Friday, November 27, 2009

Here's an excellent explanation of the coup in Honduras

Honduras. Why was there a coup against President Zelaya?

Charles II has an excellent series explaining the problems there.

Whom the gods would destroy, part 1: the crisis in Honduras.

A big part of the problem in Honduras is the irrational and disorganized Constitution. It is widely recognized that the Constituion of Honduras must be changed. The powers of the status quo. Chiquita, the descendant of United Fruit; the military, a number of oil companies and mining companies and some sweatshop operators do not want this to happen. There are 12 families in Honduras who control almost all business. Ten of them were behind this coup.
Whom the gods would destroy, part 2: The crisis in Honduras.
The following were the reasons given for the coup:
  • Zelaya was trying to succeed himself in office, either by re-election or by seizing power, specifically by having a referendum (note the term) on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention
  • Zelaya was mentally ill
  • Zelaya had broken one or more "set-in-stone" articles of the Constitution, whose punishment is immediate removal from office
  • Zelaya had committed numerous civil crimes and had to be removed from office
  • Zelaya was a communist or, at least, an acolyte of Hugo Chavez, who wanted to turn Honduras into a new Venezuela or a new Cuba.

The following were the explanations for why the coup was wrong:
• Zelaya had raised the minimum wage from about $1.20 per hour to $1.70 per hour, angering sweatshop owners, the restaurant owners, Chiquita, and others who rely on low wages (Honduran minimum wage laws are complex, and beyond the scope of the present work.)
  • Zelaya had refused to illegalize the "morning after" pill, angering the Roman Catholic hierarchy, as well as most evangelicals
  • Zelaya had resisted privatization of the electrical an phone companies, angering those who hoped to profit from privatization
  • Zelaya had ended the Byzantine regulation of gasoline, which had boosted prices, obtaining cheap gas through Petrocaribe, and angering international oil companies and those who profited from the existing system
  • Zelaya had joined the Bolivaran organization ALBA, which includes Cuba and Venezuela, providing a pretext to anti-communists to accuse him of communist sympathies
  • Zelaya wanted to convert Palmerola airbase to civilian use (the runway at Toncontin airport is too short for civilian aircraft to safely land), angering the US military
  • Zelaya wanted to fulfill the campaign rhetoric on an Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (Constitutional Convention), and was laying the framework by holding a non-binding poll to put political pressure on Congress to act. Since the power of the oligarchy requires that the political system frustrate any possible reform, this threatened their interests

Part III is yet to be published.

Needless to say, Charles II provides good explanations of what I have written here.

It is my opinion that this political battle is another in the interminable war between the social forces of tradition, the social forces of global trade, and the social forces of the even more recent Industrialization.

I suspect they are all connected in the French Revolution, U.S. Civil War, the Great War and WW II, the Cold War, and the current battles in America between the conservatives and the liberal/progressives. A lot of it is carried by global trade, while more of it is involved in both the advances in communications technology, the growth of populations, and the movement of the growing populations off the farms and into the cities - something that passed 50% of the World population about half a century ago.

As the urban technological societies expand they demand oil and raw materials, so they create and manipulate local elites in third world societies. All of these social changes are being fought against by the forces of the status quo who will lose because of them. Khadaffy took over Libya because of this dynamic. The Iranians kicked out the Shah because of it. The Saudi royal family runs scared of the religious elites because of it. The Muslim Brotherhood grew up in Egypt because of it.

The difference between the voters in America for the Democrats and those for the Republicans also reflect this urban - rural split. You will notice that in 2008 Democrats overwhelmingly carried the metropolitan areas, and the Republicans carried the rural counties.

When people who grew up in a rural farming family are forced to move to cities to support their families, the city dwellers and the rural elites both lose power. The new urban residents are not, in fact, urban culturally. That takes a generation.

Another problem occurs when rural herders are forced to live inside fenced land. They do not adapt well to the societies of farmers or to city societies. We are seeing this dynamic occur world wide.

Honduras is just one more example of these problems of various societies adapting to the new economic, demographic and social changes. Zelaya tried to change government and the powers of the status quo conducted a coup to remove him. Charles II also alludes to a similar problem which hamstrung Clinton when he was elected President. I suggest that the same dynamic is behind teh desperate battle by the powers of the status quo to stop Obama from reforming the disastrous American health insurance system.

