Sojourner's Blog

March 6, 2018

The Great Silence

Filed under: Subversive Screens — brucehartford @ 10:24 am
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What Muellor’s recent indictments reveal about Soviet (excuse me, “Russian”) interference in our elections is infuriating and Trump/Republican attempts to distract, disguise, distort, and deny it are despicable. People (or at least the news media) are finally talking about it which is good.

But all the TV commentaries and news column inches, all the talking heads and pontificating pundits, are being carefully silent on something that someone needs to finally say out loud. To quote Malcolm X “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

Over the past 70 years the greatest interferer in free elections has been the U.S. government, the CIA, and the trans-national corporations whose interests both Democrats and Republicans have slavishly served.

President Eisenhower sabotaged and halted the Vietnam reunification election called for by the Geneva Peace Accords because, as he himself publicly admitted, the other side would have won. That election interference resulted in the Vietnam War, close to 60,000 American war dead and the death of somewhere between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 Indochinese men, women and children.

When Mosaddegh was democratically elected by the people of Iran in the only secular democratic election they were ever allowed to have, he and his government were overthrown by Operation Ajax, a CIA coup d’etat because big oil opposed his social and economic policies. The U.S. then installed the Shah, a ruthless dictator who ruled through a U.S. backed and funded terrorist police state. The current, fanatic Islamic theocratic dictatorship in Iran that so violently hates the West (and particularly America) is the direct and inevitable result of that election interference.

These are not isolated incidents but merely the most extreme examples of a general pattern of U.S. interference in other countries such as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the deposing and killing Salvador Allende in Chile, election meddling in France, Italy, Ukraine, Greece, and elsewhere in Europe, the overthrow of Nkrumah in Ghana, the Contra war in Nicaragua, backing UNITA in the Angolan civil war, the military occupation of the Dominican Republic, the Magsaysay election in the Philipines, the “dirty war” in Argentinia, unseating the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala at the behest of United Fruit Corporation, to name just a few.

Around the world, for decade after decade, the U.S. government has interfered in other nation’s elections through bribery, campaign financing, overt and covert propaganda, puppet-candidates, blackmail, disinformation (“fake news”), assassinations, coups, proxy-wars, and direct military intervention. Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe have all been victims of U.S. election interference. The only reason Antarctica isn’t on that list is they haven’t had any elections.

Yes, what the Russians did (and are still doing) to us is infuriating and intolerable. But shouldn’t we take a moment to acknowledge and apologize for the dirt on the hands of our own government?


November 26, 2011

Military Spending — The Basic Truth

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 3:23 pm
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U.S. Military Spending Compared to Other Nations

U.S. Military Spending Compared {3}

The United States spends almost as much money on its military as all other nations in the world combined.{1} Paying for past, present, and future
wars consumes 54% of our Federal budget.{2} These figures are not controversial, everyone on all sides of the debate acknowledge them. The dispute is over whether we need such a huge military, and why.

Why do we spend so much? Canada is not massing troops to pour over the border, Mexico is not arming for war against us. There is not a nation on the planet who poses any credible military threat to America.

Where Your Income Tax Really Goes

Where Your Taxes Go {2}

Yes, terrorists have attacked us. But the bulk of our military budget goes for “big-ticket” items like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, stealth bombers and supersonic fighters, armored divisions and ICBMs. None of these expensive weapons are effective against terrorists who conceal themselves within a civilian population.

So, again, the question is why? This question is not new, and the answer has not changed. After resigning from the Marine Corps in 1935, Major General Smedley Butler (holder of two Congressional Medals of Honor) wrote the following:


“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys [today Citi Bank] to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in threedistricts. I operated on three continents.”


{1} U.S. vs. Global Defense Spending
{2} Where Your Income Tax Really Goes
{3} Military Expenditure Database

Military Spending — The Basic Truth [PDF version of this post, as a flyer]

February 1, 2011

The 5-95 Split

The sociologists and historians tell us that only rarely does a  social movement involve more than 5% of the affected population  in *active* participation.

  • Fewer than 7% of the American  colonists actively took part in the revolution against the  British.
  • In 70 years of struggle, the largest Woman Suffrage  protest was 8000 marchers in Washington, DC in 1913.
  • The Selma  Voting Rights struggle of 1965 was one of the largest Freedom  Movement campaigns of the 1960s. But if you add up all those who  marched, picketed, sat-in, went to jail, tried to register to  vote, or just attended a mass meeting, it totaled less than 10%  of Dallas County’s Black population.

