Why The Right Loves a Disaster By Naomi Klein

Dandelion Salad

By Naomi Klein
ICH
28/01/08 “Los Angeles Times

Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, claims the key to solving the United States’ economic woes is slashing spending on Social Security. The National Assn. of Manufacturers says the fix is for the federal government to adopt the organization’s wish-list of new tax cuts. For Investor’s Business Daily, it is oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “perhaps the most important stimulus of all.”

But of all the cynical scrambles to package pro-business cash grabs as “economic stimulus,” the prize has to go to Lawrence B. Lindsey, formerly President Bush’s assistant for economic policy and his advisor during the 2001 recession. Lindsey’s plan is to solve a crisis set off by bad lending by extending lots more questionable credit. “One of the easiest things to do would be to allow manufacturers and retailers” — notably Wal-Mart — “to open their own financial institutions, through which they could borrow and lend money,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal.

Never mind that that an increasing number of Americans are defaulting on their credit card payments, raiding their 401(k) accounts and losing their homes. If Lindsey had his way, Wal-Mart, rather than lose sales, could just loan out money to keep its customers shopping, effectively turning the big-box chain into an old-style company store to which Americans can owe their souls.

If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is. Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It’s a maneuver I call “disaster capitalism.”

Sometimes the enabling national disasters have been physical blows to countries: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. More often they have been economic crises: debt spirals, hyperinflation, currency shocks, recessions.

More than a decade ago, economist Dani Rodrik, then at Columbia University, studied the circumstances in which governments adopted free-trade policies. His findings were striking: “No significant case of trade reform in a developing country in the 1980s took place outside the context of a serious economic crisis.” The 1990s proved him right in dramatic fashion. In Russia, an economic meltdown set the stage for fire-sale privatizations. Next, the Asian crisis in 1997-98 cracked open the “Asian tigers” to a frenzy of foreign takeovers, a process the New York Times dubbed “the world’s biggest going-out-of-business sale.”

To be sure, desperate countries will generally do what it takes to get a bailout. An atmosphere of panic also frees the hands of politicians to quickly push through radical changes that would otherwise be too unpopular, such as privatization of essential services, weakening of worker protections and free-trade deals. In a crisis, debate and democratic process can be handily dismissed as unaffordable luxuries.

Do the free-market policies packaged as emergency cures actually fix the crises at hand? For the ideologues involved, that has mattered little. What matters is that, as a political tactic, disaster capitalism works. It was the late free-market economist Milton Friedman, writing in the preface to the 1982 reissue of his manifesto, “Capitalism and Freedom,” who articulated the strategy most succinctly. “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

A decade later, John Williamson, a key advisor to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (and who coined the phrase “the Washington consensus”), went even further. He asked a conference of top-level policymakers “whether it could conceivably make sense to think of deliberately provoking a crisis so as to remove the political logjam to reform.”

Again and again, the Bush administration has seized on crises to break logjams blocking the more radical pieces of its economic agenda. First, a recession provided the excuse for sweeping tax cuts. Next, the “war on terror” ushered in an era of unprecedented military and homeland security privatization. After Hurricane Katrina, the administration handed out tax holidays, rolled back labor standards, closed public housing projects and helped turn New Orleans into a laboratory for charter schools — all in the name of disaster “reconstruction.”

Given this track record, Washington lobbyists had every reason to believe that the current recession fears would provoke a new round of corporate gift-giving. Yet it seems that the public is getting wise to the tactics of disaster capitalism. Sure, the proposed $150-billion economic stimulus package is little more than a dressed-up tax cut, including a new batch of “incentives” to business. But the Democrats nixed the more ambitious GOP attempt to leverage the crisis to lock in the Bush tax cuts and go after Social Security. For the time being, it seems that a crisis created by a dogged refusal to regulate markets will not be “fixed” by giving Wall Street more public money with which to gamble.

Yet while managing (barely) to hold the line, the House Democrats appear to have given up on extending unemployment benefits and increasing funding for food stamps and Medicaid as part of the stimulus package. More important, they are failing utterly to use the crisis to propose alternative solutions to a status quo marked by serial crises, whether environmental, social or economic.

The problem is not a lack of ideas “alive and available” — to borrow Friedman’s phrase. There are plenty available, from single-payer healthcare to legislating a living wage. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created by rebuilding the ailing public infrastructure and making it more friendly to public transit and renewable energy. Need start-up funds? Close the loophole that lets billionaire hedge fund managers pay 15% capital gains instead of 35% income tax, and adopt a long-proposed tax on international currency trading. The bonus? A less volatile, crisis-prone market.

