February 2007

Net neutrality IS democracy.

IF the US is serious about democracy, this is the way for it to lead the world, by protecting equal access to the internet. Net neutrality IS freedom of speech, it IS equality.

View the video! Many people don’t yet understand the issue of net neutrality. This video provides a clear and brief explanation, along with some laughs.

Go to savetheinternet.com and share the information with friends. Sign the petition, contact your members of Congress and your state legislators.

These same people who perpetrated Iran Contra, are operating out of Vice President Cheney’s office, and helping fund the Sunni sympathizers with al Qaeda, who attacked the US on 9/11, and the Sunni insurgents, who have been responsible for so many American deaths in Iraq. Elliott Abrams is a key player in this new fiasco, and Congress pledged he would never work at high level in government again. Seymour Hersh in his recent article, The Redirection, in the New Yorker, describes what is happening.

The Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. . . A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
. . .
Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became know as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.
. . .
“There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general. “This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me.

This screams for oversight and investigation. But the administration is not fulfilling its constitutional duties to keep Congress informed. Even after all the administration lying and bungling, they are still saying just trust us. Read Seymour Hersh’s entire article.

I quoted an article by Chris Floyd in the Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel recently that said:

If “Al Qaeda in Iraq” vowed to open the nation’s oil spigots for Exxon, Fluor and Halliburton, they would suddenly find themselves transformed from “terrorists” into “moderates”

Al Qaeda and its sympathizers have not even offered that, but the US, in the person of the Vice President and his henchmen, are still treating Al Qaeda sympathizers as “moderates” and “allies,” and funneling money their way.

Vick (Vicky or Victoria) Fornah has won numerous awards, and is enormously popular in Sierra Leone and in West Africa. She has a beautiful voice. Her songs offer hope, and the feeling that there is an opportunity to rebuild and make things better, and the music is lovely. You can find CDs and DVDs of her music at Sierra Leone Live music store, or at Pan African Allstars, Search for Fornah; what is available may vary quite a bit from time to time. And there are a few more of her music videos on YouTube.

And there are some doozies here today. US support for the troops, once they are injured, gets some needed scrutiny.

American Humvee on the streets of Baghdad
Do you want foreigners, or anyone, driving like this in your city? in your country?

I don’t blame these soldiers for driving like this, they don’t want to be blown up. I would do the same thing in their circumstances. But they shouldn’t be there. This does not make the US any friends. This is a pointless and unnecessary war chosen by the Bush administration. No country can trust their motives or their word. And Ghana will not benefit if Americans bring arrogance and their enemies with them into Ghana. Most Americans are decent people, but the Bush administration takes the worst, and makes it even worse.

Military bases around the world are the way America maintains a colonial empire. This is more true than ever under Bush, as his administration pushes everywhere to make Americans exempt from other nations’ laws. It is something for Ghanaians to keep in mind, if Kufuor, or anyone else, is thinking of inviting the US to build a base in Ghana. Chalmers Johnson writes:

America’s version of the colony is the military base . . .
Interestingly enough, the thirty-eight large and medium-sized American facilities spread around the globe in 2005 — mostly air and naval bases for our bombers and fleets — almost exactly equals Britain’s thirty-six naval bases and army garrisons at its imperial zenith in 1898. The Roman Empire at its height in 117 AD required thirty-seven major bases to police its realm from Britannia to Egypt, from Hispania to Armenia. Perhaps the optimum number of major citadels and fortresses for an imperialist aspiring to dominate the world is somewhere between thirty-five and forty.

According to William Arkin, who writes on national and homeland security for the Washington Post:

What is more, the creation of a military command to handle Africa will have the opposite effect of creating more security. A new African focus? Sure. But a new command with a new be-medaled envoy? Surely that will send the wrong message to the world.

The Pentagon planners are:

New tree, same monkeys.
Africa Command though isn’t just a waste of resources: It does the wrong thing and sends the wrong message. We will build a multi-million dollar headquarters somewhere, organize a permanent staff overseen by a dozen flag officers; build bases and institute “force protection”; organize new meetings, conferences, exercises and operations. We will be ever so pleased that we have put all of Africa under one unified organization, with one commander. We will talk about the need for non-military solutions, for economic development, improved health care and support for democracy. Our Africa specialists will finally feel satisfied that they have had their day and joined the senior varsity. Our adversaries and the skeptics of American power will just see it all as another example of empire and military domination in the making.

Pyramid of Capitalist System, issued by Nedeljkovich, Brashick and Kuharich,
Cleveland: The International Publishing Co., 1911.

Bush cuts taxes for the wealthy, and cuts vital spending for the rest of Americans. Most of the support for eliminating the estate tax comes from just 18 families. Matt Taibbi gives us the numbers. Bush proposes a complete elimination of the estate tax in his budget. It would benefit the following people, among others. These benefits, shown in red, are compared to the cuts Bush and the 18 families propose for the rest of Americans, shown in blue.

