Category Archives: Central Ixachilan (America)

USA’s Militarization of Latin America

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”

Croft’s statement reflects the growing American hysteria against the presence of any extra-regional actors in the Latin American continent. For US policy-makers, Latin America is not an aggregation of sovereign nations but a large lump of subordinated states constituting “America’s backyard”. Consequently, this conceptualization of Latin America as a natural extension of the American empire has led to viewing the engagement of any South American country with China, Russia and Iran as a “threat” to peace and security.

On February 7, 2019, Admiral Craig S. Faller – the commander of the United States Southern Command – told the Congress that the Western Hemisphere is facing “a troubling array of challenges and threats”. These threats included alarmist assertions about the growing dominance of China, Russia and Iran and a general demonization of the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua: “China has accelerated expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative at a pace that may one day overshadow its expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.”

In response to the perceived threats posed by the China-Russia-Iran nexus, the Secretary of Defense has decided to conduct an assessment of the sufficiency of resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere. This assessment is required to include “a list of investments, programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the United States.”

In addition to warlike preparations, USA has also pursued a policy of increased militarization wherein it has tried to ensure “technological superiority” with regard to “anti-US actors”. In March, 2020, USA decided to send additional ships, aircraft and forces to South America and Central America in order to combat the influence of Russia and China. According to Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of Southern Command, “This really was born out of a recognition of the threats in the region,”. Along with the mobilization of the Southern Command, USA has substantially enlarged its security aid to Latin America: From $527,706,000 in 2019, US security aid to Latin America has increased by 10% to $581,270,000.

Chinese Footprint

The present-day US militarization of Latin America is rhetorically driven by an imperialist discourse framing the continent as a possession of the American empire which China, Russia and Iran are trying to appropriate. To take an example, R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America Research Professor at the US Army War College, told before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s engagement with Latin America “threatens the position of the United States, our security and prosperity, and the democratic values, rights, institutions and laws on which we depend.” To substantiate his statements, Ellis enunciated various strategies through which China is undermining USA’s dominance:

  • “Trade with, loans to, investment in, and other forms of economic and other support to anti-US regimes, indirectly enabling their criminal activities and contributions to regional instability”.
  • “Through providing an alternative to commerce, loans and investment from the West, making governments of the region less inclined to support the US on political, commercial, or security issues, or to stand up for rule of law, democracy or human rights, particularly where it might offend the PRC;”

In both these points, one can observe the imperialistic high-handedness with which Ellis is declaiming his pro-US rhetoric. While Beijing’s efforts to engage with sovereign nations and construct an alternative to the global American empire are regarded as enabling “regional instability”, no questions are asked about USA’s expansionist quest to imperialize the entire world through militaristic tactics.

In order to vilify China and smear its non-aggressive foreign policy, hawkish security experts have framed the country’s diplomatic involvement with various Latin American nations as a type of authoritarian tactic. Using this line of reasoning, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) writes: “Beijing has now officially established its own version of soft power… which emanates from its undemocratic system and rests on its ability to shape the viewpoints of others through co-optation and persuasion.” Not having any empirical evidence to prove its unconvincing statements, NED talks vaguely about the “hypnotic effects” exercised by “Chinese-style warm welcome”: “The Chinese-style warm welcome, the carefully selected tours that include visits to sites with symbolic historical and cultural significance, and ad hoc friendly discourse delivered by the Chinese hosts can have hypnotic effects on their foreign guests.” This is an indication of the extent to which America hysteria against China can reach.

In the same way as NED, the Brookings Institution has also tried to slander China’s diplomatic initiatives in Latin America to preserve the coercive dominance of USA in the continent. As per the think tank, “it would be fair to assume that China’s growing economic power and ambitions of global leadership, coupled with its inherently closed and repressive model of political control, will hurt the region’s prospects for strengthening its liberal democratic systems and respect for human rights.” While saying this, the Brooking Institution conveniently forgets that it the US, with its Western-styled liberal democracy, that has hurt the region most in the form of coups, violence and overt brutality against social movements. Most recently, a US-backed coup in Bolivia has resulted in two massacres and massive repression of social movements.

The Iranian Connection

Like China, Iran, too, experiences American hostility towards its engagement with Latin American countries. Lieutenant Andrew Kramer of the U.S. Navy terms Iranian support for the “economically backward governments” of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as efforts “to maintain pockets of instability and hostility close to U.S. borders.” Echoing this perspective, William Preston McLaughlin, a Colonel (Ret.) of U.S. Marine Corps and Magdalena Defort, an Intern Analyst at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, argue that “Iran’s presence in Latin America is an imminent threat to peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere because its forces interact with Latin America’s deeply rooted revolutionary ideology and various well-intentioned but flawed “liberation theology” social movements.” Here, both of the analysts are merely parroting the imperialist “Monroe Doctrine” that subverted the sovereignty of Latin American nations and tethered the people of the continent to the whims of the American empire. Through the Monroe Doctrine, USA relegated the entire Latin American continent to the status of the empire’s handmaiden and constantly used its military muscles to overpower any regional initiatives challenging the dynamics of subjugation. Now, when Iran is lending support to the anti-imperialist administrations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, it has come under the radar of USA for ostensibly destroying peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere. In August 2020, for instance, USA confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, making it clear that it would not tolerate anti-imperialist opposition in Latin America.

In addition to portraying Iran as a threat to global peace, both the analysts also used a shrill, scaremongering rhetoric to over-exaggerate the strength of the country. According to the analysts, “Iran has used every agency within its borders to help extend Iranian tentacles into the political, cultural, economic, and military life of Latin America.” This bears striking resemblance to the traditional war-mongering US narrative that frames Hezbollah as a menace to justify the militarizary raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses and challenging our defenses,”. Through these discourses, USA seeks to unleash a new war against the anti-imperialist axis of Latin America which is standing up to militaristic predatoriness of the global hegemon.

Russian Presence

Besides Iran and China, Russia is another nation perceived as a “threat” to US security. General John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted in his Congressional testimony, “it has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian presence” in Latin America. In his command’s 2015 Posture Statement, Kelly added: “Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

John Kelly’s representation of Russia as a military threat has been repeated by the Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd who said in his February 2018 Posture Statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that: “Russia’s increased role in our hemisphere is particularly concerning, given its intelligence and cyber capabilities, intent to upend international stability and order, and discredit democratic institutions…Left unchecked, Russian access and placement could eventually transition from a regional spoiler to a critical threat to the U.S. homeland.” With the help this narrative, USA has aggressively pushed forward the agenda of greater militarism in Latin America as it strives to maintain “technological superiority” in relation to Russia and expand its already large military expenditure.

On the top of depicting Russia as a military threat, US analysts have additionally portrayed the country’s support of socialist governments in Latin America as a danger to the economically empty liberal democracies of the West. According to IBI Consultants, a National Security consulting company specializing in Latin America, Russia’s growing presence in Latin America “is now an integral part of an alliance of state and nonstate actors that have shown their hostility toward the United States in their ideology, criminalized behavior, and anti-democratic nature.” Reiterating this point, on July 9, 2019, Admiral Faller declared before the Congress that “Russia seeks to sow disunity and distrust, propping up autocratic regimes in Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests.” For Faller, those nations which don’t doggedly toe America’s imperialist line automatically become “threats” to democracy and if Russia shows solidarity with these anti-imperialist nations, it, too, classifies as a threat to US interests.

As USA continues to militarize Latin America, it is increasingly becoming clear that it wants to protect its old, imperial structures from being challenged by anyone. It has been explicitly acknowledged even by pro-US analysts such as Ellis that US military assistance in Latin America “potentially serves U.S. strategic interests by helping to inoculate receiving states against radical or anti-democratic [read “socialist”] solutions which find receptivity when populations lose faith in the ability of a democratic political system and a free market economy to effectively address the corruption, inequality, injustice, and other dysfunctionalities plaguing their country [Emphasis mine].” US military assistance, therefore, is not apolitical and is ideologically tarnished with the objectives of stabilizing free market economies-bourgeoisie democracies and subverting socialist countries.

The United States Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security had stated in 2019 that “anti-US autocrats [in the Western Hemisphere]will present continuing challenges to US interests, as US adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region.” Here, “anti-US autocrats” refers to the socialist administrations of three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries have been facing strong US belligerence for their anti-imperialist stance. US sanctions against Cuba have tightened during the pandemic; USA’s hybrid war against Venezuela has intensified as Trump has decided to use frozen funds to topple Nicolas Maduro and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has strengthened its regime change operations against the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Due to the support lent by China, Russia and Iran to the socialist governments of Latin America, USA has decided to eradicate these extra-regional actors from its “own” backyard and re-proclaim a complete American dominance in the region. In times like these, the international community needs to oppose the militarism of USA against new regional alliances in Latin America.

When Homeless Means Homelandless: Guatemalans in Lincoln County

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

It doesn’t take a lockdown to pull from some of us humanists the universality of how deep the emotional, cultural, societal, economic and spiritual divide is between the have’s and have’s not.

As we move from “top” to “bottom” in the daily stories of how these forced social distancing measures, draconian business closures, far-reaching travel bans and the like are affecting lives, we need to have more humanistic ways of parsing out the realities of the homeless, or in the case of people from Guatemala, the homelandless.

There are many reasons Guatemalans have come to this county, crossing that borderline without the proper Gestapo paperwork and billets for the own lives.

After tragedy, Oregon Christmas tree industry buoyed by bill | KOMO

The stem of the immigration tide to an area usually starts with one family or one group of cohorts ending up in a place like Newport and loving it as a new promise, a new start, maybe a new homeland. For a time, there were seasonal jobs in the fishing, hospitality and salal harvesting arenas.

Most Guatemalans get here with very little. Some have children in schools. Many do not speak Spanish, let alone English.

In many ways, coming from Huehuetenango and other places where violence is prolific,  Guatemalans thought they’d be happy with the chance “to make it” in the USA since back in their native land the per capita annual income for lower economic groups is  $1,619. Add to this challenge of more than two dozen Mayan languages spoken in that part of Mesoamerica and none spoken here.

A Tales of Two Cities, Many Cultures, Infinite Mentalities

For many, watching daily TV-YouTube-Facebook antics of Trump and Company, Hollywood perversions, other rich and famous, and  even run of the mill policy makers “deal” with their seclusion and isolation makes the blood boil. Lovely gardens, three triple-wide fridge/freezer combos full of Whole Foods delectables; manicured lawns for croquet surrounding terra cotta pools; superfood smoothies laced with plethora of vitamins and herbs; soaking in Clorox-laced bathtubs and tips on how to dose one’s body with ultraviolet showers.

As we go further and further down the food chain and feeding trough, one more week of lock-down can parlay into more than ennui and cabin fever: for millions, one more week is less food, more anxiety, fear of the unknown, downright depression and suicidal tendencies.

Being homeless in a Time of Covid highlights how unhealthy, psychologically-stressing, and legally-precarious these days are. There is no social distancing when six or seven people share a campfire, a can of beans and smokes.

Now imagine that homelessness is coupled with the state of being homelandness.

Lighting Up Latin America – Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Assn

There should not be a question of legal or illegal immigration. People came and immigrated to this country from the time of the Indians. No one’s illegal. They should just be able to come.

— Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt has come a long way from home | Music | tucson.com

Guatemalans might be staying four-families-to-a-beat-up-RV on the Oregon Coast, but not speaking English, appearing like “the other” and having not only no cash reserves but also zero confidence in accessing local (and governmental) food and financial aid add up to be literal hunger.

Social Justice Starts with Who You Associate With!

Ironically, I use singer Linda Ronstadt’s quote “declaring there are no illegal aliens” because after my family moved to the US from stints in the Azores, Germany, France and UK, we ended up in Tucson, Arizona of all places.

I learned how to make tamales and mole from aunts and cousins of Linda’s. She even swept into one of these kitchen forays and planted a kiss on my forehead. Que lindo. Un chico hippie blanco haciendo tamales con mis tías (How cute. A white hippy boy making tamales with my aunties.)

Her brother Peter was Tucson’s Police Chief when I was a reporter there and in southern Arizona. His policies were virtually hands-off on immigrants, with or without papers.

I’ve been on this battle line for social justice in Latin America since age 19, when I was active as a student journalist and activist against US military aid to El Salvador and Guatemala. Then, a few years later, I was working in Southern Arizona as a reporter for a small newspaper group owned by a family. The two dailies — Bisbee Review &  Sierra Vista Dispatch — and a few other weeklies were run by two quirky brothers. My stories often times were front page doozies.

Tombstone Epitaph Newspaper Building, 1927 | Special Collections

It was a crazy time for a young newspaper journalist:  In the morning covering the Bisbee rose club, and then five hours later, on the scene covering the drug tunnel found connecting Agua Prieta with Douglas. Funky stories about fence-jumping turquoise pirates getting into abandoned mine shafts at the Copper Queen open pit, to covering one of the deepest exploratory oil wells our near Tombstone. Drug-running, gunrunning, and nuts and bolts county planning and zoning. I interviewed Jesse Jackson when he came out to our neck of the desert to help settle down the Cochise County Sheriff Department going after a group of African Americans they were serving papers on.

Google: The Miracle Valley shootout and a confrontation between members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) and Cochise County law enforcement and Miracle Valley, Arizona.

Kick-ass stuff for a reporter, having just gotten back from a year in Scotland and Europe, part of a trip to be a writer after spending four years at the University of Arizona, the college daily, and the school’s lab newspaper in Tombstone (The Epitaph).

Just a few months after Europe, I was part of the news-gathering brethren penning these sorts of headlines: “Salvadorans Fight Over Urine . . .  14 Border Crossers Die in Arizona Desert, Organ Pipe National Monument.”

That was July 5, 1980. I was 23 years old.

Crossing Borders, Crossing Philosophical Lines

I was in the thick of things journalistically, working with literally homeless-homelandless people, some individuals spending thousands of dollars to coyotes to get them across that bullshit borderline. Earlier, in my senior year of high school, I had met Chileans living in Tucson who were here through the good graces of activist miniseries. Because of these adults’ leftist college activities, union membership and outspoken positions against right-wing despotism and violence — the Pinochet years – many were imprisoned, and some lost loved ones and comrades to the general’s death squads.

Eventually, I ended up in the Highlands of Guatemala, and along the US-Guatemala border. More than 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered in the dirty wars, a system of genocide fed by the USA and its “foreign” policies and School of the Americas at Fort Benning.

Then, in El Paso two years later, I was a graduate student at the University, I worked with refugees at Ruben Garcia’s Annunciation House and wrote some stories for both the El Paso Times and the now defunct El Paso Herald-Post on the good work at Ruben’s sanctuary.

Guatemala - Why Are So Many Guatemalans Migrating to the U.S. ...

I taught college classes in prisons and also part of a college program for children of migrant workers.

Ruben Garcia Opens The Door To Humanity | The City Magazine

My tutelage in covering varying levels of homeless and homelandless was fast and furious!

Fast-forward, and I skim through many years in activism — revolutionary social work, education, environmental journalism, more. I worked with adults living with developmental disabilities for United Cerebral Palsy of Southern Washington and Oregon, with Foster Youth teens as case manager for Life Works NW, and with homeless veterans and their families for the Salvation Army.

Oh yeah, I was with Portland’s Big Kahuna of homeless and addiction services —  Central City Concern — as an employment counselor.

I was working with people I consider to be brothers/sisters/comrades – “detritus” the rich, the beautiful people, mainstream and even social services folk might call them. Or I’ve heard “the dregs of society,” “bottom of the barrel,” and from those a bit more evolved on the human scale, “those disenfranchised humans.”

In every case over the decades, I worked with people who either had no home (prison, transitional housing, foster homes are not homes) or who were looking for a better home than their dangerous and precarious situations beheld.

Many moons have passed, and, lo and behold, I have been on the Oregon Coast with my spouse since December 2018, after going toe-to-toe with the “Starvation Army” in Beaverton on some really corrupt leadership decisions and dangerous situations in which these poverty pimps put both the clients and staff.

