Thursday, December 27, 2007

Somerset, Somersett, or Sommersett: Slavery is the Root of U.S. Law

The most central judicial decision for American politics, history and law took place in Great Britain on the eve of the American Revolution. Few citizens of the United States have heard of the case. It is not covered by law schools. It is not to be found in the history curriculum of American high schools, or even in colleges. It is not even mentioned in leftist tomes such as A People's History of the United States.

I came across the case by accident, while browsing an old law book in a used book store in New York City. Its significance struck me at once. I have mentioned it repeatedly over the decades, hoping to bring it to light. But even the publishing of an entire book on the subject by a distinguished professor of law in 2005 has failed to raise the veil, so far.

Imagine my surprise when I found the case mentioned in The Outline of History by H. G. Wells. This was once a widely read book in England, the United States of America, and indeed around the world. It is a wonderful, if now forgotten, book. Allow me to quote Mr. Wells (from page 852 of my Third Revised Edition):

"Throughout the middle part of the eighteenth century there was an active agitation against negro slavery in Great Britain a well as in the States. It was estimated that in 1770 there were fifteen thousand slaves in Britain, mostly brought over by their owners from the West Indies and Virginia. In 1771 the issue came to a conclusive test in Britain before Lord Mansfield. A negro named James Somersett had been brought to England from Virginia by his owner. He ran away, was captured, and violently taken on a ship to be returned to Virginia. From the ship he was extracted by a writ of habeas corpus. Lord Mansfield declared that slavery was a condition unknown to English law, an "odious" condition, and Somersett walked out of the court a free man."

Before going on I should note that spelling was irregular in the 1700's, and while Mr. Wells and others give the name as Somersett, in the book Slave Nation the spelling Somerset is used, and it was published as the Sommersett case in a law journal. Also the ruling was given in 1772, though the case probably started in 1771. Mr. Well's highlights the case because it is a significant turning point in world history, not just English or American history.

There is a bit of an underground current of knowledge of the Somerset case in "radical" literature in the U.S., notably among Abolitionists and early 20th century civil rights activists. If you want to know more about details of the case and how it caused an elite group of slaveholders and their lawyers to initiate the American Revolution, I suggest you read Slave Nation. Here I will outline the implications of the violent rejection of the court's decision by Jefferson, Washington, and crew. In later articles I hope to enlarge upon these themes.

In America it was decided that men (male and female) could be property. This was part of a larger agenda, the agenda of greed, of wanting more. Property was more important than people. A man was only as important as the property he possessed. This theory of law was enshrined in the common laws of the U.S., in state constitutions, and then in the U.S. Constitution. In effect the men who held the pens did not write the laws; they were a mere instrument of the properties that co-possessed them. Men talk about the Rule of Law, but in the United States the Law is a front for Property. Owning a substantial amount of property used to be required before a person could register to vote.

We see this again in the Dred Scott Decision. Then the Republican Party reversed Dred Scott in the aftermath of the Civil War. Then we were subjected to the weird and cruel law given in Santa Clara that property (corporations) has rights that some people do not have. Though since the Thirteenth Amendment people have not been slaves or property, only a few decades later, in Plessy versus Ferguson, it was affirmed that race could be a basis for discrimination under the rule of law.

The status of people, and of classes of people (women, "negros", children), has fluctuated throughout the last century. What has stayed supreme has been the prioritization of property. In our legal system humanity is seldom favored when weighed against property concerns.

We need to educate American citizens about the Somerset case, starting in our public schools. We need to see the American Revolution on a factual basis, rather than wrapped in false glory. We need to see our military, commercial, cultural and legal history in a clear light. Then we can begin to understand and change our current reality so that people are not subservient to property.

We need a rule of justice. Then the Rule of Law might be worth something.

More data:

Somerset v. Stewart pretty complete site with links

Sommersett case, photo of summary published in a British law journal, 1775

Want to learn more? Try my Politics page.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sunlit California Corruption

It is almost an election year, and first district Assemblywoman Patty Berg, who represents northern coastal California including Mendocino and Humboldt County, is ready. I know because I received a "Senior Resource and Services Guide" from her. And I'm not even a senior.

Corruption in California seldom takes the form of briefcases filled with non-sequentially numbered Federal Reserve Notes, as you might see "fictionalized" in the Sopranos set in New Jersey or The Wire set in Baltimore. No, its all perfectly legal. Systematized. Its a racket.

What's wrong with sending California citizens a senior guide? Nothing, except that it should be sent by a government agency and have no politician's name on it. The design of the guide, printed on glossy paper, shows its real purpose. There are 8 panels total. One acts as a front cover: a nice white haired couple flying a kite. One panel is the mailer, with Patty Berg prominent in the return address. Two panels are a letter from Patty saying that, hey, this is a brochure for seniors: her name is in big letters. One page has 911 on it. Three panels have telephone numbers. They are the same numbers that are in a Yellow Pages or on the Internet.

So the whole thing is a taxpayer-paid campaign flier.

People get the impression that Democrats and Republicans at the state legislature are at each others throats. Well, not on some things. They all agree that incumbents should be re-elected. They drew (gerrymandered) their districts to make sure that a Republican seat rarely becomes a Democratic seat, and vice versa. They must have agreed to mail out campaign brochures thinly disguised as useful information, at taxpayer expense.

And everyone may work for several masters, but one master rules them all: the real estate industry. Just check all the donor lists if you don't believe me.

But we have the Brown Act in California, which means everything has to be done in public. And we have an awful lot of committees where former legislators supplement their jobs as lobbyists by doing tiny amounts of work for large amounts of government money.

I don't think Patty Berg meant to be a bad person when she ran for the State Assembly. She had never held public office before. The jackals who run the Democratic Party machine in the district came to her and said "We think you'll be a great candidate." She said she had never run a campaign before. They said, "Don't worry about that, we'll help you with it." She said, "It takes a lot of money to win a campaign." They said, "Don't worry, we've got this donor list we've developed over time." She said some good progressive things in her first campaign: better schools, universal health care, protect the environment, etc. Then she got to Sacramento and there is so much to do and the bills are too long to read and some of the same people who ran her campaign are running her office. What to do? Why, when in doubt follow the Democratic Party leadership.

The Democratic Party in California was founded for the purposes of trying to make California a Slave state. While slavery is no longer an issue, the party can't be said to have improved in any substantial way in the last century and a half. The only thing the Democrats have going for them besides their own corruption is that they are not Republicans.

I'll be writing more about California and its strange political ecosystem, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here's Patty's web site:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Somalia Spinning

In an article titled "Somali President Hospitalized," published December 4, 2007 in the New York Times, attributed to Associated Press writer Tom Maliti, by way of background readers are informed:

"Yusuf's government, with help from neighboring Ethiopia, has been battling a ferocious Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year in what U.N. officials call a major humanitarian crisis."

Talk about turning black into white. Abdullahi Yusuf's "government" is a creation of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), established in a tradition going back to the CIA-engineered coup that brought the Shah to power in Iran in August 1953.

Somalia entered the 21st century with clan-based or warlord rule. U.S. policy makers installed Abdullahi Yusuf in 2004 and nearly everyone else in Somalia went about their businesses as if the new government did not exist. It was a mere fiction. But in 2005 a democracy and justice movement started sweeping the country. It has started because people were tired of the fighting, corruption, and theft of the warlords and clan leaders. It was called Islamic Justice Courts. In areas controlled by the people themselves, through the Islamic Justice Courts, peace and even a bit of prosperity prevailed. Other Somalis looked at the situation and joined the Islamic Justice Courts in droves. Only a few CIA-backed thugs like Abdullahi Yusuf stayed with what the U.N., U.S., and global media conglomerates called the "provisional government."

The U.S.'s pro-Christian, pro-economic injustice, anti-Islam, policy is exceptionally clear in Somalia. The U.S. paid the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia and sent CIA agents and special forces troops to aid in the effort. The result was a slaughter; no one could even count the bodies of the good citizens of Somalia who were slain by the U.S. Government and its puppets.

At first it looked, from the U.S. imperial point of view, that all was well. Many of the warlords and clan leaders who had lost power to the Islamic Justice Courts gave tentative backing to the new regime. The roadblocks and thefts started back up. And so those who backed the Islamic Justice Courts saw they had no choice but to fight the new, U.S. backed tyranny.

Read Maliti's statement again: "Yusuf's government, with help from neighboring Ethiopia, has been battling a ferocious Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year in what U.N. officials call a major humanitarian crisis." The CIA itself could not have written a finer piece of propaganda. The major humanitarian crisis was caused by the U.S., U.N., and Ethiopia.

