Posts Tagged ‘history’

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017
Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

Azungu, Where Are You Going?

March 4, 2016

This blog is about the logistics of traveling around Zambia and Malawi on my trip in Feb. 2016.

Nomadic Matt, a travel blogger, claims you can travel around the  world for $40 a day.  I believe that may be true, especially if you camp out,  or stay in hostels or dorms, eat frugally, and don’t move around that much.  My own costs turned out to be an average of $110.67 a day, and would have been $99 —even less—if I hadn’t stayed in a few places that were over $30 a night ( and hadn’t bought souvenirs or taken a special tour).

For my 17 days on the ground…Lodging cost me anywhere from free (the overnight in Dubai—very much worth doing!!!  Emirates airlines…),  or  $12—to  my big splurge at Fawlty Towers in Livingtone, which was $40 (and there are deals on bookings.com, and possibly  other booking sites).  total:  $293.25.   Incidental groceries/snacks cost me about $35—& that included the kilo (yes—kilo! ) of macadamia nuts I bought from street vendors in Blantyre.  Transport was  a shade over $150.  This was the minibuses and matolas.  My airfare was a shade under $1300, and the visas were $180 because I wanted multiple entries.  I spent  $200 or so on junk:  2 t-shirts from the LLSPCA,  $65 on a dinner cruise on the Zambezi,  extra on magazines, cloth, the tailor, a phone (which I could never figured out—Airtel chargers for calls that don’t go through, and for some numbers, you have to use either a 0 or a + before the number….better to use your own phone if you can make the sim card work).

I have learned from fellow travelers, if you can, do not book your flight in the United States.  Lots of people book via Dubai or Asia.

Bus station, Lusaka

Bus station, Lusaka

You can get pretty detailed maps of Malawi and Zambia (& I bet many other places) on Amazon.com.  Google maps are good for cities.  I traveled in a circle, which added to my costs.  In  hindsight, this was not really the smartest thing to do, but then, I was hoping to get  transport from Blantyre to Livingstone, and this was unavailable.  In fact, it is known that Intercape runs buses from Johannesburg to Lilongwe—but you have to book the entire trip—you can not book a segment.  The lack of transport from Blantyre to Livingstone (through Mozambique) made the trip very much more complicated than I wanted it to be, but that’s how it goes.  I had to go from Blantyre  back up to Lilongwe (via AXA bus), then take a Kobs bus back through Chipata down to Lusaka.  Neither AXA nor Kobs  take credit cards.  You have to pay in local currency.

Birdsnest Backpackers in Lusaka, Zambia

Birdsnest Backpackers in Lusaka, Zambia

So, here’s what I did:  1.  I flew into Lusaka, and stayed at the Birdsnest  backpackers, a low budget ‘hotel’ (rest house) for a couple of nights.  There is nothing to do in Lusaka, no city buses, only minibuses and taxis. I’m told there is a good zoo/botanical garden, but it would have required a very expensive taxi ride.  Lusaka sprawls. You’re in the countryside, but still in Lusaka.   I flew into Lusaka because I wanted to visit the Chishawasha School, which I have made donations-in-kind to for the past several years.  Nkole Chewe (the  manager of Birdsnest) and I went out there on Sunday.

2. From Lusaka, I took the Kobs bus to Lilongwe, It is at least a 12 hour trip.  I did get to see a good portion of Eastern Zambia, but there  was no wildlife.  That is how Africa is now.  I stayed at Mabuya camp, another low budget, but typically African  place, in Lilongwe.  From there, I went to

nearSalima3. Lifua Villagem near Senga Bay.  I did this via mini bus, bicycle taxi (about 1 km only) and matola.  This segment was the most nerve wracking of the trip, because I really didn’t know where  exactly I was going, just north of Senga Bay.  It was as remote as Malawi can be, except it was on Lake Malawi.  I spent the night at the Friendly Gecko, and the next morning went to…

 

Mua Mission

Mua Mission

4. Mua Mission.  Mua is also remote. I didn’t really want to spend the night, but I don’t regret spending the night.  There is a museum there— probably the best in the country, and I would not have gotten to Mangochi by night fall.

