|Progressive Calendar 05.07.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 7 May 2007 07:03:34 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 05.07.07 1. Circuit City rally 5.07 5pm 2. Green Party/Edina 5.07 6:30pm 3. Sami/Iraq/art 5.07 7pm 4. Plan UHG protest 5.07 7pm 5. Films/Sundance 5.07 8pm 6. Ty Moore/YAWR/KFAI 5.08 11am 7. Yuck Dungy 5.08 4:30pm 8. Soft drinks suck 5.08 5pm 9. Ag/food book 5.08 5:30pm 10. Dixi Chicks/film 5.08 6:30pm 11. Kevin Zeese - The Democrats cave to Bush; time for a summer of action 12. Carla Blank - American massacres and the media: a deeper look 13. P Navarrete - John Pilger: Washington's war on democracy --------1 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Circuit City rally 5.07 5pm Send Circuit City A Message Help bring attention to Circuit City's poor corporate behavior. Join us at the Circuit City store in Roseville, Minn., at 5 p.m. Monday, May 7. The store is located at 1750 Highway 36 W Street B (Take Fairview Ave. exit from Highway 36). Tell Circuit City, "An injury to one is an injury to all." These days, the Circuit City hiring policy seems to be, "Good Worker? You're Fired. Cheap worker? You're hired." On March 28, in a move the company called "realigning its cost and expense structure," Circuit City fired 3,400 store employees because they were being paid hourly wages above the national retail average. New workers were hired at lower pay. Meanwhile, Circuit City's executives are making money hand over fist. Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, will join us at the Circuit City store in Roseville, Minn., at 5 p.m. Monday, May 7, to bring attention to poor corporate behavior in our community. The store is located at 1750 Highway 36 W Street B (Take Fairview Ave exit from Highway 36). Here's a look at the company's latest executive compensation numbers: Philip Schoonover, president, chair and CEO: $7,561,375; Michael Foss, executive vice president, CFO: $5,011,798; George D. Clark Jr., executive vice president, president---retail stores: $3,204,133; Fiona P. Dias, executive vice president, chief marketing officer: $3,124,509; and Douglas T. Moore, executive vice president, chief merchandising officer: $3,147,586. While Circuit City's executives pull in millions of dollars a year, the company is firing employees for making more per hour than the national average. It just doesn't seem fair. The Minnesota AFL-CIO also calls on Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) to sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for workers like those at Circuit City and help rebuild America's middle class. Please call Sen. Coleman today at 1-800-774-8941 and encourage him to support the bill. Once again, please join the Minnesota AFL-CIO at the Circuit City store in Roseville at 5 p.m. Monday, May 7. Help send a message to Circuit City: "An injury to one is an injury to all." In solidarity, Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO <http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/Wd1kron1vqy8/> --------2 of 13-------- From: David Strand <mncivil [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Green Party/Edina 5.07 6:30pm Among numerous discussion items at this GP meeting will be the Edina 4th of July parade and Green involvement as well as many other issue action iniatives. Green Party of Edina Member Meeting Monday May 7, 2007 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm Repeats: This event repeats every month on the first Monday. Edina Community Library - Small Meeting Room 5280 Grandview Square --------3 of 13-------- From: wamm <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Sami/Iraq/art 5.07 7pm Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli + Iraqi Art: NW Neighbors for Peace Monday May 7, 7:00 P.M.St. Joseph's Parish, 8701 36th Avenue North (Southwest corner of 36th and Boone), New Hope. Original art by Iraqi artists and children will be for sale; proceeds will be divided between the individual artists and the Peacemaker Teams. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by: Northwest Neighbors for Peace. FFI: Email <nwn4p [at] yahoo.com> or call 763-546-5368. --------4 of 13-------- From: Stefanie Levi <stefalala [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Plan UHG protest 5.07 7pm There is a DIRECT ACTION ORGANIZING MEETING taking place at MY HOME 3833 12TH AVE SO MPLS on THIS MONDAY, MAY 7, 2007 from 7-9 P. M. This meeting is to plan for whatever actions we will do at the United Health Group board meeting on 29 May, 2007. We will meet out at UHG in Minnetonka that morning at 8:00; their meeting begins an hour later. We ant folks to be out there together, early on that day so we can be well-coordinated with our actions. Several very cool ideas for direct action were discussd at our May monthly UHCAN meeting. It was clear we need more time to plan the event. SO...PLEASE COME to the planning meeting this Monday. If you can't attend this meeting, but still want to