And while George W. Bush haters will simply add this to the list of reasons for impeachment, please notice that this all happened with a Democratic Party majority in the U.S. House and Senate. The Democratic Party leadership wants the Peace vote, but they aren't against taking any anti-Islamic or pro-war votes they can get, and certainly intend to dip into the rich gravy of Pentagon contracts now that they control key Congressional committees.

Note the phrase: "ferocious Islamic insurgency." After a peaceful, democratic, justice oriented movement is crushed, radicals and those who like war tend to come to the forefront of any resistance movement. But given the history here, I'll take the insurgent side over the CIA side.

We really need a Green Party president and Congress if we are ever to have peace and justice in the world.

See also my Somalia page.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Forget Iowa, New Hampshire: California Primary Will Rule

Everyone is worrying about the Iowa caucuses, but they will be totally inconsequential this year for everyone except possibly Mike Huckabee. The caucuses are on Thursday, January 3rd. A cold day in Iowa. You can't just show up and vote. Only the most politically motivated will be at the caucuses, and then no matter what happens there is a real primary on Tuesday, January 8th in New Hampshire. And who cares about that, when Michigan has a primary on the 15th?

But more important, most California citizens who bother to vote now vote by mail. While election day is February 5th, you can vote by mail in California beginning January 6th. That is before the New Hampshire primary and just after the Iowa beauty contest. Californians favor Clinton and Giuliani.

February 5 is also Super Tuesday, with about 22 states voting (See primary schedule). After Super Tuesday, unless the race is close between front runners, the game is essentially over.

Which means come November you will probably be allowed to choose between the two Candidates from Wall Street, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is well ahead in the polls in California as well as nationwide; so is Clinton.

Aside from the possibility of heart attacks narrowing the field, it is hard to see any surprises. Things will happen too fast. Even if Barack Obama does well in Iowa, even if he continues to raise a lot of money, it is hard to see him surging. People surge when they look like winners, and Barack looks like a lightweight who wants so badly to be President that he acts like a pile of gelatin next to the beautiful predator Hillary. Think of Hillary as the creature in the Alien movie, no, better still, think of Barack as the creature in the Alien movie (he was cute when he popped out of the corpse of Chicago politics, not unlike Adlai Stevenson), but Hillary is the Sigourney Weaver character, Ellen Ripley, and in the end Barack will feed the vacuum. The corporate ore will get to Earth and Ripley will get her share.

On the Republican side Mike Huckabee is pretty lovable as right-wing populists who like their women barefoot and pregnant go, but a surge in Iowa won't lead him anywhere. Sure, a lot of Republican's don't like the fact that Rudolph did not round up New York City's gay boys and use them for target practice; they don't like his divorces; they don't like his letting women decide for themselves whether to kill their potential babies or not. But those idiots aren't in charge right now. Republicans have two "realistic" choices: Giuliani and Romney. Mitt Romney could have had a chance if he had an honest hair on his head, but instead he decided to lie about his pro-abortion, pro-gay record and pretended to be one of the Southern Baptistas just as they had totally succeeded in discrediting themselves. It isn't that conservative Christian leaders have a big problem with hypocrisy; they just don't like it freshly minted. It needs to be practiced for decades to really get it down.

So, odds are it will be Giuliani versus Clinton come November. The commercial media want to pretend that is not so, because it is so amazingly boring.

One oddball outlier: enough independents will vote for Ron Paul to pull an upset in California. In California, under our odd election rules, independents (called Decline to State here) can vote in the Republican or Democratic primary, but not in the Green Primary. I don't think that will happen, I'll be surprised if Ron Paul hits 10% of the vote, but it is not impossible.

The Green Party has seven people on its primary ballot in California. Ralph Nader will probably win because he has name recognition, but he has declined to campaign or even say if he would accept a nomination if offered. Most activists in the state are getting behind the Cynthia McKinney campaign. If she can top Nader in California she will probably get the nomination. Elaine Brown, former Oakland Black Panther Party leader, will also be on the ballot and may get most of the ultra-left Green votes. California activist Kent Mesplay is a good man but has never held political office and is having trouble getting people to take him seriously. Unknowns Kat Swift, Jesse Johnson and Jared Ball round out the Green ballot.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Sobering Experience of Responsibility

I am reading David Halberstam's The Fifties. I picked it up used for $0.50 at the Pay and Take sale in Gualala, and I am glad I did. It is a fun read, and I am learning a lot.

There is a lot to comment on in the book, but instead I am going to take off on a quote from columnist Joe Alsop, made during the Presidential campaign of 1952 between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. The Democrats had held the United States presidency since 1932, including four-terms for fascist President-for-Life Roosevelt. Alsop favored Stevenson, but he wrote (in a private letter): "The real need for a change in this country arises, not from the decay of the Democrats, but from the need to give the Republicans the sobering experience of responsibility."

It seems likely that in 2009 the Democratic Party leadership will be experiencing the sobering experience of responsibility. They will inherit the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in general. They will inherit the dilemmas of global warming, entrenched poverty, globalization of economics; they will inherit a plague of lobbyists and campaign donations.

It is interesting to watch the rapidly growing Green Party when it runs headlong into the sobering experience of responsbility. Only a few hundred members of the Green Party have held political office so far (I am one of them). Most have served on city councils or, like myself, on school boards. Most have done considerably better for the public than the bulk of Democrats and Republicans in such offices. But most of the time and energy that must be spent in any such office is sucked up by the demands of the office. The vast Green Party platform provides little real guidance for those actually holding office. In four years of office, if you can pass 2 or 3 Green statutes that are outside of the Dem/Rep spectrum you are doing well. What I've usually observed is that with a Green on an elected body to shame the Democrats, there is less in the way of the usual wholesale give-aways to business and bureaucratic interests than is normal. So far Greens have mainly forced Democrats posing as progressives to show a little spine. In the next few years I expect to seen Green Party members elected more often to state legislatures and even Congress. It will be interesting to see what effect that has on the brew of politics in the United States.

But back to the Republicans in the 1950s. I think it is important to understand why so many people are Republicans today. The main reason, of course, is the vast propaganda about people only being sane if they choose between the 2 big parties. People were and are mainly Republicans because they are disgusted with the Democrats. The first Republicans were disgusted with the Democratic Party being the party of slavery. In the 1950's, after an era of having close to a one-party system in the U.S., many people deserted the Democrats. The Republican party back then had 4 wings, so it was relatively easy to find a home in it. There was the Neanderthal, Joe McCarthy, wing. There was the conservative libertarian wing led by Senator Taft. There was the liberal, anti-segregation (pro civil rights for African Americans) wing led by Dewey and Earl Warren. And there was the fuzzy, middle-of-the-road wing that became associated with President Eisenhower.

Out in the wilderness of being out of office, much of the Republican Party at the beginning of the 1950's was out of touch with reality. The left wing of the party was accused by the McCarthy wing of being soft on Communism; even moderate Democrats were accused of being Communists. On the other hand the Democratic Party, having made a few reforms in the 1930's, had literally become the handmaiden of organized crime. Adlai Stevenson, now seen as a liberal light, was the creation of the corrupt Daly machine in Chicago. Estes Kefauver, who had exposed the deep connections between the Democratic Party urban political machines and organized crime, sought the Democratic Party nomination but was passed over.

The most influential wing of the Republican Party has always been the Wall Street wing. There is a similar wing in the Democratic Party (See my The Senator from Wall Street, for example). In the 1980's the Wall Street Republicans bought some corrupt Christian leaders and created the new Republican Party that progressive Democrats love to hate: one "dominated" by the Christian Right. But the mostly working-class and middle-class Christians were date-raped and left forlorn and pregnant. Wall Street got its tax cuts and its deregulation of business, but the Christians never got prayer in the schools or a national ban on abortions or even a ban on female nipple exposure on HBO.

Progressive Democrats are about to be date-raped big time. Promises of eternal love and "you're the only girl for me," are being made. Watch what happens when the Democratic Party politicians show us their version of the Sobering Experience of Responsibility.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ron Paul or Cynthia McKinney?

Now that the Democrats and Republicans have stopped bickering among themselves enough to at least set actual dates for their primaries, the end of Ron Paul's campaign is within sight.

Of course Ron Paul could prove himself to be just another Dennis Kucinich; a water carrier for the corrupt party organization he pretends to offer an alternative to. If Ron is not among the top 3 Republican contenders by mid-February, you will know that is what is going on. Last time around Kucinich beguiled the anti-war movement by saying stay away from the Green Party, have a say in the Democratic Party. But at the Democratic Party convention he and his followers were ignored. Yet he endorsed Kerry, preferring to stay in the Democrat camp even if it meant backing a pro-war candidate.