5.  In the morning, I went to Mangochi, to see Malawi Children’s Village, a well known place, now.  I got there via minibus, matola, then minibus.  It was more circuitous than I had hoped, as I wanted to go by 1 route, and the minibus driver dropped me at a matola on the way to Monkey Bay, but in the end, this was really more of  a ‘direct’ route.  I  got to   MCV about 2 or so, and got to see the compound, as well as buy some trousers and  some small bags.  I got to see Open Arms, the orphanage, as well.  That night I stayed at…

Palm Beach Resort, outside Mangochi, Malawi

Palm Beach Resort, outside Mangochi, Malawi

6. Palm Beach Resort. The proprietor, Mrs. Breitz, picked me up at Malawi Children’s Village.  It is a very nice place right on the lake.  I was going to try to get a minibus into Mangochi boma (‘city’—if you can call it that), but as luck would have it, a small film crew, at the suggestion of Mr. Breitz, gave me a ride all the way to…

7. Blantyre.   I just wanted to stop by Blantyre Civic, where I used to work, and  stop briefly at the  Blantyre SPCA.  I also got to see Limbe—what’s become of it.  I was in Blantyre from Saturday evening until Monday afternoon, when I took an AXA bus back to…

8. Lilongwe. I got in late Monday, and spent Tuesday getting my stuff back from the tailor, and also  getting some other  cloth.  I left early Wednesday on the Kobs bus to get back to….

Mabuya Camp, Lilongwe

Mabuya Camp, Lilongwe

9. Lusaka—another 12 hour ride back.   I just hung around on Thursday and got a…..

10. bus ticket to Livingstone early Friday. That was  a six hour trip.  I stayed in Fawlty Towers that night, and also went to the museum in Livingstone.   Livingstone really has a ‘suburban’ vibe, and I had a lovely dinner at a   restaurant called ‘Ocean’s Basket’, which I discovered is a small chain. On Saturday, I went to Victoria Falls park, where I spent a good  part of the day, and went on a dinner cruise in the evening—where I saw the main wildlife of the trip:  a few hippos in the Zambezi, and a heron in a tree.  On Sunday morning,

11.   I got a Mahzandu bus back to Lusaka.  It was air conditioned, and thankfully, not playing Christian music videos.  I  got back late  Sunday afternoon, to Lusaka and Birdsnest.  I was going to  go back to Chishawasha on Monday, but I suddenly realized my flight was that night!  So, that was the whole trip, and I will embellish the details in my

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

 

next blog post.

BTW– Azungu, wazungu, mzungu, nzungu…means ‘white person’. Not a slur or pejorative, it is what we are.  Black people are ‘people’:  Muntu or mto.  The ‘root word’ is dzungu—which means pumpkin. I bet some child called us ‘zungu’ and it stuck.

 

 

3 movies: Rosenwald, Our Brand is Crisis, & Trumbo

November 13, 2015

I am reviewing these  three movies together because they are all based on true history  that we might not be exposed to otherwise.

I saw Rosenwald a couple of months ago.  It’s a documentary about Julius Rosenwald, who was an entrepreneur and  owner of Sears, Roebuck.  He was Jewish, and strongly believed in giving back to the community.While most  philanthropists at the time gave to noncontroversial causes, Rosenwald believed in supporting education.  He funded the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (I come from a generation who remembers people calling it the Rosenwald Museum), but he also funded Rosenwald schools, mostly in the southern US, for ‘underserved’  (black) communities.  If a community could find space and the people to build the school, Rosenwald provided the plans and materials.  Many  now  well-known civil rights leaders attended Rosenwald schools.  If you are interested in American history, civil rights, or philanthropy, this is a film worth renting, It is very well  written, edited, and produced.


The 2nd film is Our Brand is Crisis.  It’s a political movie,  produced by George Clooney, and stars Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thorton, and it is based on a documentary (about an election  in Bolivia) of the same name. That combination had me right there.  However, I did not enjoy the movie.  If you want to know how the sausage is made, you  might enjoy it, but all the political consultants are creeps.   It’s a satire, but hardly funny.  They help (with our State Department paying the bill) a discredited  leader make a political comeback.  It looks like a lost cause…and the wrong guy wins.  Sandra Bullock’s character gets a conscious in the end.  It is well written, directed, acted, and produced, but  pretty aggravating.  Mostly because it is true.