The way we respond to crises is always highly political, a lesson progressives appear to have forgotten. There’s a historical irony to that: Crises have ushered in some of America’s great progressive policies. Most notably, after the dramatic market failure of 1929, the left was ready and waiting with its ideas — full employment, huge public works, mass union drives. The Social Security system that Moody’s is so eager to dismantle was a direct response to the Depression.

Every crisis is an opportunity; someone will exploit it. The question we face is this: Will the current turmoil become an excuse to transfer yet more public wealth into private hands, to wipe out the last vestiges of the welfare state, all in the name of economic growth? Or will this latest failure of unfettered markets be the catalyst that is needed to revive a spirit of public interest, to get serious about the pressing crises of our time, from gaping inequality to global warming to failing infrastructure?

The disaster capitalists have held the reins for three decades. The time has come, once again, for disaster populism.

Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which will be published in September.Visit Naomi’s website at www.naomiklein.org , or to learn more about her new book, visit www.shockdoctrine.com .

© 2008 The Los Angeles Times


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see

Interview with Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine (video)

The Shock Doctrine in Action in New Orleans by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein “The Shock Doctrine” & “No Logo” interview (must-see video)

The Shock Doctrine by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein (video; over 18 only)

Operation Desert Slaughter by Felicity Arbuthnot (over 18 only)

Dandelion Salad

by Felicity Arbuthnot
Global Research, January 28, 2008

Thoughts on Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is seventeen years since America and Britain embarked on their ‘Final Solution’ for the population of Iraq.

The forty two day carpet bombing, enjoined by thirty two other countries, against a country of just twenty five million souls, with a youthful, conscript army, with broadly half the population under sixteen, and no air force, was just the beginning of a United Nations led, global siege of near mediaeval ferocity.

Having, as James Baker boasted they would, reduced ‘Iraq to a pre-industrial age’, the country was denied all normality : trade, aid, telecommunications, power, sanitation, water repairs, seeds, foods, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment.

As I write, seventeen years ago, Iraq would be entering the second week of a barbaric, near twenty four hour a day, carpet bombing, which, then, as now (lest we forget – yet again) scrupulously ignored Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Convention of 1977:

‘It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies such as irrigation works (denying them) to the civilian population or to the adverse Party … for any motive.’

The Blitzkrieg on Iraq deliberately targeted all ‘indispensable to survival’.

Within twenty four hours, most was destroyed. The electricity went off within two hours, leaving patients on life support machines and vital equipment, babies in incubators, or those on oxygen to die.

Refrigerators defrosted, all medicine needing refrigeration, blood banks and vital saline solutions for the injured were destroyed. Food rotted and between the bombing and the bank closures (latter for fear of looting) replacements were scarce to unbuyable.

In Najav, seventy dialysis patients, ‘old friends’, said the senior nurse in charge of the unit, died for want of electricity. The water supply was deliberately destroyed, parts denied subsequently by the pathetic, US-UK dominated Sanctions Committee – a Committee without a backbone between them – and remains lethal to this day.

This was the plan by US Central Command, it seems, all along. The destruction of Iraq’s water system has been described by Professor Nagy and Stephanie Miller as: ‘a slow motion holocaust’. Few could have put it better.

(See: How the US deliberately destroyed Iraq’s water. by Thomas J Nagy: http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NAG108A.html )

The telecommunications tower was also one of the earliest casualties, an elegant, soaring, structure on the edge of Baghdad’s Mansur district. It lay, broken and crumpled, as did the remains of those who worked inside it. Iraq was thus cut off from the world, the extent of the bombing and atrocities largely unknown for considerable time. Iraqis throughout the world had no way of knowing if their families, friends, loves, were dead or alive. Radio and television stations across Iraq were blitzed so no warnings to populus could be given (journalists too have special protection in wars, but decision makers, seemingly are not only illiterate, but ignore legalities.)

Hospitals, health clinics, schools and kindergartens were bombed, education eradicated so totally that the stores for educational materials, in buildings separate from the schools (usually in a central distribution point some miles away) were also bombed.

Agriculture in all forms was deliberately targeted.

Chicken farms bombed, flocks of sheep and goats, broadly half of all buffalo were killed, dairy farms obliterated.

Crops, food processing factories reduced to rubble. A war crime stupendous in its immensity, for which not one murderous, genocidal, infanticidal, decision maker or pilot has stood trial.