be involved in, or support in any way, our direct actions at UHG on the 29th, please call or email Joel Albers. My (Stefanie Levi's) phone number is: 612-822-2974 --------5 of 13-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Films/Sundance 5.07 8pm Monday, 5.7, film "Sir! No Sir!" at 8 pm and film "The Ground Truth" at 9:30 pm on the Sundance Channel, your television. (Invite a few dozen friends who don't get cable.) --------6 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Ty Moore/YAWR/KFAI 5.08 11am Tue.May 8, 11 am on KFAI's "Catalyst:politics & culture", hosted by Lydia Howell; a conversation with Ty Moore of Youth Against war & racism (YAWR) talking about the counter-military encampment this weekend at the State Capitol. He'll also update on efforts to limit recruiters' access to students and what happened at the St. Paul School board. Hear some wonderful poems by the great IWW/anti0war singer-songwriter Utah Phillips about NOT joining the military and more! --------7 of 13-------- From: David Strand <mncivil [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Yuck Dungy 5.08 4:30pm Protest and Petition The Queer Student Cultural Center will be holding a silent protest in front of Mariucci Arena in response to the University of Minnesota¢s Alumni Association (UMAA) honoring of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. The protest will take place on Tuesday, May 8, from 4:30pm to 8:30pm on the front lawn of Mariucci Arena. We have also started a petition to voice our opposition to honoring somebody who actively discriminates against any group of individuals. If you would like to sign the petition, or would like more information please stop by the QSCC in Room 205 of Coffman Memorial Union. Any further questions can be directed to our office at 612-626-2344. --------8 of 13-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Soft drinks suck 5.08 5pm St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts at 5 pm and midnight each Tuesday and 10 am each Wednesday in St. Paul. All households with basic cable can watch. ** 5/8 and 5/9 ** "Coke and Pepsi: Hard Questions for Soft Drinks" w/Sanat Mohanty from India, Gerardo Cajamarca from Colombia and Merideth Cleary interpreting. Hosted by Eric Angell. --------9 of 13-------- From: Dara Syrkin <dsyrkin [at] loft.org> Subject: Ag/food book 5.08 5:30pm Raking Through Books presents a discussion with Gary Holthaus about his book, From the Farm to the Table, What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture. Holthaus spent years talking to farm families in Minnesota and gathering their stories-about politics, economics, agrarian work ethic and the choices we all make when we buy food. Join Gary to discuss his book, research, sustainability, and eating in America. Free and open to the public. Don't worry about having read the book, just come and discuss literature and the topics at hand! Raking Through Books takes place at Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Raking Through Books is a monthly book club cosponsored by the Loft, The Rake magazine, Kieran's Irish Pub, U of M Bookstores, Peace Coffee and KFAI Radio. Dara Syrkin The Loft Literary Center Member Services Coordinator and Associate Editor 612-215-2575 --------10 of 13-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] Earthlink.net> Subject: Dixi Chicks/film 5.08 6:30pm Hi, Next Tuesday, May 8, we will see the film, Shut Up and Sing about the Dixi Chicks. The film chronicles the lives of the Dixi Chicks from 2003 to 2006. From being maligned as "traitors" and "peaceniks" byt the Bush Administration, the right wing and red-nicks to winning 5 Grammies, this film shows how personal attacks can occur along side of personal growth. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. -------11 of 13-------- Time for a Summer of Action The Democrats Cave to Bush By KEVIN ZEESE CounterPunch May 4, 2007 In reaction to President Bush's veto the Democrats are reportedly caving in to give him a Iraq War funding without any obligation to end the war. They are making Bush "the decider" once again. It seems that rather than having a lame duck president we have a lame Congress. The only thing that will end the war is constant, organized and focused pressure from Americans who oppose the war. Two peace moms have called on anti-war activists to come to Washington, DC after Mother's Day. Cindy Sheehan is organizing a "Mother of a March" on May 14, 2007. She is inviting "all mothers and all people who have mothers" to join her. This will be the kick-off to a "Summer of Action," being spearheaded by Marine Mom Tina Richards. This summer peace activists will swarm Congress from May 14 to July 31 to urge an end to the war. You can see an interview of Tina Richards about the "Summer of Action" here. The last few months have shown that we can move Congress toward the view that the war must end. When the Democrats came to power they said "we will not use the power of the purse to end the