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  Saturday   January 16   2010


The death and destruction in Haiti is as bad as it its because of what the US has been doing to Haiti for a very long time.

Help Haiti: The Unforgiven Country Cries Out

"The relentlessly maintained, deliberately inflicted political and economic ruin of Haiti has a direct bearing on the amount of death and devastation that the country is suffering today after the earthquake. It will also greatly cripple any recovery from this natural disaster. As detailed below, Washington's rapacious economic policies have destroyed all attempts to build a sustainable economy in Haiti, driving people off the land and from small communities into packed, dangerous, unhealthy shantytowns, to try to eke out a meager existence in the sweatshops owned by Western elites and their local cronies. All attempts at changing a manifestly unjust society have been ruthlessly suppressed by the direct or collateral hand of Western elites.

"The result? Millions of people -- weakened by hunger, deprivation, malnutrition, disease -- living jammed together in precarious, substandard housing. A lack of the physical, financial and civic infrastructure needed to support a decent life in ordinary times -- and to provide proper assistance, and a strong framework for rebuilding, when disaster strikes. Even a far lesser earthquake than the one that struck this week would have caused an unconscionable amount of unnecessary suffering in a nation that has been as ruthlessly and deliberately throttled as Haiti.

"With Hurricane Katrina, we saw how callously and unjustly America's elites reacted to the destruction of one of their own cities. Politically connected Mississippi millionaires got prompt and copious assistance -- while many New Orleans natives are still refugees, scattered across the country years after the flood. And this in a nation in which the infrastructures -- though rapidly rotting from the corruption of greed and militarism -- are still strong. What hope then for Haiti?

"Yes, there will now be a great outpouring of immediate aid, as there always is after any spectacular disaster. And of course, this is laudable, and I encourage anyone who can to contribute what they can to these efforts. But unless there is a sea-change in American policy, unless there finally comes an end to the curse that has been laid on Haiti -- not by God, or by the Devil, but by the hard hearts of elites following blindly in the cruel traditions of their predecessors -- then this flurry of caring and attention will soon give way again, as it has always done, to callous disregard, brutal repression and inhumane exploitation.

"The tale of these cruel traditions -- and the "continuity" with them that Obama has already displayed -- does not augur well for such a change. But as that wise man, Edsel Floyd, always says, we live in hope and die in despair. And such a hope for Haiti is worth holding onto, and working toward.

"At the same time, hope must not be blind; you have to acknowledge the grim realities in order to know just what you're up against. So let's take a long, hard look."


Haitian Earthquake: Made in the USA
Why the Blood Is on Our Hands

"As grim accounts of the earthquake in Haiti came in, the accounts in U.S.-controlled state media all carried the same descriptive sentence: "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere..."

"Gee, I wonder how that happened?

"You'd think Haiti would be loaded. After all, it made a lot of people rich.

"How did Haiti get so poor? Despite a century of American colonialism, occupation, and propping up corrupt dictators? Even though the CIA staged coups d'état against every democratically elected president they ever had?

"It's an important question. An earthquake isn't just an earthquake. The same 7.0 tremor hitting San Francisco wouldn't kill nearly as many people as in Port-au-Prince."


Crushing Haiti, Now as Always
When Haitian Ministers Take a 50 Percent Cut of Aide Money It's Called "Corruption," When NGOs Skim 50 Percent It's Called "Overhead"

"The US-run aid effort for Haiti is beginning to look chillingly similar to the criminally slow and disorganized US government support for New Orleans after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. Four years ago President Bush was famously mute and detached when the levies broke in Louisiana. By way of contrast President Obama was promising Haitians that everything would be done for survivors within hours of the calamity.

"The rhetoric from Washington has been very different during these two disasters, but the outcome may be much the same. In both cases very little aid arrived at the time it was most needed and, in the case of Port-au-Prince, when people trapped under collapsed buildings were still alive. When foreign rescue teams with heavy lifting gear does come it will be too late. No wonder enraged Haitians are building roadblocks out of rocks and dead bodies.

