Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.

---- I didn't always agree with Joe but he had a vivid memorable way with words.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amused to Death

I read this a couple of days ago.

The Telegraph (UK) says:
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".

Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against "the foreign invasion" in Afghanistan, before being "captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan". He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.

---------- I heard nothing about al-Hasidi on cable news, or why we are now backing someone who came to the aid of those fighting against US "invaders" and supporting al-Qaeda.

Surfing again this a.m. I checked Kos to see if any diarists were on it and found this at Iconic Surrealism: Daily Kos Scrubs "THIS is who we’re helping in Libya? Al-Qaeda?" Diary. And indeed, it's been scrubbed from Kos.

Over at HuffPo a comment was made mentioning the al-Hasidi story, but as usual on blog sites it immediately became a barb-fest between posters who drink the kool-aid and those who don't, all with the bravery of being out of range.

My favorite posters are those who resort to pithy humor or song lyrics because they know nothing said on Kos or HuffPo or anywhere else makes any difference in the grand scheme of things .... amused to death ...

Hey bartender over here
Two more shots
And two more beers
Sir, turn up the TV sound
The war has started on the ground
Just love those laser guided bombs
They're really great
For righting wrongs
You hit the target
And win the game
From bars 3,000 miles away
3,000 miles away
We play the game
With the bravery of being out of range.
(Roger Waters)

Friday, March 25, 2011


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Popular Uprisings

God help me, old tricky Dick Nixon might have been right when he said, "Communism isn't sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting." Problem is that's how all systems operate.

Does it make a difference if the sanctions or bomb says Johnson or Carter, Reagan or Clinton, Bush or Obama? Made in China, made in Russia, made in Israel, made in the US?

Who do you think is behind "popular uprisings"? Capitalists? The US? Communists, pinkos, left, right? The people? Republican, democrats? Freemasons? Illuminati? Rockefellers? Jesus or Allah? Foppish Europeans?

Who or what is really behind the popular uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. ... let's take an uprising I'm familiar with - the Sandinistas versus the Contras.

Folklore tells us the Sandinistas were a group of poets and idealistic middle class college kids who wanted to bring hope and change to Nicaragua. They took the name of Augusto Sandino, the 1930s Nicaraguan rebel, freedom fighter, who also fought to throw off the yoke of imperialism, to rid the country of presidents who were puppets of the US, you know the slogans. Viva Sandino! Patria libre.

Sandino was the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner, his mother a servant. He moved in with his father at age 9. Most wealthy latino men claim, raise, and educate their "outside" children, especially sons.

Pop culture sites say Sandino left home in 1921, around age 28, traveling to Mexico where he worked at Standard Oil and became involved with anti-imperialists, socialists, anarchist groups. True, but he fled Nicaragua because he had attempted to murder the son of a prominent "conservative" townsman, over remarks the man made about his momma. He returned to Nicaragua in 1926 or so when the statute of limitations ran out on his charges.

Isn't 28 a bit old to try and kill someone talking trash about your momma? In Sandino's own words he also returned to Nicaragua to marry his cousin Maria Mercedes, had saved enough money to open his own grain business in Managua, and his father had pleaded for him to come home now that the statute had ran out. So a poor indigenous peasant of the people or a favored son of a wealthy conservative landowner? Hard to separate fact from propaganda when studying dead heroes. When his business venture did not get off the ground he turned to making fame and fortune using the techniques he witnessed during his years in Mexico - become a rebel with a cause. There's a lot to Sandino but a good deal of it is myth and happenchance.

But until at least age 28 and until he fled to Mexico, Sandino was not all that political, although you'll find snips that say he was affected at 17 when he saw the body of General Zeledon being carried on an oxcart by the US Marines after a coup attempt. But if he hadn't tried to kill a guy for talking about his momma, had he stayed in Nicaragua and not spent those 5 years in Mexico's leftist community, had his grain business succeeded on his return, would he have become a rebel? Sandino was said to be a prolific writer and gifted speaker. So apparently someone provided a decent education. If you read far and wide, particularly Sandino's own writings you might begin to wonder if he was just a little man in a big hat with an even bigger ego.

The then president Bautista and his commandante Somoza within a year or so wiped out the band of Sandinistas and killed Sandino, who then became a people's hero, to be revived in the 1960s by the aforementioned older Nicaraguan poets, preppies and college kids, specifically Tomas Borge and Carlos Fonseca. Take it to the masses, the poor. Promise them anything if they support the popular uprising. Nicaragua's factions have always been the Liberal and Conservative. Which have today, like the US and elsewhere, blurred their platforms to the point it's hard to tell them apart. Say anything to get elected and reelected. Possibly because that's the only way governments can keep real revolution at bay - simply agree to take turns screwing the people and call it democracy. Would you like some ink on that finger? A sticker for you hon? says "I Voted."