Honduras and the coup against Zelaya is another example of the battle between the forces of the status quo and those demanding change to meet new economic and social conditions.

Addendum 12/13/09 12:54 pm
Here is Part III of Charles II's diary on the Honduran Coup. This part of the diary covers the responses of the various players to whom the coup has been important.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What makes Palin popular with the right?

Palin is a right-wing populist. That's Dave Neiwert's story.

Palin is a right wing populist in the tradition of the Ku Klux Klan of 1915 - 1920 and of the militia movements of the 1990's. One of those movements what the Alaska Independence Party which supported Palin for Governor the first time she ran. The AIP and the militia movements of the 1990's were fringe movements, but the KKK of the early 20th century was a powerful force in American politics in many states for the first half of the century. So why isn't Palin just another fringe right-winger? Here is
Dave Niewert's description of that right-wing fronge movement in the twentieth century:
This Klan crumbled in the late 1920s under the weight of internal political warfare and corruption; many of its field organizers later turned up in William Dudley Pelley’s overtly fascist Silver Shirts organization of the 1930s. After World War II, most of these groups – as well as the renowned anti-Semite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, and lingering American fascist groups like George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party – were fully relegated to fringe status. So, too, were subsequent attempts at reviving right-wing populism, embodied by Willis Carto and his Populist Party, as well as other forms of right-wing populism that cropped up in the latter half of the century, from Robert DePugh’s vigilante/domestic terrorist organization The Minutemen in the 1960s, to the Posse Comitatus and “constitutionalist” tax protesters in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the “militia”/Patriot movement of the 1990s. As it had been since at least the 1920s, this brand of populism was riddled with conspiracist paranoia, xenophobic white tribalism, and a propensity for extreme violence.

Yet beginning in the 1990s, as mainstream conservatives built more and more ideological bridges with this sector – reflected in the increasing adoption of far-right rhetoric within the mainstream – the strands of populism became more and more imbedded in mainstream-conservative dogma, particularly the deep, visceral, and often irrational hatred of the federal government. One of the more popular "mainstream" figure among this bloc in the 1990s was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And so when he created something of a sensation with is campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008, it meant that these ideas and agendas started receiving widespread circulation among the mainstream Right -- and with it, an increasing number of conservatives who called themselves "libertarians", when what they really meant was "populists."
So Niewert points to George W. Bush, to Rep. Ron Paul, and to John McCain as the culprits for creating Sarah Palin as the new face of the modern Republican Party. The Republicans have flirted with the the fringe right-wingers, but they didn't invite them in to take over. But then came the collapse of mainstream and Wall Street Republicanism in the wake of the disaster of the Bush years. Ron Paul had run for President on the mildly sanitized right-wing fringe ideas and had introduced those ideas to mainstream Republicans in 2008 even as those Republicans recognized the disaster that mainstream Republicanism was facing in the next election. When John McCain ran for President he was rather soundly rejected by even most of the Republicans. So he reached out and pulled in the right-wing fringe cult figure from Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Palin probably saved the Republican national campaign from a Goldwater-level disaster. She didn't win the campaign, but she helped it avoid total electoral ignominy. In the process, she became the right-wing celebrity superstar of the moment. She did nothing, however, for mainstream Republicanism or for John McCain. They are down the tubes because the entire Republican - Wall Street message has been discredited. So Sarah Palin has stepped in to fill the vacuum.

The actual takeover of the Republican Party occurred on April 15th, 2009 with the beginning of the tea-Bagger mob actions. Since that time, as though by magic, the mainstream Republican politicians have been dancing to the tune called by the spokespeople for the tea-baggers, and Sarah Palin is the celebrity face of the tea-baggers.

What Niewert has not discussed in this article is the association/alliance of the Dominionists with the right-wing extremist groups. These are the extremist fundamentalist christians who are behind the political effort to teach creationism in the public schools. This is one step in their effort to change America into a nation that is governed under their understanding of Biblical law.

A few of the better known Dominionists are "James Dobson and Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, Louis Sheldon and the Traditional Values Coalition, Don Wildmon and the American Family Association." Pat Robertson is another. There are a number of others, especially TV evangelists.