war." Now, they have moved from that position to passing a bill that opposes Bush enough for him to veto it. They did not include ending the war on their first 100 hours agenda - now it is an issue they cannot avoid. More work is needed peace advocated need to consistently stiffen the spine of Congress so they have the courage to do what the people want - end the war. As the 2008 election approaches the power of the anti-war voter becomes greater, especially if it is organized and focused. Cindy Sheehan says "The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling for a march on Congress on Monday, May 14th to demand an end to the war and an end to the Bush Regime." The marchers will meet at the Ellipse at noon in front of the White House. For more information see http://www.thecampcaseypeaceinstitute.org. Tina Richards has been working in Washington, DC for the past several months and she has seen the power that one committed person can have on the nation's capitol. You can see more about Tina on her website, www.GrassRootsAmericaForUs.org and you can register to join us in the "Summer of Action" in Washington, DC. We want peace advocates to come and join us not only in traditional lobbying but in "extraordinary lobbying." The "Summer of Action" will build on the successful efforts of activists in DC and around the country who have been engaging in "extraordinary lobbying" by occupying offices, protesting in the Halls of Congress and sending a consistent message to end the war. It will build on the Occupation Project, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and the Declaration of Peace. Already, key anti-war groups are supporting this effort including United For Peace and Justice and Voters For Peace. Bring people from your local peace group and plan an office occupation or a demonstration inside one of the congressional office buildings as part of the "Summer of Action." Or, come alone and join our ongoing efforts to pressure Congress. To get some ideas of the types of events you can organize visit www.WHYNotNews.org. They have been documenting many of the DC events and will be doing so throughout the "Summer of Action." Republicans saw the power of the peace vote in 2006 when they lost majority power and some of their leading incumbents - senators like George Allen and Rick Santorum who thought they had an easy re-election and were considering running for president - were defeated. And Democrats saw anti-war candidates win primary and general elections that were unexpected. Democrats know they were elected to end the war. If they fail to fulfill that mandate they will find themselves facing angry voters. In 2008 incumbents will be held accountable for the war if they vote to fund the war. The summer of 2007 will be a historical one that will be noted as the turning point in efforts to end the war. The very visible and dramatic activities of organized citizens swarming on Washington in the "Summer of Action" will be seen as one of the key steps taken by the peace movement to end the war. Come to the Capitol and be a part of history. Kevin Zeese is the director of DemocracyRising.US and a co-founder of VotersForPeace.US. --------12 of 13-------- [The reason we don't believe America can ever commit crimes is that they/we have systematically "forgotten" our past crimes. An evil arranged innocence. And then onward to greater and greater crimes. -ed] guilty A Deeper Look American Massacres and the Media By CARLA BLANK CounterPunch May 5 / 6, 2007 The mass media coverage of how 33 students were fatally shot and at least 15 injured on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, was punctuated by phrases such as, "the worst massacre in U.S. history." or as the New York Times put it, the "Worst U.S. Gun Rampage." CNN called it the "Deadliest Killing Spree in U.S. history." This was followed by San Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU Channel 2's claim that it was "the worst massacre ever in the United States." TV text and commentary did not qualify these claims, and at least one Virginia Tech student, an Asian American himself, echoed the phrase when interviewed on national television, pondering his presence at the "worst massacre in U.S. history." In reality, an accurate investigation of mass killings of this magnitude would quickly reveal that the Virginia Tech massacre, as horrendous as it was, was not the worst massacre to occur on U.S. soil. Before Blacksburg, there were many bloodier massacres. Here are just some massacres that took place on mainland U.S. soil in the 19th and 20th centuries, which involved guns and where more than 33 people were known to be killed: --In 1832, the junction of the Bad Axe and Mississippi Rivers, at Saukenuk (now Rock Island, Illinois), was site of the extermination of at least 300 Sac (Plains Indians also known as Sauk) men, women and children, and 20 whites. The government was so determined to remove the Saks from the small portion of their ancestral homelands