Pharmaceutical factories were bombed, the medical syringe factory was destroyed.

And in an especially psychotic policy, the countries who were Iraq’s trading partners and had built factories and installations for the country, bombed those which they had built. America’s gung-ho goons whooped over bombing the Pepsi and Coca Cola factories. ‘Bravery’ doesn’t come more deviant, sub-normal and retarded than that.

Due to the use of defoliants and napalm, half of all Iraq’s trees, including the great, ancient palms, died. Remaining palms did not bear their succulent fruit for about five years.

In the tranquil, family farming settlements, amongst the palms, women and livestock alike aborted and often died.

Survivors consistently described a ‘vapor’ coming from the ‘planes, then the horrific aftermath, affecting those living in the shelter of the palm groves or copses of trees, where dwellers settled for relative cool from Iraq’s searing summers.

And, of course, in this decimation from above, which dropped more ordinance daily than was dropped daily in the second world war, five times more explosive power was dropped than on Hiroshima.

The weapons used were depleted uranium, which continues to irradiate Iraq and the region, the people, flora and fauna -and will continue to do so for four and a half billion years. ‘..protection of the natural environment against widespread, long term and severe damage’, is another absolute dictate under the Geneva Convention. It proscribes absolutely ‘… damage to the natural environment (prejucing) the health and survival of the population.’

Contraventions don’t come bigger than condemning inestimable generations yet unborn, to death and deformity. The Nuremberg Principles are exercised by the treatment of both civilians and prisoners and the: ‘… murder or ill treatment …of prisoners of war … further, extermination … and other inhuman acts against any civilian population’.

The ‘inhuman acts’, committed against the Iraqi people in 1991 constitute war crimes which, since no one was brought to justice, one can only hope haunt those responsible for all time.

The slaughter on the Basra Road, after the ceasefire, the fleeing civilians and retreating troops, ripped to pieces, or incinerated in General Norman Schwartzkop’s ‘turkey shoot’.

The whole war, of course, was nothing else. Saddam Hussein had offered, indeed, started to retreat from Kuwait before the carnage began, but as ever, for the United States, conciliation was ‘too late’. Buses, lorries, cars were also targeted throughout the forty two day massacre. Lorries carrying medicines, meat, essentials were burned, with their drivers. Western troops took their repulsive ‘trophy photos’, with the pathetic remains of the incinerated and dismembered.

photo

When the (UK) Observer, to its credit, printed the picture which became the symbol of the 1991 atrocities, the Iraqi soldier, with his near melted face welded to the windscreen of his vehicle, there was an outcry.

The sensitivities of readers should not be exposed to such horrors. Maggie O’Kane, writing in the Guardian Weekly (16th December 1995) describes searingly, reality. Relatives, praying, hope against hope, that those they loved, had somehow miraculously survived the hadean inferno that was the Basra Road massacre. “On the day the war ended, at a bus station south of Baghdad, dusk was falling and the road was covered with weeping women.

The Iraqi survivors of the `turkey shoot’ on the Basra Road were crawling home with fresh running wounds. Their women were throwing themselves at the battered minibuses and trucks, pulling, pleading, begging. `Where is he, have you seen him ? Is he not with you ?’ Some fell to their knees on the road when they heard the news.

Others kept running from bus, to truck, to car, looking for their husbands, their sons or their lovers – the 37,000 Iraqi soldiers who would not come back. It went on all night and it was the most desperate and moving scene I have ever witnessed.” There was worse. Think of the excesses of horrors the Western media has deluged its readers with over the years, those perpetrated by people of other cultures, with other features: Stalin, Pol Pot, indeed Saddam Hussein and consider this in Maggie O’Kane’s article: ‘

When Sergeant Joe Queen returned to his home town of Bryson City North California, after the Gulf war, the first thing he saw was a huge banner draped outside Hardees Burger Restaurant, which read: `Welcome Home Joe Queen.’ Joe Queen, who’d been awarded a bronze star, wanted to chill out after the war, but Bryson City wouldn’t let him Joe, 19-years old, had gone straight from Desert Storm to become one of the first American troops to cross the Saudi border in an armored bulldozer. His job was to bury the Iraqis alive in their trenches and then cover over the trenches real smooth so the rest of the Big Red One, as The First Armored Mechanized Brigade is called, could come nice and easy behind him. ‘Joe Queen doesn’t know how many Iraqi troops he buried alive on the front line.