Who organizes, trains, arms, funds, and manages these "popular uprisings"? Do guerrillas awake to find rifles and grenade launchers under their hammocks or camels or huts? Along with detailed logistics and long-term strategy?

No, my friends. The super players are their handlers. Super players grease the wheels of revolutions aka popular uprisings - once they see a certain group has serious potential and a leader to lead an armed rebellion.

Although still denied by old Sandinistas and lefties everywhere - Russia was in the mountains long before they began overtly supplying the junta that marched victoriously into Managua in1979. In fact, a Sandinista cofounder, Carlos Fonseca wrote a book in 1957, after a trip to Moscow, chronicling his visit to the USSR entitled Un Nicaraguense en Moscu (A Nicaraguan In Moscow). He praised the achievements of the USSR ... its "free press, complete freedom of religion and the efficiency of its worker-run industries". And Fonseca was a Sandinista intellectual.

Fonseca died long ago, 3 years before the Sandinista victory, but Borge lives on. Ambassador now, twittering for the little people about the awful conservative millionaires who despise him, and Hugo Chavez and other leftists (although Borge himself a millionaire). This from a man who believed "either the rich will exploit the poor, or the poor will free themselves by wiping out the privileges of the millionaires," excluding those millionaires like Borge who lead you to the millionaires who are to lose their privileges.

(One of Sandino's daughter, Blanca, and family lived in Cuba from 1961 to 1979 when grandson Walter Sandino returned to Nicaragua, about the same time the Sandinistas took power, and took a post in the Sandinista government for a while. Tubby and decadent Walt was educated in Russia. Daniel Ortega supposedly married into the Sandino bloodline and Danny too trained in Cuba in the 1960s. Still think USSR and Cuba weren't involved in the Sandinista's popular uprising? Maybe it really is just a family/clan activity.)

I knew 2 brothers in Nicaragua, actually knew the whole family of 22, counting the patriarch's outside children. Some were Sandinista, some were Contra, some managed to get to L.A. or Miami and sit the war out. Some sons were Sandinista, the others Contra. Truly brother against brother. Although the Contra sons initially fought with the Sandinistas, like many others a couple of years after "victory" they left disillusioned, to join the Contras. It took about 5 years for most campesinos to realize that the Sandinistas were not going to deliver much of that hope and change they had promised. Perhaps that is why pols favor 5-year plans - it takes that long for the people to recognize it's b.s. so they need a new plan every 5. And years ago I believed the results might have been different had the US left well enough alone in Nicaragua - but no longer believe that to be true. Isn't hindsight great.

The Contra presence, their threat, their engagement, their resistance was limited. Simply put - the Sandinistas lost the support of the people. And they lost that support because once in power, like all pols, they were too occupied with maintaining power to do what needed to be done for the people. The people (fodder) were their means to an end (power).

Oh sure, the Sandinistas confiscated some land from the rich absent landlords and set up co-op farms but that doesn't work on a large scale, unless you have a guy with a whip on a horse patrolling the fields. And more than a few of the remaining co-op farms today have been saved only because US or International nonprofits stepped in to pay off loans on the land, buy products (usually coffee) at above Fair Trade prices, charging the customers on the consumer end a whopping price for a cup of coffee. The 21st century style of how to make profit and feel warm fuzzies doing it. There are world fair trade organizations globally providing such aid - community organizing on a global scale. They help farmers survive. The third world farmers will not become rich nor even middle class, they will never have a car or a garage or 2 chickens in every pot, but they will survive, crop to crop, hand to mouth. They still do not own their land as the 40 other families on it are technically owners and bankers will forever hold the deed for equipment and seed, and they are still beholden to white progressive capitalists far away who help keep prices inflated by paying the difference. Twenty-first century "free market." Some day some of their children may move up and out, then who will work the farms. But let's not borrow trouble. As long as the underclasses breed like rabbits, and they will, there will always be plenty of field hands and uprisers.

Nicaraguans today are no better off than they were under Somoza. In fact, some might say worse as a local there told me as much as he says those who returned from the US brought their drugs and crime and immorality back with them. I suppose it depends solely on perception, as anywhere. If you're part of the class that has a bigger retaining wall around your house and heavier bars on the windows, you have a rosier outlook.

As I said before, it's not about "sharing the wealth" - it's who gets to control the wealth. One side offers the little people slightly more chance of lifting themselves up by their own abilities, the other side offers no chance of that but they will see that you "survive." And if you can't figure out which side is which you're probably supporting the wrong side.