One thing led to another. I was quickly working as a substitute K12 teacher in Lincoln County; I created my own column in the arts and entertainment rag, Oregon Coast Today; wrote for the Newport News Times (now it’s pro bono because of dropped ad revenues); and, now, going on one year, manage for both Lincoln and Jefferson counties an anti-poverty program for Family Independence Initiative.

I am working with low income households in a state-supported social capital research project. Families or individuals living in Lincoln and Jefferson counties receive $840 each for a year to do monthly 10-minute “journaling.”

Guatemala - Why Are So Many Guatemalans Migrating to the U.S. ...

Love and Death in a Time of Panic-Demic!

Things have changed since the SARS-CV-2, as the non-profit I work for as a 1099 contractor is now distributing (and helping other non-profits distribute) $32 million in places like Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Detroit. These are cash assistance lump sums: so-called unconditional cash transfers. Starbucks a la Schulz has thrown in with a $500-per-person Covid fund ($6 million total) for King County; and other cities like Boston, Chicago and Detroit are having FII move millions of bucks for each household to receive a $2,400 cash transfer.

My months working with families, face to face, at various places like the housing authority’s Ocean Spray Family Center in Newport, and the libraries throughout the county, as well as Homeless Education Literacy Project, have put me front and center close to my roots in Mexico and Central America.

I have talked to many immigrants who have come from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

There is an underground labor network, shadow economy, cash under the table mode of work. There are people who are supporting Guatemalans with translators and help navigating the school systems for their children.

Chapina Express - Los Angeles Food Trucks - Roaming Hunger

Earth Day 2020 Zoomed

I am also involved in the American Cetacean Society and other movements in the county tied to Surfrider beach clean-ups and the legal process of banning aerial spraying of agent orange-like herbicides onto clear-cuts. I was asked to be a speaker on the Zoom Earth Day 2020, and in that planning, it was obvious to me I was back with what I term Greenie Weenies/Meanies.

I was told that “putting a downer” on the Zoom Earth Day event would be a no-no. This is the sort of group-think silliness and reckless false hope I have been dealing with since, err, I was 13 living in Paris with my mom and sister while my US Army old man was in Vietnam shooting brown people.

Then, a day after that April 22 event, I end up talking to Ginger Gouveia, who is working with Guatemalans, who are homeless and precarious, AND starving in Lincoln County. Thanks to the deadly combination of Obama-Trump-ICE-Racism-Lockdown.

This is really what ecological social justice is about. Nothing in the current mainstream and big green environmental movement in the USA gets the class divide, the power of poverty to tear at the soul of a country, the globe.

And to cut into our Guatemalan neighbors.

Trump threatens Guatemala after its court blocks asylum deal with ...

Here’s Ginger’s letter to me:

I am writing to you as a member the group, Acompañar Relief Fund.  We are concerned citizens who are seeking donations on behalf of immigrants who have lost their jobs and do not qualify for any assistance.  All of whom have been hard working asylum seekers with families.  Our focus is on providing as many families as we can with some food assistance.

Since starting this fundraiser, we have been grateful for the generosity of our community, friends and families. The need is GREAT and our goal is to be able to include as many families as possible.  This population will not recover for many months and will not receive any financial assistance, no stimulus check and no unemployment. We are looking for ways to continue providing some support for as long as this financial disaster continues.

This week we were able to give $60, or gift cards, as well as rice and beans and some Masa to 20 families.  The families with the greatest need are being referred by agencies working with them.

Sincerely, Ginger Gouveia, Acompañar Coordinator

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” – Karl Marx

Marx’s quote is taken out of context. He did see religion like opium which, of course, benefits for the sick and ailing —  it reduces people’s immediate suffering and provides them with pleasant illusions giving them the strength to carry on.

Almost all Guatemalans coming to USA, Oregon and Lincoln county place religion as both panacea and strength, community and spiritual sustenance.  In the past few years many unaccompanied minors and women with children from Central America have been crossing the border (at a rate of 180,000 per year). These are Mayans. Not the gringo Latin Americans. These are the Native Americans.

University of Oregon Professor Lynn Stephen has documented threats of violence, extortion, and torture against children and indigenous Guatemalan women whose husbands leave to go north:

“They’re leaving them in vulnerable, unprotected positions in communities. If you don’t have a male protector, women and children may become marks.”  Hundreds have ended up in Lane County and many others are in the Portland area.

“This is when it’s most amazing when it’s young people who are 15, 16, 14, deciding on their own to leave. My youngest son is 16. I can’t imagine what it would be like for him to make the journey,” Stephen said.

Rising hate drives Latinos and immigrants into silence | Cronkite News

These are cautious people, and the people working with refugees do not want to be named or identified in this anti-immigrant climate.

Gangs in Guatemala keep tabs on the new arrivals: harassment and extortion are common for the families back home when the gangs find out money is being sent to Guatemala by those working and living in the US.

Living close by, worshiping together, and being part of the shadow economy is how Guatemalans in Oregon survive, and thrive. Forming their own churches and then creating that kind of community is commonplace.

Right now, in Lincoln County, there isn’t enough support coming in to support Guatemalans. Churches are asking for help, per Ginger’s plea for donations.

No proporciona ningun beneficio en EUA….

That was the public service announcement mantra under the Obama Administration – USA does not provide any benefits.

U.S. pressure on Mexico to interdict refugees was pulled back for a few years and so many refugee workers have seen a new wave of Central Americans coming to Oregon. Many of those that got political asylum are still in Oregon.

They set down roots, enroll kids in schools, become part of the fabric of our towns and cities. With the lockdown and pandemic hitting the world and here in Lincoln County, our Central American homelandless brothers and sisters are struggling. These are valuable humans on their own accord, but invaluable as part of our community.

A while back, I read a letter to the editor of the Newport News Times railing against Oregon Coast Community College nominating an undocumented as Student of the Year. He was Guatemalan. He spoke eloquently at the podium why he came here and how he wanted to better his life.

The letter writer bashed this young person’s character. He brought up the old canard of having no papers is breaking the law. He called it a slap in the face to all the students who go to the college who were here “legally.” He felt the Guatemalan college graduate should not have been recognized!

In the end, we all are so-called illegal aliens – those with no Native American roots. That includes all the slaves forcefully brought to these shores. All those Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English armies and any number of people who immigrated here, either with paperwork or without.

All uninvited guests with no preapproval and passports given to them by the great First Nations tribes.

No one asked the Confederated Tribes of Siletz if the pioneers could come rushing into Oregon to steal their ancestral land.

It is 2020, a year that beguiles us all. Certainly, many of us five decades ago had 2020 vision about what would happen under predatory-parasitic-casino-disaster-neoliberal-neocon capitalism.  Yet now, in this 21st Century, there is obvious myopia and, worse, enabled blindness when it comes to really deal with this pandemic fairly, justly: it takes a village, state and country to raise a community, and the same to deal with pandemics.

I learn everyday from Guatemalans, including one of the country’s poets.

  • First, here are some Guatemala proverbs that say it all in a few words each –
  • Better to eat beans in peace than to eat meat in distress.
  • Do not bear ill will toward those who tell you the truth.
  • Everyone is the age of their heart.
  • It’s not the fault of the parrot, but of the one who teaches him to talk.
  • There’s no ill that doesn’t turn out for the better.
  • Your true enemy lives in your own house.

Better yet, a poem by Guatemala’s most famous poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967: Miguel Angel Asturias. According to The Review of Contemporary Fiction, “Asturia was a man who believed deeply in maintaining Native American culture in Guatemala, and who championed those who were persecuted. His literature was critically acclaimed, but perhaps not always appreciated. As an artist, his complexity is such that readers and critics often shy away from his elegant beauty.

Caudal (The Fortune)

To give is to love,
To give prodigiously:
For every drop of water
To return a torrent.

We were made that way,
Made to scatter
Seeds in the furrow
And stars in the ocean.

Woe to him, Lord,
who doesn’t exhaust his supply,
And, on returning, tells you:
“Like an empty satchel

Is my heart.”

Miguel Ángel Asturias - Pueblo e Historia de Guatemala

No Class

In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
— Mao, On Practice, 1937

That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence.
— Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, March 6, 2007

I think that most of the confusion in this respect has been the product of a failure to develop a class analysis of these changes. From a class perspective, it is clear that what we are seeing is the growth of various movements in the fascist genre (whether prefascism, protofascism, classical fascism, postfascism, neofascism, neoliberal fascism, ur-fascism, peripheral fascism, white supremacism, or national populism—you can take your pick). Fascist-type movements share certain definite class-based characteristics or tendencies. Although it is common in liberal discourse to approach such movements at the level of appearance, in terms of their ideological characteristics, such an idealist methodology only throws a veil over the underlying reality.
— John Bellamy Foster, Interview, Monthly Review, September 2019

The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.
— Michael Parenti, Interview with Jason Miller, 2016

When environmentalism unfolds within a system of heightened inequality and inadequate democratization, it does so unequally and autocratically. The result is not a “saved” climate, but rather enhanced revenue streams for corporations.
— Maximillian Forte, Climate Propaganda for Corporate Profit: Bell Canada

John Bellamy Foster noted that it was a lack of class analysis that has stifled left discourse over the last twenty years. And I have noted that when one does engage in class analysis the first response, very often, is to be called a conspiracy theorist. Now, this is largely because any class dissection will tend to unearth connections that have been hidden, consciously, by Capital — that those hidden forces and histories are experienced by the liberal left and faux left as somehow impossible. Class analysis means that the non-marxist liberal left is going to be faced with the malevolence of the ruling class, and in the U.S. certainly, the ruling class tends to be adored, secretly or otherwise, by the bourgeoisie.

When the U.S.S.R. dissolved the West intensified its propaganda onslaught immediately. And a good part of this propaganda was focused on the denial of class. On the right, the FOX News right, “class warfare” became a term of derision and also humour. And among liberal and educated bourgeoisie the avoidance of class was the result of a focus on, and validations of, rights for marginalized groups — even if that meant inventing new groups on occasion. Class was conspicuously missing in most identity rights discourse.

And the climate discourse, which was suddenly visible in mainstream media early 2000s, there was almost never a mention of class. Hence the new appropriation of that discourse by open racist eugenicists like “Sir” David Attenborough, and billionaire investors and publishers. Even by royalty. By 2015 or so there was what Denis Rancourt called the institutionalisation of a climate ethos. I have even seen of late self-identified leftists suggesting the “Greta” phenomenon was the working class finding its voice. (No, I’m not making that up). I have also seen many leftists — many of whom I have known for years — simply hysterical around the subject of this teenager. Her greatest appeal is to middle aged white men. I have no real explanation for that. But then these same men quote, often, everyone from Guy McPherson (who I think needs a padded cell, frankly) to Bill McKibben — an apologist for militarism and wealth… here ….

Gosh kids, let’s rely on big Wall Street money.  That’s a gall darn good idea. What an unctuous fuck he is.

The Attenborough and Greta (and Jane Goodall) video was absent content, really. Terms like *tipping points* were used several times but not identified. And they were not identified because they don’t have to be. This is the near religious end of the climate spectrum. I hear people angrily denounce someone as a “denier”. This is the tone reserved for all apostates. For heretics.

Now before continuing I find it very interesting that those predicting the most dire effects of climate change, those who say we’re dead in twenty years or thirty — they are still publishing books, still marketing those books. It’s still a business. I guess I might expect climate Sadhus to appear — naked mendicants, covered in dirt and dried mud, hair matted, living off alms. Or like preachers standing on the street corner, a sort of eco Asa Hawks, Bible in hand (or climate bible in hand) offering spiritual solace to the multitude. But instead we get TED talks and more rather expensive books.

I want to make clear, the planet is getting warmer. It’s already happening. To say otherwise is irrational. That does not mean there are not many questions left answered, and increasingly undiscussed. Nor that alarmism isn’t in full swing (fear and sex pretty much form the basis of all advertising). There is very little serious adult debate about what must be accounted the most serious subject, or one of two most serious subjects, in contemporary life. The other would be the global rise of fascism. And neither of these topics is given a serious public discussion. The entertainment apparatus is, at this point, ill-equipped to handle anything serious.

I do not consider the side show carnival of Greta and the Prince of Monaco, Arnold and Barack, and eugenicist scum like David Attenborough (as an Brit friend of mine referred to him, “that old racist tosspot”) as serious. The Green New Deal is western Capital laying claim to a new market. And Attenborough and Goodall both are members of the anti immigration (Malthusian) group Population Matters. This has been exhaustively catalogued by Cory Morningstar, but then she is now being smeared as a “conspiracy theorist”. And this is, again, because class figures rather prominently in her writings.

This reminds me of my Wall Street days, I mean all the new markets, the high yield markets, different convertible markets — this is how they all start.
— Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, 2015.

Now, the bourgeoisie is perfectly happy to let the ruling class lead and be the decision makers. It is startling, really, how indigenous activists from the global south are so conspicuously missing in all this. So invisible in media. And to complain of this means one is met with just a myriad of apologetics about Greta and this carnival. And the paternalism that demands nobody ‘beat up’ on the teenager. There was never such outrage at criticism of Rachel Corrie. And amid all the young girl propaganda props (Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, Bana Alabed, Park Yeon-mi, et al) the only constant is that PR firms are doing a lot of business. But the new investment in Green technology (sic) will really only result in — as it always does — a further growth in unemployed labor and an uptick in low end minimum wage service work. This is straight out of Capital, the general law of capitalist accumulation.

But if a surplus labouring popUlation is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalistic accumulation, nay, a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.
— Karl Marx, Capital. Volume I: The Process of Production of Capital, September 14, 1867

And it is not even that, really. The ruling class set in motion an environmental program sometime around the year 2000. But the Rockefeller group, remember, founded the Club of Rome in 1968. The aim was to plan for resource depletion and limits to growth. It had a decided eugenicist bent. They issued a report in 1991, and formed a think tank in 2001. Among the members are Al Gore, Maurice Strong, The Dalai Lama, and Robert Muller of all people. And dozens more including Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, George Soros, and Bill Clinton. You get the idea.

The point is that the current explosion of climate awareness is brought to you, at least partly, by the captains of western capital. And it is very white and very worried about birth rates in dark skinned countries. So the question becomes, in the midst of a real crises of pollution, and a warming planet, what and who is one to believe and where is one to turn? My first response is NOT to the people who helped create the problem in the first place.

In fact, class itself is something of a verboten word. In the mainstream media, in political life, and in academia, the use of the term “class” has long been frowned upon. You make your listeners uneasy (“Is the speaker a Marxist?”). If you talk about class exploitation and class inequity, you will likely not get far in your journalism career or in political life or in academia (especially in fields like political science and economics).

So instead of working class, we hear of “working families” or “blue collar” and “white collar employees”. Instead of lower class we hear of “inner city poor” and “low-income elderly.” Instead of the capitalist owning class, we hear of the “more affluent” or the “upper quintile’.
— Michael Parenti, “Class Warfare Indeed”, Common Dreams, 2011

There is a new religious tenor to climate discussions. And it reflects (among other things) a reductive world view. Global issues and forces and global relations on both a macro and micro level are being simplified. The template resembles a cartoon more than anything else. ‘Our demise is immanent’ is something I have read or heard at least a dozen times. People are enjoying the coming apocalypse. If they really believed that the end is nigh, they would be behaving very differently. But for many on the left the decades of marginalization has left them emotionally raw and psychologically battered. It’s so seductive to just give in to the coming apocalypse. And additionally there is a clear pleasure to be found in taking on the role of excommunicating climate Angel — come to smite the deniers with the sword of eco-piety.