"In New Orleans and Port-au-Prince there is the same official terror of looting by local people so the first outside help to arrive is in the shape of armed troops. The US currently has 3,500 soldiers, 2,200 Marines and 300 medical personnel on their way to Haiti.

"Of course there will be looting because, with shops closed or flattened by the quake, this is the only way for people can get food and water. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. I was in Port-au-Prince in 1994, the last time US troops landed there, when local people systematically tore apart police stations, taking wood, pipes and even ripping nails out of the walls. In the police station I was in there were sudden cries of alarm from those looting the top floor as they discovered that they could not get back down to the ground because the entire wooden staircase had been chopped up and stolen.

"I have always liked Haitians for their courage, endurance, dignity and originality. They often manage to avoid despair in the face of the most crushing disasters or the absence of any prospect that their lives will get better. Their culture, notably their painting and music, is among the most interesting and vibrant in the world.

"It is sad to hear journalists who have rushed to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake give such misleading and even racist explanations of why Haitians are so impoverished, living in shanty towns with a minimal health service, little electricity supply, insufficient clean water and roads that are like river beds.

"This did not happen by accident. In the 19th century it was as if the colonial powers never forgave Haitians for staging a successful slave revolt against the French plantation owners. US Marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934. Between 1957 and 1986 the US supported Papa Doc and Baby Doc, fearful that they might be replaced by a regime sympathetic to revolutionary Cuba next door."


Noam chomsky: The Tragedy of Haiti

" "Haiti was more than the New World's second oldest republic," anthropologist Ira Lowenthal observed, "more than even the first black republic of the modern world. Haiti was the first free nation of free men to arise within, and in resistance to, the emerging constellation of Western European empire." The interaction of the New World's two oldest republics for 200 years again illustrates the persistence of basic themes of policy, their institutional roots and cultural concomitants.

"The Republic of Haiti was established on January 1, 1804, after a slave revolt expelled the French colonial rulers and their allies. The revolutionary chiefs discarded the French "Saint-Domingue" in favor of the name used by the people who had greeted Columbus in 1492, as he arrived to establish his first settlement in Europe's New World. The descendants of the original inhabitants could not celebrate the liberation. They had been reduced to a few hundred within 50 years from a pre-Colombian population estimated variously from hundreds of thousands to 8 million, with none remaining at all, according to contemporary French scholars, when France took the western third of Hispaniola, now Haiti, from Spain in 1697. The leader of the revolt, Toussaint L'Ouverture, could not celebrate the victory either. He had been captured by deceit and sent to a French prison to die a "slow death from cold and misery," in the words of a 19th century French historian. Medical anthropologist Paul Farmer observes that Haitian schoolchildren to this day know by heart his final words as he was led to prison: "In overthrowing me, you have cut down in Saint-Domingue only the tree of liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep."

"The tree of liberty broke through the soil again in 1985, as the population revolted against the murderous Duvalier dictatorship. After many bitter struggles, the popular revolution led to the overwhelming victory of Haiti's first freely elected president, the populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Seven months after his February 1991 inauguration he was driven from office by the military and commercial elite who had ruled for 200 years, and would not tolerate loss of their traditional rights of terror and exploitation."


 10:25 AM - link


Cities grow and then sometimes contract. Industries and the people employed by those industries move elsewhere. What happens when a city disappears? James D. Griffeon lives in Detroit and is documenting the growth of nature as the people leave.

James D. Griffeon


Griffeon also has a blog:

Sweet Juniper!

Griffeon also has a couple of his images for sale at the wonderful online gallery 20x200.

20x200 : Artists : James Griffioen

 10:06 AM - link

  Thursday   January 14   2010


It’s Not Your Money

"You also didn’t earn most of it.

"It seems like every time I discuss taxation, some libertarian will waltz in and say “it’s my money and I don’t see why the government should be able to take it.”