*BUT* these struggles by a small activist cores succeeded because  they won the political support of the great majority. Going back  to the Selma Movement, while less than 10% of Blacks directly and  actively participated in the Voting Rights campaign, the  overwhelming majority supported those that did take action and  they honored the economic boycott that was a significant element  in the eventual victory.

During the long student strike for Third World Studies at San  Francisco State in 1968, we never had more than 1% of the student  body attending planning meetings, passing out leaflets,  organizing actions, or doing the other work necessary to call and  maintain a strike. And no more than 2000 — well under 10% —  walked the picket lines, attended the rallies, or marched on the  Administration Building. But a clear majority of all the students  honored the strike by not attending class. That mass support was  not an accident, it was the product of years — repeat, YEARS  — of patient education, consistent organizing, and a long  series of escalating protests all designed to educate and build  mass support.

The key point is that the 5% who are activists achieve victories  by winning political support among the 95% who are not activists  (and never will be activists). We don’t have to start out with  majority popular support, but we DO have to end up that way. If  we don’t end up with the support of a majority of the population,  we won’t accomplish anything of significance. Which means that  our strategies and tactics must be shaped towards the goal of  winning support among the 95% who are NOT activists. That is the  criteria by which we have to evaluate our strategies and tactics.

Tactics that alienate, or frighten, the people whose support we  need to win are counter-productive. What people fear, they come  to hate, what they come to hate, they oppose. Tactics that treat  the people we need to educate as if they were enemies turns them  into enemies in fact.

Kwame Ture (Stokeley Carmichael) of SNCC once observed that, “All  real education is political. All politics is not necessarily  educational, but good politics always is. You can have no serious  organizing without serious education. And always, the people will  teach you as much as you teach them.”

January 14, 2011

The Gifford Shooting & the Freedom Rides

Filed under: Mass Movements — brucehartford @ 6:22 pm
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[On January 8, 2011 a gunman attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ. Nineteen people, including the Congresswoman, were shot and six were killed, among them Federal Judge John Roll and 9-year old Christina Taylor Green.]

As I try to absorb and understand the killings and attempted assassination of a Congresswoman in Arizona, my mind flashes back 50 years to the violent attacks on the Freedom Riders in South Carolina and Alabama and their mass arrest in Mississippi, a state transformed into an armed camp of raging hostility against anyone who supported equal rights for Blacks. The interesting connection is that the Riders encountered no violence in Georgia which was just as thoroughly segregated as South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. But in Georgia, unlike the other three states, on that occasion the reigning politicians chose not to publicly incite hatred and inflame passions against “race-mixers” and “reds.” Absent incendiary rhetoric from political leaders, there was no mob violence in Georgia.

The same pattern held true for school integration. The vicious mobs faced by the Little Rock Nine, little Ruby Bridges in New Orleans, and the children of Grenada Mississippi were fomented by racist demagogues creating fear and hysteria to advance their political careers. In other areas, where the politicians chose not to excite race-hatred, school integration occurred with little or no violence. We saw it back then, we see it now, when officials and candidates whip up fear and hatred, when they demonize opponents as enemies of America who must be destroyed, the inevitable end result is violence from mobs and “deranged lone gunmen.”

May 28, 2010

Invest in Congress

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 7:43 pm
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This month (May, 2010), we’ve seen Wall Street lobbyists showering cash down upon Congress in an effort to prevent any effective regulatory laws from being passed. It all reminds me of something I wrote in 2001 which is clearly still relevant today:

“Since I’m someone who often reads the S.F. Chronicle’s business section my friends consider me a financial expert, and I’m often asked for investment advice, particularly how we aging “Boomers” can prepare for our “golden years.” Stocks? Real estate? Mutual funds? Marijuana/cocaine?

According to a recent PBS Macneil-Newshour report, Enron Corporation contributed $1.8 million to Congressional campaign coffers over the past year, and received $280 million in direct benefits from the “economic stimulus” package. That’s a Return on Investment (ROI) of 1,555%. Which compares quite favorably to the typical 5-10% annual return on mutual funds, the 10-15% savvy investors have been reaping from NASDAQ and other stock markets, or even the 15-20% skilled house-flippers have been making in the red-hot Bay Area housing market. And it’s far more than the 300- 400% profit margin enjoyed by Mendocino pot growers or Colombian drug lords importing blow in wholesale lots.

The conclusion is obvious. Only saps invest in stocks (or, for that matter, cocaine). To make real money, you invest in Congress. Which makes sense, because under our free-market system we have the best Democracy that money can buy. To prepare for our “golden years” I propose that we pool our meager resources, form an investment co-op, purchase some members of Congress, and then let the good times roll. From what I’ve been reading, Representatives are quite reasonably priced these days, and while Senators are, of course, more costly you don’t need as many of them.”

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