Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hawaii and we're overrun with Fluff

Did you catch "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq" on Democracy Now! Friday? That's the first of a two-part interview. The second part will air sometime next week. If you missed it, you can listen or watch online and you can read a transcript of it online as well.

If you need an overview, here's a piece from the opening of the interview that sets up the topic really well:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you are looking at 14 coups that the U.S. was involved with. What was the primary reason for the U.S. government's involvement in overthrowing other countries' governments?
STEPHEN KINZER: A lot of these coups have been studied individually, but what I'm trying to do in my book is see them not as a series of isolated incidents, but rather as one long continuum. And by looking at them that way, I am able to tease out certain patterns that recur over and over again. They don't all fit the same pattern, but it's amazing how many of them do.

I always start with the assumption that everyone in the room knows more than I do, so most people are probably aware of the history of Hawaii. I wasn't aware of any of it. I was reading Maxine Hong-Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace and came across a point that puzzled me. So I asked for clarification (which we all need to do but a lot of times are too afraid to so we just nod and act like we know). Well this was covered Friday on Democracy Now! and it ties in to current news plus it's something that you may not know about. (I honestly didn't until last month). Here's one of the sections from the interview about Hawaii:

AMY GOODMAN: The queen called in ambassadors from other countries for help?
STEPHEN KINZER: The queen was a little bit shocked by all this, as were her cabinet ministers. In fact, they appealed to the United States and asked, "What instability is there? Who's in danger? Tell us, and we'll protect them." The queen had about 600 troops at her disposal. That was the whole Hawaiian military force. And her cabinet ministers actually called the ambassadors from foreign countries in Honolulu -- there were about a dozen of them then -- and said, "What should we do? Do you think we should fight the Marines?" And the ambassadors quite prudently told her that that would be foolish. "You should just accept it and then try to regain your throne by some other means." That never proved possible. But even then, it was clear to the ruler of this small, weak country that there was no hope in resisting U.S. military intervention.
AMY GOODMAN: It still took a few years before Hawaii was ultimately annexed.
STEPHEN KINZER: It's a very interesting story. Immediately after the revolution, the revolutionaries went back to Washington and, sure enough, President Harrison, as he promised, submitted to the U.S. Congress a law to bring Hawaii into the U.S., but there was a great resistance to this when it was understood how the coup was organized and on whose behalf it was organized, so the Congress did not immediately approve the annexation of Hawaii.
And right at that time, the presidency changed. The Republican, Benjamin Harrison, was out of office, and the new president, a Democrat, Grover Cleveland, came in. He was against annexation. He was an anti-imperialist. He withdrew the treaty. And that meant that Hawaii had to become an independent country for a few years, until the next Republican president came into office, McKinley. And then, at the height of the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. was taking the Philippines, Hawaii was presented to the U.S. as a vital midway station between California and the Philippines. And it was at that time, five years after the revolution, that Hawaii was actually brought into the United States.

I was feeling pretty good about myself while they were discussing that because I'd just found about it recently. But then I saw something online and thought I really should note it.

This is from Friday and it's by Chris Newmarker, of the Associated Press, the article's entitled
"Native Hawaiians Honor Grover Cleveland:"

When it comes to Grover Cleveland, many Americans, even residents of his home state of New Jersey, have trouble recalling anything about him except that he is the only president ever to serve non-consecutive terms.
But 5,000 miles away, Native Hawaiians credit Cleveland with sticking up for their rights and sovereignty in the 1890s, when sugar plantation owners overthrew their queen and asked for annexation by the United States.
So it was on Thursday that three Native Hawaiians landed at New York's LaGuardia Airport, carrying about 20 leis, and found themselves getting lost on New Jersey roads as they searched for Cleveland's birthplace in Caldwell and the town's First Presbyterian Church, where his father was a pastor.
The Hawaiians are in New Jersey this weekend to pay their respects to Cleveland in Caldwell and at his grave site in Princeton.

Friday morning, I hear Grover Cleveland's name for the first time, I didn't know about his part in it (or in stopping it), and then I saw this online. I really know nothing about Grover Cleveland other than that he was a president and, as of yesterday, that he stopped the empire from grabbing Hawaii. Possibly, that's why he served only one term?