Probably Ron Paul will drop out in February. Not that I don't wish him well. Despite his occasional nut-case positions, like wanting to go back to the gold standard (and hence to hard times and Depression), he has a lot of good things to say. We do waste perfectly good taxpayer money on useless military expenditures. The war on drugs is a failure, not because it was not well prosecuted, but because it is an ill-conceived effort to reduce drug problems (which are real) by increasing the profitability of the illegal drug market.

Cynthia McKinney is a former Democrat who served first in the Georgia legislature and then in Congress. She was an early critic of the U.S. response to the attacks on the U.S. by Saudi members of Al Qaeda, and then of the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

On civil liberties I think she better than Ron Paul, but basically in the same camp. The main difference is that Cynthia McKinney, though she is much younger than Ron Paul, is an African-American who was born in Georgia when there was still a (Democratic-Party led) regime of racist discrimination and segregation. She knows what it is like to be denied her civil rights. She has a long history of fighting for civil rights for everyone.

I'll be learning more about Cynthia's campaign positions over time, and I will criticize the ones that I think are wrong.

But come February, or whenever it is that Ron Paul stops seeking the Republican Party nomination, hopefully some of his fans will give Ms. McKinney a chance.

Again, if a grass roots effort earns Ron Paul the Republican nomination, I'll be pleased. I just would not lay any bets on that happening.

More data:

Ron Paul's campaign site
Cynthia McKinney campaign site

My Politics main page

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barry Bonds and George Bush

I was just listening to the radio (old fashioned FM) while eating my breakfast oatmeal and heard that baseball star Barry Bonds could get thirty years in jail for lying to a grand jury. Apparently he took some steroids. That is considered cheating in major league sports, but baseball leagues don't run prison systems. The U.S. government is going after Bonds for lying. The U.S. government likes to maintain a monopoly on lying.

George W. Bush, President of the United States, has lied with a frequency and a fervor that are impressive even for a President of the United States. He said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and he bombed Iraq back to the age of the Prophet based on that lie. He said he'd get prayer in school and end abortions. I don't mind those lies quite as much because he was lying to Christians and I figure that is fair enough. You can't get an abortion in Iraq anymore, and they are praying to Allah in the schools there now, so at least he's made progress elsewhere on his election pledges, if not in the U.S.A.

Politicians aren't supposed to lie under oath, but apparently their oath of office does not count the same way an oath before a grand jury or a court counts. Lying during election campaigns, among politicians, is considered a virtue, especially by fat cat campaign donors.

Of course I am only using Bush and Bonds as examples. President Clinton lied during his testimony about some bimbo or another, which does not seem to be on quite the same scale as a lie of mass destruction. I don't remember Bill Clinton going to jail for lying. Maybe Barry Bonds should hire Bill's lawyer. "When I said I did not use steroids, of course I knew my body is a manly example of natural steroids, and I meant that any steroids that were outside my body were outside my body and any steroids that were inside my body were inside my body." I mean what does the word "lie" mean, anyway? What is "truth?" What is "swear?" What is "is?"

Some of my friends, about 50 million of them, want for Congress to impeach Bush. Most of those friends are just Democrats who want to get back at the Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton. But the Republicans were just getting back at the Democrats for impeaching Richard Nixon. Some would say this cycle of violence has to stop, but I say: impeach them all. After Congress impeaches Bush for lying and committing war crimes, Congress can impeach itself for lying and committing war crimes.

Why, if prominent politicians didn't constantly lie to the American public we might end up in a state of anarchy.

I met an honest politician once. He had run for office four times. He was never elected. Some of the voters appreciated his honesty, but they voted for one or other of his flatterer opponents. The truth is just too painful for people to want to hear it more often than once in a blue moon.

But the good news is they play baseball in prison. Barry Bonds will be one valuable asset.

Can you imagine George W. Bush in prison? How about Bill Clinton? I will leave you with those cheery thoughts.

More data:

Barry Bonds
George W. Bush

My main web site:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pakistan and Israel

This essay is not about international relations between Pakistan and Israel, though that would also be an interesting topic. This essay looks at the remarkable similarity of the creation of modern Israel and Pakistan and relates that to the two nations' very similar internal and external problems.

Israel was founded in 1947 when the newly-formed United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Palestian. Prior to that Palestine had been a British colony, or mandate if you like a prettier term for brutal foreign occupations.

Pakistan was founded in 1947, a few months before the founding of Israel. It had been agreed to partition the Indian subcontinent into two nations, one Islamic and the other Hindu (though the leaders of both nations tended to secularism). Prior to that the Indian subcontinent had been a part of the British empire.

Isreal was largely the product of migration. The city of Jerusalem had a substantial number of Jewish residents under the Ottoman Empire. Beginning in the 1800's Jewish migration to Palestine grew, then it speeded up greatly in the 1930's, angering Arabs and resulting in the British imposing strict quotas on Jewish immigration in 1939. After that illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine greatly increased. The creation of the state of Isreal was accompanied by the explusion of many (but not all) non-Jews from the Israeli territory and the rapid increase of its Jewish population through immigration. The key point is that the state of Israel was explicitly created as a homeland for a particular religious sect (or spectrum of sects, since within Judeism there are many rival sects). However, many of the Jews who immigrated were in fact secular, rather than practicing religious Jews.

Pakistan was also created as a homeland for people of a particular religious denomination, Islam. There had been a vigorous debate in India for over a century about what India would look like once the British left. Prior to the invasion by Britain much of Indian had been ruled by Muslims who had invaded centuries earlier. However, most Muslims were actually poorer than most Hindus because they had been converts from the lower castes of Hindu society. In most areas of India, Muslims were a minority. Muslim political leaders knew they would never be the leaders of a united India; they simply would not have the votes, nor the economic leverage. So they angled for a two-state solution. The nefarious British could have left India a united state, and then left the Indians to sort things out themselves. With lines drawn there was massive communal violence, plus many Moslems on the Hindu side of the lines moved to Pakistan and vice-versa. The nation of India ended up with a substantial Moslem minority. Pakistan had a very small Hindu minority as well as other minorities, notably Christian and Sikh.

Israel's problems were apparent immediately, as the new state was a tiny Jewish island in a sea of Islam. Because it was an artificially created state and its creation involved land theft, murder, and the violent expulsion of non-Jews, its mere existence seemed like a crime to Arabs. Others may (and should) sympathise with the Jews who survived the Holocaust, but the Palestinians did not run the Holocaust. The U.N.'s creation of Israel amounted to punishing Arabs for the crimes of Europeans. The Nazis originated in Bavaria, Germany; expelling the Bavarians and making Bavaria a Jewish state might have struck people as a fairer response.

Pakistan was much larger both geographically and in population than Israel, but its leaders probably also felt surrounded by enemies. Their main concerns were the Indians and the Chinese (who within a couple of years would be Communists). Even Persia, now called Iran, had a history of rivalry. In addition significant tribal groups found themselves half in Pakistan and half in Afghanistan.

If Israel has the problem of Palestinian refugees and control of Palestinian majority areas (the West Bank and Gaza), Pakistan has the problem of Kashmir, a Moslem-majority area that had a Hindu monarch and was grabbed by India, then fought over several times.

Both nations have atomic bombs. Both are United States allies, but don't want to be U.S. puppets, and so have a difficult balancing act to maintain.

Both nations have bizarre combinations of modern science and technology combined with substantial minorities of fanatical religious conservatives.

If you want to see what can go wrong if you don't have the constitutional separation of church from state, you have only to look at Israel and Pakistan.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Spanish Beatified Priests, Nuns, and the Luftwaffe

At my Vatican Rag web page I recently posted a commentary, Vatican Names Fascist Saints. In short the Catholic Church has beatified almost 500 clerics who it claims were killed by the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's.

Coincidentally further light was shed on the situation because last weekend I went to the local Pay and Take, a fundraiser for seniors, in Gualala to check out the used books for sale. I bought four, spending $3.00 of my hard-earned dough. One book was The Rise of the Luftwaffe - Forging the Secret German Air Weapon 1918 - 1940 by Herbert Moloy Mason, Jr. Like most curious people and particularly political scientists, I have spent some time studying the Nazi (German National Socialist Party) rise to power. I figured at worst I would be treated to stories of air battles and design changes in early aircraft.

