Progressive Calendar 10.13.15 /3
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2015 06:35:21 -0700 (PDT)

1. Howard Zinn    - The Real Christopher Columbus
2, Robert Scheer  - Go Ahead, Back Hillary and Forget  About Her Record
3. Sally Kohn      - Is America Bern-ing?
4. ed                    - Confuser say:

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The Real Christopher Columbus
by Howard Zinn, Jacobin
12 October 15

There was no heroic adventure, only bloodshed. Columbus Day should not be a

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emergedfrom their
villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the
strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying
swords, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He
later wrote of this in his log:

    They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other
things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They
willingly traded everything they owned. . . They do not bear arms, and do
not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut
themselves out of ignorance. They would make fine servants . . . with fifty
men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland,
who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for
their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out
in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of
popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western
civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had
persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the
lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic —
the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of
his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to
get to the Far East.

Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like
France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked
for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent
of the land. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold,
which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it
could buy anything.

There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for
Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland
expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered
Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land
routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working
their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a
long sail across an unknown ocean.

In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10
percent of the profits, governorship over newfound lands, and the fame that
would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant’s
clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a
skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships,
the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and
thirty-nine crew members.

Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles
farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would
have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth
of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between
Europe and Asia — the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three
days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic
coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water.
They saw flocks of birds.

These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw
the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an
island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean Sea. The first man to sight land was
supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo
never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He
got the reward.

So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to
greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed
agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had
no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold
ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of
them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to
the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to
Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican
Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask
presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he
had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China
(Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

    Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are
both fertile and beautiful . . . There are many spices, and great mines of
gold and other metals . . .

The Indians, Columbus reported, “are so naive and so free with their
possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When
you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they
offer to share with anyone. . .” He concluded his report by asking for a
little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from
his next voyage “as much gold as they need . . . and as many slaves as they

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second
expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The
aim was clear: slaves and gold. From his base on Haiti, Columbus sent
expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields,
but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend.

In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up 1,500 Arawak
men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs,
then picked the 500 best specimens to load onto ships. Of those 500, 200
died en route.

Too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay
back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to
fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and
his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons
fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three
months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around
their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off
and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was
bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with
dogs, and were killed. When it became clear that there was no gold left,
the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as
encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the
thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps 50,000 Indians left. By
1550, there were 500. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original
Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief source — and, on many matters the only source — of information
about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las
Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a
time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that
up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas transcribed
Columbus’s journal and, in his fifties, began a multi-volume History of the

In book two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged
replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would
survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about
the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. After a while, Spaniards
refused to walk any distance. They “rode the backs of Indians if they were
in a hurry” or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. “In
this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the
sun and others to fan them with goose wings.”

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards “thought nothing of
knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test
the sharpness of their blades.” The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves
failed. So, Las Casas reports, “they suffered and died in the mines and
other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom
they could turn for help.” He describes their work in the mines:

    . . . mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a
thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on their
backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold stay in the water
all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them.

After each six or eight months’ work in the mines, which was the time
required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the
men died. While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives
remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and
making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

    Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten
months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides
. . . they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early
because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them .
. . Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation. . . .in
this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died
from lack of milk. . .and in a short time this land which was so great, so
powerful and fertile . . . was depopulated,

When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, “there were 60,000
people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to
1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the
mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as
a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it. . .”

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs
of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of
Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots. They used the
same tactics, and for the same reasons — the frenzy in the early capitalist
states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the
bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical
bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money
economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would
later call “the primitive accumulation of capital.” These were the violent
beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and
culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

How certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these
people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and
his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside?
What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on
the Indians of the Americas? As Hans Koning sums it up in his book
Columbus: His Enterprise:

    For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make
the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of
power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars.
They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly
inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a
ruined peasant class.