Still, there are genuine and committed ecologists and activists working on preserving nature and protecting the wild. Many are from indigenous peoples in South America, Central America, Asia and Africa. They are all but invisible in mainstream media. And increasingly they are being murdered. (See Berta Caceres). One hundred and sixty four activists were murdered last year, with thirty in the Philippines alone. Twenty-six in Colombia. None of this is front page news. Why? Why is a blond teenager now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (usually reserved for war criminals) meeting with Obama and the Pope while the defenders of Nature in poor countries remain nameless and anonymous? The answer is because white people care about white people. And because Western capital sees those poor countries as places to exploit, burden with debt, and de-populate. The ruling elite, including those backing the Extinction Rebellion and Green New Deal, are on the side of those who murdered Caceres. Look at big mining in the global south, enormously polluting, destructive of land and community and people. A just very cursory glance at who runs this mega mining concerns is illuminating. Who sits on the board of Newmont Goldcorp, for example. While based in Colorado, its primary mining operations are in Ghana, Suriname, and Peru. Well, one is Gregory H. Boyce, who also sits on the board of directors for Monsanto and Marathon Oil. Or Rene Meldori, former executive director for DeBeers. Or take the infamous Barrick Gold, on whose advisory board sits Newt Gingrich, former secretary of defense William Cohen, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg former German defense minister, and Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada. But it’s better than that…here is a bit of background from Jeff St. Clair… and here is more.

Or what about Rio Tinto, where Jean-Sébastien Jacques holds an advisory position, after leaving Tata Steel (TISCO) in India. Just surf the web and read the bios. There is a deep connection with big oil, with coal, and with nearly every other massively polluting industrial enterprise around the world. Teck is another huge mining company. It is based in Canada. I suggest reading the first article on this page….

The concern over water scarcity does not breed environmental strategies for reduction, only new ways to extract and plunder during the coming scarcity. For that is the logic of all capitalism.  There is an enormous land grab going on in Africa, for example.

When the fog that fascism creates in all countries clears away, behind it one sees an all-too-familiar figure. This character is, of course, neither marvellous nor mysterious, he brings no new religion and certainly no golden age. He comes neither from the ranks of the youth nor from the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, even if he is an expert at deceiving both these groups. He is the counter-revolutionary capitalist, the born enemy of all class-conscious workers. Fascism is nothing but a modern form of the bourgeois capitalist counter-revolution wearing a popular mask.
— Arthur Rosenberg, Fascism as Mass Movement, 1934

And here

Those billionaire donors are not subsidizing Amazonian tribes fighting for their own survival and the survival of the rain forest. They are not subsidizing activists in the Philippines or in Africa. And they are never once mentioning the U.S. military and its role in despoiling the planet. (just look at AFRICOM, which saw an exponential growth in bases and troops under Obama). But here — two links for general perusal — and here.

(Hat tip to Jacob Levich for some of this).

The land grab is going to be enforced is the message here. These donors are investing. And alongside their investment runs the spectre of global fascism. Read these links and then consider if a state of emergency is not in the works. Of course, the bourgeoisie, the white bourgeoisie, are begging for such an emergency. The climate fear and its cultish response amid the liberal and leftish is resulting in a willingness, even a desire for, their own servitude. This is where someone is going to say, oh, conspiracy theory. But is it? Read those links. Consider the unthinking reflexive adoration of Greta and the kids. And then consider the history of capitalism, of neo-liberalism. Consider just the history over the last thirty years. Greta is not anti-capitalist. She has carefully never said capitalism is a system destroying the planet.

There is a critical pollution of land and water globally. Not just plastics, but Depleted Uranium and all the waste of military and digital technology. And from pesticides and various other industrial and agricultural chemicals. How many participants in any of the climate meetings were without brand new smart phones? I don’t believe in our extinction. I do believe life is going to change, and to mitigate the suffering that comes from that change one must reject the advice of billionaires and celebrities. Change must stop being spearheaded by WHITE privilege and the western white ruling class.

Pollution is the most urgent crises I believe. Pollution from mining of ores, and rare earth minerals (leaving pollutants such as chromium, asbestos, arsenic, and cadmium) is on a scale hard to even imagine. Or the recycling of lead-based batteries, an under the radar but massive industry that pollutes with lead oxide and sulphuric acid. Tanneries have always been an infernal and accursed industry, and pollute with chromium and soda ash, as well as large amounts of solid waste, all of which is usually contaminated with chromium. Lead smelting, which is centered in the poorest countries and which releases iron, limestone, pyrite and zinc. This is not even to touch on pesticides, or the dye industry. And then we come to the military. In particular the U.S. military. The levels of pollution are nearly Biblical in dimension and scale.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others. In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone. U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government. Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.
— Whitney Webb, Eco Watch, May 2017

Contemporary capitalism is coercive at every level. The privilege of white westerners is stunningly absent from all critiques I see relating to climate change. David Attenborough has a far larger carbon footprint (to the power of ten) than a Somali sheep herder. And yet that herder is being subtly cast as a threat to global survival. The new focus on global warming (and the de-emphasizing of pollution) is the real threat to survival. For the new green capitalists the intention is to further plunder. The new corporate Green raiders want to privatize nature.

Across the world, ‘green grabbing’ – the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends – is an emerging process of deep and growing significance. The vigorous debate on ‘land grabbing’ already highlights instances where ‘green’ credentials are called upon to justify appropriations of land for food or fuel – as where large tracts of land are acquired not just for ‘more efficient farming’ or ‘food security’, but also to ‘alleviate pressure on forests’. In other cases, however, environmental green agendas are the core drivers and goals of grabs – whether linked to biodiversity conservation, biocarbon sequestration, biofuels, ecosystem services, ecotourism or ‘offsets’ related to any and all of these. In some cases these involve the wholesale alienation of land, and in others the restructuring of rules and authority in the access, use and management of resources that may have profoundly alienating effects. Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices.
— James Fairhead, Melissa Leach & Ian Scoones, “Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature?”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2012

When is a contract ‘voluntary’? The answer is, probably never.
— Jairus Banaji, Theory as History, March 22, 2010

There will never be environmentally friendly Capitalism. That is like creating de-hydrated water. The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.
— Jay Taber, Heart of Darkness, SI2, 2017

The Global Witness report said much of the persecution of land and environmental defenders is being driven by demand for the land and raw materials needed for products that consumers utilise every day, from food to mobile phones and jewelry. Also recording a high number of environment and land-related fatalities were Colombia with 24 deaths, India with 23, and Brazil at 20. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a boom in private and foreign investment has seen large swaths of land handed out to plantation, mining and hydropower companies, ushering in a wave of forced and violent evictions, particularly in indigenous areas, the report said. This has stirred fears of a return to the large-scale violence the country suffered 30 years ago. The report said Guatemala saw the sharpest increase in the percentage of murders with a five-fold rise. At least 16 people defending their land and the environment were killed there in 2018.
— Al Jazeera, 2019

In the Philippines nine farmers were murdered, likely ordered by the landowners of the sugar cane plantations. Not much has changed since colonialism. Global Witness notes that mining is the industry which has caused or ordered the most killings of indigenous activists. In Africa, in particular, mining corporations hire expensive private security firms (American, Israeli, or British) to keep the local population outside of not just the mine, but the area *around* the outside of the mine. Acacia Mining (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold) is notorious for beatings and rape, and for contamination from the massive mine at North Mara, Tanzania.

Here is a report from The Guardian‘s Jonathan Watts from this year…

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. “I saw so many people shot and killed. Some had gunshot wounds in the back. I think they were trying to run away but they were shot from behind.” Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog.

Class analysis is not conspiracy theory. Full stop. Class exists and is part of the hierarchical system of global capitalism. The so labeled *Climate Change* crisis — as it exists on the level of Green New Deal or Extinction Rebellion — has very little to do with protecting Nature. Global warming is a fact that humanity will have to adjust to and learn to live with. So much of the rhetoric and identifications that exist in the Greta narrative are driven by a subterranean belief in technology to fix any problem. Global warming can’t be fixed. Nature and planetary life move slowly. It is western narcissism that demands things happen NOW. The planet is warming and the consequences will require change. Critical changes that must take place, especially regards pesticides and contaminated land. Of that I am sure. And changes in packaging, which means in many respect, changes in how we eat. The incursion of technology into nearly every waking moment of the daily life of the Westerner has conditioned a populace, one that doesn’t read, to see the acceleration of everything as natural. But it’s not. Nature is slow. It is patient. Nature doesn’t care about us. But humanity will have to care about Nature. And capitalism is not compatible with the direction those changes and care must take. War is always partly a war on Nature. But as I have said before, equality is the real green. The United States has erased the voice of the working class and the poor. But it is exactly those voices that have to be heard. The techno/scientific clergy are of a class, too. The bourgeois academic and researcher are stamped by their class just as much as everyone else. I think that should be remembered.

Class analysis!

Russia warns Bolton: “Monroe Doctrine” Remarks are Insulting to Latin America

What is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’? In brief, it is a document which defines the entire Western Hemisphere as a ‘backyard’ of the United States. It ‘philosophically’ justifies Washington’s neo-colonialism, and the most barbaric coups it has been triggering, as well as covered and open interventions in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

And now, National Security Advisor John Bolton, is using this term in connection with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, outraging those who are opposing the US foreign policy in the region. What he means is clear, although it is never pronounced as bluntly as that: Countries in the Western Hemisphere should never be allowed to go socialist, and they should be prevented from disobeying Western dictates.

In Doha, Qatar, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed his outrage over Bolton’s evoking of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ now, when the West is doing all in its power to overthrow the democratically elected left-wing government of Venezuela:

The theory and the practice of “backyards” is generally insulting…

Sergei Lavrov also added that:

Since 1945, when the UN was founded, the international law is being regulated by this universal and the most legitimate organization.

This is, obviously, not how the United States sees the world. Maybe it never even considered such an approach.

*****

But back to the ‘notorious’ Monroe Doctrine.

Surprisingly, it was not always intended to intimidate and brutalize independent and progressive Latin American nations.

According to the definition of the United States Department of State:

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

So, in theory at least, this policy was supposed to be putting the brakes on European colonialist expansionism. This may sound almost unbelievable now.

How very unfortunate that it has evolved into one of the most unscrupulous tools of oppression in modern history!

Contradictory to its original meaning, the United States used the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in order to overthrow basically all patriotic, progressive and left-wing governments in the Western Hemisphere; governments that resisted the selfish geo-political interests of Washington, or the interests of US corporations, including the infamous United Fruit Company which was notorious for treating virtually all Central American countries as if they were its private plantations.

Then during the Cold War, US foreign policy towards Latin America was built on the belief that the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ should be invoked in order to prevent the spread of Soviet-backed Communism in the region.

What followed is well known: massacres in Central America, brutal coups and fascist dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and elsewhere; tens of thousands of men, women and children ‘disappeared’. Death squads murdering, raping and torturing everywhere, from Guatemala and Salvador to Argentina and Chile.

The fight for US hegemony was basically and cynically named as a ‘fight for democracy’. Slavery was defined as ‘freedom’. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ became synonymous with Plan Condor, with monstrous torture chambers and with people being thrown alive into the sea from helicopters.

*****

Now the Trump administration is re-deploying those old and fatal Cold War warriors, elevating them to high positions, the same people who were murdering, plotting and cheering assassins. The list reads like a “Wanted for Genocide” catalogue: Elliott Abrams, Michael Pompeo and yes: John Bolton.

These individuals are, of course, unapologetic.

Just recently, John Bolton declared:

In this administration we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’. This is a country in our hemisphere and it’s been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely Democratic hemisphere.

He was talking about Venezuela, of course.

And so, the almost 200 year old ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has been revitalized; put to deadly work once again.

As reported by the Daily Star:

Mr. Bolton said the Donald Trump administration was “not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’,” when asked why it was targeting Venezuela while maintaining close alliances with tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia. The doctrine, dating back to the 1820s, denoted the Western hemisphere as a zone of US influence.

It is clear that this time, what Mr. Bolton envisions under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has nothing in common with the fight against European colonialism. It is a bellicose ‘modern-day’ interpretation of the doctrine: the justification for Western imperialism all over the Hemisphere. And perhaps all over the world.

Sergei Lavrov correctly defined Bolton’s remarks as ‘insulting’. They are also deadly. As they are indicative of what Western foreign policy may soon become, or has already become: an unapologetic and uncompromising return to the harshest form of expansionism.

What the US tried to avert (perhaps) some 200 years ago, it at some point joined, and then ‘perfected’. Now, it is trying to bring it to an absolute extreme.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Call of Duty: Resisting War in Venezuela

Every war is a war against children.

— Egalntyne Jebb, founder Save the Children a century ago.

Responding to the British post-war blockade of Germany and Eastern Europe, Jebb participated in a group attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to children who were starving.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, she distributed a leaflet showing the emaciated children and declaring:

Our blockade has caused this, – millions of children are starving to death.

She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined. But the judge in the case was moved by her commitment to children and paid her fine. His generosity was Save the Children’s first donation. Source: Kathy Kelly

****

This vet for peace has made a life duty to a simple call to action —  Hands Off Venezuela. Imagine the same call in 1960 —  Hands Off Vietnam; or in 1970 —  Hands Off Chile; or in 1991 —  Hands Off Haiti; Hands Off Puerto Rico 140 years ago.

Those ham-fisted, Imperial-seeped and Monroe Doctrine-primed hands are ours, Uncle Sam’s.

There are resisters to this global hyper power disease that we have been infected with in America that professes a USA-rules-the-world mentality. Dan Shea is that Vietnam Veteran for Peace. He puts his actions where his mouth is.

Rewind the tape 13 years, and we see Dan as a Veterans for Peace organizer  working on the city of Portland becoming a sanctuary city for soldiers AWOL from the armed services who were inserted into Iraq and Afghanistan illegally.

“This is an opportunity for the citizens of Portland and the City Council to support the soldiers who are coming back and their right to speak out,” said Dan Shea of Veterans for Peace, who first proposed the idea.

Shea told an interviewer in 2006 he had enlisted with the Marines and spent most of 1968 in Vietnam, where he was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. That resulted in his diabetes, he said.

Shea professes he never supported the Vietnam War, yet like many boys and men (girls and women) back then – especially high school drop-outs — he felt obligated to serve. However, when he came home, he felt betrayed by the country, saying the initial reasons for going to war were nothing but lies. The same thing is going on today, he said.

Over the years of our illegal incursion into Iraq, destroying the country and killing a million or more, and then our longest war, Afghanistan, Shea has talked to veterans who can no longer support the war because of what they participated in or witnessed. “These are people of conscience,” he said. “They served for what is the best of our country — the ability to speak out — and now they are being persecuted for that.”

Shea has had a long history with Central America, and Latin America in general. He went to Venezuela in 2006 and met Hugo Chavez. He also has been to Nicaragua to meet with the revolutionary government and actors in that country which overthrew a despotic dictator, Somoza, who was a puppet of the United States.

Fast-forward to the current debacle of the US and its vassal states and even the supposedly “independent” EU countries  pushing for a violent overthrow of the Chavismo Nicolas Maduro. Shea has just returned from Venezuela on a fact-finding trip that included embracing the Venezuelan people.

Dan and I talked about how that arc of social justice and the golden rule, if indeed true, would have “saved” the world from war and injustice a long time ago. Unfortunately, the boomerang of the capitalists and lords of war continues to cut down movements and countries wanting no more of the insanity of “the endless war on terror” mentality Bush and his neocons (supported by Obama) promulgated.

How can we ever forget Mark Twain’s anti-imperial words in regard to his time and historically the crime of war:

There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one–on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful–as usual–will shout for the war. The pulpit will–warily and cautiously–object–at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’ Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers–as earlier–but do not dare say so.

And now the whole nation–pulpit and all–will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

― Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories

For 70-year-old Shea, that grotesque self-deception is what now emanates from the very pores of Trump’s regime, from the profiteers of war, from the elite who want Venezuela for their profits, and from the Democrats – the supposed opposition party – who believe America is the great white hope that should be meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

That moniker, Vietnam vet for peace, speaks to Daniel Shea’s persuasive and holistic approach to life, and he’s  not easily dissuaded by the long arm of capitalism’s systems of oppression which create mayhem through social and cultural injustice he’s experienced in his 70 years on planet earth. He’s a former Marine who had been deployed to Vietnam in 1968.