that they were attempting to withhold from white settlers, that 1,300 federal troops under General Samuel Whiteside and the Illinois state militia - including Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, Captain Abraham Lincoln, and Colonel Zachary Taylor-carried out eight hours of mayhem against 500 Indians who were already in retreat. --In 1857, at Mountain Meadows, Utah, between 100 to 140 white settlers were massacred at their camp site, after falling for a false offer of truce to end five days of fighting. The victims were emigrating in covered wagons to California from Arkansas, and their temporary encampment was in Mormon territory, as the Mormons had migrated from Illinois to settle the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846, and President Milliard Fillmore had appointed their leader, Brigham Young, as territorial governor in 1850. There have been many charges and counter charges of cover-ups over the years, but the essentials of an 1859 investigation, led by U.S. Army Brevot Major James H. Carleton, concluded that Mormons dressed as Paiute Indians were the perpetrators of this slaughter of men, women and children, where "every skull had been shot through with rifle or pistol bullets." The Paiute Indians denied any involvement, and a 1999 archeological excavation at the memorial site found skeletons confirming Major Carleton's report. --In 1860, Bret Harte, a well-known California writer, had just began his career, working as a local newspaper reporter in Arcata, California (a town then known as Union). Harte was expelled from Humboldt County because he recorded the Gunther Island Massacre of Wiyot Indians, committed on February 26, 1860, when a small group of white men murdered between 60 to 200 Wiyot men, women and children. The massacre was encouraged by a local newspaper. Extermination was once the official policy of the California government toward Native Americans, as Governor Peter H. Burnett stated in 1851: "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected" --On April 12, 1864, at Fort Pillow, near Memphis, Tennessee, Confederate troops under General Nathan Forrest massacred 227 black and white Union troops with such ferocity that an eyewitness Confederate soldier said, "blood, human blood, stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased." --On April 13, 1873, 350 miles northwest of New Orleans in Colfax, Grand Parish, Louisiana, 280 blacks were victims of a group of armed white men that included members of the White League and the Ku Klux Klan. Known as the Colfax Massacre, it was said to be sparked by contested local elections, although more generally its cause was white opposition to Reconstruction, which in 1875 resulted in United States v. Cruikshank, an important basis of future gun control legislation, because it allows that "the federal government had no power to protect citizens against private action (not committed by federal or state government authorities) that deprived them of their constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment." (quote from "The Racist Origins of US Gun Control" by Steve Ekwall) --In the 1880s, when anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant throughout the western United States after the 1882 enactment of the first Chinese Exclusion Act, two massacres of more than 30 Chinese immigrant workers occurred. In 1885, in riots against Chinese miners employed by the Union Pacific Railroad to work their coal mines at Rock Springs, Wyoming, more than 40 Chinese Americans were robbed, shot, and burned by a mob of white miners, who also burned the "Chinatown" village to the ground. The white miners, still angry that the Chinese miners had been brought in ten years earlier as strike breakers, disputed the right of the Chinese to work the mine's more profitable veins. Federal troops had to be brought in to protect the surviving Chinese workers, and no one ever was convicted of these crimes. In 1887, at Hells Canyon on the Snake River in Wallowa County, Oregon, a gang of at least 7 white horse thieves robbed, shot or otherwise murdered and mutilated at least 31 or 34 Chinese immigrants who six months previously had set up camp to mine gold there. Many bodies remained unfound until months later, when another group of Chinese immigrants arrived to mine gold in the area. Although 3 people were brought to trial for the crimes in Oregon, no one was convicted. The National Archives holds diplomatic correspondence between representatives of the Chinese and U.S. governments, showing the U.S. authorities agreed to make financial compensations for loss of life and property in these and other 1880s incidents, to be received by the victims' families. In 2005, the Hells Canyon area was renamed Chinese Massacre Cove to honor those dead. --In 1913, during another nationally publicized action known as the Ludlow Massacre, over 66 people were killed, including eleven children and two women who were burned alive. Sparked by a strike