Point is, if there is a point, is the men and women in government will never live up to their promises because they do not want to and never intend to, and we do not hold them to their promises. Anymore than Clinton brought peace and prosperity, or Bush the Boy brought back integrity, or Obama brought hope and change, or the Sandinistas a utopia of social equality. Heroes are rare. So they are invented out of any handy man (or woman) who steps up, after being properly groomed, to play the role and lead an uprising which more or less maintains the status quo but with slightly different rhetoric.

So Viva .... whomever!

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Real Enemy

I don't know if this guy Ron Legro is truly dense or just writing puff pieces for the "left progressive" faction.

His argument:
Number of teachers in Wisconsin: 59,552
Number of millionaires in Wisconsin: 89,977

Yes, it's amazing, but true: Wisconsin by far has more millionaires than school teachers. Suffice to say, the two categories do not appreciably overlap.

Average Wisconsin teacher salary: $46,390 (US rank: 28th among all states)

Typical wage cut faced by a Wisconsin school teacher if Gov. Scott Walker's non- negotiable give-backs are enacted: $5,567 to 6,958 per year (based on net total compensation reduction caused by Walker's plan).

Continuing average income boost for millionaires in Wisconsin and elsewhere, thanks to the recent extension of 2001 Bush-era federal tax cuts: Approximately $100,000 per year.

So here's the bottom line no one on the red side of the political aisle will ever bother to acknowledge:

If the State of Wisconsin increased taxes on resident millionaires to take back just one-twentieth of the extra money they've been keeping in their pockets thanks to the Bush tax cuts, that would totally wipe out the need to slash teacher salaries under Walker's scheme. Totally.

-------- As pointed out to Legro by a reader, his facts regarding Wisconsin's number of millionaires are misleading, the 89,977 is "total net worth, not annual income." As I blogged before, there's a huuuuuge difference between what you're worth (wealth) and your income (wages).

I might mention that the "Bush tax cuts for the rich" also included tax cuts for all. If the cuts were not extended you would have noticed more withholding tax on you pay stub, which the majority of wage workers will receive back, some or all of it, in a tax refund, unless of course BigDaddy government keeps it for back child support, student loan default, back tax for not filing for years Bubba, etc., etc.

One reader on Legro's blog commented: Great post! The more people talk about this, the more the country will see who the real enemy is. Wherever appropriate I mention that I am old enough to remember the 90% tax bracket for income tax. Nelson Rockefeller, the former governor of New York and Vice President, was in this bracket, solely because of his thieving grandfather. He paid his income taxes without complaint.

Who the real enemy is? If the reader is old enough to remember the 90% tax bracket for income tax and that Rockefeller didn't complain he should also know that said bracket was not for total net worth because of a thieving grandpappy, but for income over $400K. He should know that Nelson could pay himself an annual income of $4 or $400 or $4000. He should know that the 90% was AGI, after deductions, and rich folks have lots of deductions. He should know that it was these high tax brackets that gave birth to thousands of tax free "foundations" where family money could be donated to family foundations, tax free. (Although tax free foundations were established earlier by Warburg, Rockefeller, and Carnegie.)

And in case you're not old enough to remember, when Nelson Rockefeller wanted to become Gerald Ford's vice president, he had to disclose his tax returns which revealed that in 1970 Nelson hadn't paid one cent of income tax.

The "progressives" who seem more capable than I of spotting the "real enemy" would have you think the sole and simple solution is Robin Hoodish. Soak the rich.

Even one of their own, Oprah, legally only resides in California half the year, to avoid the resident tax rates - she's not soaking for anyone. And good old Charlie Rangel, forgetting income and interest free loans, etc. Or the memorable "African-American" Theresa Heinz Kerry, who reluctantly released 2 pages of her tax return showing an income of about 5 million from trusts, paying about 600K in federal tax of which 200K was overpayment which she elected to apply to the following year's taxes. Nothing released on the numerous family trusts that earn millions if not billions in interest. Her gross wage income was approximately $8000 based on the $1200 social security tax she paid.

The only time you'll see a decent tax return from a politician is when he knows he'll be running for office and might have to release one to the public, otherwise you would be speechless at the final amount on line 43. AGI is whittled to a nub when no one is going to see it. The list of "progressives" who are closet hardcore capitalists is long. It's not about "sharing the wealth" but who controls the wealth.

What do I think about public school teacher salaries? Most teachers are underpaid. But! Most teachers are also incompetent. Half of what's wrong with public education is piss-poor parenting, the other half is ineffectual teachers and administrators. More funding never has and never will solve the problem of a people who just don't care about things that matter.

So do the leaders of the "left" or the "progressives" really think they're going to soak the rich ("real enemy") for your benefit? No, but they know the village is full of idiots who fall for simple-minded rhetoric.

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