But I know we have members from Hawaii in The Common Ills community and I know C.I. shouldn't be the only one noting them. Which is one thing I wanted to write about last night but was too tired. C.I.'s holding this morning's entry at The Common Ills so that shout outs can be done to me and Kat for our entries. If that weren't the case, I'd go in detail about the subject (even though C.I. would say, "There really are other things to write about"). Instead, I'll just note that week in and week out The Common Ills is a site that goes far beyond the "White" or the "Male." This week, I laughed so hard at C.I.'s take on this person who wrote into The Nation to say that MLK 'won' and Malcolm X 'lost.' The guy didn't know anything about either man. C.I. responded with "Young, Ignorant and White" which was one of my favorite commentaries this week. So let me note that.

Let me also note Kat's "Both Sides of the Coin -- Ben Harper's Both Sides of The Gun vs. The Living Room Tour" which is great and, if you haven't already gotten Ben Harper's Both Sides of The Gun, you need to. My cousin says he'll be hosting NBC's Last Call all next week, so check that out and if that and Kat's review don't make you think, "I need to get Both Sides of The Gun," I don't know what will.

Last night, Three Cool Old Guys had a mixer at their nursing home. There were some people brought in from another nursing home. And the guys were really bummed for the first half-hour. It was depressing. I asked what was going on and got an earful.

They pointed to one group of women as an example. Right then, they were on couches, talking. This is the thrust of the conversation.

Woman 1: Girl, I love me some bread!
Woman 2: I have to have bread with every meal. I couldn't have a meal without some bread.
Woman 3: I have to cut my ice cream because I'm diabetic. I have to cut it or it's too rich for me.
Woman: Milk and cream and bread, I could live on it.

It went on and on like that forever. I got Three Cool Old Guys' point. I get depressed when I'm around people my age and all they want to do is talk about nonsense. (Big topic at the end of the week was Ace -- whoever that is -- getting voted off American Idol.) It must be even worse, when you're older and wiser and you have to hear that. The conversation on milk, cream and bread went on for fifteen minutes while I was listening and it was taking place before I was standing with Three Cool Old Guys. They're going to write about it for next Friday's gina & krista round-robin so check for that.

I'll just point out that we can talk about fluff or we can talk about the world around us. There's nothing wrong with bread (unless you are on a low-carb diet) but if you're not sharing recipes, I'm not sure why you'd go on and on about it like that. It was never even, "___ is the best loaf of bread" or anything like that. It was always "bread." It made me wonder exactly what I'd be talking about when I was older. Because, and Three Cool Old Guys believe this too, when you're older, you should have a little bit more to offer to a conversation than superficial.

I mean, if bread's your topic, talk about the best loaf you ever had or maybe someone in your family makes great bread or whatever. But to just go on and on with "Oh, I like bread too" seems like a waste of time.

I feel like a lot of time gets wasted with people my age. I hear way too much about American Idol and that dance show that's off right now. But especially with those contest shows, it's like people are so focused on who might win (and it's not them) that they don't care a thing about what goes on in the world. I went to lunch with some people at the office on Thursday and I felt like we'd all taken a stupid pill. The entire conversation was American Idol. And will Fantasia have a career? What about Kelly? What was the name of the guy who lost that year?

Justin. I don't even watch the show, never have, and I know his name. Honestly, I preferred it when the people I worked with were obsessed with soaps. It was stil fantasy but at least something was happening on them. I didn't watch them either but I knew Carly and Sonny and Jax's name and could follow the conversation. At the end of the lunch, one guy pointed out that I hadn't said anything. (Other than "Justin!" when they went on for several minutes trying to remember the guy's name.) I said I don't watch American Idol.

He apologized and said we'd talk about something else on the trip back to work. Guess what it was? Survivor. Which I also don't watch. But it was coming on tonight and . . .

Is that what we're coming to? A bunch of boring conversations about psudeo-reality? Sometimes I wonder. And I blame the corporate media which offers nothing but a headline on one story and then on to the next one. When the follow up, which is usually a kidnapping or some other White woman in tragedy story, it does get talked about. But they won't follow up on important stories. They won't say, "Yesterday, ___ spoke out against the administration's handling of pre-war intelligence and today ___ came forward to offer additional information. For that story, we go to ___."

There are two people I usually go out to lunch with but one's off on vacation and the other had an appointment so I ended up with the Fluff Crowd (who'll read this if they can tear themselves away from American Idol and its website long enough). We'll all listen to Democracy Now! and we can talk about things at lunch. Not just what's going on in the world but maybe someone's brother or whatever. But it seems like a lot of people aren't getting any reality/spinach in their media diet and they've come to the conclusion that obsessing over American Idol for hour upon hour (and they were talking about it after lunch when we got back to the office) is somehow going to enrich their lives.