Thus began the history of the European invasion of the Indian settlements
in the Americas. That beginning is conquest, slavery, death. When we read
the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts
with heroic adventure — there is no bloodshed — and Columbus Day is a

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Go Ahead, Back Hillary Clinton and Forget All About Her Record
by Robert Scheer
Published on Saturday, October 10, 2015 byTruthDig

Portrait of Hillary Clinton by donkeyHotey

Go ahead and support Hillary Clinton, those of you for whom having the
first female president is the top priority. She is by far preferable to
Carly Fiorina, though of course no match for likely Green Party candidate
Jill Stein (I know: You want to win). Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a principled
and electable person, is not available, and political integrity be damned.

Just admit that you will be voting for someone to be president of the
world’s most powerful nation who has not only been profoundly wrong on the
two most pressing issues of our time—economic injustice and the ravages of
unbridled militarism—but, what is more significant, seems hopelessly
incapable of learning from her dangerous errors in judgment.

Like her husband, she is certainly smart enough to avoid advocating what
President Obama has aptly termed “stupid stuff.” However, the good
intentions of the Clintons are trumped by opportunism every time.

For confirmation of the Margaret Thatcher hawkish side of Clinton, simply
refer to her book “Hard Choices,” which clearly is biased against choosing
the more peaceful course and instead betrays a bellicose posturing that
seems to harken back to the Goldwater Girl days that reflected her earliest
political instincts.

What one finds is a litany of macho bleating in defense of bombing nations
into freedom, leaving them fatally torn—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.
Honestly, wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state horridly
devoid of accomplishment compared with that of John Kerry, who achieved
long-overdue normalization of relations with Iran and with Cuba, to name
two stunning accomplishments?

But it is in matters of economic policy—driving this election—where the
failure of the Clintons is the most obvious, and where Hillary Clinton
seems to be even less conflicted than her husband in serving the super rich
at the expense of the middle class.

A continued deep deception in such matters was once again on full display
in her major policy statement printed Thursday on Bloomberg. In an article
headlined “My Plan to Prevent the Next Crash,” Hillary began by blaming it
all on nefarious Republicans led by President George W. Bush.

Of course, the Republicans have been terrible in their zeal to unleash Wall
Street greed ever since the moderate Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower
came to be replaced by its opposite, the Reagan Revolution.

But the reality is that Ronald Reagan presided over the savings-and-loan
scandal and as a result was compelled to tighten banking regulations rather
than obliterate them. It remained for President Clinton, in his patented
zeal to obfuscate meaningful political debate with triangulation, to
enshrine into federal law that primitive pro-Wall Street ideology.

One key piece of that betrayal was the reversal of the New Deal wall
between commercial and consumer banking, codified in the Glass-Steagall
Act, which Franklin Roosevelt had signed into law. When Bill Clinton
betrayed the legacy of FDR by signing the so-called Financial Services
Modernization Act of 1999, he handed the pen used in the signing to a
beaming Sandy Weill, whose Citigroup had breached that wall and commingled
the savings of ordinary folks with the assets of private hustlers—a swindle
made legal by Clinton’s approval of the legislation.

Hillary Clinton, in her statement this week, made clear that in opposition
to positions taken by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and even John McCain
she will not revive Roosevelt’s sensible restriction if she is elected.

Instead, Clinton blamed Republicans for the fact that “In the years before
the crash, as financial firms piled risk upon risk, regulators in
Washington couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up.” How convenient to ignore that
Citigroup, the result of a merger made legitimate by her husband, was one
of the prime offenders in piling up those risks before taxpayers provided
$300 million in relief.

Brooksley Born, a head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in
Clinton’s second term, made a heroic effort to regulate the nefarious
marketing of dubious mortgage debt securities until Bill Clinton betrayed
her by signing off on legislation that explicitly banned any regulation of
those suspect mortgage derivatives, involving many trillions of dollars.

It was that president’s parting gift to the banks but also to his wife,
whose Senate career would come to be lavishly supported by Wall Street’s
mega-rich leaders. They are now quite happy to back a woman for president,
as long as it’s not someone like Brooksley Born or Elizabeth Warren who is
serious in her concern for the millions of women whose lives were
impoverished by Hillary Clinton’s banking buddies.
© 2015 TruthDigRobert Scheer
Robert Scheer is editor of and a regular columnist for The San
Francisco Chronicle.