He did not see himself engaging in the tradition of military service so many in this country seem compelled by — especially civilians like Donald Trump, who not only actively got out of military service during the Vietnam War, but also has been quoted many times deriding vets who went to war, calling them “losers.”

That call of duty, Shea told me, was predicated on being stuck in a hard labor job in Portland, Oregon, and the reality that his draft number would be called up anyway.

He wasn’t a supporter of the war, but he said he just went in to “just get it over with.”

“I did not support the war,” he told me. “I knew the minute I stepped into boot camp that it (military life) was not for me.”

Heck, he went AWOL before being sent to Vietnam – “We went out drinking, and we ended up showing up late to our duty station.” Hard drinking because he and his band of brothers didn’t know if they were going to live or die once in-country. For their human sanity wanting to drown out the reality of possible pending early grisly deaths – it’s a normal emotion and psychological state to resist death, one’s own death – Shea and the others were thrown into the brig.

This story begins in reverse, with Venezuela March 2019, but without a narrative context, few would know why the Portland, Oregon chapter president of Veterans for Peace just returned from Venezuela as part of a big delegation to meet with the people of that country, the people in the streets, in government, in the media and just the regular Jose and Josefina in an effort by this peace delegation to carry forth on some real ground truthing.

“We were on a mission, to listen, to observe, and to attempt to assess the root causes of opposition grievances and whether there might be avenues for talks to address their concerns and find compromises and produce a peace to the advantage of all concerned,” Shea told me. Obviously, the delegation was not blinded by the media lies and the Trump Administration’s propaganda war and the opposition party’s back-stepping.

The right for Venezuelans to determine their futures was always at the forefront of Shea’s and the others’ minds during this delegation. Nicolas Maduro was elected as the leader of the country, and this largely unknown puppet – hand-picked by the Trump people and his same old usual suspects of neocons, going way back, gleaned from the dirty wars of Central America and international felons (like Elliot Abrams) — Juan Guaido is as legitimate to Venezuelans to lead their country as is Donald Duck or Elvis Presley.

“Our main mission was to express our Solidarity with COSI – Venezuela — Committee of International Solidarity and Struggle for Peace.” Shea went with folks like Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Co-chairs of Popular Resistance.

Other heavy hitters included Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 VP running mate of Jill Stein; Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC); Gerry Condon, President of VFP; Sarah Martin, Anti-War Committee; Miguel Figueroa, President Canadian Peace Congress; Eva Bartlett, fearless Canadian freelance journalist; and others.

Dan and I cleared the air early on in our interview: I asked him what makes 2019 and Venezuela different than all the other times US presidents/ administrations have taken that which was not theirs to take, who murdered those who resisted and, then who set forth imperial overreach to subjugate people and societies through generation after generation.

“Same old story, nothing has changed – Capitalism is at the root cause of targeting Venezuela. The country’s oil is the price, and the US Corporate Masters will use any means necessary including war,” Shea told me. “They are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people in order to secure oil for the United States. This was pretty much publicly stated by John Bolton to FOX News in which he said that United States would benefit economically from access to Venezuelan oil.”

Yet we are in an era of cognitive dissonance, distraction and delusional thinking, where the corporate mass media drive a false narrative that supports regime change and resource plunder while the uninitiated public is bombarded with the meaningless of social media feeds and popular lobotomizing culture. Or as Twain describes the US public’s myopic masses as that “great, big, dull bulk of the nation.”

The trip this past March was righteous and part of Shea’s vow of non-violence and weeding out the lies of the very country he went to war for. The trauma of combat was real for him as an 18-year-old in Indochina, but he made it clear to me that it was “the moral injury of realizing I was part of a killing machine that resulted in four to six million people killed and still many more effected by the health effects of Agent Orange.”

He tells me that when he first returned from “his war,” via the Philippines, he like many Vietnam vets was reluctant to self-examine with friends, family or the public: “I just didn’t want to talk war, about Vietnam, or anything associated with the military.”

He slogged ahead, used the GI Bill to enroll in community college in Portland. He got married with his first child on the way. He and his wife were living in an apartment, and got their first house soon thereafter.  Shea began his political development – or we could call it a series of enlightenments — during this period. Then his wife Arlene became pregnant. “This news was received with great joy as I always wanted to have children. We began a series of healthcare classes for pregnant women studying natural birth alternatives, and regular visits to the doctor to make sure Arlene was getting all the nutrients she needed during her pregnancy.”

Lamaze classes, and then the birth of Casey in 1977.  When Arlene’s water broke, the couple was extremely excited. It was a tough labor,  “I think it was about 10 hours and our doctor was a longtime family doctor by the name of Doctor Miracle . . .  how could you go wrong with a doctor named miracle?”

Shea was present at the birth and vividly recalls the doctors rushing his son to the side and then the medical team whispering, eventually stating there were some health concerns with Casey.

“Casey had a seizure and had to be rushed up to the NICU at Doernbecher Neonatal Unit Children’s Hospital. We learned our son had been born with a cleft palate, congenital heart disease and other abnormalities.”

Lots of tears, but Shea and his family were able to celebrate the miracle child, and then a year later, they had a second child, Harmony. Shea learned that the birth anomalies of his son were related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In 1981, their son at the age of three passed away, after seven weeks in a coma from a failed heart surgery.

I’ve worked with veterans who have a grief so painful and so deep tied to the trauma of Vietnam and the battle scars and the inhumanity of napalm dousing villages and carpet-bombing cities. However, the other story to the trauma is both tied to their own failing health and especially all the birth defects of offspring.  “I didn’t even want to live but the love of my wife and my daughter kept me grounded. Additionally, I came to see that my story — my loss — was just one out of millions of lives and all those children in Vietnam who would have been exposed to Agent Orange or who had been killed by our bullets and bombs.”

Out of the personal and historical pain, Shea began to “take a strong and deliberate opposition” to all wars and all military interventions. He dug deep into what the idea of how War and Peace had been so at odds in this Indian-killing country. He was attempting to understand how both civilians and military leaders could see it as “honorable to send their children to foreign shores to kill other children.”

I too have questioned our militarism with a military father who was in uniform for 32 years. Shea has wondered what mechanisms are in place and what sorts of psychological blind-spots would possess working class folks to be part of a deliberate military invasion of another nation to kill other working class families, including innocent men, women, children and even infants.

I still remember Muhammad Ali’s words when I was 10 years old and my father was a regular army officer in Vietnam:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? (February, 17, 1966)

I continually remind people that Trump is a bad hombre in the sense he has a cadre of lawyers and some in criminal enterprises working for him and for whom he works. Bad hombre in the sense Trump has narcissistic personality disorder and believes he is the right hand of god even as he lives, breathes and dreams the way of Satan in the Bible he so publicly reveres.  Bad hombre in the sense Trump is a physically inept bully who encourages racism, white nationalism, misanthropy and blind allegiance to the red white blue and Benjamin’s.

I’ve been around real bad hombres, literally, people who slit the throats of their enemies, people who have no compunction fighting mano y mano to the death, yet these people in the drug dealing world and others I have met as a journalist and then some who I worked with as incarcerated folk have more humanity in their pinky fingers than a Trump and his Klan could ever hope for.

Yet, this country has gone downhill since its first slave holder president, George Washington, who stole from his own soldiers, relished killing the Mohawks for land they wouldn’t sell, and proceeded to break every treaty with the First Nations people.

Things have only gotten worse since Cherry-tree Cutting George took the helm.

Dan Shea: “You’re right this began before Trump. The same faces we saw involved in Central America in the 1980s are now pushing Trump to continue on this path. Those faces of course are John Bolton and Elliott Abrams as well as probably a number of other right-wing Republican capitalist anti-communist propagandists. Besides wanting other countries’ resources, they cannot stand to have examples in the world where socialism trumps Capitalism. This just might give people ideas . . .  and that’s dangerous for those in power who are raping the Earth of its resources polluting, our oceans.”

Mini Q & A:

Paul Haeder: What did the people of Venezuela leave you with?

Dan Shea:  Funny you should ask that question because after visiting with President Maduro, there was a press conference held outside the Presidential Palace and I said it’s my turn to speak. Told them I was born in the United States, but my father was from Panama as well as my grandmother so I have roots one foot in the US and one foot in Panama as well as Central America, but my heart is in Venezuela —  with all of you.

You might ask why I feel that way and I would answer because I have seen the tenacity of a people to stand up against one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Venezuelans have refused to accept United States in their bulling attempts and threats to overthrow their elected president and surrender their oil. This is basically the real interest of the United States and their corporate masters — OIL!

PH: What do you suggest people in the US — who do not want to interfere with the Venezuelan elections and people’s right to their own self-determination and the current legitimate government’s right to move forward — DO to affect change?

DS: Organize, organize, organize. Join any number of groups opposed to war, opposed to interventions. Be involved in mass demonstrations in Washington DC, say no to NATO, say no to war and racism, and demand Hands Off Venezuela.

If you’re a veteran, join Veterans For Peace, become a part of the solution not the problem. If you are a soldier currently in the military, VFP encourages you to resist illegal orders of invading a country that has been no threat to the United States. Refuse to deploy, refuse to continue serving in the military by becoming a conscientious objector. If you wish to battle injustice, totalitarianism, dictatorships then start here at home in the ‘belly of the beast’ and resist war, violence and help us build a massive Antiwar and Peace Movement.

PH: Discuss what you learned about this bizarre gambit Trump and the other pols are creating in the international press from the Venezuelan people’s perspective.

DS:  Most of the stuff coming from the US is lies, exaggerations and cherry-picked statistics to suit their narrative. Such as hyperinflation, and the lack of food and goods for sale because of shortages, but Trump and the media fail to tell you how US sanctions are creating that crisis.

PH: Notable moments there.

DS:  You have to maintain some sense of humor even under the dark cloud of war. Thus, Guaido has become joke. In a press conference in Venezuela, I felt it necessary to inject a little humor by declaring myself President of the United States. If Juan Guaido can declare himself president of Venezuela, then why can’t I declare myself the president of the United States.

*****

We talked about how things have changed since the anti-war and pro-civil rights movements in the country in the 1960s. Maybe that was a flashpoint moment, which led the copulating forces of the US government and corporations to entrench themselves deeper and deeper into anti-democratic methods of suppressing the masses, or even stopping targeted movements and campaigns.

Not many Americans who want change are willing to face jail and employment termination. Upton Sinclair stated it almost a century ago:

I intend to do what little one man can do to awaken the public conscience, and in the meantime,  I am not frightened by your menaces. I am not a giant physically; I shrink from pain and filth and vermin and foul air, like any other man of refinement; also, I freely admit, when I see a line of a hundred policeman with drawn revolvers flung across a street to keep anyone from coming onto private property to hear my feeble voice, I am somewhat disturbed in my nerves. But I have a conscience and a religious faith, and I know that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. I intend to do my duty to my country.

— Letter to the Louis D. Oaks, Los Angeles Chief of Police, 17 May 1923

We are today deeper in a time of dumb-downing, largely because we have sold our souls and our brawn and intellectual mettle to the corporation. We have variations now on this theme that Sinclair and H.L. Mencken toyed with:

  • Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.
  • It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
  • It can be very hard to understand something, when misunderstanding it is essential to your paycheck.
  • It is rather pointless to argue with a man whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the right answer.

For Dan Shea, he has great hope for and in the young people today, who are understanding putting truth to power and are training their minds to not only not accept war as inevitable, but also to train themselves to accept the very proposition that socialism is the only way to stop the madness. “They understand this perverse Orwellian language such as ‘preemptive war,’ or how politicians and generals call mass murder ‘collateral damage.’ To repeat, I see the people of Venezuela standing up against one of the most powerful countries in the world.”

He ends the interview with an allusion, deploying Albert Camus: The Greek myth has Sisyphus condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. For Camus, life is absurd and meaningless, as we see with Sisyphus, yet, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

“I guess the gods would forgive him once Sisyphus pushes the boulder up the hill, but each time he pushes the stone up the hill, he is defying the system. I feel free knowing I too can defy the system.”

Revolution and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America

The need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution is rather obvious in Latin America — a need which stretches from Mexico to Argentina.  While this need is different in the various countries the overall nature of the struggle for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution is very similar. There is almost a general need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America. The story of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America, since the twentieth-century, shows the necessity of such a Social Revolution and such a Socialist Revolution. For the Left of Latin America that struggle continues today.

Most Socialists in Latin America, and most people on the Left in Latin America, have noted the need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America. Indeed for the last century and a half every serious Socialist thinker and Left thinker has noted the need for social change and social revolution in Latin America — specifically the need for a Socialist Revolution. This need for social revolution and Socialism in Latin America is what gives the Left its particular power and its particular strength in Latin America. Yet the Left in Latin America has, so-far, failed to achieve the victory of Socialism and Socialist Revolution in the states of Latin America. This is, of course, for reasons often outside the power of the Latin American Left itself — specifically the power of Capital and the Capitalist State in Latin America and the power of U.S. Imperialism. Yet if the Left in Latin America is to ever achieve the continent-wide Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution that Latin America needs then the Left will have to engage with the problems of making revolution and the problems of revolution and revolutionary strategy. There can be no Revolution in Latin America without a Revolutionary Theory.1) There can be no Revolution in Latin America without a Revolutionary Strategy.

The revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America today is the product of both history and politics — both at the national level and the continental level. The distinctive nature of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America today means that any revolutionary strategy for Latin America has to be both particular and universal  for Latin America and the struggle for Socialism in Latin America. Particular in that it has to be adaptive to a number of different states and societies — from Mexico to Argentina, from Brazil to Venezuela, from Colombia to Peru.  Universal in that it has to be a universal strategy for revolution and Socialist Revolution across the entire Continent of Central America and South America.  Such factors mean that any Socialist struggle in Latin America also has to deal with a number of different histories and politics — especially in the case of the political organisation of the Left and of Socialists in the various states and countries of Latin America. All of these factors combine to make the revolutionary struggle for Socialism difficult in Latin America, but also vital for both historical and political reasons. The struggle in Latin America today, given the history of the nineteenth-century and the twentieth-century, has entered a vital phase since the turn of the century. This vital phase has also been shown by the fate and struggle of most of the great Socialist Revolutions and Left-Nationalist Revolutions which occurred in Latin America in the last century.  Any political analysis for Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America needs to deal with the reality of politics in Latin America and the legacy of politics in Latin America. The struggle for Socialism cannot succeed in Latin America without a political struggle for Socialism.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America has taken many forms over the last century. Today the revolutionary struggle in Latin America is primarily a political struggle and a social struggle. It is a political struggle and a social struggle because both are needed to achieve Socialism in Latin America — and both are vital.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America is primarily a struggle by the Working-Class of Latin America. If Latin America is to ever achieve a Social Revolution or a Socialist Revolution today then it must be led by the Working-Class of Latin America. This basic fact is a constant of any Revolutionary Strategy for Latin America.

There once was a time when the revolutionary struggle in Latin America relied on Guerilla Warfare and Guerilla Struggle. Today that is no longer the case. Today only political struggle can achieve a revolutionary struggle in Latin America. Except for a very few cases that type of guerilla struggle is no longer possible or profitable in Latin America. There is also the reality that except for a few cases, namely the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Guerilla strategy was a failure and a disaster for Socialist Revolution in Latin America — one which resulted in counter-revolution and defeat. In Latin America today the revolutionary struggle for Socialism must rely on political struggles — and not military struggles.  If the revolutionary struggle in Latin America is to succeed it must rely today on political struggles by the Working-Class of Latin America. The failure of Guerrilla struggle to achieve Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America, from Colombia to Peru, highlights the need for Political Struggle instead in Latin America. Only Political Struggle can achieve Revolution and Socialism in Latin America.

The revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America has to engage with the politics and history of Latin America. This has always been true and will continue to be true for the struggle in Latin America. The politics and history of Latin America inform the struggle for Socialism in Latin America.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America has a rich tradition and a rich history — going back to the revolutions of the twentieth-century. The Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Chilean Revolution of 1970-1973, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, are all examples for the Latin American Left to draw upon — and to learn from.

The social struggle for Socialism in Latin America is more developed in certain places and areas in Latin American than others.  This social reality is key to understanding the dynamic of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — in that some areas are more politically advanced than others. In Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador the struggle for Social Revolution and Socialism exists at a different level than it does in other parts of Latin America — particularly in places like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia. This is because Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador have already undergone some form of Social Revolution since the Twentieth-Century. This division of the Revolution in Latin America is another legacy of past politics and past struggles in Latin America. For the revolutionary struggle in Latin America today it is vital to unite the working-class struggle in all these countries and to develop them towards Socialism itself. In the case of Venezuela, a key theatre of Social Revolution and Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, the Social Struggle there today is already beginning to enter a decisive phase. If the struggle for Socialism is to advance and develop in Latin America then there must be a struggle in all the countries of Latin America and all the societies of Latin America.2)

The political struggle for Revolution in Latin America today, however, must relate to the political reality of Latin America today. There cannot be a successful Social Revolution in Latin America today unless the Left engages with the concrete realities of the struggle in Latin America today. Repeating the politics and history of the revolutionary struggles from the past, even from previous successes, is unlikely to achieve revolutionary victories in Latin America today. Instead it is vital to develop a revolutionary struggle and a revolutionary strategy for Latin America which acknowledges the realities of politics in Latin America itself today. These will be different in the different countries of Latin America. They will, though, all share in common the common need to develop a working-class struggle and a working-class politics as the heart of the revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America. The particulars of revolutionary struggle in Latin America are different across Latin America today, but they all share in common the need for a common working-class struggle and a common working-class politics. For the Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America today the Working-Class is at the centre of the struggle, both for revolutionary politics and for Socialism.

All revolutionary struggles must contend with counter-revolution and counter-revolutionary struggles. In the case of Latin America the primary opponents of Social Revolution in Latin America remain the Capitalist states of Latin American and the spectre of U.S. Imperialism. Any struggle in Latin America will have to contend with these opponents and find ways of overcoming them. The recent reality of counter-revolution in Brazil, since 2016, and Venezuela, since 2002, shows how powerful the forces of Counter-Revolution remain in Latin America — at both a political level and a social level.  The history and politics of counter-revolution and coups in Latin America, since the beginning of U.S. Imperialism in Latin America, has always been a threat to social progress and social revolution in Latin America — as the history of the twentieth-century in Latin America also shows. So long as Capitalism remains a force in Latin America the struggle in Latin America for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution will remain incomplete. Recent events and older events in the history of Latin America also show the reality of what occurs when revolution fails in Latin American societies — the reality of Capitalist dictatorship and Military dictatorship.  The working-class of Latin America cannot afford any further revolutionary failures.

U.S. Imperialism is the ultimate foe of revolution in Latin America, and the foe of revolution anywhere in the world. U.S. Imperialism is a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America today, as it has been a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America. It is important to stress that the reality of any Revolution or Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America has to be thought of in relation to the reality of U.S. Imperialism in Latin America. U.S. Imperialism has always undermined the struggle for Socialism in Latin America, and across the World. The difficulties of the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela attest to this basic fact. The Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America must always remember this reality of U.S. Imperialism and seek ways to overcome it, either by struggle or by solidarity with the struggle of the Working-Class in the United States itself. If U.S. Imperialism is not confronted, head on, then there is no chance for the success of Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America.3

A key area for Revolutionary politics and Revolutionary strategy in Latin American remains the political divide of Latin America — the need for Working-Class politics.  This divide, specifically in Latin America, means that the Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America still needs to develop a Working-Class struggle and a Working-Class politics — specifically for political struggle and political development. This aspect of the struggle in Latin America is a hangover from the twentieth-century and a reminder of the social problems and social divides in Latin American society, yet it also shows the importance of having a Socialist politics of political development for the Latin American Left. If the Left is to advance in Latin America it will have to develop a Social aspect of its Socialist politics — one which can appeal to the poor farmers and poor workers of Latin America. Failure to develop such a politics will only delay a key aspect of the social struggle in Latin America — the unity between the working-class and the rural farmers. Without unity between the worker and the farmer there cannot be either Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America.  The Urban/Rural divide in Latin America, too, has always delayed the Social Struggle in Latin American history — it cannot be allowed to delay the Social Struggle in Latin America today.  The Urban/Rural divide is not unique to Latin America, the Revolution in Latin America or the Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America, but it is vital to the success of the Revolution in Latin America and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America.

There have been many good writers, from the Left, on Revolution in Latin America and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America. Indeed some of the best writers and thinkers on Socialist Revolution have either come from Latin America or have thought about the problems of Revolution in Latin America. This is because Latin America, itself, is a key theatre for the Socialist Revolutionary struggle of today. The thought of Che Guevara and Regris Debray instantly springs to mind whenever one thinks of the problems and politics of making Revolution in Latin America. Such Marxists and Socialists have always thought long and hard about finding ways of making the Revolution in Latin America.  Together they form one of the key sources of Socialist thought for Revolution in today’s world — for Revolution internationally and for Revolution in Latin America. If any strategy or politics for Revolution in Latin America is to be developed for today then it will probably require some aspect of the thought from the older Socialist thinkers of the twentieth-century — and from the Socialist tradition in general. The ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Guevara and Mariátegui, can still help us today in terms of developing a revolutionary politics and a revolutionary strategy for Latin America, and for the Socialist Revolution in Latin America.

The struggle in Latin America shows the need for both political organisation and for social organisation. The Left in Latin America needs both political organisations and social organisations — Socialist Parties, Socialist Trade Unions and Socialist organisations. No victory for Socialism in Latin America can occur without such political organisation or social organisation — without Socialist Parties and Socialist organisations. Latin America has a history and a tradition of such Socialist Parties and Socialist organisations. For the Left in Latin America today it is vital that the politics, tactics and struggles of such Parties are resurrected for the struggle today. The Socialist Revolution cannot be won, anywhere, without a Socialist Party.4

How to achieve the Social Revolution in Latin America and the Socialist Revolution in Latin America is a question of politics and of strategy. It is also a question that the Left in Latin America will have to think hard and long upon, given the reality of politics today in Latin America and the experience gained from the successes and failures of the revolutions of the twentieth-century.  The nature of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America necessitates that the Left in Latin America think long and hard about the nature of the struggle, and how it connects to the international struggle for Socialism. Latin America, after all, is just one theatre of an international struggle for Socialism and this means that success or defeat there effects the struggle for Socialism everywhere else. The nature of American Imperialism in Latin America gives the social struggle a further reality and a further political problem.  All this means that unity amongst the Left of Latin America is vital for any future success for the Left of Latin America today or in the near future.  In many ways the nature of the struggle for Socialism in Latin America remains unchanged from what it was in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries — in that the Left of Latin America has to struggle against both national and international foes, against both the Capitalists of Latin America and the Imperialism of the United States. All of this makes the social struggle and political struggle in Latin America difficult — but not impossible.  The struggle in Latin America continues today, and it will continue until victory and the victory of Socialism.

  1. V.L. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1905
  2. E. Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental (1967
  3. Defeating U.S. Imperialism will, ultimately, require a Socialist Revolution in the United States itself. This proposition is a difficult one. It will, ultimately, depend on the ability of the American Left to fight for Socialism in the United States itself.
  4. This point has been demonstrated by the revolutionary struggles of the nineteenth-century and the twentieth-century – where such struggles required some form of Socialist Party or Socialist Organisation to succeed. It is likely that this will remain the case for any revolutionary struggle in the present century – the twenty-first century.

Trump Marches Onward and Downward

Journalists, academics, pundits and experts have ignored the complexity of President Trump’s impact on the state of the US Empire.

To properly assess the geopolitical configuration of power, we will consider the military, economic, political and diplomatic advances and setbacks of the Trump regime in Latin America, the European Union and Asia (including the Middle East).

Secondly, we will examine the time frame – the shifting direction of the present configuration of forces.

We will conclude by discussing how the influence and results of foreign policy shape domestic political power.

Background to President Trump’s Empire Building

First and foremost, we must take account of the fact that much of Trump’s policies build on and reflect the policies of his predecessors, namely Presidents Bush and Obama.

The US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were started by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, The US bombings of Libya and the destruction and uprooting of millions of Africans was inaugurated by Obama.

The expulsion of millions of Central American and Mexican immigrants from the US was common practice prior to Trump.

In brief President Trump continued, and in some cases exacerbated, the socio-economic and military policies, of his predecessors. In a few areas Trump reversed policies, as was the case with Obama’s Nuclear Agreement with Iran.

The successes and failures of Trump’s empire building policies cannot be attributed solely to his regime. Nevertheless, President Trump must be held responsible for the current state of the empire and its direction.

President Trump Marches Forward in Latin America

President Trump has built upon and extended US imperial victories throughout most of Latin America. Satellite regimes are in place in Brazil thanks largely to judicial-legislative coup which overthrew President elect Dilma Rousseff. The puppet regime of Michel Temer has privatized the economy, embraced Trump’s dominance and aligned with efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s government.

Similarly, Trump inherited from Obama the present client regimes in Argentina (President Mauricio Macri), Peru (President Martin Vizcarra) ,Honduras (President Hernandez) Paraguay (President Cartes), Chile (President Piñera), Ecuador (President Moreno), and most of the ruling elites in Central America and the Caribbean. Trump has added to the list current efforts to overthrow the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua.

Under President Trump, Washington succeeded in reversing relations with Cuba and the so-called peace accord in Colombia between the guerrillas and the Juan Manuel Santos regime. In July 2018, Trump succeeded in backing the accession to power of Ivan Duque a protégé of the far-right party of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia. President Obama’s reversal of center-left regimes via coups have been consolidated and expanded by Trump with the important exception of Mexico.

Trump partially reversed Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba and threatens to militarily invade Venezuela.

Trump’s imperial empire in Latin America is, for the most part, inherited and largely sustained . . . for now.

But there are several crucial caveats.

Mexico’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is likely to pursue independent and progressive foreign and domestic policies, renegotiating NAFTA, oil contracts and border disputes.

Secondly, Brazil and Argentina’s neo-liberal economic policies are in deep crises and the incumbent puppet regimes are economically unstable, face mass social opposition and likely will suffer electoral defeats in 2018.

Thirdly, Venezuela and Cuba have successfully resisted economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Militarily, President Trump retains US military bases in Colombia and has incorporated Bogata into NATO and he has secured military operations in Argentina and Ecuador.

The biggest challenge to Trump’s empire building in Latin America is in the all-important economic realm.

Trump has failed to gain ground in trade, investment and raw materials in the face of competition with China.

Despite the political and military subordination of Latin American regimes to Washington, the bulk of their trade ties are with China. Moreover, Brazil and Argentina will increase their agro-exports to China in line with Beijing’s trade tariffs on US exports. In the so-called trade war not a single Latin American client state has sided with the US. On the contrary, all are taking advantage of Washington’s loss of the China market to enhance their exports.

Clearly the US does not exercise ‘hegemony’ over Latin America’s trading relations.

Worse still, Trump’s dumping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threats to withdraw from NAFTA have reduced Washington’s leverage over Latin America and Asia.

Trump’s boasts and claims of dominance over Latin America is largely a product of his predecessors’ imperial policies.

At most, Trump’s policies have hardened the far right, which however, is weakening politically and economically and has provoked the rise of the left to power in Mexico and increased opposition in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

In sum the Trump regime’s empire building retain decided influence in Latin America but faces major challenges – and reversals.

Trump in Asia: One Step Forward, Two Step Backward

Washington has gained prestige for its diplomatic overtures to North Korea but is losing the trade war with the world’s second greatest power, China.

China,faced with Trump’s economic war, has diversified its trading partners thus undermining key US agro-business enterprises.

China has implemented tariffs on: canola, soybeans, corn, cotton, pork and beef.

Moreover, China has replaced the US as the main trading partner throughout Asia.

While Japan, South Korea and Australia provide military bases for the US they are eager to replace Washington’s export to China.

Moreover, China’s multi-billion dollar, Belt and Road Initiative has secured sixty-eight nations as partners, with the prominent absence of the self-excluded USA.

US economic sanctions against Iran have failed to undermine the governments’ oil exports, while banking transactions and imports of manufacturing and service products are replaced by China, Russia , India and most of Asia. All of whom will increase their trade with Teheran.

In the Middle East and South Asia, the US can no longer count on clients or allies except for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, the Saudi’s rejected Trump’s demand to increase oil production to lower oil prices for US consumers.

Israel is a ‘loyal ally’ to Washington when it suits their own economic advantages and hegemonic aspirations. For example, Israel has continued to expand ties with Russia even in violation of US sanctions.

Pakistan, Myanmar and Cambodia have moved closer to China as a result of increasing financial and infrastructure aid.

In balance, the US continues to exercise military dominance in Asia via its bases in South Korea, Japan and Australia. However, it is losing economic influence and presence in the rest of Asia. If history is any precedent, imperial empires without economic foundations, sooner or later crumble, especially when rising regional powers are capable of replacing them.

The European Union and Trump’s Empire: Partner, Client or Rival?

The European Union (EU) is the largest market in the world and yet remains a political and military dependency of Washington.

The EU has suffered from its lack of an independent foreign policy – its reliance on NATO, a US subsidiary is one of the main reasons.

President Trump has exploited the EU’s weakness to defy its policies on several strategic issues, ranging from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to the nuclear agreement with Iran, to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump’s tariff on EU exports is the latest and most provocative effort to defy and dominate the region.

Moreover, the EU is increasingly divided over immigration, the UK departure (Brexit), as well as the economic and political and economic split between Germany , Italy and Poland.

In effect the Trump regime can no longer count on a powerful unified alliance at its behest,in its quest for a global empire.

Rather, under Trump, the US seeks to secure economic supremacy and supreme political-military dominance.

President Trump demands that the EU countries double their military budgets in order to increase the Pentagon’s arms spending.

As a result of the divisions and hostilities between the US and EU, President’ Trump’s imperial policies have adopted a contradictory strategy of enhancing economic protectionism with overtures to ‘enemy’ Russia. By adopting the nationalist slogan, “Making America Strong” by ‘Making the EU Weak’ it appears Trump pursues nationalist slogans to promote imperial goals.

Domestic Growth and Imperial Decline

To date, mid 2018, Trump is riding a wave of domestic growth of the economy, trade and employment.

Critics claim that this is a short-lived conjuncture which faces powerful counter-currents. They argue that the trade war and decline of the overseas markets of China, the EU, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere will provoke a decline of the US.

Trump’s strategic gamble is that the US trade war will succeed in opening China’s market while reducing China’s exports. Trump hopes US MNC will relocate to the US and increase jobs and exports. So far this is a pipe dream.

Moreover, the corporate tax windfall has not been accompanied with a decrease in inequalities and increases in wages.

The result is that Trump faces the real prospects of a decline in exports and popular electoral support – especially from those adversely affected by declining markets and deep cuts in health, education and the environment.

Political Consequences of “America First” in a Corporate Setting

Trump’s nationalist economic policies are highly unlikely to enhance empire building ; on the contrary, the trade war will force the major corporate tax beneficiaries to turn against Trump. Their overseas trade links with the EU, North America and China will cause them to turn against Trump.

Empire building trumps America First. Without an economic empire the US will lack the means to secure the markets necessary to stimulate local exports and production.

Conclusion

President Trump has benefited, and to some extent, succeeded in temporarily gaining dominance in Latin America, expanding the domestic economy and imposing demands on China, the EU and North America.

Nevertheless, his policies have undermined allies, antagonized competitors and provoked retaliation. All of which increases the economic cost of running an empire.