The 3rd movie is Trumbo.   It is based on the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who wrote Johnny Got His Gun,  and the screenplays for Roman Holiday and Spartacus).  Very relevant considering Bernie Sanders,  the only democratic socialist in Congress, is running for president.  For those who don’t know (because  hardly anything about that era  is taught in U.S. schools), after World War II—after we were allies with the Soviets against the Nazis, suddenly the mindset  of political leaders shifted to find a Communist threat.    In fact, during  the 1930s  Depression and through the war, many Americans were  Communists.  There was no  civil rights movement at that time, but it was brewing, and a significant number of  Black Americans were  Communist party members.  Significantly, so were many people in Hollywood, where  a congressional committee chose to focus.   Was this because so many in Hollywood were also Jews?  Or  able to  tell stories that would influence  people through entertainment?  In any case, Trumbo was  sent to prison for being in contempt of Congress, and  could no longer get work.  This  film is about how he and many other coped.  It could happen again, but  you  learn from how the story is told about how to get around it.  This is a very well done film.  I encourage  people interested in American history and Hollywood to see it.

Planning a Trip to Africa for Winter 2016

August 7, 2015
a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

My first trip to Africa was Tanzania,  in 1985.  I found a guy who  booked camping safaris, and he suggested  Tanzania because (he said) “Nobody goes there.”  One reason  people didn’t go was because infrastructure was so bad…and I am told, 30 years later, it still is.  And I’ve learned there are many places in Africa where nobody goes.  I wanted to see the last Eden, which I was told would be gone by now…and it is.  It’s gone because of war, drought, poaching, and rapid population growth.

We Americans  think we know it all, and we think Africa has not developed because of tribalism.  That’s not the reason. The reason  Africa stays without infrastructure is elitism that is fostered by western donors.

There  has never been much material culture in Africa except for the coasts, where land was rich enough to support agriculture and social stratification, and trade was easy.  Go inland, and people are so poor due to  non-arable land, it’s all they can do to eek out a living.   Not much time  is left to pursue the arts.  On the coasts, you’ll find metal working (particularly West Africa), carving, even  bark cloth.  More inland, there is more performance and dancing.

What Americans tend to not understand is that women are the farmers in Africa, but the aid has gone to the men:  men who’ve frittered it away, gambled, drank and  wasted it….  with our help.  Women  do the framing, house keeping, and child rearing.  Men sit around and bullshit.

My 2nd  trip to Africa, to volunteer in Kajiado, Kenya, in Maasailand.  We were at a school run by the African Inland Church (Scottish Protestants), and in our enclave, there was a school for blind boys, a school for  physically disabled girls,and our boarding school for girls.  We went into town  to get some provisions.  I was waiting with a government official (an educated Maasai guy), and we were sitting in a restaurant drinking Fantas.  An older Maasai woman weaved over to the table and started talking to me.  Of course, I couldn’t understand her, and my friend said, “She’s quite drunk, actually.”  It wasn’t even 11 in the morning.  She couldn’t have been older  than 40, but it’s hard to tell.  In her younger days, she might have been the  mtoto sweeping out her boma or tending a fire, but she has kids…maybe even grandkids…to do that now. She had nothing to do but drink.  Where did these pastoralists get money to drink? Selling jewelry to tourists.

After graduate school, I joined Peace Corps, and was assigned to be a town planner in Malawi. At first, it looked like I was going to be sent to Mzuzu in the north, but when I got to training, I was told I was going to Blantyre.  BT was the industrial capital of the country.  It was a relatively old city, with a population  of  about 400,000 at the time, and it was essentially ‘planned out’ by the  Scottish/British. Due to a racist dynamic,  there were areas zoned where Indians could not  buy land.  However, they were clever, and due to their political organization, they ended up with the best infrastructure.  I had just gotten my masters degree in urban planning, and what a great place to see how things actually turn out.

AIDS was a huge problem in the  early 1990s. Due to government policy, less than 35% of the population of Malawi was literate, and fewer than 15% of households had  radios.  All information was via rumor. There was a 25 to 90% incidence of HIV, depending on how close you lived to a paved road.  There were many factors  causing this, but the main one was poverty.  It wasn’t like the USA and Europeans were not sending  development aid.  It was  just not  monitored and it was mis spent.