"So let’s run through why, no, it isn’t your money. We’ll start with two numbers. The income per capita for the US in 2005 was $43,740. The income per capita for Bangladesh was $470.

"Now I want you to ask yourself the following question: are Bengalis genetically inferior to Americans? Since not too many FDLers think white sheets look great at a lynching, I’ll assume everyone aswered no.

"Right then, being American is worth $43,270 more than being Bengali and it’s not due to Americans being superior human beings. If it isn’t because Americans are superior, then what is it?

"The answer is that if it isn’t individual, it must be social. On the individual but still social level, Americans are in fact smarter than Bengalis because as children they are far less likely to suffer from malnutrition. However not suffering from malnutrition when you’re a baby, toddler or young child has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the society you live in and your family–two things you have zero influence over (perhaps you chose your mother, I didn’t.)"


 11:13 AM - link


The form of the book has changed over the ages often driven by the technology used in making the book. Books made of paper today are not how books have always been. Things like page numbers, table of contents, and indexes have all came about since Gutenberg. The book is going through another change of form with the advent of the e-book and the eReader.

This is my latest eReader, a Cool-er eReader. My first eReader was a desktop computer. A more successful eReader was my laptop. I guess the utility of an eReader can be measured by how suitable it is to take to the bathroom. The latest eReaders rate high in this regard.

While some eReaders use LCD screens, the new generation eReaders use eInk screens. Check out the link to see what makes these screens different. They are much easier to read for long periods of time, take much less energy, and are more compact. Amazon started the eInk ball rolling with the Kindle but now all sorts of eInk eReaders are popping up. The Cool-er is smaller than the Kindle. The demo I saw had the demonstrator pull it out of his inside coat pocket. I thought that he must have a custom made coat pocket but the Cool-er actually fits in all my inside coat pockets.

The Kindle is a little larger for the same size screen but it has a little keyboard and is wireless in that you can order books and have them downloaded directly from the Kindle while the Cool-er has to have books loaded from your computer via USB. This is seen as an advantage for the Kindle but there lies the rub for the Kindle is a closed system. You can only load it with books purchased from Amazon and you don't buy books from Amazon, you rent them. The books come with digital rights management (DRM). Amazon also has the capability to remove books from your Kindle without your permission. I don't buy my music with DRM (and I do buy digital music) and I have no interest in buying books with DRM. Fortunately there is an excellent source of non-DRM books: Project Gutenberg. These are books that have no copyright. They are often called classics.

There is a new format for e-Books, it's EPUB. It's an open standard that can have DRM but also can do without it. Project Gutenberg has been converting their text files to EPUB format. EPUB is the MP3 of publishing.

I find reading the eInk screen works just fine. I've read the first three novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs "The Princess of Mars" series and am well into Dickens "The Pickwick Papers". Also loaded on my Cool-er is Darwins "Origin of the Species" and all six volumes of Gibbons "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". More to come. I love it. This doesn't mean I'm getting rid of my paper books.

Here are a couple of articles that elaborate on some of the e-book issues.

Why Kindle Should Be An Open Book
Unless Amazon embraces open standards, the Kindle's lead will become a very short story.

"The Amazon Kindle has sparked huge media interest in e-books and has seemingly jump-started the market. Its instant wireless access to hundreds of thousands of e-books and seamless one-click purchasing process would seem to give it an enormous edge over other dedicated e-book platforms. Yet I have a bold prediction: Unless Amazon embraces open e-book standards like epub, which allow readers to read books on a variety of devices, the Kindle will be gone within two or three years.

"To understand why I say that, I'll need to share a bit of history.

"In 1994, at an industry conference, I had an exchange with Nathan Myhrvold, then Microsoft's ( MSFT - news - people ) chief technology officer. Myhrvold had just shown a graph that prefigured Chris Anderson's famous "long tail" graph by well over a decade. Here's what I remember him saying: "Very few documents are read by millions of people. Millions of documents--notes to yourself, your spouse, your friends--are read by only a few people. There's an entire space in the middle, though, that will be the basis of a new information economy. That's the space that we are making accessible with the Microsoft Network." (These aren't Myhrvold's exact words but the gist of his remarks as I remember them.)