The Dominionist anti-science anti-Gay religious extremists appear to me to be a separate thread of right-wing fringe group. But it appears that Sarah Palin represents them also, as did Florida's Katherine Harris. Theocracy Watch keeps track of the Dominionists.

The connection of these groups to The Family AKA the Fellowship is also not clear to me. The Fellowship is the secretive fundamentalist organization currently led by Douglas Coe, the owners and sponsor of the C Street house for "Christian" politicians and the reputedly most politically powerful evangelical group in America. This connection is another question that needs to be answered. Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, Sen. Inhofe, Rep. Pitts, Rep. Stupak, and Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford are all members of The Fellowship. There are others.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Last Night the House passed Health Care Reform

Now that the House Democrats have passed a health care reform bill, it is going to resonate with the majority of Americans who want both health care reform and the public option. Even if the Senate were to successfully kill the bill now, the majority of American voters have a clear idea of what health care reform can look like, and who is for and against the reform.

This will carry over to the 2010 election, either as proof that the Democrats are taking action against America's problems or that the Republican's refuse to act against America's problems.

The other 2010 election problem for the Democrats is the economy. They have nearly a year now to position themselves as being in support of the American people and to further paint the Republican Party as the Party of No.

I'd say that last night Nancy Pelosi pulled out a really big win for both America and for the Democratic Party. All the Republicans have left is bluster and some ability to tie up the Senate. Neither of those are going to go over too well in an economy that isn't doing well, as is almost certainly going to be the case in November 2010.

Lieberman is also in a weaker position now. How would you like to be a Democratic Senator how could be blamed for killing the HCR bill now? And if Joe were to block a vote and kill the Senate bill, do you think the real Democratic Senators would look on his actions kindly?

The rest of the Senators in the Democratic Caucus would gain a lot of street cred by getting rid of Joe. And at that point, his only choice would be to become a Republican when the Republicans are a powerless minority. And how much seniority are the Republican Senators going to give up to donate to a traitor Democrat? Would he even become a ranking member on some committee?

Yesterday's House vote has a lot of resonance. This is going to be even more interesting from here on out, and I'd say that health care reform is in a good position to be passed. We watched history being made last night.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Wondering why Major Hasan attacked the US Army at Fort Hood

I don't think there is much doubt now that Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 US soldiers and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood Thursday. There have clearly been a lot of reports about the event in the news since then, many inaccurate. But it is not at all clear what happened yet.

I am a retired Army Reserve Major who has spent quite a bit of time at Fort Hood. I also love the Army. It is my family, as much as is my real family. Major Hassan killed my brothers-in-arms. The emphasis is on brothers (or sisters.) But Major Hasan was also one of us. How could he do this? I know he is only a doctor and not a real soldier, but I'm an Ordnance officer and a REMF. Neither of us are (were) combat arms. We were both technicians supporting the guys at the tip of the spear. It's still my family. I need to know what the fuck happened.

The LA Times offers an early report that seems to me to get to some of the answers. But first we need to look at how he got where he is. Major Hasan was a graduate of Virginia Tech. The reports I have seen say that he graduated in 1997. He must have been a damned good student, because he convinced the Army to send him to Medical School. It's one of the Army programs designed to train Army Doctors. He obtained a degree in Osteopathic Medicine and was further trained as a psychiatrist. The training required a commitment to serve in the Army for a number of years. I think it is very important that the commitment was made well before 9/11.

There appears to be no question that Major Hasan was born in the U.S. He is a native born American. He is also a devout Muslim. Is he an eldest child? I'd bet he is. His parents are Muslim, so he has to be in order to please them. And since he is native born American, he is especially devout. He is pleasing his parents. (OK. Pop psychology. But I'll bet it is true.)But it makes him very different from his peers and it makes it very difficult for him to find a wife. He is very demanding that she be devout and practicing Muslim. The important thing is that it means that at age 39 he is still alone and without anyone to support him emotionally. He is a lonely man. Since Muslims consider dogs unclean, he probably doesn't even have a dog.

9/11 was clearly a major event in Major Hasan's life. He was a devout Muslim in the Army after Muslims had attacked America in a big way. Many "Americans" have considered the battles since then to be wars between Christian America and Islam. Then Captain Hasan clearly was questioned regarding his loyalty, even if not officially.