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Is America Bern-ing?
By Sally Kohn
Published on Sunday, October 11, 2015 by CNN

Recently, I was in Des Moines, Iowa, for a meeting of the populist farmers
organization Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. I was there to help
the group celebrate its 40th anniversary and to talk about the issues it
works on, including environmental regulation, farm policy and immigration

But all the members wanted to talk about was Bernie Sanders.

They don't seem all that unique among Democratic voters or voters in
general in Iowa. One poll in mid-September found Sanders with a 10-point
lead over Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic primary voters. And a
newer poll finds that Sanders fares better than Clinton even in general
election matchups against possible GOP contenders.

Clinton's ace-in-the-hole in the face of Sanders' populist challenge was
always supposed to be her better shot at electability. But even that seems
to be eroding. As the saying goes, voters of all stripes increasingly "Feel
the Bern."

A disconcerting but undeniable part of Sanders appeal is that he is the
anti-Clinton both in style and substance. Polls consistently show that
Clinton and Sanders enjoy similar favorability ratings, but Clinton's
liability is her unfavorables. For instance, in Iowa, 35% of voters hold
favorable views of Clinton but 59% view her unfavorably — a 24-point gap.
In New Hampshire, that gap is 23 points.

One likely factor: Hillary Clinton has just been on the public radar
longer, often in scandal-ridden scenarios. They may be manufactured by the
right wing, in the case of Benghazi, or the result of her own lack of
transparency in the case of her State Department emails, but the fact is
Clinton just comes with more baggage. It's hard enough to seem like a fresh
candidate when you're anything but. It's even harder at a time when voters
are plainly clamoring for outsiders.

But to define who Sanders is purely by who Clinton is not misses the mark.
The progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party that tried its
damndest to draft Elizabeth Warren for 2016 has been more than willing to
settle for Sanders as its standard-bearer. Though Warren is more articulate
in explaining the country's economic inequities and what to do about them,
Sanders' heart is clearly in the same place. That's enough for most
populist Democrats — and populist voters in general — who are fed up with
an economic game rigged against ordinary Americans.

But Bernie Sanders is a socialist! No one would elect a socialist
president, right? Not necessarily. This past June, Gallop found that almost
half of Americans say they would vote for a socialist to be president. Plus
once Americans learn more about what Sanders brand of socialism looks like,
they may like him even more.

Sanders isn't for state-owned industry or anything in that extreme. Rather,
he says, "What am I trying to do in this campaign is to tell Americans what
many of them don't know: that the benefits for working people are a lot,
lot stronger in many other countries around the world."

Sanders embraces the "democratic socialism" practiced in Scandinavia, for
instance, where the government guarantees paid sick leave, universal health
care and free higher education. Think Americans won't go for that? Well
actually, when social scientists polled Americans across political
perspectives about whether they preferred the unequal income distribution
at play in the United States (where the top 20% control 84% of the wealth)
of a supposedly-hypothetical, infinitely more equal distribution that
actually mirrored Sweden's, guess what -- 92% of Americans preferred the
wealth distribution of Sweden.

Recall that the tea party began as a protest against TARP, the government
bailout of the financial industry. Dig beneath the partisan rhetoric and
over-simplifications and it turns out there's much broader support for the
ideas and ideology Sanders represents. And if you need more evidence, look
at how candidates from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump are suddenly
embracing some of the same ideas as Sanders.

Sanders is showing he can really connect with voters across the board and
articulate a populist vision that is sorely needed in America today.

He isn't a perfect candidate by any stretch. Sanders' persona can be a bit
clunky and fuddy-duddy and more importantly, his positions and rhetoric on
tackling structural racism and doing something about rampant gun violence
are deeply problematic, especially to progressive Democrats. Personally,
that's the main reason I'm not completely in Sanders' camp.

Still, he's done more than simply move Hillary Clinton to the left, which
was the original conventional wisdom about his candidacy. It now looks like
Bernie Sanders could also actually win.

© 2015 Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her
on Twitter: @sallykohn.

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Confuser say

Every day
do or say
radically strange.


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