Trump has failed to provide viable substitutes for the EU and China markets. Nor has he secured the markets of his remaining clients in Latin America. The notion that Trump can build ‘national capitalism in one country’ is a chimera. At most it would require intensive exploitation of US labor and high rates of investment, sacrificing profits and salaries. The electoral oligarchy and the mass media will force him to retreat from the trade wars and surrender to the globalizing elites.

Creative Juices in a Time of Commodification, Watered Down Drivel, Nothingness of American Fiction

The autumn of the patriarch, man, thinking hard about Marquez’s book, thinking back in lamentation bursts, going back in time when I met him at the University of Texas at Austin, and how he spoke to me as a young person, hopeful that I would be something as unique as he was, using what I told him was my West Texas/Chihuahua “magic realism,” founded on what I learned from his One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Those were the days, man — Kurt Vonnegut and Denis Levertov, Annie Dillard and Tim O’Brien, Robert Bly and Leslie Marmon Silko.  So much more in the verdant garden of my youth.

…as he discovered in the course of his uncountable years that a lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth…

…the day shit is worth money, poor people will be born without an asshole

Gabriel García Márquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch

El Paso, Gateway to the Jornada del Muerto

It was a lie, really, belief — young, in my twenties, teaching English, working my ass off in graduate school, odd jobs in Juarez, lots of poetry readings, art shows, radical border rights militancy. In and out of dream, really, living in El Paso, in an old apartment complex that used to be a bordello Pancho Villa reportedly frequented, then turned into a TB sanitarium. I thought I would have been set up like some great American novelist, or ensconced in tenure playing the MFA game, or just a vagabond with a one hit, the one-hit wonder of it all. By thirty.

Long in the tooth, 61 coming barreling down next month. So many connected and fragmented thoughts, and a few dozen novels inside, despair, natural revulsion of Oprah or clique NYC publishing world, and fear of the Hollywoodization of every thought sputtering out of the masses. Here’s a weird scene: I vividly remember the peas and mashed potatoes Cormac McCarthy pushed around on his plate at a cafeteria in El Paso. Man, he was beginning to take words and his spare punctuation big, from the hollers of Tennessee, the muse of Faulkner’s Mississippi hardscrabble set in motion; now in Paseo del Norte, hiding out (sort of) looking for beat-up West Texas seclusion and novel inspiration. It was a brief hello, and on the surface he looked like insurance salesman or appliance store owner. I asked him if he’d come on board by showing show up to one of the undergraduate classes I was teaching at the university (UT-El Paso).

In a nutshell (mesquite bean) McCarthy basically said he didn’t do those things, things like throwing in for students, guiding aspiring writers, messing with his own art with others.

I saw Cormac (The Road, All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian) on a fat lazy chair on the Oprah Show talking to her in her giddiness about his punctuation – or lack thereof. Literary genius?

A Country Not for Old Men — Re-Birth Inside Transitions

How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Unfolding dementia at a young age? The shit I did and saw and believed, no Hollywood or any-Wood writer or director could dream of, script in, or even hang with me living it. This is not some blowhard release, or a “wow look at my experience now that I am turning 61 on February 6, the same day just another nemesis of mine, Ronald Reagan, was born” admonition. This is the reality of a Marxist living and working in “their house,” putting on those scrubs of their trades – English faculty, environmentalist, budding-aspiring novelist, photographer, newspaper journalist. No big laments, for sure, as my luck of the spin on the globe where I was borne probably has given so many incalculable advantages. Guaranteed, most consumers of story – book readers – are looking for simplicity in language, stories set in the love and hate, death and fear that encapsulates American writers, including McCarthy.

Anyone looking at my life seems like an antithetical process of literary creativity, and I am anything but what the average consumer of books wants as an author, but the kernel of what ends up on the page comes from the weight of tides and blurry sunsets and all the storms and heatwaves in between. Sweating through visions, and the hard ache of failure after failure, and the unbearable, sometimes, of witnessing the perversions of the world. We have to take stock in all of that messy emotional landscape. Being out of work this time around – sacked October 26 – and hunting for the crumbs of the capitalists is a process of bleary thinking, emotions lost in an oil slick of the leaky boat listing on the ocean of our discontent.

My birth: San Pedro, California, for my first six months in air, and then, the Azores, thanks to enlisted Air Force father. A real epigenetic reckoning, my first four years on the Portuguese islands, all that sea, those ocean chasms, earthquakes, the white-washed Catholic puritanism, the old fishers and young kids, the poverty and the USA using strips of land for Air Force machinations. I had a local woman – Maria Gloria de la Sauza — taking care of me and my sister, and we went to her family’s place on religious occasions, those memories hard-wired forever. Trapped in some dreams even half a century lived.

The festival of the bread each Saturday, the masses, the fishermen bringing in their hauls. Barracuda caught with piano wire. The weeping candles in black moldy chapels. The priests and the military men. Poverty, bellies protruding, rust, cobblestone roads, potato fields, hacking tuberculosis, heavy hips, skinny men, children like hermit crabs scampering about, the unbelievable heaven in that blue sky and the black ink of the Pacific. Nine hundred miles from Lisbon.

Exactly the spring of my existence – aunties and uncles in Germany and Scotland and England. I remember those trips over the sea, prop planes, the absolutely magical motion of Douglas DC-7’s flying the friendly skies of Pan Am and Eastern Airlines. Imagine, four years old, and one of the four prop engines catching on fire as we were coming back to the Azores. Imagine a time, 1961, when the spring of a child lasted with the touch of fingers on the pages of books, in the hard breathing of hikes, walking, outside until dusk, rain without umbrellas, seas and beaches beckoning youth without the paranoia of the 21st century.

Early Light, Early Seedling Growth

I am treading water here, in the night off the coast of Scotland, maybe, I can only imagine the reader says. It’s night, near Dundee, in a cove near Abroath. Around 1963. Real people expecting a five-year-old to swim, not panic, and see the world from the tide in and out.

Spring for the child as I headed to Maryland, and then, Paris, France, as my Air Force father went US Army, a warrant officer pip on his shoulders, and, a family of four in Saint Germain en-Laye, living with other families from other countries as part of that SHAPE — Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Vietnam War, the French and Yanks, the old WW II tunnels, chateaus as movie theaters, the Algerians living in the sub-basement, languages, competitive teens, and I flittered through those times young, visiting the old ones. Always around adults.

Fast forwarding to 2018, from, oh, say 1986 El Paso, then to Merida, Yucatan, and then hitchhiking to Panama, or, say, to 1992 when I decided to go to Vietnam to push the pulse of the American lie out of my system. At any point in the sinew strength of my late teens, through to 2001, the lies were compounding quickly, as I was given to confidence and pushed-up hope as part of the barrier reef or those malpais lava flows near Warm Springs, New Mexico keeping me from succeeding as I had imagined.

I had a New York agent, man, Jack Ryan (what a name, uh?) and he was old school, as the drafts of those books I wrote – five – came back to me stinking of Pall Malls and filled up with chicken scratch edits and comments. He was a tireless worker, and for me, he was more than just a fan. He had a deep regard for my writing. He too was up against the vagaries of Vassar and Brown University publishing house readers and the market of books, tied to the little swath of being New York hip to the incantations of literary fiction.

What a long row to hoe, and, alas, one book, a collection of short stories, thematically tied together by the Vietnam War tangentially, well, he had a big bite, finally, from Picador Press an imprint of MacMillan. I almost got the book sold – Eyes Wide Open: Vietnam Memories. The deal was a committee of five, Ryan said, had the voting role in a thumbs up or down vote on the book. The publisher of Picador Press said he wanted the book, but he was voted down, three to two, not in favor of going with the project.

The reader has to understand that the publisher accepted the manuscript, essentially saying he was all for publishing it. We lived on that arc of that humanity for a few weeks, but then Jack Ryan got the news that the book project went south.

New York Literary World Gone Sour

I know, I know, again, in the scheme of things globally this is not big deal. Rejection from literary circles. A dime a dozen. We’ve been told as writers that it’s luck, being in the right manuscript pile, or knowing a friend of a friend of a friendly editor; or to just pull yourself up by your boot straps and DIY and self-publish and manage a web site and e-commerce account. Compared to the daily struggle of the Pacific Nation Kiribati, for example, which is disappearing quickly as sea level rises, I get it about “counting my lucky stars.” I always come at the world from that foundation – woe is me can’t cut it in a world of absolutely insane suffering and perverted wholesale abuse on a massive scale. But from the bowels of an artist already way outside the mainstream looking to get a book (or several) schlepped by editors at New York publishers, put into their ubiquitous mainstream fiction or literary fiction categories, well, every disappointment is magnified.

Get this, though – I’m going on age 61, and the last time I attempted hawking a novel was 2001, when I ended up moving from El Paso to Spokane. Odd feeling indeed, in 2001, giving up the quest. I still wrote/write, still published/publish, but not books.

It (book in hand) came pretty darn close, and if you put me into an internet search, “Paul Haeder and Reimagining Sanity,” you’ll get a project that “almost” turned into a book. Well, it’s a book, in pdf form, but not on Amazon’s top 1 million list. We have to Fast Forward from 2001 in Spokane to 2015 on the outskirts of Vancouver. I was contacted by a publisher to write a book based on my musings and comments tied to my work at Dissident Voice, this political on-line magazine going on 18 years.

Heady stuff, the book jack recommendations:

Paul brings out a certain raw, emotional side to his subjects and issues. You never can predict what he is going to ask, and his ability to cut right to the point makes his writing an unpredictable thrill ride to the heart and the truth.
―Bart Mihailovich, environmental writer and advocate

Try reading him … with no allegiances to the elites and powerful. If you need a house call for quick intellectual triage, pick up a book of Haeder’s and dive deep into its layers. At the other end of the journey, you will be baptized in a new wonder of showing no fear, fearing no one.
― Charles Orloski is a working class poet living in Taylor, Pennsylvania, who writes regularly for the Hollywood Progressive and other venues

Haeder’s topic is always the world, and Haeder is the filter through which the world has to pass: rhythmic outburst, lyric language, howling at the moon. When other authors have forgotten to be outraged by the outrageous, Haeder has been a North Star who says, “You gotta look at this! You won’t believe…” and fill in here the absurd and unimaginable bullshit of the universe.
― Michael Strelow, author of Henry, A Novel of Beer and Love in the West; and The Greening of Ben Brown. Kesey is his non-fiction book. Upcoming novel is The Moby-Dick Blues.

Paul Haeder does not have a politically correct bone in his body nor is he willing to rent any! A book by Paul will bring reaction from readers, pro and con, but you can bet that it will be a book people will read with interest.
― Angie Tibbs, Dissident Voice, Senior Editor

It’s a hell of a publishing house that went belly up after just three years, but a dozen or more years the dream of the publisher, Kermit Heartsong:

Tayenlane Publishing
Reimagining Sanity: Voices Outside the Echo Chamber

The belly was exposed by the publisher’s distributor – you have to get these books put into book shows, wholesale book distribution points. The distributors (more and more middlemen) can cut a jugular on a small publishing house, and that’s what happened to Tayen Lane Press. But before the plug was pulled, Kermit the publisher solicited me back in 2015, and I was at/in/on a really bad place: going through a divorce, out of the Vancouver house we had just purchased, away from foster twin boys, and my dog left with my soon-to-be ex. I ended up in a doublewide trailer (no complaints about mobile homes) with a bipolar out-of-work heavy equipment operator, who was flipping out half the time, from euphoria to suicidal tendencies. I was working as a substitute PK12 teacher in several rural school districts, and this fellow I will call Rylee, was drinking all day, sleeping around with two or three women, and the place was heated with a wood-burning stove.

Another roommate was brought on, and a stinky bulldog with flatulence (don’t they all have this problem?) and leaky orifices (ditto) was also part of the mix, and the roommate’s always-present girlfriend.

Man, bonfires out on his five acres until 2 a.m. Beer and tequila and all-night pyres and yelling and moaning about life, as Rylee and the other roommate moved around all this slash from a tree clearing project with the younger roommate’s fully appointed excavator. Drunk, loud, 24/7 cigarette smoking, and I was pounding away at this manuscript, teaching kids and wondering where the hell I’d be in five months.

After two months, I had to sneak out on a Sunday, filling my van with my shit and just skipping out so a confrontation between me and between Rylee didn’t take place. I wanted to kick his ass, but that sort of pile-driver attitude would have gotten me, I believe, handcuffed and charged with assault, a job killer in the fields of education and then a new job as social worker for vulnerable populations.

Reimagining Insanity or Sanity – More Voices

Okay, so I have this anti-memoir going over at LA Progressive, titled, Terminal Velocity: Man Lost of Tribe. That’s thirty-eight up in that series – pieces all over the place, most tied to commentary on the state of the world, the state of my sanity, of my self in a world of pain. Make that 39, since this one now goes up as such. Plenty of railing against the machine, and plenty of angst and polemics.

I have this conversation all the time – some people say they’d cut a finger off to read my stuff, to see my name up on some marquee, my books turned into movies. Some want to see me elevated, and then, most people I run into could care less about lives lived and still being lived, that is, lives unaccomplished or partially gelled. Most people are not interested in struggle, struggling people and the ones who either never got the brass ring or flubbed it on the last merry-go-round. This is a time of celebrity infatuation, and no matter which side of the thin political line they stand, young and old care more and more about what’s in Twitter-land or on Facebook.

We are all navel gazers, now that Amazon Fascism Publishing has everyone set up as a budding multi-book best seller.

Shit, everyone’s a writer, isn’t it so, and everyone is a movie maker, star, and prognosticator and hero or heroine in his or her own mind. Plus, the sheer number of books published, remaindered, cut up and used for insulation, it’s way beyond what the mind can fathom.

Whether a life half resolved is interesting or not, or whether anyone cares about the hustle of living and beating out books and trying to hawk them, those are questions that run through many of our minds.

Lee Marvin and A New Dirty Dozen 

I have this screenplay, Just a Coupla’ Chancers. Set in Arizona,1980s. I wrote it while being a reporter in Southern Arizona for a small conglomerate of newspapers. My byline was in the Bisbee Daily Review among other publications.

Simple stuff, a redneck cowboy along the border dealing with more and more incursions – crossers – into his state and country and on his property. Well, he is hard-bitten, but he finds a heart in the story. Salvadorans dead in the desert, their coyotes or smugglers long gone.

The main character has to make a decision: three children, 8, 12, 15, make it to his property. They are the only survivors, and, well, to make a screenplay short, the coyotes are looking for them, and the rancher has to hide them and then smuggle them away. He’s got the border patrol, local authorities, the crime bosses involved in smuggling, his family and the three siblings’ uncle looking for them and going after him.

This was based on some reporting I did around real people who perished in the desert, right where I was set as a beat reporter. I ended up having a few drinks with Lee Marvin in Tucson, and, after some time, I got his address up in the foothills of the Catalinas. Man, we played tennis, I had lemonade, and I met his wife, and, Lee took the screenplay.

I’ve written about that story, meeting and drinking with the Dirty Dozen’s Colonel, before pitching the story. He ended up dying early, and suddenly, and I ended up going to his widow wondering how I might help, and inquiring about the screenplay, of course. She told me Lee was interested in the main part, as I thought he would. She told me he respected the script, from a young guy, resonated with him — seemed pretty set in reality. Poignant, too.

I’ve written a short story, fiction, about that moment in time, fictionalizing some of the stuff.

Desperados and I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

Lo and behold, here I am, desperate, held to a standard at 61, going to interview after interview trying to muscle out another four or five years working hard in the land of usury and death capital. I just pulled out three dusty manuscripts, three novels, one of which was my graduate thesis I defended.