The book added some fascinating insights to the Nazi story. One of the most powerful, and bizarre, Nazis was Hermann Goering, a World War I ace fighter pilot. After the Nazis came to power (they were elected on a program virtually identical to that of the U.S. Democratic Party of the same era) Goering was put in charge of the German air force, or Luftwaffe. The first combat the Luftwaffe saw was in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe provided an air lift to General Franco's troops, from Morocco into Spain. Then the Luftwaffe bombed the Spanish Navy, which had mostly stayed on the side of the Republic (the sailors mostly had to kill their officers to achieve that end). Then the Luftwaffe took on the Republican air force, since most of the pilots had sided with the Republic.

At that point the Luftwaffe began the first major aerial bombing campaign in human history. They attacked the Basques, who had sided with the Republic. Which brings us back to the Catholic martyred saints story. I quote from page 231 of The Rise of the Luftwaffe, about Operation Magic Fire:

"The raid caught Durango at the time of early mass, and the town's three large churches were filled. One bomb plummeted through the roof of the Church of the Jesuit Fathers, killing everyone inside except the vicar. Another ripped into the roof of the Santa Susana chapel, killing fourteen nuns. Santa Maria was hit just as Father Don Carlos Morilla was elevating the Host; he was crushed under tons of rubble. The bombs poured through the rest of the town, and when the Ju.52s had emptied themselves, the He.51s swooped down ... the next day ... The fighters added new touches to their technique by machine-gunning the streets after scattering their fragmentation bombs, and two Sisters of Charity were thus killed while running for safety."

A few days later the more-celebrated carpet bombing of Guernica took place.

But the Nationalists fought for religious intolerance of a Catholic sort, Adolf Hitler himself was a Catholic, and by then Pope had already made a pact of collaboration with Benito Mussolini (who also aided General Franco).

Maybe if an outcry is raised, some day the priests and nuns killed by the Fascists will be beatified. That would surprise me, but they say with God anything is possible. More likely the Catholic Church will make Francisco Franco a saint first. After all, he is the Constantine the Great of the 20th century.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

As Cynthia McKinney Goes ...

Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is seeking the nomination of the Green Party for President of the United States. Talk about a Black Swan.

Her nomination is not assured as Ralph Nader is also expected to seek the nomination. It is early, I reserve the right to change my mind, but let me tell you why you should vote for Ms. McKinney in the Green Party primary, if you are registered Green. If you are registered in one of the two war crimes parties, you will have your choice of war crimes apologists.

Ralph Nader has done more good for America than any President we have had during his lifetime, but he does fall into the category of old, white, and male. His supporters say he is of Lebanese extraction and should not count as white, but that is like saying Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans aren't white. They say he is in good shape for an old man, but these are they same people who lampooned Ronald Reagan as too old to hold office; but Ralph, soon to turn 74, is older than Reagan was when he became president (Ronald was a mere 70).

Cynthia McKinney has actually run for public office and held office, something Ralph cannot claim. She won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1988. Believe it or not, said body still required women to wear dresses, and Cynthia put an end to that. In 1992 she won election to Congress representing the 11th District of Georgia. She first served in Congress until 2002.

In 2002 the pro-war Democratic Party establishment and Republican Party grassroots ganged up on Cynthia. As you can see in the documentary American Black Out, in George people do not register in political parties. They vote in the primary of their choice. In 2002 and again in 2006, those not being years with Presidential primaries, Republicans voted in the Democratic primary in Cynthia's district in order to quiet her voice against the Wars.

Which is why you should help Cynthia become President. While many people opposed the Wars Against Afghanistan and Iraq from the beginning, only a very few who held major office took that risk.

In 2004 progressive voters threw away their votes, hoping they would get Bush out of office, but they just got more of the same because John Kerry was too chickenshit to demand that the votes in Ohio be counted properly.

In 2006 anti-war voters (a far broader category than progressive voters) voted in a Democratic Party majority in Congress, hoping that would end the War in Iraq. But instead of using its power to cut off funds for the war, the Democratic Congress played politics, hoping a continued war would make the Republicans more unpopular.

The Republicans are in dissarray and are going to go down in flames in 2008. You can tell because all their usual corporate sponsors are giving money to the Democrats, in particular Hillary Clinton, this time around. But we do not have to follow their script.

Note also that Cynthia McKinney is a strong advocate for a National Health Insurance program, fair taxation, and a healthy environment.

If you live in California it is not too late to change your registration to Green to vote for Cynthia McKinney in the Green primary. It just takes a few minutes; call your local Registrar of Voters to get a form.

Look to this blog and for more information on Cynthia McKinney's candidacy as it develops.

More data:

All Things Cynthia McKinney
My Green Party Pages with links to more

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cuban Thugs And U.S. Cuba Embargo Policy

In 1933 Fulgencio Batista became the de facto ruler of Cuba in 1933 and governed, with some interruptions, until overthrown in the Cuban Revolution of 1959. In such a long reign he may have done some good, but he was noted for executing political opponents without trial. He forged an alliance with U.S. organized crime groups and allowed them to build casinos and hotels in Cuba.

When Batista was overthrown and exiled most of his most prominent supporters fled to the United States, where they mostly settled in Miami. As with any sufficiently large group of people, probably many had good qualities. They were united in a hatred of Castro's new regime in Cuba.

I am not a fan of Fidel Castro. He did a good job overthrowing Batista, but his Leninist brand of communism is repulsive. People of many political tendencies united to get rid of Batista, but in the end non-communists were deprived of any say in the government.

The Democratic Party had close ties to organized crime during this era (the 1950's) and that may have given Jack Kennedy (JFK) the edge needed to win the U.S. election for President in 1960. While there were many reasons for the U.S.'s attempted invasion of Cuba in 1961 (Bay of Pigs Invasion), recovering casinos for Meyer Lansky and friends was part of the agenda. President Kennedy's failure to use U.S. military might to recover Cuba probably led to his assassination.

Even though the U.S. traded with communist leader the USSR and with all sorts of dictatorships, in 1962 an embargo was declared against Cuba that is still in place today. Today Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that the U.S. does not trade with.

If you want to know why, you have to look beyond the Fidel is Evil hypothesis. I don't like Fidel, but he hardly qualifies as a truly evil dictator. Many nations we trade with have killed far more political opponents than Fidel has. Saudi Arabia's government is much more oppressive, just to give one example.

One reason we don't trade with Cuba is that except for some old mafia casinos the island does not have anything we badly need. Its main product is sugar. Sugar growers in the U.S. are politically powerful; the embargo is just fine with them.

The real reason the embargo stays in force is that Florida is now a swing state, a state that could vote either Republican or Democrat in a Presidential election. In 1960 there were no Republicans to speak of in Florida, but in 1952 Eisenhower had won the state. Richard Nixon won Florida in 1968 and it has been in play ever since, most notably in 2000 when disputed electoral results had to be decided in the Supreme Court.

Remember those thugs of Batista that moved to Miami? They made pretty good citizens, working hard and running honest businesses. But they formed a voting block that is crucial to winning a Florida Presidential election. True, many of them are in their graves or quite old now, but the living will be a force at the ballot box for at least another decade.

Meanwhile, the rights of all other Americans are being trampled on. They always tell us we live in a free country, but we are not free to visit Cuba. In effect there is a Capitalist Curtain between southern Florida and socialist Cuba. I guess the powers that be are afraid so many of us might defect to the soviet paradise that capitalism would collapse in the U.S.

The Democratic Party is at least as responsible for this mess as the Republican Party. When you only allow a two-party dictatorship, as in the United States, you are going to end up with all sorts of messes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Defend Iran

Iran has been painted as an evil country in the U.S. Currently George W. Bush is doing the painting, supported by the Republican chorus. But I suspect when Hillary Clinton is in the White House she will be itchy-fingered to prove that war crimes are not gender-related. Americans have been taught to hate Iran since the Shah was overthrown in 1979. Democrat Presidents starting with Carter have been just as anti-Iranian as Bush is now. Since the fall of the communist block, Iran has been a favorite target for American hatred.

Judging on a more neutral basis, Iran has higher ethical standards than the United States and deserves to be defended by global citizens.

The Shahanshah (king of kings) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a puppet of the United States and U.S. oil comanies. He ran a one-party state, which he terrorized with a police organization, SAVAK.

The Iranian revolution was a more complicated affair than is now generally remembered. I lived in Washington D.C. when this was happening, and clashes there between pro-Shah and anti-Shah demonstrators were common. Apparently Jimmy Carter was worried about the lack of democracy and human rights of U.S. allies including Iran, and as a result pressured the Shah to release some political prisoners and allow some freedom of speech. Jimmy Carter fell from power largely because the Shah fell from power and the revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy.

The question of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy is a difficult one. There are really good reasons for making embassies and their officials immune to punishment. On the other hand when a nation like the U.S., with a long history of crimes against humanity and war crimes, has used an embassy to support a criminal like the Shah, it is understandable that victims would demand justice and forget the rule of tolerating embassies. In the end the hostages were released.