"During the Q&A, I said: "What you said is completely right, but it's not the Microsoft Network that is going to deliver that information economy. It's the World Wide Web." "


How to Destroy the Book, by Cory Doctorow

"We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses or airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today.

"Copyright recognizes this. It says that when you buy a book, you own the book. It’s yours to give away, yours to keep, yours to license or to borrow, to inherit or to be included in your safe for your children. For centuries, copyright has acknowledged that sacred connection between readers and their books. We think of copyright as something that regulates things within a bunch of buckets—DVDs, video games, records—but books are more than all of these things. Books are older than copyright. Books are older than publishing. Books are older than printing!

"The anti-copyright activists have no respect for our copyright and our books. They say that when you buy an ebook or an audiobook that’s delivered digitally, you are demoted from an owner to a licensor. From a reader to a mere user. These thieves deliver our digital books and our audiobooks wrapped in license agreements and technologies that might as well be designed to destroy the emotional connection that readers have with their books."


 11:09 AM - link

  Wednesday   January 13   2010

drugs r us

This Is Your Country on Drugs
Melody Petersen talks about how we’re hooked on Big Pharma.

"What is the most outrageous thing you have seen while covering the drug industry?

"I went to a conference where the title of one talk that jumped out at me was “Creating a Disease.” A drug company executive got up on stage with a PowerPoint presentation and explained how his company had created a disease—overactive bladder. The company owned a pill for incontinence, but the market for incontinence is very low because mostly elderly people suffer from it, and doctors try to manage this in a non-pharmaceutical way. Even though this drug works on your bladder, it is very hard on your brain. It can cause severe memory problems. But the company wanted to expand the market so it created this disease called “overactive bladder” or “OAB,” which it defined as needing to go to the bathroom more than nine times a day. And now you see ads for this drug, Detrol, for overactive bladders. It became a blockbuster."


 12:38 PM - link


The Beats -- Larry Fink


 12:35 PM - link

  Tuesday   January 12   2010

terrorism for all

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

"Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

"This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate."


 12:22 PM - link


Dubin at Work in Old New York

"When I was researching my television book, I came across a series of articles in The New Yorker, profiling a local grocer named Harry Dubin. What was so unusual about Dubin that in 1947 made him worthy of a ten-page article in The New Yorker? He owned a television set, and the article was all about the author spending an extended period with Dubin and his family as they enjoyed this new electronic miracle. It was a marvelous story, typical of the magazine, puckishly fun, insightful and slightly condescending. I’ve uploaded a copy here. [It's a long file, so it may take a minute to download - well worth it though].

"After I read the piece in 1993, it occurred to me that Dubin was young enough in 1947 to still be alive, so with fingers crossed I looked up his name in the phone book, and lo and behold, he was still living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I picked up the phone and called him. He laughed when I told him I had just read The New Yorker article and was charmed by it, and when I explained to him what I was up to, he eagerly agreed to be interviewed again.

"A few days later, he greeted me warmly at the door to his apartment and led me into his living room. As I set up my tape recorder, he asked me if I had a copy of the article. I said I did He then asked if he could read it over to refresh his memory before I turned the machine on. Since this wasn’t a quiz, I gladly pulled the article out of my backpack and handed it to him.

" “While I read this, you might enjoy taking a look at that,” he said, pointing to a small photo album, embossed with the words “Dubin at Work.”

"I picked up the album and opened it, and my eyes nearly jumped out of my head. Inside were some 30 color photographs taken in and around the city in the 1940s. I had never seen such vibrant photos of the city in those years. In fact, I had never seen any color photos of the city in those years, yet here they were. It was such an interesting collection. Each of the pictures depicted a man in uniform intently doing his job, whether it was a street sweeper, gas station attendant or hansom cab driver. When I looked at them twice, I realized something, all of them were Harry!"


 12:16 PM - link