against the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation by the mostly foreign born Serb, Greek and Italian coal miners after one of their union organizers was murdered, it eventually involved the Colorado National Guard, imported strikebreakers, and sympathetic walk-outs by union miners throughout the state. The union never was recognized by the company, and a U.S. Congressional committee investigation failed to result in indictments of any militiaman or mine guard. --In 1921, a year when 64 lynchings were reported, the African American Greenwood business district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the site of shooting deaths of at least 40 people, most of whom are black, although the actual - but undocumented - death toll is said to be closer to 300. This site was then known as the "Negro's Wall Street," and was home to 15,000 people and 191 businesses. The rampage took the form of a riot, and was caused by economic tensions, particularly sparked by an article in the Tulsa Tribune regarding an alleged rape incident between a black shoe shiner and a white elevator operator - a rape that never occurred. Because of this riot, Tulsa became the first U.S. city to be bombed from the air, when police dropped dynamite from private planes to break it up. Whites took possession of most of the land, and the site has become part of Oklahoma State University's Tulsa campus. --In 1971, at Attica State Correctional Facility, a federal maximum-security prison in upstate New York, 1,300 inmates staged a revolt, said to be sparked by news that George Jackson, a member of the Black Panthers, had been killed by guards at California's San Quentin State Prison during an alleged escape. Four days of negotiations about inmates' rights ended when Governor Nelson Rockefeller called in 500 state troopers and police. Helicopters dropped pepper gas, and over 2,000 bullets were fired into the yard where hostages, inmates, and guards huddled together, killing 31 prisoners and 9 guards. Guards violently assaulted the surviving prisoners with clubs in the aftermath of what is said to be the bloodiest suppression of an inmate uprising in U.S. history The reporting of the Virginia Tech massacre reveals that an ignorance of American history is not only a problem effecting American students but extends to our most influential newsrooms, even those with archives extending back to the 1800s. The New York Times' referring to Virginia Tech as the "Worst U.S. gun rampage" encouraged other newspapers to follow their lead. This is how public myths are begun. Present on the Times' editorial staff is Brent Staples, a black writer who is an expert on the Tulsa massacre. There is no excuse for such historical amnesia on the part of those who have taken upon themselves the serious task of informing the public. Post script: At this May 11th revision/expansion of the Op-Ed that originally appeared May 2 in the San Francisco Chronicle and on CounterPunch, I continue to find, and readers continue to send, other U.S. massacres of the Virginia Tech scale or greater, some obscured by time, some well known. I have not had time to fully research many of these events, but thought it might be helpful, however overwhelming, to acknowledge these investigations: In 1862 the U.S. government hung 38 innocent Dakota people in Mankato, Minnesota, under an order from President Abraham Lincoln that was and still is the largest mass execution in U.S. history. In the 1887 massacre at Thibodaux, Louisiana, the Louisiana militia and vigilante bands of "prominent citizens" killed between 30 to 2000 black sugar plantation workers and their families after about 9000 black and 1000 white workers staged a strike at sugar plantations in St. Mary, Terrebonne, and Lafourche parishes. The strike was organized by the Knights of Labor, a national labor union representing both white and black workers, to raise workers' wages from $1.00 to $1.25 per day. In the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, a Sioux reservation in present day South Dakota, more than 300 unarmed men, women, and children, mostly Lakota Sioux followers of the Ghost Dance, were killed by U.S. military troops while practicing religious services. The victims were dumped in a mass grave. Writer and historian Gerald Vizenor said in Rediscovering America: "The massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890 marked a moment of profound transformation in the narrative of America and its native population, who within a decade would see their numbers drop to historic lows. The story of America over the last hundred years in some ways starts here; the American story is in crucial ways the story of those who have been marginalized, attacked, destroyed, or held captive, and have survived to remember, bear witness, create, innovate, and contribute." In 1993 the FBI and the Christian Branch Davidian sect, a religious group that lived in a compound in Waco, Texas, engaged in a standoff. Following