Bush tax cuts
Bush budget CUTS

$32.7 billion gift in tax cuts to the Wal-Mart family

$28 billion to be CUT from Medicaid.

$11.7 billion tax cut gift to the heirs to the Mars candy corporation
$3.4 billion to be CUT from Veterans Administration benefits (supporting the troops?)

$9.7 billion tax cut gift to the Cox family (Cox cable TV)
$1.5 billion in CUTS for education

$826.5 million tax cut gift to the Nordstrom family
$630 million CUT – Community Service Block Grants would be eliminated

$468.4 million tax cut gift to the Ernest Gallo family
$420 million CUT from LIHEAP (heating oil to poor)

$164 million tax cut gift to the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond
$108 million CUT over ten years to COMPLETELY ELIMINATE the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.

As Taibbi says:

That’s not only bad government, it’s bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace.

In the words of Bishop Spong:

Capitalism . . . has within it the seeds of its own destruction if it allows more and more of the available wealth to be confined into the hands of fewer and fewer of the people. This was the capitalism that Karl Marx felt would finally destroy itself. Capitalism, however, as lived out in the western world has been tempered by social legislation that taxes the wealthy to provide benefits for the poor and middle classes. Capitalism courts revolution when it allows the wealthy to get too wealthy and the poor to get too poor.

Unfortunately, I noted, the recent history of the United States has moved in exactly that direction. During the eight years of the Bill Clinton presidency, which was a major portion of the decade of the 90’s, more wealth was produced for Americans than in any other decade in our national history. Indeed, it expanded the wealth of America to twice what had been produced in the entire history of an independent America. It also widened the gap between the rich and the poor to levels never before seen. That gap has widened even more under the presidency of George Bush and today rests at what I regard as dangerous levels. Every economic program of the Bush administration has been designed to enhance the wealth of the wealthy and, in fact, has exacerbated the poverty of the poor. So we have an economic policy that allows CEOs to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars, made up of salary and stock options, while refusing to provide health care for more than 40 million citizens and allowing our public schools to be significantly under funded.
John Shelby Spong, Q&A Newsletter, Feb 21,2007

I rarely go to plays or musicals in the theater. I used to go sometimes, but I did not often enjoy the ones I saw. Last night some friends persuaded me to join them in seeing Nerds://A Musical Software Satire at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and I loved it!

I was riveted for the entire show. It moved along at a bounding pace, with a cast that put their whole hearts into the fun and spirit of the show. I’m not a theater critic, I don’t know enough about theater. But I can recognize a fabulously good time. And watching Nerds was a fabulously good time. The whole audience felt the same, based on the laughter and enthusiastic clapping throughout the whole show. The energy and talent of the entire cast carried us all along.

The playbill described the musical as:

Nerds is an outrageous musical take on the parallel stories of computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they blaze from ‘garage inventors’ to warring titans of the computer revolution.

It isn’t a history of the actual people, Gates and Jobs, and a few others, it is not a documentary. It is a cultural impression of the beginnings of the personal computer, until its all encompassing role in our lives now. Gates and Jobs are cultural icons, and nerdy kids we may all once have been. The writers have done a terrific job of incorporating cultural institutions and pop culture references such as Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, IBM, and many others, that most people in the US, and many around the world will recognize. Nerds uses the rivalry between the characters Gates and Jobs, Microsoft and Apple, to drive the storyline. And the writers put the story together with some smash musical numbers in a variety of pop music styles that all work together and compliment each other, and the story. We laughed at jokes in the music, at the clever writing, visual jokes, and luxuriated in the acting, singing, dancing, and visual feast.

I think Nerds would make a super movie. The show is playing through Feb. 25, but I hope there will be more chances for more people to see it. I’d like to see it again. You can hear samples of 3 of the songs here. There is a Nerds://A Musical Software Satire blog, where you can see a few more photos than the one here, and where I found these quotes:

“Nerds, a new musical about the digital age, is an unrelenting hoot, and it sucks you in like a high-speed download . . .
The [show is] directed by Philip Wm. McKinley . . . who clearly has encouraged the cast to wring every drop of fun from this twisted history of computers, and of the two prime movers who made them a force that redefined everyday life…The entire cast plumbs the show for all it’s worth, the sort of hard drive you’ll never find inside that little tower at your desk.”
– Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Fantastic, new musical…the detailed greatness of prop, costume, and scenery, let alone actor, song, and story, would be enough to truly delight…Nerds is a delightful show with a whole lot for the eye to take in. Real life nerds will love it, but so will everybody else.” – Caren Beilin, Philly Theatre Review

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