, and have been trying to run down both of them since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s. We’ve had denunciation after screamed denunciation, both in Britain and America, about left-wing teachers supposedly indoctrinating their students to be militant atheists/ Communists/ Trotskyites, and filling their heads with militant anti-racism or gay rights. Remember how Maggie sneered at one of the Tory conferences about ‘champagne Socialists’ and Fabians indoctrinating the dear kiddies with ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while the Sun claimed that schoolchildren in Brent were being made to recite ‘Ba, Ba, Green Sheep’, instead of ‘Black Sheep’ as part of a loony-left anti-racism drive? And the absolute frothing hysteria about protecting young minds from gay indoctrination? This has all provided the pre-text the Tories and Republicans have used to denigrate state education, and try to break the power of the teaching unions.

Most teachers, regardless of their personal political beliefs, aren’t motivated by a burning desire to radicalise the young and impressionable. They just want to stand in front of a class and teach, with the hopeful intent of getting the class to realise their potential. This has become increasingly difficult with the way education has become little more than a political football, and the profession has seen itself progressively starved of the support it needs from the authorities. Many teachers work in extremely challenging circumstances, including having to deal with threats of violence, including rape. And there is no support from the government, and especially not from Thickie Nikky Morgan, who can’t tell you what 7 X 8 is, or how many academies last year had to be returned to state control, but can prate about the need to privatise, or part-privatise even more.

Education on both sides of the Atlantic needs more funding, and a far more supportive attitude from the education authorities than just right-wing populist demagoguery from officially appointed morons, who have never put a foot in front of a class except as part of a very carefully scripted publicity campaign. Get the Right out of politics, and proper funding into the schools.