I was able to make a brief visit about  two years after my Peace Corps service, after there had been a multi-party election.  It looked like the economy had improved.  Many more women were having their hair relaxed (a large expense in households making under $4000 a year), and more people were wearing shoes.  However, the U N had moved in Somali refugees, and they walked around with rifles.

I have not been back in  over 20 years.  I have been supporting Malawi Children’s Village, the Zambian Children’s Fund (in Lusaka, Zambia), and there were  things I never got to see while I lived in Malawi.

I plan to fly into Lusaka, take a bus to Lilongwe (visit the Lilongwe  SPCA while there), get transport to Mua Mission to see their pottery works, get transport to Dedza to see Dedza pottery…then get transport  down to Mangochi to visit the Malawi Children’s Village.  From Mangochi, I hope to  spend a day in Blantyre & see what the Chinese are doing, Then catch a bus —I hope to Lusaka….but I may have to  go back up to Lilongwe and  go back around.  Then, back in Lusaka, I plan to make it down to Victoria Falls.

The roundtrip airfare with taxes is in the $1500 range.  $100 per day should be more than enough for expenses.  I am not going on a safari, but if anyone wants to join me, there will be an opportunity in Zambia.

Book Review:Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen

November 7, 2014
This ophot has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over  Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on  pretty images?

This photo has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on pretty images?

I found this book. published in 1995, and subtitled Everything Your American  History Textbook Got Wrong, and I had to check it out.    I am naturally cynical and skeptical. I was in high school when the Viet Nam war was raging. There were rumors—which turned out to be facts well documented, that  Diem, a Catholic, with ties via Cardinal Spellman to President Kennedy (another Catholic—no coincidence) wanted American assistance not only to control the majority Buddhist population, but  to sell drugs–heroin, marijuana, mostly.  We delivered  a waiting populace for those drugs in the form of soldiers who  could not get  real jobs, who were patriotic, but had no clue what they were fighting for—but were told they were fighting against communism.  Recently, as I write this, the movie, Kill the Messenger, about CIA involvement in the  ‘covert’  war in Nicaragua in the 1980s      ( many don’t recall—Reagan did not send soldiers, he sent a boatload of money and weapons to a bunch of right wingers the CIA put together—the CONTRAS—to fight the Sandanistas, whose basic platform (making them socialist) was UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION!  There is evidence that to finance this, the CIA  covertly was involved in the distribution of crack cocaine (for the CONTRAS)  in American black communities.  The movie wasn’t around for long, but you  can get it on Netflix.  Also, now in release, CITZENFOUR, a documentary thatEdward Snowden wisely  participated in, with the help of journalists,  regarding  the National Security  Agency (NSA—the CIA and the FBI  are not the only spy agencies spying on citizens) collecting communications data from private companies.  Will any of this ever be in American history textbooks?

One reason all this  interests me is because, when I was in high school, I used to sit in the library before school and read the  hardcover magazine, American Heritage.   It was published  four times a year. There  was an article about the Yoruba of West Africa,and their drama  culture.  This was about 1970, and  while I don’t remember  much about the article, what I DO remember is  that it was about African Culture.  It had been several years since  I had learned about slavery, but  my teachers had always taught that the Africans had no language, no culture.  They were savages living in trees, and white people had done them a favor by enslaving them and civilizing them!  Of course, this  was not true…but there was no internet, you had to go out and search for books, and few were available at that time to primary and high school  students.  It just opened up a world to me, but my parents would have none of it.  It being going to college and studying African Studies. So, I didn’t go to college at all (well, not for  about 12 years).  I learned to groom dogs.

That is neither hear nor there.  Loewen starts out with  Columbus and how  brutal he was  to the native Americans he met in the West Indies.  I knew they had been terrorized, but I did not know most died of disease and even suicide.

He goes on to  early settlements, and the myth of Thanksgiving (and how European diseases wiped out many native American communities  along the Eastern Seaboard), social stratification, labor history, the civil rights movement, and all the  myths we believe as facts.  I knewe Helen Keller was a socialist.  In fact, she was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. I did not know that Woodrow Wilson was an extreme racist and anti-semite, and that he was the one who segregated the armed forces by race.