I think it can be argued that the U.S., and in particular U.S.-based oil corporations, owes the Iranian people reparations for the period of the Shah's rule. However, I am going to fast-forward to the present situation.

First of all, it is clear that the Iranian government had nothing to do with the attacks on the U.S. in 2001. The Iranian government might like to lead the entire Islamic world, including Sunni's, but in fact the radical Sunni's hope to overthrow all Shiite power.

I know of no instance in recent history in which Iran has invaded another country. Unlike the U.S., which invaded countries willy-nilly whenever a President thinks his cronies will benefit. In fact Iran was invaded by Iraq in the 1980's largely at the behest of the United States (Jimmy Carter was still President when the war began, but Ronald Reagan was a more open backer of Iraq).

The U.S. actually launched military (naval and air force) attacks on Iran, notably in Operation Praying Mantis starting April 18, 1988. The U.S. also shot down Iran Air Flight 655 on July 3, 1988, which was a war crime against civilians of the same order of magnitude of the 911 attacks.

Today the U.S. government and oil corporations want us to forget the past and worry about Iran's support for Palestinians and Iraqis and about the potential of Iran getting nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

I am against nuclear weapons and nuclear power. But the U.S., my nation, is the only country that has ever actually used nuclear weapons; the Democratic Party is the only political party on earth that has actually used nuclear weapons. I think the U.S. should disarm. But while we are waiting for that, we cannot expect nations that are threatened by the U.S. to not take measures for their own self defense.

U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran simply give the current Iranian ruling class a rational for not allowing Iran to develop into a modern nation with full freedom of religion and other modern conveniences.

As to democracy, I note the Iranians allow elections. In the U.S. elections are pretty well rigged by corruption; you almost never see an incumbent politician at the national level defeated in an election. The U.S. ought to work harder at making this nation better rather than meddling in other nations.

Get all U.S. troops out of the mideast. Conserve oil. It is simple, but it isn't profitable to our rulers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chiang Kai-Shek and Andrew Jackson

I have not added to this blog this week until now. I have been busy, my mind is racing, and I have a lot to write about that is going to take up considerable blog space in the future. I know most of my small but loyal band of fans like my ability to connect dots, and are wondering how I am going to connect Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of Nationalist China in the 20th century, with Andrew Jackson, founder of the Democratic Party and President of the United States in the early 19th century. But first a bit about my life.

This was a week of meetings for me, most of them business meetings in which corporations told their investors how they did in the third quarter of 2007. Most of them did fine; the economy is okay as long as you aren't poor and did not make the mistake in loaning mortgage money to people who can't repay it.

I attended three public interest meetings. The first was a forum of local school board candidates in the Point Arena, California school district. I'm not running after being on the school board for eight years, so mainly I was happy to see that some people even wanted this unpaid job. But the answers to the questions were mostly evasive happy talk. A guy named Jim DeWilder gave some good answers. He has actually been paying attention to the way the schools are governed.

The actual school board meeting this week was pretty exciting for me. Even though we have shown pretty phenomenal improvements in the schools these last six years, there is a group of people who have spent the last year in attack mode against us. It is a long story so I will narrow it to last night's appearance of a lynch mob. This happens from time to time, usually when someone has to be not-rehired. In this case we were pretty far off in our budget for 2006-2007, and Thursday was when we would go over that situation. The thing is, we really did not do anything wrong except we were not conservative enough about our revenues and expenses. Then we had 3 teachers who were very ill and out a lot, pushing up our budget for substitute teachers way beyond the typical unanticipated expenses. In fact we are in no danger of bankruptcy, we just have to tighten our belts a bit more this year and when we prepare next years budget. We managed to explain all this to the public. By the end of it everyone was calm and several people expressed happiness at how we handled the situation.

But Chiang and Jackson. General Chiang and General Jackson. I just happen to be reading two different books for different reasons at more or less the same time. Because I am getting ready to write the China chapter of my U.S. War Against Asia, one book I am reading is Hollington K. Tong's Chiang Kai-Shek. Mr. Tong is a big fan of the Generalisimo. Similarly Marquis James is a big fan of the Hero of New Orleans, as shown in his The Life of Andrew Jackson. When I am likely to be critical of a historic person I like to read someone who has a positive take on their subject; I can provide my own criticism. I am reading up on the Hero to get a better understanding of why so many American voters support such an evil party, which I believe all goes back to Jackson.

Andrew Jackson distinguished himself in the fine arts of genocide and stealing native American Indian lands. He was a gambler who owned and fought dogs and chickens, but as he got wealthier mainly gambled on horses. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and founded the Democratic Party. He was not only a slave owner, but he actively traded slaves for profit. He combined the old-style English predatory trading and lawyering mindset with the Wild West land lust and contempt for weaker humans.

Andrew Jackson was beloved by most (white anyway) Americans of his time and is held in high regard today by most Americans, descendants of former black slaves included.

Chiang Kai-Shek, when you don't know the facts, starts at the opposite end of American opinion. When I was a child in the 1960's he was the ruler of Taiwan and pretended to be the ruler of China. Americans hated the communists who ruled China and of course their leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung when I was growing up). Yet we did not like Chiang Kai-Shek because he had lost China to the Communists. When I was exposed to Marxist-Leninist propaganda I learned that Chiang was an American puppet. We don't like it when our puppets lose.

While Chiang was not the founder of the Nationalist Party of China, more properly the Kuomintang, he was its leader for far longer than Andrew Jackson led the Democrats. He was a national hero, like Andrew Jackson, because of his ability to win battles. In fact, all evidence is that he was a far better general than Jackson was.

In reading Chiang's biography I keep making mental notes, "puppet," or "not a puppet." No doubt the Chinese nationalists wanted to modernize their nation. They wanted to emulate the powerful nations of Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Great Britain and the United States. But they started from a difficult position, a position of weakness. The powerful nations were the predators and China was the prey.

Some puppets are willing extensions of the will of their masters. I don't see the Generalisimo that way. But he must have looked that way to many Chinese. His wife was educated in the United States and Chiang converted to Christianity under her influence. But Chiang Kai-Shek's driving passion was to unite China under a single, centralized government. Which was Mao's passion too; they just differed as to who would run that government and how it would be run. In World War II and afterwards Chiang became dependent on the U.S. This was a mistake, because the U.S. was just looking after its own interests and was far more interested in occupying Japan and restoring the economy of Europe than in aiding the Chinese once the Japanese were defeated.

Early in Chiang's career his main problem was subduing various war lords. The communists were a problem, but not his main problem. Then came the invasion by the Japanese. Maoist propaganda holds that Chiang refused to fight the Japanese. Nationalist propaganda is that the Reds only fought the Japanese when they could seize supplies. It looks to me like both sides fought the Japanese, with ebbs and flows in enthusiasm. However, the big battles had to be fought by the nationalists. They lost millions of men and so did the Japanese. Which brings up an important aside.

One you get past the "US defeated the Nazi's in World War II" theory, and realize that the Russians defeated the Nazis and the U.S. only stormed in at the last minute to grab France and most of Germany for the capitalist cause, you feel enlightened and relax. But the same thing happened with the Japanese, if to some lesser degree. The Chinese nationalists lost far more men fighting the Japanese in World War II than the U.S. did. This was part of Roosevelt's strategy to let foreigners die to weaken the enemies, then be strong enough to grab the spoils. If the A-bomb had not worked Roosevelt's plan was to have the Russians invade Manchuria, where the best equipped and trained Japanese armies were stationed. This back fired: Russia invaded Manchuria mostly after the Japanese surrendered. Russia grabbed a lot of industrial equipment and gave the Japanese arms to the Chinese communists, which enabled them to graduate from guerrilla warfare to conventional warfare in their civil war.

So the moment the Japanese surrendered the Chinese Nationalists found themselves in a civil war with the Communists. The great Chiang Kai-Shek lost the civil war and retired in disgrace to Taiwan (taking the gold bullion with him. For the good of the nation).

Andrew Jackson did not live long enough to see the Civil War. If he had, the North might have lost. But here is the difference between the Kuomintang and the Democratic Party. When the Democratic Party lost the Civil War, the Republican Party did not make it illegal. Wise men knew that two parties were needed in the U.S., to trade places in times of public discontent. At first the Democratic Party had trouble winning elections after the Civil War, but fixed that by denying the former slaves the right to vote. Eventually even on a national level Democrats started winning, with Grove Cleveland becoming the first post-civil-war Democratic President.