At the start of the week, this woman came over to my desk and says she heard I follow the news. I say I try to. She says she was busy this weekend and needed to know did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get married?

I thought, "How do I respond to that?" Do I tell her, "They issued a statement that says: Live your own lives and quit living their life!" Do I tell her that, since she was well over forty, she was a little old to be obsessing over movie stars' private lives? I just told her that I try to follow news. She replied, excitedly, her too and said she's always surfing E! and The Star. She doesn't care for US weekly because it can be "a little too mean." If US weekly is a grown woman's idea of hard hitting journalism (and she turns from it), what does that say about the country?

Because it's not just this one woman. It's a lot of people at the office. When I got back from California, people at the office wanted to know about the trip. So I was excited and talking about protests and activists and they just wanted to know (except for the two I lunch with and the boss), did I see any movie star homes? That's saying something about the state of the country.
And more importantly about the state of distraction corporate media encourages.

My rant for the morning.

Check out Betty's "When friends are awarded, Thomas Friedman goes fugue," C.I.'s "NYT: A columnist can tell it's news -- why can't the reporting section?" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ALBERTO GONZALES IN THE MIDST OF MADONNA UP!" but read Elaine's "My pacificism isn't a cloak I wear some days and others put on war drag" immeditately. Mike's got good reasons why in "US number four on execution, Guantanamo prisoners, strong voices."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Law and Disorder addressed PBS and Armenia

If you missed it in the panting over Katie and Tom having a baby!, (a true miracle, I'm guessing to judge by the coverage), Bully Boy issued some pardons. The name that stood out to me was this one:

Mark Reuben Hale, Henderson, Texas, savings and loan fraud. Sentenced July 10, 1991, to three years in prison.

I know what you're thinking, Neil Bush. Yeah, but move on past that.

Hale defrauded the government of at least five million dollars. He didn't even get a year for each million. So it's interesting that he now gets a pardon. From "UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FIFTH CIRCUIT_______________No. 92-4790 _______________UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, versus BILL WILDER, Defendant-Appellant:"

For example, Wilder enlisted the assistanceof Glasscock, Hale, and Kinney in defrauding the two savings and loans and concealing Wilder's participation in transactions through the use of sham land transfers. Moreover, Wilder agreed to release Glasscock and Kinney from liability regarding the G&K land purchase
We also note that the parties stipulated that Wilder's scheme to defraud the two savings and loans caused losses of over five million dollars. See United States v. Allibhai, 939 F.2d 244,252-53 (5th Cir. 1991) (upholding district court's finding that amoney laundering scheme was "otherwise extensive" because over onemillion dollars was involved), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 112 S.Ct. 967, 117 L. Ed. 2d 133 (1992).

Thinking of that song where they sing "'Cause you gotta' have friends . . ." Me too. And Mark Hale was there to stick up for his buddy when Bully Boy's AWOL was all the news via 60 Minutes II. In fact, he wrote at The American Spectator that "Somehow we need to raise Johnson from the dead, ask him to make good on the promise, take CBS off the air!" (Swiping from C.I., the link goes to a cached version of Hale's comments, so hopefully no additional traffic for the magazine.)

It's good to be a Republican. You can take part in a scheme that costs tax payers over five million dollars, get a slap on the wrist by serving three years and then have your buddy Bully Boy come along to pardon you.

Are you listening to Law and Disorder? On WBAI Mondays or somewhere else? Mike and I are both writing about it tonight. Heidi Boghosian is with the National Lawyers Guild (I think she's the executive director) and one of the hosts. I think I may have mentioned her last week. But her grandparents came from Armenia so the genocide last century matters to her. (She said "early this century" at one point, I think, but I don't know anyone that's not still making that mistake -- including me. It's like writing checks the first week of January and forgetting to add another year to the date.)

I told C.I. I was writing about this and got two links. The first goes to Democracy Now! giving the history on the genocide. The second goes to an interview Amy Goodman did with Sibel Edmonds where it was mentioned that Denny Hastert got money from Turkey just when Gongress was going to put forth a resolution condeming the genocide (all these years later).

Boghosian talked about how she grew up hearing nothing about the genocide in school and how she asked her mother why people didn't know about it. That's because it didn't make the history books. Our government was in bed with Turkey and the genocide didn't matter. (Like it didn't matter when Saddam attacked people -- until later when we needed an excuse to go to war -- we looked the other way because it was beneficial to us.)