But five years later, in his military base in Georgia, he remembers well how it worked:

`The sand was so soft that once the blade hits the sand it just caves in right on the sides, so we never did go back and forth. So you are traveling at five, six, seven miles an hour just moving along the trench… You don’t see him. You’re up there in the half hatch and you know what you got to do. You did it so much you could close your eyes and do it… I don’t think they had any idea because the look on their faces as we came through the berm was just a look of shock. `While I was retreating, I saw some of the soldiers trying to surrender, but they were buried. There were two kinds of bulldozers, real ones, actual ones, and also they had tanks and they put something like a bulldozer blade in front of them. Some of the soldiers were walking towards the troops holding their arms up to surrender and the tanks moved in and killed them. They dug a hole in the ground and then they buried the soldiers and leveled it.’ One survivor described the friends buried alive, who he had laughed with, eaten with …’I really don’t know how to describe it. We were friends. I ate with some of them. I talked to some of them. I cannot express how I felt at that moment….. I saw one soldier and his body was just torn apart by a bulldozer. The upper part was on one side and the lower on the other side.’

I hope your nightmares and those of your colleagues haunt for all time Joe Queen. May the specter of those for whose live burial you and your murderous colleagues were responsible, follow in all your footsteps, for all time.

These mass graves also carry the names of the leaders who ordered the decimation of Iraq in 1991,their military Commanders and soldiers, on every one of them. Ironically, the mass graves of Saddam Hussein have seemingly not materialized, just war graves and those from the uprising encouraged by the US and UK at the end of the 1991 decimation. The war, of course, never ended. The thirteen year subsequent embargo cost maybe one and a quarter million lives.

Additionally, the US and UK, bombed Iraq (illegally) until the (illegal) invasion of 2003. In 2002, they stepped up their destruction of life, limb and of entire housing projects with families within, children playing, doing homework, flocks of sheep and goats with their child shepherds.

‘Approximately a year before the United States initiated Operation Southern Focus, as a change to its response strategy, by increasing the overall number of missions and selecting targets throughout the no-fly zones to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq. The weight of bombs dropped increased from none in March 2002 and 0.3 in April 2002 to between 8 and 14 tons per month in May-August, reaching a pre-war peak of 54.6 tons in September 2002.’ (Wikipedia.)

A recent study by the Centre for Public Integrity, has also uncovered lies of impeachable stature, leading to invasion, by the Bush Administration..

‘The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them, or had links to al Qaeda, or both. ‘Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.’ (http://www.publicintegrity.org)

Iraq’s post invasion (2003-2007) excess under five mortality has been estimated at over one million. In Afghanistan, post invasion, at 1.9 million (2001-2007.)

For another humanitarian abomination of our time, the Israeli siege of the Gaza strip (June 2007 and ongoing) total excess death figures are elusive.

CIA figures for infant mortality, however (2004) are woeful at 23.54 per thousand births. Sweden (2007) just 2.76 per thousand births. Given Israel’s withdrawal of electricity and just about all needed to sustain life since last June, some serious statistical data is needed – and relentless and absolute demands for humanity and human rights for our global neighbors in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, the forgotten of Lebanon’s ‘Simmer Rain’ decimation, by ‘we the people …’

Like Joe Queen’s genocidal actions, the atrocities committed in these countries are being carried out in our name. ‘Silence is complicity’. (For much more shameful complicity – since 1950 – please see Dr Gideon Polya: ‘Body Count’, an academic, key and indispensable work: http://www.globalbodycount.blogspot.com)

‘There was no one left to kill’, declared General Norman Schwartzkopf after the Basra Road bloodbath, where even the injured holding white flags, and doctors accompanying them were obliterated.

‘Morally, we won’, an Iraqi doctor told me shortly afterwards. Indeed. ‘We are the new Jews’, is an oft heard, Arab refrain now.

As I write, on Holocaust Memorial Day, it is impossible not to reflect that is does not take forced labor camps, forced transport and Zyclon B to create a holocaust. When the figures of the dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, reach six million, as the world stands by, will they too get their own Holocaust Memorial Day?

Will we all, regardless of color or creed, ever learn, before it is too late?