While neither man scores very high by my standard of ethics or political leadership, I think Chiang was a better (in the ethical sense) man than Andrew Jackson. Of course Chiang Kai-Shek was born over a century after Andrew Jackson, and times had changed. Probably Chiang's worst mistake was setting up an authoritarian regime in Taiwan after he lost the civil war in China. If he had immediately allowed free elections with multiple political parties, he would have looked like what he had claimed to be in China: a genuine democrat. But he was a general first-and-foremost. He preferred to command and be obeyed. So did Andrew Jackson.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Somalia and Failed Nation States

A phrase we hear often lately is "failed nation-state." The term is used for Iraq, and now it is an apt term to describe Somalia. But I question the universal value of nation-states. Why can't some people be organized on some other basis?

According to this week's Economist article "Somalia: Breaking into even smaller bits?", in addition to the U.S./Ethiopian/U.N. imposed chaos in southern Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu, now Somaliland and Puntland are splintering as well. The "governments" of the two areas fought a small batlle over the town of Los Anod.

One problem in Somalia and much of Africa is that today's nations have artificial borders that were created when European powers carved up the continent into colonial territories. Most of these nations have multiple tribal groups within them. In many cases a tribal group will find itself half on one side of a border and half on the other side. This is also true of Iraq, where, for instance, the Kurds form a natural nation that occupies only a fraction of Iraq but also includes sections of Iran and Turkey.

In the past empires typically consisted of multiple tribes or nations. Often nations, for instance Germany, were broken down into multiple states. There is a pragmatic belief that if a national grouping, defined by language and culture, is incorporated into a single state, the result tend towards peace, stability, and harmony. Such nation-states are rare in their pure form, since most contain one or more minorities.

Somalia was never a nation state. It corresponds roughly to the Horn of Africa. There were ancient civilizations there as old as any on earth. But for the most part Somalia in the past consisted of city-states and smaller tribal regions (See Portuguese Catholics Destroyed East African Islamic Societies in 1500's). Even in the colonial era Somalia was not a single colony, the British have grabbed some and Italy having grabbed the rest.

So why try to unite this vast area with not-particularly related tribal groups? For the convenience of the U.S. war on "terror?" To keep it from having multiple seats at the U.N.?

Switzerland is a good example of a state that is not a nation is the classic sense. At least four languages are spoken there. It works as a state because the inhabitants have something else in common: living in the Alps and valuing freedom and prosperity over meddling in other people's affairs.

The problem in Somalia is in local "big men" not being content to be local. Everyone wants to be king, or at least President. It is true that grouped together, united in a nation, it might be easier to resist outside preditors. But that is just a choice of preditors.

The recent government like substance known as the Islamic Justice Courts had found a way for the people of varying clans to get along with each other. By stripping the warlords of their power and turning power over to a popular court system they briefly allowed for peace, freedom to travel without robbery, and renewed economic activity. That freaked out the CIA, which got the Ethiopians and U.N. and various thugs to reimpose chaos.

All the foreign troops in Somalia are war criminals, and all of the leaders who sent them there are war criminals.

But think beyond that. If there is peace, if there is trade between areas, and if there is some system of justice, do we really need a nation state? Do the people benefit from any state based on elevating a minority to power over a majority?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doris Lessing

So Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Good for her. Apparently she is only the 11th woman to win the prize.

Her two most impressive books are THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK and The Four-Gated City. Now the pundits are calling The Golden Notebook a feminist breakthrough, but I did not see it that way when I read it in the mid-1970's. It was published in 1962 and only sold a few thousand copies at first. It is largely a meditation on being cast adrift in an alienating world. Which is exactly where I was when I read it as a young man. It is a bohemian work only in that its narrator rejects the conventional wisdom about life. It is about having mental breakdowns, but also about the healing process of giving up illusions about the world.

The Four-Gated City (The Children of Violence, Book 5) is my personal favorite. It was published in 1969, when Dorris had become a major literary figure. I'm not sure how it would read to me now, 30 years after I first read it, but at the time it was a revelation. My memory is that it is a story of a woman's search for meaning while living in London. I think it was heavily influenced by Sufi traditions, but it is not overtly promoting mysticism. Rather it is an examination of everything by someone who had a great deal of worldly experience.

Ms. Lessing wrote some earlier books about her experiences in Africa, where being a part of the white supremicist class gave her the willies, and so she became a communist. By the time I got around to trying to read one from this series (I don't even remember which one, but it may have been A Ripple From the Storm) I was already far too familiar with leftist committee meetings. I might have been fascinated by such a book when I was seventeen, but by the time I tried to read it I found it tiresome and could not finish it.

Cheating by looking at the Doris Lessing Wikipedia page, I am reminded I read Briefing for a Descent into Hell, which was a compelling, scary book. It it had been published as Horror she would possibly be considered a master of the phychological horror story. I think mystical and in particularly Sufi ideas are even stronger in Descent.

As to her later works, I have not read them yet. They include some I mean to read, like The Good Terrorist and the Canopus in Argos science-fiction novel series.

I can't say Ms. Lessing has much appeal as a stylist , but she is competent and certainly prolific. The number of titles she has published is astounding. That is a problem with having some success as a writer: after that you spend the days of your life writing, rather than doing the much more interesting things that a less privileged person has to do to earn a living.

Looking through the list of people who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, I am shocked at how few of them I have read, and how many I have not heard of. I suppose I focussed on American writers. I have read most of what the big four American nobelists (William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, and Ernest Hemingway) and a couple of books by Pearl Buck. But I have not read much that is non-American.

So here is to Doris, who defied expectations by living long enough to get the Nobel Prize. Now she will be as immortal as a mortal can get: she will be remembered and read as long as school teachers must assign novels to students.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Big Trees Revisited

Last night I watched The Big Trees starring Kirk Douglas. The movie was set in 1900, but I felt I was in a time warp back to the late 1980's.

In The Big Trees we quickly learn that the Kirk Douglas character, Jim Fallon, is not an honest businessman. He does not pay his timber workers; he cons the investors who advance him money. With any number of people about to gun him down in Wisconsin, he decides it is time to go cut down trees in California. He has learned that a new law is stripping some settlers of their land and allowing anyone to buy 40 acre sections for a $150 filing fee.

He transports his unpaid timber workers to California where each will get 40 acres of old growth coastal redwood trees to log for him. The land is being taken from a Quaker colony that has kept most of these huge and ancient trees. There is a beautiful heroine, of course, Alicia (Eve Miller).

The plot gets complicated because a local timber baron is also seeking to get the land and cut the trees. There are excuses for fights and double-crosses, plus, of course, a Hollywood ending that certainly did not occur in reality.

Keep in mind that this movie was made in 1952 with Felix Feist directing. Of course there were already environmentalists and parks and such. John Muir had worked to save the redwoods. John Steinbeck has written of there being two kinds of Californians, the ones who revered redwoods and the kind that cut them down. But Alicia actually sets fire to the local court house in order to slow down the granting of land - and is treated like a hero. Don't try this tactic today - the FBI will label you and everyone you know as a terrorist.

In the late 1980's and 1990's this whole situation replayed, but with a guy known as Charles Hurwitz. Briefly, former investors and customers had accused him of using fraud to build his fortune, but his lawyers always kept him one or two steps ahead of the lynch mobs [For the full story see my article Charles Hurwitz's Money].

Mr. Hurwitz bought a company called Pacific Lumber, which had been slowly liquidating the redwoods, ancient and re-grown, on it vast land holding. Charlie sped up the rate of cutting and targeted old growth groves. Earth First!, which was made up mainly of people local to Humboldt and Mendocino County, organized people to stop the slaughter. Eventually some redwoods got protection, notably the Headwaters Grove, but for the most part every tree worth cutting in Mendocino and Humboldt was cut. Then, with insufficient trees, the mills (most of them) were closed down. Oh sure, the trees will grow back. You can get a pretty decent sized redwood in 60 years under optimal conditions. At 400 years the trees take on old-growth characteristics.

So today most big redwoods are on small private holdings or in parks. It's a shame reality did not have a Hollywood ending.

The Big Trees is a triple blast from three pasts (1900, 1952, and 1989) and well worth seeing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Democracy or Republic: Ron Paul's Liberty is Your Death

To my surprise an essay I wrote back in 2002, America: Republic or Democracy, has become pretty popular on the net. It comes up high at Google search, given you type in republic, democracy, and America for search terms. About 750 people looked at it in September, which is trivial by Paris Hilton standards but not bad for a political essay at an obscure Web site.