the shooting of 4 agents by Branch Davidians, the sect's compound caught fire. More than 80 members of the sect were killed, including children. Although later investigations indicate the Branch Davidians had placed highly flammable materials in the compound, suggesting a mass suicide may have been planned, in 1999 the FBI admitted to its possible use of pyrotechnic tear-gas canisters. "Remember Waco!" became an anthem of the radical right, inspiring more acts of mass violence, especially the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the 2nd anniversary of Waco in 1995, which ex-U.S. soldier Timothy McVeigh admitted was plotted to avenge the Branch Davidians' deaths. Carla Blank is the author of "Rediscovering America" (Three Rivers Press, 2003). [Alfred E Newman says "What, me guilty?" -ed] --------13 of 13-------- John Pilger: Washington's war on democracy Pablo Navarrete 4 May 2007 John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments. "It is too easy", Pilger says, "for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to "our" interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present "our" policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It's the journalist's job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society". Pilger also believes a journalist ought to be a guardian of the public memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: "The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting". In a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries, Pilger's first major film for the cinema, The War on Democracy, will be released in Britain on May 11. Pilger spent several weeks filming in Venezuela and The War on Democracy contains an exclusive interview with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. *** Could you begin by telling us what your new film The War on Democracy is about? I happened to watch [US President] George Bush's second inauguration address in which he pledged to "bring democracy to the world". He mentioned the words "democracy" and "liberty" 21 times. It was a very important speech because, unlike the purple prose of previous presidents (Ronald Reagan excluded), he left no doubt that he was stripping noble concepts like "democracy" and "liberty" of their true meaning - government, for, by and of the people. I wanted to make a film that illuminated this disguised truth - that the United States has long waged a war on democracy behind a facade of propaganda designed to contort the intellect and morality of Americans and the rest of us. For many of your readers, this is known. However, for others in the West, the propaganda that has masked Washington's ambitions has been entrenched, with its roots in the incessant celebration of World War II, the "good war", then "victory" in the Cold War. For these people, the "goodness" of US power represents "us". Thanks to Bush and his cabal, and to [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, the scales have fallen from millions of eyes. I would like The War on Democracy to contribute something to this awakening. The film is about the power of empire and of people. It was shot in Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile and the United States, and is set also in Guatemala and Nicaragua. It tells the story of "America's backyard", the dismissive term given to all of Latin America. It traces the struggle of indigenous people - first against the Spanish, then against European immigrants who reinforced the old elite. Our filming was concentrated in the barrios where the continent's "invisible people" live in hillside shanties that defy gravity. It tells, above all, a very positive story: that of the rise of popular social movements that have brought to power governments promising to stand up to those who control national wealth and to the imperial master. Venezuela has taken the lead, and a highlight of the film is a rare face-to-face interview with President Hugo Chavez whose own developing political consciousness, and sense of history (and good humour), are evident. The film investigates the 2002 coup d'etat against Chavez and casts it in a contemporary context. It also describes the differences between Venezuela and Cuba, and the shift in economic and political power since Chavez was first elected. In Bolivia, the recent, tumultuous past is told through quite remarkable testimony from ordinary people, including those who fought against the piracy of their resources. In Chile, the film looks behind the mask of this apparently modern, prosperous "model" democracy and finds powerful, active ghosts. In the United States, the testimony of those who ran the "backyard" echo those who run that other backyard, Iraq; sometimes they are the same people. Chris Martin (my fellow director) and I believe The War on Democracy is well timed. We hope people will see it as another way of seeing the world: as a metaphor for understanding a wider war on democracy and the universal struggle of