So following WWI, the genocide occurred. And PBS decided to do a program on it but they also wanted a "discussion" on it. And they included, on the panel, two people who are deniers of the Genocide. They wouldn't do a panel on the Holocaust and include deniers and it was one of the Michaels (Ratner or Smith, I think Ratner) who pointed out that denial is another form of abuse. You're denying the tragedy that happened.

I identify with the race issues when they're discussed (and don't pretend otherwise) so I asked Mike if I could grab this one and he was cool with it because he wanted to talk about the Clintons. Discussions on race always grab my interest because I don't think enough of them take place in the media. I think we hear a lot of "things are great" nonsense. I don't think we get much exploration of realities. Which is a good reason to seek out alternative media.

If there's someone stopping by for the first time, I'm African-American. I've heard it all, and on TV and radio, from "Blacks liked slavery! They had jobs and food!" to "Black women just have babies to make money!" Everything in between. Every lie you can imagine.

So I was really glad Boghosian addressed this. Especially after Dalia Hashad talked about her own experiences the week before. With regards to PBS, the news is that none of the big markets ended up carrying the panel (some smaller ones did). Boghosian said it was because of all the e-mails that came in (over 80,000). It's really sad that it takes that.

And it shows how little corporate media (PBS is corporate media -- when you get that much "sponoship" from corporations, you're commercial) gets it to this day. They, my opinion not the hosts, wanted to get their credit for covering a topic they should be covering (and should have been covering a long time ago). But to make sure no one's offended, they'll tack on a panel and invite two people who will say, "It never happened."

From what Ruth's written about PBS (and NPR) and stuff she's told me, that's not the mission of public broadcasting. (But PBS and NPR aren't public broadcasting.) The mission is to introduce ideas. Considering the historical blackout in this country on the genocide, there's no real reason for them to finally address the issue seriously and feel the need to bring on two people to say, "Never happened!"

But when you cater to the right-wing and always try to curry their favor, you can't tackle any event without trying to make sure no one's offended by the truth.

Boghosian spoke about her mother, her father and her grandmother (her grandmother came to this country to marry). I really wish there had been more of that because I'm guessing everyone who makes a point to listen thinks of the hosts as friends to spend time with and, when personal examples can be given, I think it carries more weight. The panel bothered the hosts. I could tell that. It bothered me too. But it really bothered Boghosian because this is a story of her family. If it weren't for the genocides, her ancestors might not have relocated. The genocide is a tragedy and it's history too. But it's also very personal to people whose families were effected. Ruth wrote about the PBS thing, in the round-robin I think, where she was asking people to e-mail on it (e-mail PBS). So I know they covered it before and this was just an update. It's my mistake not to have heard the earlier coverage. But I did miss that (I'll ask Ruth to check her notes and try to find out when that was -- if she can't, Gina should be able to because I am pretty sure the request for people to e-mail ran in the gina & krista round-robin because Ruth wanted to get it out there immediately and didn't have time for a full report).

By the way, I mention Gina and she is African-American but I like Krista too. Gina and I got paired in a group working on a link panel for The Common Ills a long time ago so I've known Gina longer. I am sure Krista would look it up for me gladly but since I've known Gina longer, I have no problem calling her up for a favor. I think the fact that they paired up for the round-robin is great because of their personalities and because they can approach an issue from an African-American perspective and a White perspective. I know Krista beats herself up, to this day, for a story links she suggested. I don't think there was anything wrong with them and never did. If someone's in prison and shouldn't be, it's a story. I'll disagree with Katrina vanden Heuvel on the importance of it. He may be a robber baron but he's not in prison for that, he's in prison because he's a political threat to Putin. Political prisoners need to be highlighted. If Tom DeLay was held in prison not because of his indictment but because of some trumped up reasons, I would object and I hate Tom DeLay.

I like Katrina vanden Heuvel's writing and usually agree with her but I was surprised that time when I heard on Democracy Now! and she responded to Amy Goodman's question in a kind of gruff manner. I know she knows Russia and I don't doubt that the Yukos guy isn't a nice person but I don't believe in political prisoners. (I don't think she does either. But I know her remarks caused Krista to beat herself up because Katrina vanden Heuvel is one of Krista's heroes.) (I don't think I have any heroes, outside of my family, who aren't dead. Maybe Three Cool Old Guys and C.I., that's about the closest I'd come to heroes outside my family.)