I’m scrambling now working to get some energy back and rework one of them. This is a story again based on someone real, a woman who had been looking for both silver and treasure in the Caballo Mountains near Hot Springs, now Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

I spent hours with her in her small apartment in downtown El Paso, and she was in her 80s then, in 1987. She was obsessed with silver and that cache of stolen gold and other treasures from the Spanish. I even took her up the mountain, on crazy dirt roads, looking for something, reading her map, but never finding the remnants of the mine she had been working on for more than 50 years, on her own.

I have a discredited reporter ending up in the story. Someone who answered an advertisement in the El Paso Times from a woman looking for a ghost writer to get her story in print. The real woman was even hip to the possibility of her story spanning 80 decades turned into a movie.

Her life was amazing, having grown up in Mexico City in a middle-class family, her father a mid-level bureaucrat and politician. When she was 14, she met a 29-year-old millionaire from San Francisco. He had documents and map and some bibles. He was a frozen food magnate, and he was looking for someone to translate the Latin and the Spanish.

He met my protagonist, and the young woman – turning 15 – heard the stories of silver and gold, heard this millionaire’s gold lust.

Rebecca was 16 when she married him, and they ended up back in San Francisco, and then her new husband took her out into the middle of nothingness in New Mexico, overlooking Elephant Butte, and there she learned how to be a miner’s wife, living with hardened men, learning how her new husband had been bitten by the silver-gold-treasure bug.

Six years into it, they had hit a few lines of silver. Seven years into their mining, a wall collapsed in the mine and took down Rebecca’s husband. He lingered in a hospital bed for eight weeks. His final wish was for her to continue looking for the famed treasure and silver.

For fifty years, Rebecca looked for the cache. She ended up teaching Spanish to high schoolers, and every summer she got the supplies and the few men she trusted to head on up to the mountains.

That’s how she spent her summers, for fifty years, until she hit 75. I met her when she was 82.

Now my book, Woman of the Mountain, has my reporter, a former college football star teaching community college journalism classes. I have a sheriff who has been hiding his homosexuality all his life. I have an old Mexican miner whose father once was on Rebecca’s mining team.

I take the reader back to Mexico City, into the mountains, into Rebecca’s life, and the short time with my African American journalist. The mountain speaks, and the story revolves around her disappearance, and the search for her. My journalist was the last one to see her. The miner ends up missing.

It’s literary fiction, and, well, the story is certainly compelling for today’s reader, and it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to imagine the book turned into a screenplay/movie. Selma Hayek, Tommy Lee Jones, Denzel Washington.

In one sense, non-fiction is stranger than fiction, and those months I spent with Rebecca, hearing her stories, and that time in the mountains with her (she was hacking and coughing, and I thought she was going to die), and subsequent times in the mountains on my own with a decent pistol and Winchester lever action, well, I wrote the book, draft after draft, and sent it out to Jack Ryan, the East Coast agent.

It’s funny the parallel of looking for caches of Spanish gems and artwork and gold, and my own quest to make something of myself in the world of fiction. Shit, my master’s thesis adviser, James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss & Dancing Bear) had a lot of faith in me. I was the go-to guy, newspaper journalist, dive master, a guy in his thirties who went to Mexico and Central America. A guy who did some shady things with my Mexican counterparts. Something wild in me, Crumley could tell. He ended up back in Missoula, Montana, fired from the University of Texas for things unbecoming a writing teacher (or that’s what they said . . . you know, drinking, some lines of coke, partying with students).

So, here’s this book. Staring at me as I finish this article. Big fat old 430-page manuscript. I touch the pages and it’s as if 30 years melt away, the light brighter above me here in Estacada, Oregon, than anytime thus far, more than 1,600 miles away from the center of my writing life, in West Texas,  El Paso, Merida, Yucatan . . . Chihuahua.

Yet that old rush is like morphine inside the spleen, and the imagination, mine, races like the old days of Mexico, West Texas, stories, tequila and coke and all-night sessions talking about story, and sometimes craft.

Crumley’s dead . . . some of my friends, dead . . . Jack Ryan, dead, and the artist friends, many are dead . . . Rebecca dead, wave after wave of memory like the aura borealis in my head, pulsating in dream, and now, as I take this manuscript and look at the pages, I am ready for one more push, one more bite of a dream to get something going, just another chancer, me, believing in some magic, like Ornette Coleman and Charlie Hayden playing away into the night.

Her story, Rebecca’s, will be the same this time around, but the plot and action and sequence will be different. What do 31 years do to a creative world, a novel, one based on some real hard things I heard and saw, but morphed into the dream of a storyteller giving paint and hue to the black and white memory of people?

I know I’ll open up with the jail cell, and the lines from Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston, Dobbs, Curtain and Howard in the Treasure of Sierra Madre. I know I will shift points of view, and go back and forth in time and place. I know this story — mine, Rebecca’s, the mountain’s —  has never been told, never been written, and I push ahead now, treading water, standing on the line of creativity and marketing, looking for an agent, and in between despair and fear.

When you have something to say and a way of saying it, there is so much to lose. Like a welterweight picking up gloves after 20 years out of the ring.

In a scene later made famous by the movie version of Treasure of Sierra Madre, the prospectors run into a group of shady-looking, heavily-armed Mexicans, who they suspect are bandits.

Indeed, the Mexicans are bandits and the meeting ends up in a gunfight. But just before the shooting starts, the leader of the bandits tells the prospectors that they are federales — the local “mounted police.”

Dobbs says skeptically of that claim: “If you are the police, where are your badges?”

In B. Traven’s book, the bandit leader replies angrily (and colorfully):

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre!”

Email me, Paul K. Haeder, @  haederpaul (at) gmail (dot) com if you have an agent or director in mind, don’t you know! Really!

Bury All Fossil Fuel Protesters in the Ground

What do you say about this fellow – practicing to be a Jesuit priest. Yale Law School. His family involved in California politics since the 1930s. His great-grandfather here from Germany for the great California Gold Rush, 1852.

Yes, that genocidal, land-thieving time of California’s history

Gold’s a devilish sort of thing. You lose your sense of values and character changes entirely. Your soul stops being the same as it was before.

— The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

The attacking party rushed upon them, blowing out their brains and splitting their heads with tomahawks. Little children in baskets, even babies had their heads smashed to pieces or cut open. Mothers and infants shared the same phenomenon…many of the fugitives were chased and shot as they ran…The children, scarcely able to run, toddled towards the squaw for protection, crying with fright, but were overtaken, slaughtered like wild animals, and thrown into piles… One woman got into a pond hole, where she hid herself under the grass, and concealed her papoose on the bank in a basket, she was discovered and her head blown to pieces, the muzzle of the gun being placed against her skull and the child was drowned in the pond.

— Captain Jarboe among the Achomawi people of the North-east.

Oh, these bizarre and ignorant politicians, like Brown, yesterday (11/13/17), in Bonn, setting up his philosophy in life, after 79 years on planet earth, 79 years on the stolen lands of native indigenous peoples massacred for gold, for land, and poisoned by the tailings and mercury of the Gold Lust, and, well, the fact that California, thanks to German immigrants like Jerry Brown’s great grandfather, August Schuckman, went from 150,000 Natives right before the Rush down to 16,000 by 1900.

The following are some examples of this mini holocaust.

Clear Lake Massacre ended in disaster as more than a hundred Indians, women, and children were murdered,1852.

The Hayforlk Massacre ended up in even more disaster, following the killing of a white settler, more than one-hundred and fifty Indians were killed, with that they took the three last remaining survivors, most likely to have been a woman and her two children who were sold as slaves.

In 1854 Indian Agent R. McKee plead to the troops to keep peace between the Indians and the settlers, after the Massacre of Klamath River which was the result of forty or fifty brutal Native’s deaths. Any Indians who attempted to seek justice and made amends for their mistakes were rejected by the whites who depended on genocide, or the death to the pleading Indians as the solution to the problem.

The Fresno Massacre of 1854, began when white settlers attempted to bring perpetrators to justice, they invaded and killed an unspecified number of Native Americans, this was the effect of the invasions failure for justice. Klamath County citizens resolved by killing all Indians carrying guns, which most Indians were armed.

Here he was, the great Green Governor, on an 11-day trip around the world, dealing with people – Native Americans and water protectors and those fighting on the front lines of climate change – chanting “keep it in the ground . . . keep it in the ground” (fossil fuels, and the byproducts of fracking) during his speech at the “American Pledge” event.

The protestors had banners, yelled “keep it in the ground” and other chants, as a clear reference to Jerry Brown’s backing of fracking, both offshore and on land in California, and also the governor’s cap-and-trade policies that just might prove catastrophic to the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil, and other indigenous communities around the globe.

Brown strongly supports the fossil fuel industry in California, and his recent talk with right-wing, radical anti-climate change activist Ryan Zinke, US Interior Secretary under Trump, belies Brown’s inability to hold on to anything spiritual around this existential threat or critical of these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Capitalism, War, Climate Warming, Environmental/Cultural Genocide.

As always, these pedicured politicians cannot deal with The People, with the noise that is supposed to be democracy, expression and free speech, even a politician like Brown who once hung around the New Age scene and was called Moonbeam, all of which was parodied in the rock scene in a piece called “California Über Alles”, written by Jello Biafra and performed by him with his punk rock band Dead Kennedys.

Here, the typical capitalist, typical Yale graduate of legal misgivings, Brown, today in Bonn:

I wish we have could have no pollution, but we have to have our automobiles. In the ground, I agree with you. In the ground. Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.

This is very California. Thanks for bringing the diversity of dissent here, the visibly disturbed Brown continued.

A video of Brown’s reaction to the protest is available here.

This is the sum total of California’s love of this man (the state has been re-electing him forever), whose family has been riding roughshod over politics, in the legal arena and in the state’s planning for decades. Brown earlier this year went after critics of his oil industry-written cap-and-trade bill, AB 398.

Again, the Governor who wants water protectors and other indigenous groups protesting him “put in the ground,” states it like it is with NPR in July 2017: Critics are using “forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance.” In an interview with David Greene of NPR (National Public Radio).

They can joke, like Weinstein jokes, but, these comments are windows into these devils’ souls. Again, this simple-minded and racist approach to seeing the 80 percent of the world is Brown’s in a nutshell, and all the others in the political arena making pacts with the devil:

“When cities and states combine together and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how we get stuff done,” said Governor Brown at today’s event at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, the exhibition space sponsored by U.S. non-federal leaders at COP23. “We’re here, we’re in and we’re not going away.”

Those darn powerful corporations. Tell that to the more than 100 tribes in California before the Spanish invasion, and the Gold Rush a hundred years later:

The estimated number of Indians killed by new diseases passed on by settlers is around 60% of all the Natives living combined. The white settlers killed and sold the scalps and severed heads of Native Americans, at 25 cents for the scalps, and at more than $5 for the severed heads. $1,000,000 were recovered to the government for the selling of these items. An estimated 4,000 Native children were sold as slaves to settlers. The prices the enslaved children were up to $60 for the young boys and up to $200 for young girls.

Brown’s refused to ban fracking, and all that toxic waste from oil companies put into underground water supplies have gotten a green light from the Gov. He’s incentivizing oil and gas big time in California. According to a news release from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

His cap-and-trade extension includes provisions written by oil lobbyists that prevent state and local agencies from directly limiting carbon emissions from oil refineries. He has also failed to shut down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, where the largest methane leak in U.S. history forced thousands to flee their homes in 2015.

Just five days ago at Bonn, a newly released Center for Biological Diversity report points to more than three-quarters of California’s oil is as “climate-damaging” as Canadian tar sands crude. “Oil Stain: How Dirty Crude Undercuts California’s Climate Progress” pinpoints eight of the state’s 10 largest-producing oil fields that are producing “very dirty crude with greenhouse gas emissions comparable to tar sands oil.”

This is the state of America, calling for Native American environmental groups, indigenous groups from around the world and their non-native allies to be buried in the ground. Funny stuff from old California (not).

Ninawa Nuneshuni Kui, President of the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil, told reporters at Bonn yesterday (11/13/17) that Jerry Brown’s “American Pledge” –which is based on this smoke and mirrors and environmentally racist carbon trading deal — would inevitably precipitate destruction and displacement: both of the land and the cultural resources and the people.

I wanted to leave a message here, for humanity and all of planet, that the peoples need to join to defend Mother Nature, the soil, water and air because they are being threatened. And humanity needs Nature to survive. So I want to say that Nature and the air are not a means of commerce for anyone and it’s every human’s right to live in peace. Jerry Brown’s ‘American Pledge’ will lead to the displacement of my people and the destruction of my territory. We need to respect the rights of Nature and humans beings that need her to survive.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s report claims that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor.

Download the report here.

Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at Consumer Watchdog.

For more information on Jerry Brown’s environmental policies, go here.

In the end, though, these climate summits and all the dickering with the devils — giant multinational outfits in finance, banking, Big energy, Big Military Industrial Complex, Big Ag, Big Medicine, Big Chemicals, Big PR, Big War — will get you the same comments from the same people in power:  “If we don’t extract the minerals and the oil and gas and cut down the timber, then the Chinese and Russians will.”

That’s the folly of this game, this Kabuki Theater, these COP 23’s or COP 30s or COP 99s:

“Most of these critics ride around in cars and fly in airplanes, so what we have to do is get the end goal in sight,” Brown later said of the protesters.

This is how these elites roll, my friend. And until we are serious about the destruction of species and cultures, destruction of land and soil, and until we rip the bowels from the billionaires and the military and financial mercenaries, and until we downsize, retrench, go very local, shift the paradigms, and reinvent humanity to think small and be small, then that’s their bottom line, is it not?

The millionaires and billionaires and their Little Eichmann’s have us trumped: We all drive, we all go on Disney cruises, we all throw away things, we all consume, we all can’t wait for Black Friday, we all invest, we all benefit from war-weapons-weather disruption, we all are Americans, we all are for technology, we all live better lives through chemistry and computing and genetic engineering and nanotechnology; we all are willing to give up our freedoms, our rights, our agency, if we can still get to the all-you-can-eat drive-through after Black Friday’s great consumer orgy.

hallelujah, hhallelujah la olam, masha’allah

Cozumel, Cancun: The Rights of Nature Plowed Over, Sewage Saturated, Cruise-ship Imploded

With the power of the telecom thieves and my cellular phone, and, viola, I am conversing via text and downloaded images with my 21 year old daughter on the Island of Cozumel, with her mother, stuck in the maelstrom of tourists and a denuded ecosystem. Yes, I admit, I loved that island, 1979, 1983, 1987 (1989 was the last time I was there), but I knew my very presence, my ecological footprint, the baggage of being an American, a scuba enthusiast, journalist, too, and dive bum, all were part of what was starting to become very out of whack in the world of those who have and those who do not have. Cultural genocide, the toxicity of Western things, Western mores, Western values, Western consumption and economy, well, it was easy back then for me to notice all of that. Of course, being a communist young allowed my Marxist view of things, but still, I knew my very presence there was part of the upsetting of the natural order of things.

I resisted being a typical American, and was working for international rights and universal human and environmental rights, young, 16, and yes, the power of human population and marketing and markets and consumerism to flip societies into poverty hell, I got at a young age, 16 or so. The beauty of a place is the palm tree frond cabanas, dirt roads, no air strips, no docks for Disney people, none of that, and yet, without all of that shit, American trappings, some of us especially sought it out, Cozumel, and lowered our destructive footprints, and our minds were deeply flooded with where we were and who was there – Mexico and its people and tribes and history.

It was clear that a true revolutionary lives with people, is a traveler, sometimes is not a resident or citizen tied to flag or stamp on passport, and the possibility of living that in 1975 when I first headed to Mexico as a diver in the Sea of Cortes, and, well, for forty-two years, I am still in the struggle to define myself as human, humane, a giver, and someone who knows the sham of capitalism, even in today’s marketplace of ideas that are swollen with idiocy.

Things have changed a lot, of course, since then – all of Mexico, 1975, hell, before Diego and Frida, under a volcano or inside the crucible.

Duelo / Mourning

This country has been defined for me by artists, like Graciela Iturbide and Octavio Paz,

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.