I don’t have  children…but  think about this:  we have teachers teaching a history that is a bunch of lies:  stuff that really never happened, while ignoring what did happen because our government policy is controlled by elites.  On the one hand,  this is why  we have public education:  we all  should know the same stuff as ‘true and factual’…but instead of learning math or real history, it’s a system  of teaching how to remember ‘facts’ and act on those ‘facts’, and make decisions based on those ‘facts’.

I urge you to look for this book at used bookstores (ans support local small businesses), but if you can’t you will probably be able to find it on Amazon—and it is worth the read.

Uproar Over immigration

July 25, 2014

Three of my  four grandparents were immigrants.  When they immigrated, there  weren’t so many regulations or controls, If you could get transport into the USA…you were IN.  That’s how it went.  In fact, my father’s grandfather came over before  WWI, looking for work…leaving behind (in Germany) a wife with 6 kids, He said he’d send for her.  I’m not sure how long the interval was, but she ended up coming to the USA with 6 kids, to find her husband, and  later had twins.

Over 20 years ago, I dated an African man who was in the  USA to  get his Ph. D.  His government was paying for it.  He was ABD (all but dissertation).  he told me he was working on it (he was defending single party systems, saying that they had factions, and that was like having a multi-party system in government..), but  some time just before i met him, his country devalued  their currency, and his  scholarship was cut.  He was floundering.  he  wouldn’t prepare to defend his dissertation because  nobody would hear it.  his tuition wasn’t paid, and he didn’t have the money to pay it. He was  really opposed to  taking  short term employment until his African friends made it clear to him he had no choice.

I knew there was a program to repatriate Africans who wished to return to their home countries.  I tried calling the Immigration and Naturalization office in Chicago, and  the line was busy constantly—like the phone was off the hook. After weeks of this, I gave up.

I don’t know how many Americans are aware of this, but around WWII, when many Jewish refugees from Europe were attempting to get into the USA, Congress started tinkering with the rules. There are arbitrary  quotas  for virtually every country:  if you are a political refugee, you get special consideration. Same for economic refugees, people fleeing violence…but also, if you want to come and invest money in the economy here, you can JUMP THE QUEUE.  That’s how many  Europeans manage to  do this. Same with Indians.  This is true  for most countries:  they have rules that state you are investing (so you are not a drain on their economies), and you can get permanent residency status.

Some countries pay lobbyists to lobby our congressmen  on behalf of well  connected individuals.  This is how the bin Ladin  family had so many people living in the USA at the time of 911—and why they were protected by the Bush administration.  This is not hearsay.

 

So this year, 2014,  due to a rumor (when you are illiterate, or don’t have access to news media—or your GOVERNMENT CONTROLS THE NEWS), we’re having an influx of CHILDREN coming from Central America.  Not Mexico—but Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, fleeing violence.

The way this is being reported, it seems as though their parents are sending them…to find relatives and have a better  shot at life.   Unfortunately, this is only  about 10% true.  How do I know?  I have friends who have supported   development in  central American countries for over  40 years.  How many governments  have we meddled in or over thrown?     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/refugee-crisis-border_n_5596125.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010     How many dictators have we supported so  United Fruit could sell us cheap bananas?  I know…’we’ didn’t know.  We didn’t have a clue.  We don’t read newspapers, and  if we looked at a world map, we could not even find these countries.

You might notice no kids are coming from Nicaragua or Costa Rica.  Their governments are more stable.  That is not to say we  didn’t meddle. It is to say that we meddled more in the other governments and  the result  is that there is no confidence in the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador to  invest in infrastructure or to protect citizens from violence.   Heck, we have the same problems here in many inner city neighborhoods:  the plan  is really to contain violence to  neighborhoods we ‘disinvest’. so the developers can get cheap land and start over.

I am  sort of  shocked by the  many pro-lifers (people who believe in the philosophy of when life begins) who are protesting  the kids.  In most cases, a parent did NOT send them here.  A mother might have kicked the kid out or not been feeding the kid—but the daddy is long gone, In fact, many countries do not let a mother bring a child over a border unless she has permission  from the father—a guy she hasn’t seen since the kid  was conceived.  Remember—many of the mommies are barely literate.  These are also ‘Catholic’ countries.  Even if you could afford  birth control—there is none to be bought.  They all have informal sector economies.  For most of the kids—some as young as  four years old…who followed older kids— they just kept walking.