© Copyright Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7920

A humble reminder about the Constitution by Rich

Rich

by Rich

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Rich’s blog post
Thumb Jig

Jan. 29, 2008

There’s a little “trick” interviewers like to play, most recently Stephen Colbert, on right-wingers advocating the display of the Ten Commandments in public spaces. They ask these nearsighted evangelicals to simply name them. All ten. It’s a fair enough question. If these precepts are literally gospel truth you shouldn’t have too much trouble memorizing them before shopping them around to everyone else. Yet, as Colbert revealed, they can’t do it. The same goes with politicians and the Constitution. If a candidate evokes our Nation’s most esteemed document in an interview or on the campaign trail one of the first questions that should be asked is can you name the Bill of Rights? I doubt if McCain or Romney could. Obama and Clinton probably, although I doubt if they believe in them. I guess that’s the general difference between the two parties in a nutshell. The majority of Democrats pay lip service to the Constitution. The majority of Republicans do not.


Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

Originally uploaded by vinyl_word

But this is a new phenomenon, right? If we take a trip in the way-back machine we’d find a true reverence for the Constitution. Or will we? Was Woodrow Wilson worshiping at the feet of the first amendment when he championed the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act? Or did FDR embody personal freedom when he interned the nation’s Japanese-American population (but not Germans or Italians)? How about our third President, John Adams, who, out of paranoia over Irish Immigration and the French Revolution, passed the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798? These are some of the most famous examples, but there are vulgar violations through out history, often committed without remorse.

In fact, the Bill of Rights was a controversial addition to the Constitution in the first place. Alexander Hamilton opposed it saying the Constitution was enough and did not restrict anyone’s freedom. But the people fought for its inclusion. Maybe that’s why those first amendments have been so flexible in the minds of our leaders. The body of the Constitution, which defines governmental powers, inspires a little more obedience. Freedom of speech and assembly are beautiful concepts with pretty words, but when the Constitution grants the Congress the power to tax or to honor voluntary contracts or to suspend habeas corpus these passages by comparison are divine and immutable.

It was in the interest of the Framers — white, land-and-slave-owning rich men — to first liberate themselves from King George then create a solid federal government in order to secure foreign investment. Madison and Monroe, for example, wanted to buy land from the Indians but didn’t possess the start-up capital. No foreign investors, such as France, wanted to take the risk of lending money because no mechanism like a judicial branch existed to ensure the cash would be returned. But the Founders couldn’t do it alone. They needed to acclimate the middle class to their revolution. They needed soldiers and a buffer from the property-less poor who had carried on a protracted campaign of rebellion against our ruling class. Their solution was to include language of liberty, equality and protection.

Even a cursory glance tells you they didn’t mean it. The wealthy doesn’t want equality, especially during the time of the Constitution’s writing. Black men were property, Indians were something less than human and so were women. You couldn’t vote unless you had property which means the interest of renters were rarely represented.

This is why the Constitution provides for a republic and not a democracy. Madison distanced the decision-making powers from the people after looking at how uppity we get when charged exorbitant prices or denied paper money. Madison wrote:

“In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body.”

It is obvious who the minority was, and Madison along with many of the Founding Fathers, didn’t have any use for the functions of democracy with its system of discussion, proposal, counter-proposal, decision and dissent. They preferred an electoral college and representation of the remaining number of men who were allowed to participate in the system.It took centuries of blood to enjoy the luxuries of today. The Bill of Rights set the standard and we have yet to achieve its ideals. A great companion to the Constitution is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The language of the Constitution may have been insincere but it remains a terrific destination. Remember, no piece of paper gave you your rights, no matter how many times you’re told just that in the year to come.

See also:
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Cost, Illogical & Inflexibility Of Bureaucracies by Guadamour

GUADAMOUR

by Guadamour
Dandelion Salad
featured writer

Guadamour’s blog post
Jan. 29, 2008

The following is more or less what was written by the author and appeared in Ramparts Journal in 1979.

The clanking of a metal door awakes me. I lie in the dark, taking a moment to discover where I am, and how I managed to be here.

I am in O’Callough (I am not sure on the spelling of this after all these years) Prison outside of Vancouver, British Columbia.

It’s 1979, and I’m somewhat confused as to why I’m here. I just completed my second Masters Degree in May, and here it is the first part of June. I also have one professional graduate degree, and was an award winning war correspondent in Vietnam for two years.

Yesterday in my first day in the yard when we are let out for recreation, I was the more or less the joke member of this very exclusive society.

When I asked what the guys were in for I was told things like, ten thousand hits of acid, counterfeiting, grand theft auto, bank robbery, I’m a professional thief, et cetera.

When asked what I was in for, I said, “Oh. I walked across the border,” And everyone would laugh. It was no joke for me.

I start retracing the thread of events that landed me here, and realize it starts three years previously in 1976.

