Remembering Howard Zinn on July 4th

Put Away the Flags

by Howard Zinn

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

This piece was distributed by the Progressive Media Project in 2006.

Howard Zinn died on January 7. Please read Matthew Rothschild’s “Thank you, Howard Zinn,” for more about his legacy.

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Fracking, Clear Cutting, Murdering Whales and Destroying the Gulf of Mexico

This evening we caught part of a documentary titled “Gasland”.  It is about how the process of hydraulically fracturing shale to extract natural gas, the so called “clean energy” alternative to coal is destroying our water supply and polluting our air.

The Bush Regime rolled back and suspended numerous clean air and clean water laws.  But moreover he destroyed the ability of the regulatory agencies to enforce those standards that he was not able to pervert.

All so the rich can steal even more from the working poor.  Because the profits are privatized and the damages are socialized in the form of government i.e. tax payer funded Super Fund Clean Up Sites.

Funding that is made all the more pitifully ironic by the fact that those who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum pay a higher portion of their income in taxes than do the rich.

Last week Tina and I went to see an exhibition of Ansel Adams work.  There was one of the coastal Redwood Forests.  One of the old growth ones with mighty trees hundreds of years old standing shoulder to shoulder.  Now they are gone, clear cut for the profits of the rich who bought out the original lumber companies of Northern California, gutted them out for their assets, clear cut the land and sent the lumber the Far East.  At the same time they turned the smaller trees into particles to make particle board.  People like Judy Bari fought to save those trees and were labeled as Eco-Terrorists.  When true to course the violent ones, the true terrorists were the thugs of the rich protecting the corporate interests.

In the words of Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, “If you’ve seen one Redwood, you’ve seen them all.” And they have worked very hard to insure that one old growth redwood is all you will ever see.

Last year a documentary titled “The Cove” won an Academy Award.  It documented the slaughter and torture of whales by Japan so that the rich and over privileged can indulge in the rare and exotic as well as very expensive whale sushi.  One can watch “Whale Wars” to see the true heroes.  Hint is isn’t the evil bastards who murder the beautiful and intelligent whales. The real heroes are the people of Sea Shepard. While Green Peace seems to have turned in to a giant begging operation whose main purpose is fund raising and not engaging in activity that would harm that fund raising,  Sea Shepard is the real deal.

Along with clear cutting of forests we have mountain topping where the entire top of mountains are removed to extract coal with the waste filling the valleys and once again turning the water supply to poison.  Guess who will be stuck with the bill for cleaning up the poisoned water supply?  Hint… It won’t be the ones who pocketed the billions in profits because they will hide that money in the Cayman Islands of some other tax haven so beloved by the rich who think only little people pay taxes.

If all this has not been enough to fill one with Eco-Rage, not enough to think maybe Earth First is right and we have to think about saving the planet from the rich who act like they have a spaceship and some other place to go we now have the atrocity committed by BP.  Let’s see them cover up this disaster with a new flower petal logo and a catchy reimaging of their initials into “Beyond Petroleum”.  These scum suckers have been responsible for other crimes and atrocities in the past.  True they can use the defense that others are doing or have done the same thing.  But guess what BP?  You are the target of current Eco-Rage because you just destroyed the Gulf of Mexico and all the fucking wetlands around it.

I don’t want to hear from your CEO how he wants his life back.  BP should be parted out and sold to pay for this clean up.  Every executive involved should have every penny of their wealth confiscated to pay for it.

Perhaps it is time for the people of the planet to say enough with being raped by giant corporations for the benefit of the rich.  Maybe it is time for a new Declaration of Independence from those who are destroying our planet and murdering off entire species.

Perhaps it is time to declare that among our human rights is the right to clean air, clean water and the preservation of our natural environment.

We Were a Better People Once Upon a Time

Britain – British Medical Association declares ‘gay cure’ therapies harmful…

From Pink News UK

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/07/02/doctors-declare-gay-cure-therapies-harmful/

Doctors declare ‘gay cure’ therapies harmful

By Staff Writer
PinkNews.co.uk

July 02, 2010 – 11:31

The annual meeting of the British Medical Association has declared that therapies to ‘cure’ gay people of homosexuality are harmful.

The body met in Brighton yesterday and more than two-thirds of doctors present backed a call for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other mental health standard-setting bodies to reject the treatments and ban their use in codes of practice.

Health departments should also investigate alleged cases of conversion therapy being funded by the NHS, the meeting agreed.

Research published last year found that a sixth of registered British therapist and psychiatrists have attempted to “cure” patients of homosexuality.

Tom Dolphin, the proposer of the motion and the vice-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: “Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide.

“You can’t just wish away same-sex attraction no matter how inconvenient it might be.”

But Cardiff consultant neurophysiologist Gareth Payne said there was no “gold standard” evidence that conversion therapy did not work and was harmful.

He added that it was important to respect the wishes of patients who asked for the therapy.