Interesting…nobody in Mexico  notices.  They were just ignored. Not their problem.  They were heading for us.  We are  protesting that we can’t afford them.  Somebody tell me what we got for the trillions of dollars we spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?  That money could have gone for schools and media infrastructure  in the USA and other places.  But Dick Cheney and Haliburton  knew who  to  impress.

I am not sure what the answer is  since we gambled  our future revenues away on Republican idiocy…with the tacit  approval of the Democrats…but we caused the problem.

So—here’s the REAL problem:  we are running out of clean water. Due to fracking, and pulling water out of aquifers without replacing it, we are in a crisis.  We know the solution is not just to be more conservative, but to quit breeding ourselves!  Yet, how many people in the USA have taken a high school biology or ecology class?  How many of us know  what population crash is?  Yet the media seems to glorify and honor  parents who choose to bear  over a dozen children!   18 kids and counting! What a miracle!  & they home school!  How many of those  future citizens are learning  actual  science?  Biology?  Ecology?   Physics?  That’s where our problem is—- not a bunch of desperate little kids!

2 movies: “Fill the Void” & “Hava Nagila”

June 20, 2013

I don’t usually see 2 movies in a weekend, but the opportunity came up to see  two  which will probably not be widely distributed.    Both had gotten  good critical reviews, and both are  directed by Jewish  women.  Aside from that, and being about  Jewish subjects, they have nothing in common.

To most of the world, we are all Jews: odd, funny, good with money, and hard to fathom why we haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior…yet we assimilate so readily into mainstream America and  inter marrying at an alarming rate.  We  do this because we see no advantage to remaining Jewish in terms if cultural practices. Yet, we  continue to be curious about ourselves as an ‘other’.

First, I want to address Fill the Void, by Rama Burshtein. Burshtein is an enigma herself, being raised secular, in Israel,and becoming a Haredi/ultra Orthodox Jew, along with her husband, who was also raised  secular.  Most Americans don’t understand the  great social divide between the secular and religious in Israel.  It is deep, as  large a chasm as the divide between  Jews and Moslems/Palestinians. The secular  resent the  ultra religious  for shirking military service and their spending time  in prayer rather than supporting their many children, and of course, the  religious  don’t regard the secular Jews as being  Jewish at all, even though they are economically  supported by the secular.

What I  find  difficult is  the notion that a secular woman would choose a life of—not so much subservience to men—but one of so many  physical and social constraints.  The viewer will get some of the gist of this in  Fill the Void.  The main plot of this very well scripted and edited film is that  of the choice a  young girl has to make when her sister dies in childbirth.  She is going to have an arranged marriage.   She is already prepared for this.  She wants to do the right thing and make everyone happy, but  she clearly has been put in a bad position.  Meanwhile, there are several subplots deftly handled by Burshtein.  I found the ending abrupt, but no matter.  It’s a very  entertaining and compelling movie.

You will  remain with questions, however.  If this family is of a rabbi’s, how  do they get their money?  What do all these religious men do?  Not to stereotype, but we in the Jewish community know that the religious men are either bankers or jewelers, for the most part.

Hava Nagila was directed and produced by Roberta Grossman.  This documentary  is about the song that  celebrates  joyfulness;  where it came from (the  Ukraine, apparently), and how it became so popular that even  famous singing  goyem (non Jews) made it  part of their  performing repertoire.  Oh yes:  Harry Belafonte, Glen Campbell, and Connie Francis are among the celebrities interviewed.  Director Grossman does a fantastic job of telling the story and editing the interviews, which include  ethnomusicologists.  She has fantastic footage  of these  formerly famous singers—and others, and the film is edited  extremely well.

I urge any interested in good stories, good films without violence, music, and culture to  rent these from Netflix.

William O.Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, first head of the SEC

February 29, 2012

I was a teenager in the late 1960’s.  We had the Conspiracy 7 trial in Chicago. The music group Chicago, and Crosby Stills & Nash sang about it. The whole world  (is)watching …The Democratic Convention  in 1968, which the Yippes, working with other left groups, were  going to disrupt if the Democratic Party if they didn’t  put  planks in to end the war in Viet Nam, and address civil rights. The Black Panthers were active, and President Johnson, who only became president due to the death of Kennedy, declined to run.  Hubert H Humphrey lost to Nixon, who promised to end the Viet Nam war.