ordinary people, from Venezuela to Vietnam, Palestine to Guatemala. As you say, Latin America has often been described as the US's backyard. How important is Latin America for the US in the global context? Latin America's strategic importance is often dismissed. That's because it is so important. Read Greg Grandin's recent, excellent history (I interview him in the film) in which he makes the case that Latin America has been Washington's "workshop" for developing and honing and rewarding its imperial impulses elsewhere. For example, when the US "retreated" from South-East Asia, where did its "democracy builders" go to reclaim their "vision"? Latin America. The result was the murderous assaults on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the darkness of "Operation Condor" in the southern cone. This was Ronald Reagan's "war on terror", which of course was a war of terror that provided basic training for those now running the Bush/Cheney "long war" in the Middle East and elsewhere. Noam Chomsky recently said that after five centuries of European conquests, Latin America was reasserting its independence. Do you agree with this? Yes, I agree. It's humbling for someone coming from prosperous Europe to witness the poorest taking charge of their lives, with people rarely asking, as we in the West often ask, "What can I do?" They know what to do. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the population barricaded their city until they began to take control of their water. In El Alto, perhaps the poorest city on the continent, people stood against a repressive regime until it fell. This is not to suggest that complete independence has been won. Venezuela's economy, for example, is still very much a "neoliberal" economy that continues to reward those with capital. The changes made under Chavez are extraordinary - in grassroots democracy, health care, education and the sheer uplifting of people's lives - but true equity and social justice and freedom from corruption remain distant goals. Venezuela's well-off complain endlessly that their economic power has been diminished; it hasn't; economic growth has never been higher, business has never been better. What the rich no longer own is the government. And when the majority own the economy, true independence will be in sight. That's true everywhere. US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, recently called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "a threat to democracy" in Latin America. What are you views on this? This is Orwellian, like "war is peace". Negroponte, whose record of overseeing Washington.s terrorism in Central America is infamous, is right about Hugo Chavez in one respect. Chavez is a "threat" - he's the threat of an example to others that independence from Washington is actually possible. President Chavez talks about building "socialism of the 21st century" in Venezuela. To what extent do you think this project is different to the socialist experiences in the 20th century? In the time I spent with Chavez, what struck me was how un-self-consciously he demonstrated his own developing political awareness. I was intrigued to watch a man who is as much an educator as a leader. He will arrive at a school or a water project where local people are gathered and under his arm will be half a dozen books - Orwell, Chomsky, Dickens, Victor Hugo. He'll proceed to quote from them and relate them to the condition of his audience. What he's clearly doing is building ordinary people's confidence in themselves. At the same, he's building his own political confidence and his understanding of the exercise of power. I doubt that he began as a socialist when he won power in 1998 - which makes his political journey all the more interesting. Clearly, he was always a reformer who paid respect to his impoverished roots. Certainly, the Venezuelan economy today is not socialist; perhaps it's on the way to becoming something like the social economy of Britain under the reforming Attlee Labour government. He is probably what Europeans used to be proud to call themselves: a social democrat. Look, this game of labels is pretty pointless; he is an original and he inspires; so let's see where the Bolivarian project goes. True power for enduring change can only be sustained at the grassroots, and Chavez's strength is that he has inspired ordinary people to believe in alternatives to the old venal order. We have nothing like this spirit in Britain, where more and more people can't be bothered to vote any more. It's a lesson of hope, at the very least. [The War on Democracy will be released in British cinemas on June 15. It will be released in Australia in September 2007. For more information visit http://www.johnpilger.com or http://www.warondemocracy.net. Reprinted from Venezuelanalysis.com.] From: Comment & Analysis,Green Left Weekly issue #708 9 May 2007. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments
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