Pajaros

and, Carlos Fuentes:

The United States has written the white history of the United States. It now needs to write the black, Latino, Indian, Asian and Caribbean history of the United States.

and all the exiled ones living in Mexico a hundred years ago:

I’m thinking here of the work by Helen Delpar on the U.S. artists and intellectuals who were attracted by The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican (the title of her splendid book). More recently, the University of Chicago historian, Mauricio Tenorio has been exploring this phenomenon, employing the term “Brown Atlantis” to describe the appeal of Mexico City to these U.S. cultural and academic constituencies. In using the term “Brown Atlantis,” and the same is true of Helen Delpar’s work, the emphasis has been very firmly on Mexico as the center of indigenous politics, art and philosophy. I have suggested to Mauricio, somewhat cheekily, that Havana played a similar role, albeit rather less substantial than Mexico City, and that the label in this case might be “The Black Atlantis” — given the passion shown by U.S. and European intellectuals, musicians and artists for things African or African-descended in Cuba in the 1920s and 1930s.


But, Cozumel, back to that incredible stopping place for my journey throughout Mexico and Central America, and here, in a piece — short story I wrote, titled “Bird Stamp” – you can see the youthful vigor and romance of the place . . . .

ABOUT THE FICTION

Usually people wait until after the holidays to start voicing their frustration with Inland Northwest winters, but sooner or later the familiar lament begins: “I can’t stand another [foggy/rainy/snowy/ cold/dreary] day. Next year, I’m flying to Mexico.”

But what do you do when, as so happens in Paul Haeder’s “Bird Stamp,” the Inland Northwest follows you there?

Haeder’s story suggests that not only is Spokane a place, it’s a state of mind. And as such, it’s a potent literary device conveying undercurrents of hope and despair, possibility and dead ends. We’re proud to name Paul K. Haeder’s “Bird Stamp” the winner of The Inlander’s ninth annual Short Fiction Contest, and to announce that he’ll be reading from this and other works on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at Auntie’s Bookstore. In addition to offering some well-deserved kudos to Mr. Haeder, we’d also like to congratulate our second- and third-place winners, “Metaphorica” by Robert Salsbury and “Washtucna’ed” by J.A. Satori. Both stories will be available on our Web site, www.inlander.com. Congratulations, Paul, and our thanks to everyone who entered this year’s contest.

About the Author: Paul K. Haeder

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had English teachers who would do the same assignments they give their classes? Climb down into the writing trenches and get grubby with grammar like the rest of us? Well, that’s exactly the kind of teacher this year’s winner, Paul K. Haeder is. As a professor at SCC, SFCC, the Continuing Education Program, and previously at Gonzaga, it’s not uncommon for Haeder to do his assignments right along with his students.

“I threw out some ideas to the class and went home and wrote some of [‘Bird Stamp’],” he says. “I brought a page of this into class the next day and said, ‘This is what I came up with.” It was primarily just supposed to be an example, but I kept tweaking it and reworking it and thought, ‘What the hell, I’ll send it in.’ I never expected it would win.”

Haeder has only lived in Spokane for three years. Previously he worked in El Paso and has degrees from the University of Texas and the University of Arizona (where, as city editor of the daily college paper, he had the opportunity to go out drinking — on separate occasions — with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tess Gallagher, W.S. Merwin and Octavio Paz). He’s worked as a journalist for everything from the Miami Herald to E-Magazine and says that in his younger days he used to “hitchhike, pick up writing jobs for small newspapers and teach diving,” which is how he was able to infuse the Cozumel scenes of “Bird Stamp” with so much authenticity. “The diving-off-Cozumel parts weren’t just fantasy,” he jokes.

Haeder is married to writer and teacher Connie Wasem and has an 8-year-old child. He’s also a strong advocate for environmental issues. And it’s not surprising to find that, after hearing that he’d won The Inlander short fiction contest, he went right back to his writing desk to start a few new projects.

“I’ve got writing in my blood,” he says. “I think the real pivotal event for me was 9/11. After that happened, I had a lot of my students asking me, ‘Why do you care about literature and poetry?’ And I told them, ‘Now is the time to care. That’s where we can retreat and rediscover ourselves in times of trouble — in writing.'”

About the Artist: Amy Sinisterra

If the name of the artist for this year’s fiction contest sounds familiar, it might be because you’re used to seeing her photo credit throughout many pages of The Inlander. Amy worked as our editorial art coordinator for four years before launching her own photography business, Amy Sinisterra Photography. During that time, we were often astonished at what Miss Sinisterra could accomplish with only a basic, no-frills digital camera and her own imagination. It’s largely due to her intuitive and wide-ranging images of nightlife, downtown, local artists and food and drink that we’ve been able to present a vision of Spokane as a unique, edgy, attractive place to be.

A graduate of the University of Washington in Fine Art and English, Sinisterra is also an accomplished writer. Her ability to envision scenes served her well as the illustrator of this year’s fiction contest — the photo illustrations accompanying the story came to her while reading and re-reading Haeder’s evocative “Bird Stamp.” Sinisterra continues to take pictures for The Inlander on a freelance basis. To see more of her work, visit her website.

About the Judge: Beth Cooley

We were delighted to have Beth Cooley as the judge for this year’s fiction contest. Cooley’s recently published young-adult novel, Ostrich Eye, is a nuanced, suspenseful and ultimately satisfying novel that garnered her a Delacorte Prize (for first novels in the YA genre). In addition to teaching writing and literature at Gonzaga University (where she is also chair of the English Department), Cooley is a regular participant in EWU’s “Writers in the Rural Schools” program, an outreach effort in which published regional authors visit elementary, middle and high schools in outlying areas. She is at work on a second novel, tentatively titled Shelter, which will be published by Random House sometime around 2006. Cooley, who has been published in Mid-American Review, Roanoke Review, Poet Lore and other journals, shares her home with “my husband, Dan Butterworth, two daughters and a house rabbit named Scout.”

Of this year’s winner, she says: “‘Bird Stamp’ initially stood out among the stories submitted because of its vivid imagery and original language. The poetry of the story kept me involved almost as much as the protagonist, who is realistic and believable. Structurally, I found the interwoven plots of disease, love, infidelity, risk, life and death intriguing. The stories within the story, such as the lost Japanese divers and the marines, were fascinating. Paul Haeder makes us believe in his rough and colorful Mexico and his troubled, complex characters.”

The place — Brand Cozumel, 2017 — is home to 100,000 permanent residents. Once home to the moon goddess (Ix Chel) where women went on pilgrimages for fertility 2,000 years before present time, I knew then, working around environmentalists and cultural protectors, that the Island was up shit creek without a paddle. Rare species decimated, like a fox and coatimundi, and birds and alligators. The place once had 10,000 Mayans living here, and thanks to the Spanish conquest, the conquistadors brought smallpox, and in the ensuing 50 years after that first infected contact with the white race, only 186 men and 172 women of the Mayan culture were left. The island was refuge for people fleeing the Caste War of the Yucatan, and even old Dishonest Abe Lincoln was set on purchasing the island in 1861 for freed slaves.

The Island is mangroves and cenotes, underground freshwater holes and wet caves from thousands of years of percolated rain purifying underground. There are still Maya ruins on the island, and the west coast faces the mainland a few miles away, and the east side is currents and winds from the Caribbean stretch, with thus far, little development, but there are developer sharks out there looking for huge resorts and wind farms and anything else that moves capital along while killing culture, peace, peace of mind, ecosystems.

Now, tourist submarines, 300 restaurants, resorts, bars, para-sailing, kite surfing, dolphinariums, and the crud that is tourism on steroids run what once was a sacred place of communing with dimensions lost on the white zombie race and those co-opted by the race’s shekel-love.

Imagine, dolphins penned up, queued up, performing on cue, held in prison to perform for the sick race of people who can afford to fly to Cozumel and sit on their asses or snorkel into the dolphins’ prison.

The very notion of shifting baseline syndrome (generational amnesia) is what this Western Culture brings with it everywhere, destroying everything in its path, because of that great six percent of the global population’s – USA’s — attitude: “What I see now, what I do now, what I know now, what I experience now, what I touch, taste, hear, taste smell now, what I perceive now, what I want now, what I dream now, what I take now, that’s my baseline.”

Now my daughter is not one of those myopic ones, now five days in Cozumel, texting me how lucky she knows she is to be here where all the service workers plod through their lives cleaning up the shit of the tourists – cruise ships by the hundreds yearly (3 million people drop in, in a year), divers by the hundreds of thousands a year, and resort-goers by the same amount per annum. She has difficulty squaring the raw beauty of the sun and sky and azure water with her own status of being privileged enough to spend a week away from Spokane to be with her mother in a bonding ritual of mother-being-with-daughter. We talk a lot about shifting baseline syndrome, and generational amnesia, and how hard it is for scientists now, starting out, to realize they are working with a short deck of cards and a stacked deck, to boot. This is evidenced in so-called marine stewardship, or management. The oceans’ harvest and disgusting by-catch waste is evidence of shifting baseline syndrome getting it wrong and killing the planet. There are four times the number of fishing vessels in the ocean compared to the oceans’ capacity to regenerate.

The same holds true for Cozumel – 100,000 homo sapiens, 2017, and 20,000 in 1984. The bloody stupidity of developers and merchants and people wanting a piece of the ever-shrinking slice of the commons pie is that population density of humans is exponentially destructive to the commons, the ecosystem, the culture, the animal and plant life.

The irony is her own father, me, was a bum on Cozumel in the 1980s, writing newspaper stories, diving a lot, and finishing up a novel that ended up raked over the coals in New York City’s perverted publishing world (rich summer interns from Vassar or Smith College acting as first readers of manuscripts, both unsolicited and those, like mine, through an agent). I was there taking out tourists for dives, and then, back at the shop at night, smoking joints, drinking rum, and talking communism with a couple of dive shop managers from mainland Mexico (read my story “Bird Stamp” for some of that narrative). Fun deep dives 210 feet (7 atmospheres was my max with two scuba tanks strapped on) under that line of surface and air, with one big inhale of sativa right before descent, and imaginary worlds, but real eight foot black coral formations, hundreds of barracuda gazing at us, eagle rays, lemon sharks, blue sharks and a carnival of fish and corals and sponges not seen anywhere along the island’s shallower dive spots. The black-blue trench west was pretty darned deep – 3,000 feet.

How do we tell our children “there are no more sleepy fishing villages,” and how do we square the fact some of us, like myself, were able to hitchhike from Nogales to Panama, hit all the spots along the Yucatan-Quintana Roo coast, into Belize, into Honduras, for a pittance. Dirt roads, indigenous villages thriving, animals and ecosystems at least somewhat intact and in places vibrant?

How can we tell our daughters that while the old man was, in his own consciousness/mind, someone special and not some cruise-ship loving, monolingual tourist with red-white-and-blue coursing in his veins, I/we still have helped set the world on fire now, with Western culture and USA/USIsrael the demon of the world, with our NAFTA, our ripping off of everything, the nano second by nano second of extreme exploitation?

I remember in the 1980s how the island was still moderately wild, tame, but still, not overrun as it is now. I remember a modicum of discussion by locals and even the expats and tourists about keeping the place as pristine as possible. Oh where oh where does the smart growth go, planned growth thinking disappear, limited growth thinking vanish, small is better mentality dissipate to, when, in the end, the cancer is Capitalism, and Capital, and the developers are like incinerators, burning land, men, women, crustacean, mammal, reptile, fish, bird, what have you?

You will not find much on the internet or in the hearts and souls of people today, or much power of people and environmentalism and cultural survival for-about-because of Cozumel these days. Once you build it and keep building it, they will come and never stop coming. Cozumel is a tourist trap, and almost anyone dives, but few are true spiritual kin to the marine world. Even (or especially) Trump had his feces-covered hands on the island, along with his daughter’s and son’s mitts. All wanting this huge north island crap trap built that would be a winter playground for the rich and the others, with insanity and hedonism the number one operating currency in an unholy project to kill the island off permanently.

Ideas for wind farms on Cozumel – ugly, ecology killing, and why these for the island? What is it with the white race and the developers wanting every stitch of sacred land for more artery-fouling feeding resorts and golf courses and pathetic suites of balcony-ed luxury. But, thankfully, the wind farm has been somewhat halted — by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA). The group argues, “Among other things – that the wind farm would threaten endangered species in Cozumel, destroy precious mangrove and jungle, damage underground water supplies and cause years of disruption to the local community.”

Think of the power of Mayans 1,800 years ago, starting with pilgrimages from the mainland for fertility rites and medicine, eventually making Cozumel into a sacred destination for women from the mainland. Ruins in San Gervasio, about 6 miles down a dirt road from Carretera Transversal, the only main east-west route across the island, I have visited. The place had been populated for 1,350 years, until 1650. A religious center for the island, the three groups of temples, platforms, shrines and plazas are connected by sacbeoob, the “white roads” common to another place I spent a lot of time at, Chichén Itzá.

So, my daughter is there, where her father dove and learned the power of Mexicans from other places, leaving villages behind to serve the Americanos and diving lust. Cozumel was a side-trip, and while I knew all 31 Mexican states, and attempted a few of the hundreds of states of mind the Mexican possesses, I knew deep down that the shit of the world, America and then transnational corporations, would pollute more than just the minds of the Mexicans thinking somehow a Trump Golf Resort would move them any closer to the dung heap that is capitalism eating its own young.

I give my daughter hope in words and artists, and the legends of goddesses:

The Maya words Ix Chel have many interpretations. Ix means woman, Goddess, divine feminine; Chel means rainbow or translucent light. Her name is Lady Rainbow or Goddess of Divine Translucent Light. Ix Chel was always associated with bodies of water like lakes, rivers, creeks, streams and oceans where it is more likely to see rainbows and her beautiful sparkling light. Even in modern times, women sleep at watersides and pray to her for guidance in a dream – myself included. Just as in ancient days, many Maya women still relate that their weaving patterns were divined in dreams.

Like many other Goddesses of the world, Ix Chel depicts the three stages of a woman’s life – Maiden, Mother and Grandmother. The first image is of young Ix Chel the maiden, Goddess of weaving. She wears a snake on her forehead to signify that she is the Goddess of medicine and to symbolize intuitive knowledge as well as great control over earthly forces. Maya midwives placed her wooden image under the birthing bed.

The second image is Ix Chel, the Mother Goddess of fertility, the moon and motherhood. As Mother Creator of all Maya people and consort of the Creator God, Itzamna, she decided the face and sex of every person in utero. She and Itzamna (Lizard House or House of Sastuns) lived at the crown of the ceiba tree where they invented sexual intercourse to create the world and its people. She sits elegantly poised on a crescent moon to signify the moon’s effect on menstrual changes in women. She holds a rabbit in her arms, another fertility symbol. The Maya saw the shadows in the moon as the outline of a rabbit. The Maya discovered that one moon cycle and one menstrual cycle are 29.5 days. The calendar priests determined their famous 260 day Tzolkin calendar based on women’s menstrual cycles and the duration of pregnancy.

The third image is the Grandmother Earth Goddess of the moon, rain, medicine and death. She receives the bodies of her deceased children into her physical body, the earth. Revered for her wisdom and knowledge, her glyph demonstrated the vital importance of elders. Again, we see Ix Chel with the snake on her head, signifying medicine, healing and intuitive wisdom. Only the maiden and grandmother have a snake (to symbolize medicine) on the forehead because (as Maya women have told me) the Mother Goddess is too busy raising and caring for her own brood. Grandmother Ix Chel’s clay pot, shaped like a uterus, pours down rain to fertilize the earth. Often glyphs show a rainbow pouring out of her clay pot. Ix Chel was also consort and wife to the rain god, Chac and one of the Nine Benevolent Spirits that guide the Maya people to this day. Interestingly, this Goddess had at least three husbands – Itzamna, Chac and Ah Puuc.

NOTE: Black and White photos, Graciela Iturbide.