Of course, it backfired.  Nixon got elected.  About this time, William O. Douglas  published Points of Rebellion  .  He addressed what progressives expected   of their elected leaders…everything from civil rights to an end to unjust wars, to environmental conservation.  He really spoke to me.

Douglas  wrote a lot of books.  In retrospect, it is hard to believe he found the time, and I will explain.  He was the  first head if the Security & Exchange Commission.  He was appointed by FDR.  He saw straight away that  it would be virtually impossible to regulate public companies, and their official, legal filings were always inaccurate—to use a term.  He saw that  ultimately  staff would be in league with the  entities they were charged to regulate—-&  told FDR that the  SEC should be abolished in 10 years, and reformulated another way with other employees—and that  government employees should never be allowed to work for the  companies they  once regulated (it took over 50 years to get some sort of law addressing this—&  there is no retrospective on this…Newt Gingrich, the  most obvious…).

Douglas had a lot of integrity when it came to addressing what affected the citizens of the USA.  Check him out on Wikipedia….  so, then you wonder….

When did he find time to court the 4 women that he married—-& if you notice  the chronology, he was always cheating.  He was a womanizer.  &, you have to wonder about the 2nd, 3rd, & 4th wives…the last one being about 40 years younger than he was.  All you can think is that he was charming beyond words.

I recently read one of Douglas’ biographies, Go East, Young Man  .  Having been  IWW, I was very interested, as I was a Wobbly, and because he had so impressed me in my youth—-but I got to thinking….we really don’t teach out own history very well to our  high school students—the ones who will be voting.  I had no idea how the SEC came into existence, but what  with what happened at the end of the Bush administration—-running into what Obama inherited, and the bailing out of AIG and many, many other public companies—bailouts that  did NOT help  the majority of Americans deal with the fall-out they caused—and—in fact—-kept us all in horrible economic circumstances (so—if you believe Obama is a socialist—this bail out was proof he is not—-he is in league with the rich) where so many  families lost their homes…& nobody explained what could possibly have happened if AIG actually failed…..this is a travesty.

In any case, Douglas was a progressive, an environmentalist, and had a huge effect on what is now conventional wisdom in this country, womanizer or not. Do we really care about his sex life?  No.  But you would think, in writing Go East, Young Man, with all the name dropping…he would have said something about his wives!

Book Review: Aftershock, by Robert Reich

June 2, 2011

Knowing that Dr. Reich was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, and seeing that the book was ‘only’ 174 pages long (including the index), I decided to give it a go. Read a page or 2, and see if I could get into it.  I mean, really, a book subtitled:  The Next Economy and America’s Future.  Do I really  want to  read economic philosophy?

Published in 2010, it is an amazingly easy read.  Reich really makes our economic history, and what governments are really capable of doing, clear.

Aren’t we all sick and tired of hearing politicians boast about how they will create jobs?  I am doubly sick of  people who were entrepreneurs, and who should know better, boast that they know how to create jobs.

Before I had much of an education, I met a Tanzanian man studying economics here in the USA, and I asked him what he found most interesting about the USA:  “The size of your economy,” he told me.

I had to think about that, but it’s true.  compared to a lot of countries (I was told the whole operating budget for Northwestern University was larger than the government of Tanzania!), we can absorb more shocks.

I have blogged about what a mess we are in several times, and in this book, Reich has the stats and history to bear out what I am saying.  He’s no communist,    but a Keynesian, and a true one, with the facts to back himself up.

The fact of the matter is, I am an anarchist.  I believe in small governments . But infrastructure does not pay for itself.  We can all scoff at Karl Marx, who was a lazy ass  supported by his father in law, but considering that he was the first to point out that, in an industrialized economy, the playing field was not level, we owe him a lot—if only for putting his ideas out there.

Unfortunately, most Americans have what Marx called a false consciousness , identifying with people who do not have their best economic interests at heart.  They’ve convinced a bunch of people to join the military and die for their interests, convincing them that they are really putting their lives on the line for ‘freedom’—and that is not so.