So the point of the Law and Disorder segment to me was the power that people can have. Not just with the panel. It took people using their power to even make PBS air anything on the genocide. That didn't happen in one month or one year or one decade. If you're a Howard Zinn reader, I am, you know there are many stories that never make the history books we're encouraged to rely on. But we can make history and we can rescue history and I'd argue that Armenians and people who heard the stories in the early half of the last century rescued this story. It's an important story. To deny it by saying it didn't happen or to deny it by not discussing it robs everyone.

And, to put a modern point on it, the illegal occupation of Iraq will be written into history. We can have input in that by using our voices now and not being afraid to call it an illegal occupation (which it is). And we can continue to protest the war. It won't end it tomorrow or next week and that's true of the reality of what happened in Armenia getting out and true of ending the war. I was thinking, while I listened, what Boghosian's mother must have thought when young Heidi asked that question? It must have been pretty hard to answer because, though her mother said it nicer, the underlying point was, "Dear, they just don't care enough to talk about it." And that made me wonder what her grandmother thought. This is my guess, and I'm just guessing, her grandmother may have thought, "New country. There will be people there who will welcome me. And there will be people who will care about what's going on." If she did think that, and she might not have, I wonder how long she thought it? Maybe she's alive now and got to see the change in thinking? Or maybe she never did. But did she keep hoping in the dark hours?

I have a grandmother who's alive and one who died. The one who died, died before I was born. My grandmothers liked each other and that's apparently not to common among my friends. But Grandma (who is alive) will talk about her like a friend (they were friends). And when she's tired or the world gets too much, sometimes she'll say that my grandmother who passed (she didn't have a grandmother name because she died before there were any grandchildren) was lucky to have passed away when she did, two weeks before Martin Luther King was assassinated. When Grandma's really tired or the news is just too awful, she'll say that and talk about how the dream was alive when my grandmother died. So when I hear someone talking about generations in their family, I wonder what the earlier ones thought.

I think they'd be proud of Boghasian because she really cares about this issue and I know people who don't care about things that came before. I really got angry with a friend (who is African-American) who was griping about the banks being closed on MLK Day. He was whining about how he couldn't put money in the bank. (He doesn't trust ATMs. He does have a reason, the bank lost a deposit of his once. But he was using a teller and not a machine.) My attitude was, "Be glad you have money and maybe you wouldn't if it weren't for the people who came before." Because MLK Day honors the man but it also honors the struggle that millions were involved in. And it stands for more than just this country because the struggle inspired world wide.

I'll give another example. Do you know the phrase "hood rat"? If you don't, you're lucky. Maybe you know Ronald Reagan's "welfare queens"? That's the same thing basically. A "hood rat" is one of those smears on African-American women. That's supposed to be a woman who just wants to live off welfare and child support and turns out a lot of kids (litters like a rat). What's really hurtful about this is that "hood rat" didn't come from a White person. And it's used by African-Americans. It's supposed to be funny. I don't know. Maybe we think it's funny if we say it first? But I have to wonder how many generations that fought the civil rights fight would hear it and think "funny."

I think we're unaware of what it took to get where we are (that's all of us, regardless of race -- and I'm still learning and will be all my life*) and that hurts us as much as anything that happens today. (Maybe because if we don't know our struggles, we just keep repeating them?)

I'll wrap up but I had a blast in California and my "*" was a C.I. story that I'll tell. C.I. won't be mad but will say, "You could have written about something important, Cedric." I think this is important. C.I.'s smart. Members know that. In California as we were going to rallies and meeting with different people, someone would bring up an issue from time to time. C.I. never bluffed. C.I. would just say flat out, "I'm sorry, I don't know anything about what you're talking about. But I loved to hear about it." To me, that's smart. You don't play along and try to put it together in your head and maybe miss key points. You just say upfront that you don't know and let someone walk you through it. I think learning never stops and growing continues for your entire life. There's a lot of things I love about C.I. If I write about a passing, I'll get a call and C.I. will start out saying, "That was so great" and then get all choked up. C.I.'s very generous with the praise and very supportive. But the thing I saw over and over last week was that C.I.'s not embarrassed to say, "I don't know, please tell me." A lot of people pretend they do know. They're too worried about how they'll look and I think they end up missing out on life and knowledge because if you fake your way through, you cheat yourself.

You should check out Law and Disorder because it will make you think and you'll really enjoy all four hosts. Also, check out Trina's "Gazpacho soup in the Kitchen" which is an easy recipe even for me. No cooking at all. I do have a blender so I used the blender recipes (there are two recipes). It turned out pretty good and, if you have cooking talent, it'll probably turn out great.