I noted another essay on the same topic, A Republic, Not a Democracy, by Republican Party presidential candidate Ron Paul, which was written back in 2000. Ron Paul comes out squarely against democracy. That in itself should be ugly enough to stop a presidential campaign in its tracks. But there are a few things I agree with Ron Paul on. He's a serious guy. Instead of dismissing his argument, I am going to dissect it. If you are squeamish now is a good time to click over to something funny at YouTube.

Ron Paul claims "Our Founders instituted a republican system to protect individual rights and property rights from tyranny." He defends the Republican system as being on the same order as the Bill of Rights. He claims the individual rights of minorities are endangered by majority rule or democracy.

But only a fool would swallow such reasoning. What a Republic always establishes is the rule of the few over the many. It does not protect everyone's individual rights: it protects the rights of the ruling minority. The Liberty of the minority becomes the subjugation of the majority. The only thing Ron Paul and I agree upon, within this topic, is that the federal government, under the Constitution, was designed that way.

The minority of 1789 given power by the U.S. Constitution were mainly descendants of European aristocrats, though some were from merchant families or had made it in the U.S. despite humbler ancestry. Who were they establishing power over? Women, for sure. Native American Indians. Slaves from Africa. White slaves (indentured servants). And, in fact, most white men, because most white men did not have enough property to qualify to vote.

Liberty is an ugly thing when it is the liberty to own slaves, to prevent women from owning property, to grab Indian lands protected by treaties, and to crush poorer white men under your boot with laws and a swarm of lawyers.

How many slaves did Patrick Henry own when he said, "Give me liberty or give me death?" Over forty.

Ron Paul is the sort of spineless pawn of the rich (I think he is rich himself) whose job as a politician is to shift all costs to the working citizens and all profits to the investor and managerial class. His freedom is your slavery.

I'll take democracy any day. I believe the rights of individuals and minority groups are important. But I don't see where that obligates me to assign to the rich the right to write laws that make them even richer and make the bulk of us poorer.

If one of Patrick Henry's slaves, or George Washington's slaves, or Thomas Jefferson's slaves had said, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death," it would ring through the centuries with a sweeter sound.

Ron Paul's advocacy against democracy is advocacy for bad government. It advocates special privileges for the rich that are denied the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Polar Bears, Wheat Futures, and Nuclear Reactors

What could Polar Bears, Wheat Futures, and Nuclear Reactors have in common?

There are millions of things in the world that can be measured (quantified, in science speak). At any given time roughly half of all measured things will be headed lower and half headed higher. Sometimes when two sets of numbers are headed in the same direction there is a causal link. One thing influences the other, or both are influenced by a third cause.

So, as many an oil company executive has observed, if indeed global temperatures are rising and so is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that in itself does not prove that carbon dioxide emissions lead to global warming. Of course oil-industry types and anti-environmentalists often will not even admit that global temperatures are rising.

This summer the ice in the arctic melted on an unprecedented scale. Reports are that a number of scientists who were reserving judgement on global warming threw in the towel and are finally agreeing that we are not just seeing some normal fluctuations in climate. Global warming is real and its root cause is carbon dioxide emmissions from burning fossil fuels.

Polar bears, of course, are a large species of mammal that is seeing a dramatic impact from global warming. The melting ice means starving and drowning polar bears.

Wheat has become very expensive. Here the causes are more complex, but go back to global warming. The consequences are dire, as well. Already the increased price of wheat means that budgets, from family budgets to humanitarian aid budgets, can't buy as much wheat flour. Calory counts are heading lower, and where famine is already a problem some carefully constructed statistics would probably show that the mortality rate for humans is climbing.

Wheat production has fallen for two reasons. One is widespread drought in key wheat producing areas, including in the U.S. and Australia. Droughts come and go, but most climate scientists believe that global warming is making them worse. The other factor is ethanol (which is the same subtance found in alcoholic beverages). Rather than raising the mileage per gallon requirements of automobiles, the Federal Government in its wisdom has decided to subsidize ethanol production as a substitute for gasoline. Corn (maize) is used to make ethanol in the U.S. That new use competes with corn for fattening animals, and making corn bread, popcorn, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. The value of corn sold by farmers has zoomed upward. So farmers started planting more corn and less wheat. The demand for wheat did not decrease, so the price of wheat has climbed as well. Wheat futures are the buying and selling of wheat in advance of its physical availability; they tell us where prices are heading. Up.

Next year, reacting to higher prices, farmers might plant less corn and more wheat. But the amount of viable agricultural land is limited; both cannot go up at the same time.

Which brings us to nuclear reactors. These formerly discredited (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island) machines can produce energy without significantly contributing to global warming. Does that mean they are a good idea?

Suppose nuclear power meets all new demand for energy, and even picks up some of the slack from carbon-based fuels as oil production continues to decline. Suppose the problems of disposing of radioactive waste and protecting the plants from terrorists (and more likely and dangerous: incompetent engineers, builders, and operators) were solved. What would that get us?

Very little. With unlimited power and ever-intensifying agricultural efforts we would just do one more lap of the Malthusian spiral. A larger human population would mean more ecological destruction. More polution. And more people just a few calories a day from starvation. It would buy the earth's ancient life-culture a few decades at most.

I see only two viable paths. One is cutting way back. Cutting back on the number of children people have, so that in a generation or two the earth's biped population falls substantially. Cutting back on energy consumption in rich nations. Cutting back on jet-enabled tourism. Cutting back on automobiles. Cutting back on air-conditioning.

The other is moving energy-intensive processes off-planet. Put the nuclear reactors on the moon, make the toasters and flat-screen TV's and Priuses there, then slip them down the gravity well to earth for distribution.

Best of all, do both. Even with much production moved off-planet, I don't think this earth can support more than about 1 billion humans over the long run.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Somalia: Bush Backfires Again

Making the world worse for everyone to live in seems to be a hobby for the Bush administration. Reports from Somalia just keep getting worse. Famine, fighting, and fear are the new rulers of Somalia. The CIA-created puppet government (the Provisional Government in mainstream media speak) controls a few key assets, mainly because of the presence of thugs known as the Ethiopian Army.

Not that solutions in Somalia have ever been easy. The ancient Egyptians traded with whoever the natives of the Horn of Africa were as early as 2800 B.C. It may never have been much of a country, but in the middle ages the cities carried on a healthy trade. Then the Portuguese Navy came a plundering, murdering those who resisted and cutting off trade. When Somalia finally won independence after World War II it consisted of rival clans and its economy was in tatters. A dictatorship held it together for a while, but then warlords, one or more per clan, came to dominate. Even then trade and a sort of an economy were carried on.

Finally, some time after the year 2000, some people set up something called the Islamic Justice Courts. The idea was to follow the Koran (which has a code of law borrowed from the Jews and Christians), put clan rivalries aside, and prosper in peace and justice together. It probably surprised George W. Bush and the CIA, but Somalis actually liked that. Every few months the people wanting to take their troubles to the Islamic Justice Courts grew; the people who supported the war lords or the "Provisional Government" dwindled.

The Islamic Justice Courts were not set up by Al-Qaeda. They were not particularly radical as Islamic things go. True, once they got going some radicals tried to influence them, but no one was much interested in the radicals. People wanted peace, justice, and a bit of prosperity, which in Somalia had come to mean going to bed alive and not hungry.

That really pissed off the Bush/UN/CIA drunken sailors. How dare someone set up a government without their permission? They appealed to the most Christian dictator of Ethiopia, who had a modern army and used it to invade Somalia. The U.S. supplied some covert operations types and air cover and even a little naval bombardment as well.

So now a few Ethiopians sit in Mogadishu protected by Ethiopians and, of course, some thugs now well-armed by the CIA. Forget peace; they only thing they know how to do with an opposition is shoot at it. Forget prosperity, except for those who can divert U.S. taxpayer dollars into their own pockets. As to justice, I believe they eventually hope to implement the American Plan, in which the law says that them that Have, have the Law to serve them as well.

I don't know that the Somali people can defeat the U.S. and its puppets. Reports of suffering are a terrible thing. As if Allah is commenting on the situation, a drought has reduced food production.

And lest you join the "anybody but Bush crowd," please note that there was not a word of objection raised by the leadership of the Democratic Party to the U.S. interference. They were too busy arranging to further fund the war against Iraq to be bothered with Somalia.

But suppose you really think Al-Qaeda should be stopped? Isn't what Bush did great? Actually, having seen that Christian Ethiopians and Americans have united to destroy their country, now radical Islam, related to Al-Qaeda or not, is finding it quite easy to recruit in Somalia.

I hope when these bullies fall they fall really, really hard.