Earlier this year, gay journalist Patrick Strudwick published an expose of ‘ex-gay’ therapists and began a campaign group to persuade medical bodies to condemn the treatments.

He went undercover for the article, telling two therapists he was struggling to cope with attraction to men and wanted to be straight.

One therapist, named only as Linda, tried to convince him he must have been sexually abused as a child by a member of his family.

The other, who PinkNews.co.uk later revealed was homophobic former Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson’s advisor, tried to make Mr Strudwick sexually aroused during his therapy.

Mr Strudwick told the Independent that the BMA’s declaration was a “watershed moment in the struggle for gay equality”.

Friday Night Fun and Culture

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British National Health Service faces life-threatening cuts

You are going to be hearing more about “Austerity Measures” and other economic issues as well as matters and suggestions for survival on this Blog.

No matter how one looks at it being a member of a social class that is viewed as expendable by the corporate overlords sucks.  It sucks even more when is burdened by a multiplicity of factors of of oppression including being female and part of the alphabet soup even if that membership in the alphabet soup is a matter of past history.

Many of us having been denied equal access to employment, coupled with low glass ceilings and non-pension granting jobs are already faced with an austere old age.

Austerity measures will most harm those at the bottom.

From World Socialist Web Site

By Stephen Alexander
2 July 2010

The claim that the National Health Service (NHS) will be ring-fenced off from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat governments’ budget cuts is a lie. Annual “efficiency savings” of 6 percent, totalling £20 billion are already tabled, and will have a deadly impact.

A study into the potential impact of spending cuts on public health, headed by Oxford University epidemiologist David Stuckler, has warned that planned cuts to welfare programmes “will severely impact people’s health” and will result in up to 38,000 additional deaths over the next decade. He said, “At the time when people need help from their government the most, their social supports and protection are being wiped away”.

A national survey of medical staff by the British Medical Association has indicated that economic pressures will have “devastating and long-lasting consequences”. A quarter of respondents indicated that redundancies were planned within their organization. Fully 62 percent acknowledged a freeze on recruitment; whilst over half of those with no explicit freeze reported unfilled vacancies. Almost three-quarters reported that development projects for infrastructure and clinical services had been postponed.

Continue reading at: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jul2010/bnhs-j02.shtml

Leaving Granny Behind: Do Obama’s Debt Commissioners Want to Impoverish Older Women?

From Alternet:

http://www.alternet.org/rights/147382/leaving_granny_behind%3A_do_obama%27s_debt_commissioners_want_to_impoverish_older_women/?page=2

By Martha Burk, Other Words
July 2, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147382/

President Obama’s Fiscal Commission–a group of lawmakers, former officials, and other experts charged with developing a bipartisan plan to stabilize our soaring national debt–is primarily holding closed-door hearings. The commission’s co-chairman Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, recently became an instant YouTube star with his rant against seniors as he exited one of the panel’s sessions. That put Social Security defenders on high alert about what’s going on in these meetings.

Simpson, who is nearly 80, has maintained that the founders of the program never expected anyone to actually live to 65 and collect. “People just died,” he has said. “Social Security was never [for] retirement.”

The program has always been an easy target for deficit hawks and budget cutters because it’s so big–the government’s largest expenditure, just ahead of the Pentagon. But setting up a target isn’t as easy as actually hitting it. George W. Bush found that out when he proposed privatizing the system so we could all invest in the likes of Enron, Lehman Brothers, General Motors, and Goldman Sachs. Thanks to a massive campaign by progressive interest groups, that proposal was shot down. But like Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street, the nightmare of cutting Social Security never dies –it just returns in a new form every few years.

Tea partiers, egged on by Sarah Palin, were fond of claiming during the health-care debate last summer that government “death panels” were going to off our grannies, even though it was an outright lie. Now that we have a much more serious and credible threat to the well-being of our elderly poor population (the majority of whom are female) in possible cuts to Social Security, Palin and company are strangely silent.

Not so the progressive groups that want to preserve the program. Ashley Carson, Executive Director of the Older Women’s League (http://www.owl-national.org) and member of the Social Security Works coalition, points out that those same grannies the tea party has apparently forgotten about are the ones who will suffer the most if the program is cut.

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, agrees. “Raising the retirement age and other ways of cutting benefits would all have a devastating effect on older women, many of whom live alone and depend mainly or entirely on Social Security,” she says.

The numbers bear this out. Women depend on Social Security more than men, and without it, close to 60 percent of elderly women would live in poverty. One reason is that women are far less likely than men to have a company-provided pension, and when they do get one it’s most often based on a lifetime of lower earnings. So much for Simpson’s “greedy geezers.” Even younger women would suffer if the program is cut, since they are the majority of caretakers when a spouse dies and leaves young children, who draw Social Security until they’re 18.

Simpson may have embarrassed some of less flamboyant members of the Fiscal Commission with his outburst, but it remains to be seen whether in their hearts they believe he’s right. And whether granny is really in the crosshairs this time.

Martha Burk is the money editor for Ms, and author of Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in the Workplace and What Can Be Done About It.