I haven’t read it in 30 years, but I remember being impressed by John Kenneth Galbraith’s  The New Industrial State as well, although it is not as easy a read as Reich’s book.

I hope you will check this out, & then nag out elected officials in Washington to  start taxing the rich more. That’s where the money is, and they won’t miss it…. and as Reich points out, as the middle class can no longer  afford to buy the things we produce (or now—that those overseas produce), we will never climb out of this hole. So much for freedom.

What does the economy have to do with military service?

January 3, 2011

I f you  went to school in America in the 1960’s, you learned The Pledge of Allegiance and you were taught by your teachers to be a patriot,  that America is the best country in the world. You were taught that many evil people want to take over & destroy our freedoms  The  USA is a free country.

You don’t even think about what that means. All you know is that it is a free country.   Worth dying for.  Really?

It wasn’t until I started traveling to less developed countries that I really had a concept of what ‘America’  (that would be the United States) is.  Because, when I started traveling, I started meeting people who had different perspectives of  freedom, and government, and the United States.

We Americans started really looking like ignorant doofuses with the Viet Nam War.  We citizens really believed in the domino effect when it was fed to us, and  were convinced that if we did not prevent communism from taking over in southeast Asia, soon we’d all be wearing  khaki colored Mao suits.

WE fought that ‘war’ (never declared) from the lat 1950’s—with advisors—to  1972, when Nixon was elected to END THE WAR.

By then, we had realized we were involved in someone else’s  civil war and were tired of so many friends and relatives dying, and it not improving our economy.

Those we weren’t alive don’t remember that the civil rights movement also occured during  our overseas war, and as more  minorities with better education were admitted (rightfully so) to jobs in corporate America, the  formerly entitled white males could not get those jobs.  There was the draft, and they were drafted—as were the  uneducated minority men.  I mean, hell, the job market in the USA could not absorb them. We had to do something with them.  So, off to war they went.

During the time they were away, they were not competing for jobs, the real estate market had not yet become an economic engine, and our natural birthrate (we  did not  have so many refugees coming from less developed countries) was slowed for a while.  We prevented conceptions by  sending men overseas.  Too bad the ones who were left—many of them  imbeciles with no skills but active gonads, still managed to get poor girls pregnant. That’s how it goes.

Flash forward 2 decades, and we get the 2nd President Bush who inherits an economic surplus and stable economy,  He actually gets to be president due to a  Supreme Court ruling based on a political mistake, & ans we  start our rapid economic slide.  Even though  Bush’s friend Ken Lay (ENRON) was caught in a horrible ponzi scheme, absolutely none of our federal elected officials in Washington, DC  (save for Bernie Sanders, the socialist from Vermont),called Bush on the smoke-and-mirrors ‘weapons of mass destruction’ bs because  they were all freaked out about terrorists & the 9/11 bombings. WE HAD TO DO SOMETHING—no matter how ineffective it might be.

So, once again, under the guise of patriotism, we got people with no knowledge of history to sign up to be killed. They think they are dying for our freedom. lets take a closer look….

The Coalition for New Priorities will tell us that for all we’ve spent on these wars, we could have a  sustainable energy infrastructure &  viable public transit system.  That’s a fact.  Go to Seattle to learn about public transport. Then, go ride the BART on San Francisco).  Anyone remember Achmed Chalabi?  He was paid  $235,000 a week, for months, to  ‘advise’ us on  who were the bad guys in Iraq.  Except he turned out to be one. Where did that $$$ go?

Freedom?  For us?  Howzat?  We are defending/fighting people who —historically, were not countries until after World War I, & then—only became countries because the British designated then as countries (I will write about T.E. Lawrence & how that came about). The British put people in charge without listening to any of the people living in these places. That’s a fact.  People who murder their daughters, sisters, indeed—any female relative who has been raped—rather than murder the rapist.  That’s a fact.  Guys who don’t believe in educating their women or allowing their women  any sort of civil freedom. That is a fact.  How does that make us free?

Yet—at the ‘mid term elections’  at the end of 2010—because Obama had not fixed the economy—my fellow citizens voted back in the idiot Republicans who got us into this mess!  Shocking!  Oh. well, I guess that’s what freedom means!