That year during Christmas break from the university I am hitch hiking down to Mexico from Tucson and onto Central America on one of my numerous trips to this part of the world.

As I stood by the roadside outside of Nogales, Sonora an older blue 60s Dodge pick-up pulled over and gave me a ride. The truck had British Columbia plates, and that’s when I met Flavia and Michael.

Michael was a hefty blond six footer with broad shoulders and a light stubble on his square chin. I discovered that he was a rugged outdoors person who had a 600 acre patch of ground in the mountainous area of BC. He logged, farmed, built furniture and panned for gold.

Flavia was barely five feet with dark brown bushy hair, had a mischievous smile and warm languid eyes, and a marvelous French Canadian accent. She was from Nova Scotia, and she and Michael had only been married for six months.

This trip to Mexico was their belated honeymoon. They had never been to Mexico, neither of them spoke Spanish and didn’t really know what to expect. They did know they wanted to get far enough south so they could laze on the beach in warm sunlight and not have to worry about the cold. Maybe, even see a coconut palm or two.

I told them, “I know the perfect place for you.”

I told them about Las Penitas de Jaltemba on the coast of Nayarit. It was a small place I had discovered in 68, and I had been going back most every year accept when I was in Nam or hitchhiking from Nam to Western Europe, but that’s another story.

Michael, Flavia and I shared driving, pushing hard to get to Las Penitas. It’s about a 28 hour drive when you drive straight through, but that was in the bad old days of only a lane highway where you were always glancing and dancing around semis and tortans.

Las Penitas has started to build up from the days when I first discovered it. There are now three hotels, still lots of coconut palms, and a large expanse of unpopulated beach.

I set Michael and Flavia up in hotel and they are happy and I hitch hike back to Tepic and head south for Guatemala.

I have a wild and exhausting trip and then I start back, trying to catch a ride north out of Guatemala City. I am a little loaded down with a large pack, but still I manage to get a ride on a motorcycle to the outskirts headed north. The little overburdened Yamaha set me down, and I thanked the driver and waved as he drives off.

It’s hot and muggy and the sweat is rolling off of me. There’s the rotten rancid smell of papaya in the air.

I’ve been standing there awhile and it doesn’t look good, and I’m getting discouraged, thinking I may have to take public transportation. That’s when Eduardo, Matilda and their four-year-old daughter stop.

They’re driving a nice well cared for later model full sized white Chevy van with blue trim.

It comes out that they’re headed back home to LA after visiting family over the holidays.

Eduardo is a mechanic and has his own shop in LA. I offer to help drive, but he won’t hear of it. We talk of many things, and I relax and watch the scenery after being questioned by Matilda about my lack of belief in god.

We make it to Tuxtla de Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas the first day. They spend the night in a hotel, and I try to get a ride headed north even though its has become dark. Finally I give up and pitch a tent in a vacant lot.

In the morning who should stop and pick me up but Eduardo and Matilda.

We travel another day together. When they pick out their motel for the evening they say, “Why don’t you sleep in the van?”

I don’t have to be invited twice. I spend the night in the Chevy.

The following day we make Tepic where we all spend the night in the old colonial hotel downtown, though Matilda is doubtful about the hotel because it is so old.

I love the old hotel with tall arching ceiling and thick solid doors, though I must admit that I’ve passed many times through Tepic, but had never stayed at the hotel.

I have to make a decision I am making much better time than I ever could have imagined, and at the rate I’m going I will soon be back in Tucson with too much time to kill.

Eduardo and Matilda will either be driving through Tucson or turning on Mexico 2 at Santa Ana and heading towards Tijuana. Santa Ana is only a 100 kilometers south of Nogales which in turn is only about 70 miles from Tucson.

I say, to hell with the sure thing, and ask Eduardo to drop me off on the highway that heads down to Las Penitas. I want to check on Michael and Flavia and see how their doing.

It’s not until two years later that I stop and see Eduardo again in his shop in LA.

Michael and Flavia are having a fabulous time and enjoying themselves immensely.

I spend a couple of days with them, and give them my address and phone number in Tucson, “If there’s anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to call or stop by.”

I didn’t really think I’d ever hear from or see Michael and Flavia again.

Three weeks later they showed up at my house in Tucson. They had run out of money and needed a place to crash while the money was straightened out in Canada and wired to them.

They spent ten days with me. They ‘re great people to have around, and I’m able to show them some sites around the Old Pueblo as only a native can show a newcomer around a city.

