Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haiti - poster child for the American version of capitalism

I am neither capitalist nor socialist, neither liberal nor conservative. I believe a workable system has to balance elements from all of these. And I believe the balance has to change according to the conditions. American capitalism has gone far beyond sense of balance. There is no better example of what it now does than the wretched nation of Haiti.

A thousand have died of cholera, and many thousands more will die. The earthquake is only a part of the cause. The streets of Haitian slums (most of the housing) have been running with raw sewage for a century. There has been no sanitation. The earthquake worsened things, but only a little worse than they were before it when Haiti was the most poverty stricken land in this hemisphere. How does this show something wrong with American capitalism?

For almost a century, the US has run Haiti. It invaded in 1917 (pleading Germany might invade it!!!) It then ran the country for twenty years, in those twenty years, it gave capitalism a free run in Haiti -no regulations, no minimum wage, no safety requirements, no public schools, no taxes. As neo-conservatives are fond of telling us, capitalism is a great producer of wealth. At the end of twenty years of free run, capitalists had driven farmers off the land except as low wage labour on factory farms producing exotic produce for the tin can market. The people were desperately poor and living in some of the vilest slums ever to exist.

But the US didn't quite leave Haiti, not ever. For generations, Haiti suffered even worse from brual dictators imposed and paid off by the US. The Haitian army, equipped and paid by the US, was a gang of thugs to torture, rape and kill anybody who complained. And even those who didn't complain. Capitalism continued to flourish.

Then, at last, Haitians managed to elect a president, Aristide, who was going to build schools and sewer systems and livable housing. He also disbanded the army - since it was just a gang of thugs - and was able to keep the country quite peaceable with just the regular police.  But US capitalists were not pleased. Sanitation and housing would cost taxes; and taxes would cut into their profits. Worse, it might spread silly ideas to other poor countries.  So the ex-army thugs who had fled Haiti suddenly reappeared, heavily armed and well supplied with ammunition and money to blaze a trail of death into Haiti.

The US then sent troops to restore order. Strangely, though, they didn't bother the thugs. Instead, they arrested President Aristide and sent him into exile. Then they got the UN to send "peacekeepers", actually occupation troops. Not suprisingly, Haitians don't like the peacekeepers, and rioted against them. Capitalism was back in the saddle. Then came the earthquake.

Almost nothing has been done since the earthquake to rebuild Haiti. The US government even to this day has not delivered a cent of its promised aid.  There is no intention of rebuilding Haiti. There never was. The owners want Haitians to be poor and cheap. They have had their way. And the result is cholera.

There are elements of capitalism that are quite workable and desirable. But nothing that goes so far out of balance is either workable or desirable. We're watching the American version of capitalism descend into depths that reach beneath contempt.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama the Executioner

Contrary to popular belief, the US did not invent freedom. In fact, its roots in the western world go back well over a thousand years - in England before there was an England. It began in tribal laws that no person could be punished for a crime without evidence that a crime had been committed, and that the accused had done it. Ideally, a killer should be caught with the blood on his hands (thus "red-handed"). Even habeus corpus, the use of a summons to arrest the accused has been in use for almost a thousand years. On that rests all our individual rights and freedoms.  No government can imprison a person without evidence that a crime was committed, without a formal charge, and without a fair trial.

Part of that was lost with George Bush, who took the right to imprison anybody indefinitely with no evidence of a crime, no charge and no trial. That alone took the US back a thousand years.

As this is being written, the Obama White House lawyers are defending President Obama's claimed right to order the assassination of any American citizen - with no warrant, no trial, not even evidence of a crime having been committed. The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting his use of such an order, in this case involving a Moslem. Given recent tendencies of the Supreme Court, it is quite possible it will rule in favour of this extroardinary power that effectively destroys the whole basis of American democracy and freedom.

(Well, it concerns a Moslem to be killed. This should be a no brainer for a Supreme Court which has recently decided that coporations are really just like people - so they should have rights just like people.)

Haven't seen much about his in the North American news media? Well, maybe that's because corporations own most of the news media. Corporations are also annoyed at Moslems for sitting on land they want. And, hey, corporations have rights. And the American people? No sweat. The only radical party in the whole country is a bunch of nutbars who want to go back to 1775. Heck, the US would have to progress at a frantic rate to get all the way up to 1775 again.

and so it goes..."not with a bang but a whimper".

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oooooh! The Exciting US Congressional Election

Nothing new. The US is continuing to implode as it has been doing since 1945. Nobody in that time was won any election of any significance without massive support from corporations and the wealthy. In terms of general policy, it really doesn't matter who gets elected. That was clear during the presidential campaign as Obama became a darling of Wall St.

The US long ago decided on a policy of world "leadership". It's a nice word to cover an ugly truth. If everybody must follow the leader, then how can any country have a democracy that means anything at all? Indeed, the closest allies of the US have been puppet dictators - the Shah of Iran, the King of Saudi Arabia, the dictators of central America.

If you google The Project For the New American Century, read its statement of purpose. It is to spread "American values" (torture, invasion, terror bombing?) around the world for American economic benefit. And, for an example of who gets the benefit, look at Haiti. It has been under the control of untrammelled American capitalism for almost a century, through American-sponsored dictators and American military government. That's why it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. That's why Haiti's President Aristide was exiled by US troops. He was going to spend money in silly ways, like hospitals and schools. That's why the US has never sent its promised aid to Haiti after the earthquake. There is no intention of rebuilding Haiti. The intention is to keep it forever a pool of cheap labour.

The US now needs constant war to sustain its major and thriving industry - weapons. In good days, before the crash, that meant free trade (with free meaning American business was free to exploit and contol countries before they could develop their own industries.) But now it's bad days. So watch as "free" trade gradually became "fair" trade - meaning the subject countries much now admit American products free, but imports to the US will be taxed with customs duties to protect big donors to the Democrats and Republicans.There will also be a renewed drive to privatize public services like water, sewage, and education.

The Tea Party has no answer to any of this. It hasn't even asked the question. All it wants is a return to traditional values, most of which, like most of American history, never existed. The US Constitution was never intended to create a democracy - except within the limits of a two party system in which both parties were actually the same. It was also a system to exploited racism (against Blacks, and Native Peoples, and Mexicans, and  Latin Americans in general, and Hawaiians, and Phillipinos, and  now Moslems) to keep power in the hands of the rich. (Check out the incomes and slaves and landholdings of good ol' boys like George Washington and Andrew Jackson.) Tea Partyers are just the latest suckers to try to guess which shell the pea is under.

The US has been rotting inside since 1775. The Tea Party is just one more, small step away from reality for American voters. American leadership (world dominance by military force) is what it has always been about. Now, with even the pretend capitalism that the US lives on, war is all the more necessary. If ever Islam is defeated, American corporate leaders and the propagandists they call news media will just have to seek another bogeyman.

Once upon a time, we Canadians were the bogeymen. I expect we will be again. Been there. Done that.