He as already a loner. The questions regarding his loyalty would have driven him even further into distrust of those around him. It doesn't really matter if the questions come from only one in fifty of those around him, the questions are what he would have taken to bed with him at night before falling asleep. It sounds like his profession was his social life.

But his profession was psychiatrist in the Army when the Army was at war with Muslims. And he was a Muslim. Major Hasan's job since the invasion of Iraq has been to listen to and deal with the confessions of American soldiers who very often were confessing war crimes against Muslims.

Major Hasan's identity seems to have been very much wrapped up in his religion. He is at his core a Muslim. How does he feel listening to people who have killed Muslims, often for no better reason than the fact that they were Muslim?

There is a known psychological disorder called Compassion Fatigue. It is common among individuals that work directly with victims of trauma. as they hear more from the victims they themselves literally shut down.

So here we have a man whose profession is to help the enemies of his people deal with the stresses of killing his people. He is also a man who is a loner, one who cannot find a wife who is sufficiently devout.

But he is committed to serving in the Army because they sent him to Medical School and to the advanced training. He asked to leave, but was denied. Then they tell him he is not doing his job satisfactorily because (apparently) he was professing his religion. Then they reassign him and inform him that he is going to be sent to Afghanistan, a war he does not believe should be fought.

So he broke. And he committed a violent suicide, by killing others and expecting to be killed in the process.

He was defending both himself and his religion. His experiences listening to individual American who came back from Iraq will have clearly demonstrated both that Muslims were being killed, war crimes were being committed, and that for many of the American soldiers it was considered a war between Christianity and Islam - a crusade. This would have built into a case of Compassion the very least. But it would have been more for Major Hasan, since it was his coreligionists who were being killed.

The fact that Major Hasan broke is, in retrospect, no real surprise. The failure to predict is was a clear failure in the Army Medical system. Every psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker should have a personal counselor to help the individual deal with their job, and major Hasan either had none or the individual was too influenced by the needs of the Army to deal properly with the Major.

Why was Major Hasan pushed into this position? The current military was never designed to fight a war this long without calling up the reserves or a draft. The American military has been pushed to the breaking point, and this is another of the cracks it has demonstrated. It is a surprise and a credit to the American military that this kind of event has not happened more often. As it is, the increase in suicides, murders and PTSD demonstrates just how much we Americans are demanding from our military. It is too much and long past too much.

Major Hasan is only another example of the idiocy of the Bush administration. The invasion of Iraq should never have been undertaken unless the Reserves were called up and then the draft were activated. But that was not something the Bush administration felt they could have sold to the America people. They knew how obviously idiotic it was. Iraq is not a war that should have been fought. Then, Afghanistan may have been reasonable, but it simply has not been fought. The resources it required were sent to Iraq, and there was no rational strategy for winning there. Again, it is an example of Bush administration incompetence. Afghanistan couldn't be fought with Iraq and without the draft. The result has been that the American ground military has been destroyed. Major Hasan's actions in Fort Hood are merely one more example of a broken military.

This evaluation of what Major Hasan did is, of course, speculation based on news reports. Someone familiar with Major Hasan's career and file might find a very different time line and situation. But I'll bet based on what I have seen in the last two days this is pretty close.

ABC News has a good story on Sgt. Kimberly Munley who was the civilian police officer who stopped Major Hasan. She saved a lot of lives.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Here's how stupid/ignorant Republican Representative Joe Wilson is.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R - SC) has told WorldNetDaily radio that he agrees with Dick Cheney's complaint that Obama is dithering on the decision about how to deal with failed Bush/Cheney war in Afghanistan. Here's what Wilson admitted:
You know, I’m really disappointed, and I actually agree with Vice President Cheney that the President is dithering. And I actually had to look up what “dithering” meant, and it’s “indecisive.” And that’s what the President is being.
Someone with a modicum of education should know what "dithering" means, but at least he bothered to look it up or had a staffer explain it to him. That's only ignorant. But stupid?

What kind of intelligent Congressman admits on radio that he had to look up the word "dithering" in the first place?

Here's the radio statement:

According to Wikipedia this ignorant fool is an attorney and a Colonel in the South Carolina National Guard. This is not a man who favorably represents his constituents. But I guess that's what what the hillbillies of South Carolina think they deserve.