Before they leave Michael and Flavia give me their address and phone number in BC. They say, “You have to visit. You don’t even have to call. Just show up.”

I put their address and phone number in the notebook in my wallet, and pretty much forgot about it.

I’ve always consider hitchhiking good anthropology. It gives one a view of a great cross section of society.

I completed my Masters in Anthro in 73. I just completed an MFA in Creative Writing in 79 with a previous stint in L School.

By this time Turkey Dog and I were boon champions and had made a number of hitchhiking trips together. Turkey Dog is a young athletic Black and White English pointer, and he loves riding in cars and hitchhiking.

Turkey Dog and I set off in the first part of May for parts more or less unknown. After we’re on the road a while together, I decide it would be a good idea of visit some relatives I have in the northeast corner on North Dakota.

As we’re leaving my relatives farms I think, what the hell: why not visit Michael and Flavia. It’s not really that far away, and T-Dog and I are already way North.

We head west on I-90 and pretty soon we’re getting into western Montana.

We head north through Kalispell and end up at the Canadian border at Eureka at about 10 am on a Sunday towards the end of May.

Turkey Dog and I are riding in style in a motor home with a really friendly older couple.

When the border official sees Turkey, he asks, “Does he have his shots?”

“Definitely,” I say with a smile, “He’s had all his shots including parvo.”

“Can I see his paperwork?” the official says unsmilingly.

I know I’m up shit creak, and I say, “I’m afraid I don’t have it with me.”

The border official shakes his head, “I’m afraid I can’t let him in.”

The couple I’m traveling with say, “That’s too bad.” They let me out and wish me luck.

Turkey Dog and I start hitch hiking back towards Kalispell. I remember seeing a veterinarian along the highway and it looked as though he lived there.

It’s mid afternoon by the time I pay eighty bucks to get Turkey re-vaccinated. But at least now I have the paperwork.

It’s been a long day, and I have a back pack, long hair and a beard. I’m getting frayed from traveling too much, road weary.

The day is cool, the clouds are banking and it’s threatening rain, though it doesn’t do more than spit a little.

It’s ten o’clock at night by the time T Dog and I are back at the border again in Eureka.

There’s a very young officious looking man tending the Canadian border check point at this time. He still has a case of acne.

He looks at me and asks, “How much money do you have on you?”

I show him my wallet, and I only have about a hundred dollars left in it.

He shakes his head. “I can’t let you in unless you have at least three hundred dollars.” Then he asked with a serious look on is pudgy face, “Do you have any major credit cars with you?”

At that time I only carried one credit card with me. A TWA card. It was honored by all the other airlines, and I could always fly out of any place. I show him this and my press credentials and explain to him that I’m going to visit some friends in BC that I helped out awhile back.

He shakes his head. “I’m afraid I can’t let you in.”

At this point I lose my cool. I say, “Fuck you. I’m going to make it in anyway!”

Turkey Dog and I walk back into the states fifty yards or so and then go through the forest, find a stream and cross over into Canada on the stream. After that we hike back to the highway on the Canadian side well past the border check point.

It’s a dark night and I think my chances of catching a ride are about nil, but miraculously a car stops and T Dog and I climb in.

We’re only in the vehicle about 10 or fifteen minutes when we come to a road block. They’ve set up a roadblock to catch me. I can’t believe it!

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police take me to a town called Fernie where they throw me in the slammer and literally impound Turkey.

Since I haven’t had much to eat all day the jail provides me with a good hearty meal.

In the morning they feed me the best breakfast I’ve had in days.

After that is when the real adventure begins. I and an officer handcuffed together travel to Cranbrook, the nearest location with a Canadian Federal Court.

I appear before a Federal Judge and he asks me how I plead. I plead Not Guilty. There are rational reasons for what I did and I believe I can make a good argument that will get me off from this little misunderstanding.

It is the end of May and the Judge sets my trial date for July 15. Then he orders me held in reprimand. This means I am not eligible for bail, and have to sit on my duff until I appear in court.

What the hell, I think. And Turkey Dog is in prison too.

But this is an immigration matter, and not just a matter for a Federal Canadian Judge. The nearest immigration court is in Vancouver.

That afternoon an officer and I handcuffed together fly to Vancouver. We eat well along the way. I haven’t eaten this good since I started this trip.

I spend the night in the Vancouver City Jail, eating well.

In the morning I appear before an Immigration Adjudicate. I explain the situation to her and show her my passport and press credentials.

She says, “This has all been a misunderstanding. You have three days in which to leave the country.”