For more info on Somalia see my Somalia page.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Harry Truman's Memoirs, 2

It is pretty terrifying to see someone as basically good and competent as Harry S. Truman commit war crimes, but that is what I've just watched, so to speak by reading some more of Harry's Memoirs. My first installment on the memoirs was in the September 21 posting to this blog. If you want to see what Harry wrote for yourself, his Memoirs are not to hard to find in used bookstores or new or used at Amazon (Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: 1945 Year of Decisions).

But other interesting issues are there as well. On many issues Truman points out unethical behavior by the Soviets or Japanese, but has no problem overlooking it for British or American interests. For instance Joseph Stalin imposed regimes favorable to him in Eastern Europe, which Truman did not like, even though the U.S. was imposing regimes favorable to us in Western Europe, China, and elsewhere. Apparently, pointing out his opponents' hypocrisy, Stalin criticized Britain for unilaterally seizing the ex-Italian colonies of Libya, Cryneaica, and Tripoli. Churchill basically said, well, we conquered them. Stalin said (my paraphrase), exactly as we conquered Eastern Europe.

Another our puppets v. your puppets argument occurred over Italy. Since the Italians attacked Russia with the Germans, as did several Eastern European fascist allies of Hitler, the soviets thought they should have some say about the post-war governance of Italy. Truman's answer: well, we set up a government and now they are our allies.

I already knew that Japan went to great lengths to try to secure a peace treaty with the U.S. and its allies before Pearl Harbor. Truman repeatedly makes it clear that Tokyo offered to negotiate a peace after Truman became President. But the U.S.'s war aims had always been to control Japan, China, and Korea, so we simply refused to negotiate and instead demanded that the Japanese just surrender and let the U.S. take their colonies and their homeland. That is called the Potsdam Declaration, the text of which is included in the book. After the declaration on July 13 the Japanese again offered to negotiate a peace. But our atomic bomb had its first successful test on July 16.

There is a list of the other war criminals who advised Truman on the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He makes it clear that civilian casualties were not an accident. There were purely military targets the U.S. could have dropped the bombs on; they chose to drop it on cities. The other war criminals were War Secretary Henry L. Stimson, George L. Harrison, James F. Byrnes, Ralph A. Bard, William L. Clayton, Vannevar Bush, Karl T. Compton, Arthur H. Compton, Dr. Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, E.O. Lawrence and James B. Conant

Don't think it was a war crime? Suppose Germany had made an atomic bomb and had it ready just before it collapsed militarily. Suppose Hitler had dropped it on a city in England in an attempt to get the British to surrender. Do you think this would not have been treated as a warm crime at the Nuremberg trials? Of course it would have. Dropping an atomic bomb on a city is a war crime. No matter who drops it. (And don't forget Truman was a Democrat; the Democrat Party is a war crimes organization).

We also find more about the process leading to the U.S. invasion of Korea. China, Russia, the U.S. and Japan all wanted Korea. The Koreans wanted independence. The U.S. invasion of Korea was planned before the Russians had a chance to invade Korea. We set the 38th parallel as a line south of which the Japanese troops would surrender to the U.S. North of that they were to surrender to the Soviets.

Chiang Kai-Shek's role as a U.S. puppet is also colored in at points. The U.S. demanded that Japanese troops surrender to Chiang's war lord regime, and not to the communist government. Truman did not want the communists to get Japanese weapons. The claims of Chiang's nationalists to be fighting the Japanese during the war, against the counterclaims by the Communists that the fought the Japanese while the nationalists cowered, need to be examined in the light of a statement by Truman. "The Chinese Communists had the advantage of having their military forces located where Japanese troops could be reached." [page 445] Well if Chiang Kai-Shek could not reach them for surrender, how could he reach them to fight them?

Chiang was enough of a nationalist to demand that Hong Kong become Chinese territory. He was enough of a puppet that the U.S. backed him on this demand. For a moment, until the British made it clear they would not give up Hong Kong. Giving up colonies was for those war-mongering Japanese, Germans, and Italians. Britain's colonies empire was all about peace. Right.

As you doubtless know, Japan was at peace with the world when Commander Perry sailed up to Tokyo and played gangster diplomacy in the 1850's. Symbolizing the triumph of gangster ethics, Truman made the Japanese surrender their homeland to the U.S. on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

More soon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Truman Show

I'll probably be writing a fair amount on former U.S. President Harry S. Truman during the next few weeks. I picked the two-volume Memoirs by Harry S. Truman and a used book sale recently. Many people, including myself, have overlooked the Truman era. Mostly we know he became President when President-for-Life Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12 1945. He ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everyone thought he would lose to Thomas Dewey, who ran with future liberal Supreme Court justice Earl Warren as the Republican Presidential candidate.

I picked up the book because I wanted to know more about the period of Truman's presidency on three counts. I am writing a book, The U.S. War Against Asia, and want to know more about the circumstances of the U.S. invasion of Korea and support for the Nationalist government in China. President did some good, even some brave things, but he is best known for being the war criminal, the only political leader who used atomic weapons. I want to know more about the circumstances of that decision. And I want to know more about the civil rights situation in the U.S. and the Democratic Party's ongoing failure to support civil rights for African-Americans during the New Deal and until Lyndon Johnson became President.

But my book is accumulating sticky tabs, some about these issues but mostly marking facts that give the lie to typical U.S. mythology. Memoirs is very detailed, with practically daily ramblings on who Harry met with and what they said. In this entry to my blog I'm going to mention some of what I found. In future entries I hope to follow up in detail on some of the issues raised.

Adolph Hitler died on April 30, 1945, just 18 days after Roosevelt. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Roosevelt became President on March 4, 1933, just 32 days after Hitler became Chancellor.

Biggest surprise to Harry when he became President: the atomic bomb project. Even though he had been vice-president and had been on the Senate committee that had oversight of the astronomical funds for the project, he had never been told the nature of the project.

Neither Roosevelt nor Truman had any problems meeting face to face with Joseph Stalin to divide up the world. Funny that Americans are not allowed to go down to Cuba and talk to non-Communist people. But then big fish make different rules for themselves.

Stalin and his Russian Communists supported Chiang Kai-shek in the closing days of World War II. That surprised me. Apparently they underestimated Mao's Chinese Communists. But then everyone did. It was noted by Truman that the Japanese were being forced to give up their colony in China, but Winston Churchill and the British were not willing to give up Hong Kong.

Truman, by his own light, was neither a corrupt politician nor a nobody when Roosevelt selected him for the vice-presidential spot. Harry had been chair of the U.S. Senate committee that had investigated fraudulent and wasteful practices in the U.S. military, and did a good job at that. He always supported Roosevelt's New Deal legislation.

My favorite Truman quote so far: "When the underdog gets power, he too often turns out to be an even more brutal top dog."

There is a lot of discussion of the creation of the U.N. The main take away so far is that it was designed as a mechanism for the Big Three victors of World War II (Britain, United States, and Russia) to get their way. True, they wanted peace, but only if they could keep their colonies and spheres of influence. The veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council was set up to insure that.

Truman was against colonialism and pushed for the independence of the U.S. colony of the Philippines. However, there was no question of giving up U.S. bases in the Philippines.

I have found only one case of a clear-cut lie by Truman so far. Japan had suffered some setbacks in the war at this time, but was nowhere near defeat. Truman writes, "There was no way for us to get troops into China to drive the Japanese from the Chinese mainland. Our hope was to get enough Russian troops into Manchuria to push the Japanese out." But by then the U.S. had naval and air superiority plus control of the Philippines. A glance at the map shows there should have been no problem with conveying U.S. troops to the south China coast. Elsewhere Truman reveals that he and Winston Churchill hoped to avoid English and American casualties by letting Russians die, just as had been done against Germany.

Again, in May, soon after taking office, with Hitler dead and mopping up going on in Germany, Truman notes that the "Russians have 2 Korean divisions trained in Siberia." Koreans had been fighting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese since the turn of the century. They had a pro-west government-in-exile in China and a large underground network in Korea itself. In U.S. and South Korean history books it is stated that the Russians invaded what would become North Korea, so to prevent them from grabbing all of Korea the U.S. had to invade what would become South Korea. Now I'm wondering if it wasn't actually Koreans who invaded North Korea. They were certainly communists, trained by the Russians, but Koreans invading Korea with Russian advisers looks a lot different than an invasion by Russians with a few token Korean communist hacks.

There is more, but clearly I'll have to do another installment just to hit the high points. So far I've noted the grabbiness of France, as pointed out by Stalin; attitudes towards the fascists in Spain and Argentina; how the same standards of ethics were not applied by Truman to the British and the Russians (one of my notes says "our puppets v. your puppets"). I'm sure there will be more because I am only two months into the Truman regime (but about 1/3 of the way through the Memoirs by volume).