This is great I think. Now I can go back and get T Dog and get the hell out of here.

I soon find out it doesn’t work that way. I’ve already appeared before a Federal Judge and have been order held in reprimand. If I had seen the adjudicate first, I would have been free to leave.

But now I find myself cooling my heels in the Canadian Federal Prison O’Callough outside of Vancouver.

The Canadian Federal government is feeding me well, and providing better living accommodations than I would have if I were traveling cross country via my thumb.

I’m worried about Turkey Dog. He’s in the slammer too. Are they feeding him well? How long do they keep a dog before putting them down?

Earlier in the year I extensively interviewed United States Representative Morris K. Udall, and had written three very favorable articles about him that appeared in national publications.

I write a letter to his office explaining my current predicament.

In the Canadian Federal system anyone being held in reprimand needs to appear before a Federal Judge every ten days.

After I was in O’Callough for eight days (I was given credit for the night I was held in Fernie and the night in Vancouver City Jail), I appear before a judge.

By this time Udall’s office had come through and secured a legal aid lawyer for me.

My plea is changed to No Contest. I am given a fifty dollar fine which is suspended. I am free to leave.

The Canadian officials provide me with a bus ticket back to Fernie and two hundred dollars for traveling expenses.

It is the weekend when I arrived in the small town of Fernie. I track the mayor down, and he gives me a ride out to the pound where I climb over the fence and throw Turkey Dog out to freedom.

The mayor gives me a voucher for a hotel room and another for dinner and yet another for breakfast.

In the morning the mayor gives me a ride back to the US border.

I leave Canada with three dollars over three hundred. The Canadian government has housed and fed me for ten days, has paid for bus and airline tickets for me and an officer, and this is all because I didn’t have three hundred dollars on me when I entered Canada.

I never did get to see Michael and Flavia, and I haven’t been back to Canada since.

As I left Canada I thought about my father. He was born in Southwest Montana, and was an attorney, business, journalist, a much published photographer and by inclination an historian. He would have been best as a Professor of History, but it was something he never did.

He died in 1990. A year before the Soviet Union collapsed. He had always contended that it would topple of it own bureaucratic weight, and he was right. It wasn’t because of the huge arms build-up of the Reagan Administration. It was bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of common sense and accountability.

My father always pointed out to me that it was bureaucratic inefficiency that brought down Egypt and China and many other empires.

I fear for the USA. The government and bureaucrats in Washington are completely out of touch with the wishes of the people. The lack of common sense and accountability is rampant.

When T Dog and I get back home, I write the story up and sell it to Ramparts Journal, pointing out the fact that the Canadian government spent over $3,000 on me because I didn’t have $300 to start with.

By the way, O’Callough has been torn down and replaced with a much more modern and expensive prison. A prison filled with prisoners that have “committed” victimless crimes. Does this make sense?

Biden, Webb, McCain & Obama respond to Bush’s SOTU (vids)

Dandelion Salad

CSPANJUNKIEdotORG

Senator Joe Biden responds to Bush State of the Union

Senator Jim Webb responds to Bush State of the Union

John McCain responds to Bush State of the Union

Barack Obama on Bush State of the Union speech

Andy Card: EVERYONE on this show is VERY CYNICAL!

see

Olbermann: SOTU + The Florida Factor + Worst + Bushed!

Bush’s Final State of the Union Speech 01.28.08 (video; transcript)

Mike Gravel on Russian TV (video)

Dandelion Salad

RussiaToday

It’s a Presidential election year in the U.S. and that means endless political speculation. Former Alaska Senator, Mike Gravel, shared with RT his view on the outgoing U.S. administration, and what his predictions are for the future.

see

Dennis Kucinich’s Brave Voice by Mike Gravel

Impeachment Statement by Presidential Candidate Senator Mike Gravel

Gravel-Mike

Mike Gravel For President 2008

Olbermann: SOTU + The Florida Factor + Worst + Bushed!

Dandelion Salad

Ryokibin

Jan. 28, 2008

The State Of The Union

Keith talks with David Gregory.

The Florida Factor

Keith talks with Chuck Todd.

World’s Worst

Worse: Karl Rove, Choate Rosemary Hall.

Worser: Glenn Beck

Worst: Mary Kathryn Ham

Bushed!

Freedom Of Information Isn’t Free-Gate

Torture-Gate

Waterboarding-Gate

see

Bush’s Final State of the Union Speech 01.28.08 (video; transcript)