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Posts Tagged ‘investigative journalism

YouTube: Nader says reinstate Helen Thomas, victim of a media lynching

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YouTube – Nader says reinstate Helen Thomas.

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CarlosDCblog on Shakira and the Arizona Boycott

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Recently discovered this excellent video deconstructing Shakira’s sudden burst of activism. Carlos has investigated her past affiliations and allegiances and found them quite troubling. Thanks to Carlos for his excellent videos and blog!

Carlos in DC blog
http://carlosqc.blogspot.com/

My Photo

CARLOS A. QUIROZ
WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES
Writer, video blogger, online activist, artist painter living in Washington, DC. I believe in equality, life, human rights, environmental and social justice. I’m a progressive thinker. I was born in Peru, I’m proud to be gay and Indigenous. I write three blogs: Carlos in DC, Peruanista and Two Spirits One. My articles have been posted in 11 countries. I love Peruvian food, sports, reading and traveling. / Escritor, bloguero de videos, activista de internet, artista pintor, vivo en Washington, DC. Creo en la igualdad, la vida, los derechos humanos, la justicia ambiental y social. Soy un pensador progresista. Nací en Perú, me siento orgulloso de ser gay e indígena. Escribo tres blogs: Carlos in DC, Peruanista y Two Spirits One. Mis artículos han sido publicados en 11 países. Me gusta la comida peruana, deportes, leer y viajar.

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BOYCOTT everything ARIZONA

Here is a partial list of Arizona based companies to boycott until they put pressure on the state to repeal their racist immigration bill.

Boycott: Ambient Weather; Boycott: Best Western International, Inc; Boycott: Cable ONE ; Boycott: Clear Channel Outdoor; Boycott: P. F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc; Boycott: PetSmart, Inc; Boycott: Ramada; Boycott: Sky Mall; Boycott: TriWest Healthcare Alliance; Boycott: U-Haul International, Inc; Boycott:The Dial Corporation; Boycott: Discount Tire Company; Boycott: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation; Boycott: Kona Grill; Boycott: Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill; Boycott: Surf City Squeeze; Boycott: Taco Time; Boycott: Circle K; Boycott: LifeLock, Inc; Boycott: US Airways Group Inc.

Even though Arizona Jeans (JC Penney) and Arizona Iced Tea aren’t based in the state, they should be boycotted also. Every company using Arizona in their product line needs to get the message: NO to RACISM, NO to RIGHT WING coups, NO to FASCIST POLICE STATES.


  • http://www.protestarizona.com

  • http://www.altoarizona.com

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    Together at Last! Palin & Obama: Drill Baby Drill

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    MUST READ:  Obama sheltered BPs Deepwater Horizon rig from regulatory requirement.
    BP Spill Threatens Vulnerable Ecosystems with Destruction
    SEE ALSO:      Obama Seeks to Contain Anger Over BP Oil Spill
    The BP Oil Spill and American Capitalism
    Four excellent MUST-READ articles on the World Socialist website http://www.wsws.org reveal:

    1. Obama was the largest single recipient of BP lobbyist $$$
    2. Obama exempted the BP Deepwater Horizon rig from regulation (see #1)

    3. Obama re-authorized offshore drilling in the so-called “climate change” bill (see #1) Endorsed by Sarah Palin…

    4. The oil spill catastrophe will have long term effects on the viability and survival of 1000s of species of birds, animals, plants and ecosystems and may lead to extinctions & billions of dollars of ruined coastlines, and ruined livelihoods

    5. The administration showed no remorse, nor plans to re-think its policy (aka sociopathy, anti-social and inappropriate behavior)

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    Interview with WikiLeaks soldier Ethan McCord

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    US Soldier in WikiLeaks Video: I Relive this Every Day

    By Bill Van Auken, wsws.org

    28 April 2010

    Kent McCord

    Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, who is seen running with an Iraqi child in his arms in the video posted by WikiLeaks of a July 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad, talked to the World Socialist

    Web Site about the impact of this and similar experiences in Iraq. The video, which records the shocking deaths of at least 12 individuals including two Iraqi journalists employed by Reuters, has

    been viewed more than 6 million times on the Internet. [US soldiers Josh Stieber and McCord wrote a] “Letter of Reconciliation” to the Iraqi people taking responsibility for their role in this incident

    and other acts of violence. Both soldiers deployed to Iraq in 2007 and left the Army last year. In the letter, McCord and Stieber said, “…we acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your

    loved ones.” They insisted that “the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how US-led wars are carried out in this region.”

    The night before giving speaking to the WSWS, Ethan McCord had learned that the widow of one of the dozen men killed — the father of the two children he tried to rescue — had forgiven him and

    Stieber for their role in the incident. Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, 33, told the Times of London: “I can accept their apology, because they saved my children and if it were not for them, maybe my

    two little children would be dead.” Her husband, Saleh Mutashar Tuman, had arrived on the scene of the carnage caused by a US Apache helicopter firing into a crowed and attempted to aid the

    wounded. The helicopter opened fire again, killing him and at least one wounded man and wounding his two children, who were sitting in his van. The widow urged the two former soldiers to

    continue to speak out. “I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.”

    Can you explain why you and Josh Stieber wrote the “Letter of Reconciliation” to the Iraqi people?

    We originally wanted it to go to the family members of those involved that day in the WikiLeaks video. Then in turn we wanted it to be more along the lines of to all Iraqi people as well. We wanted

    the Iraqi people to know that not everybody sees them as being dehumanized and that there are plenty of Americans and other people who care for them as human beings and wish for them to live

    long and happy lives and don’t agree with the war and the policies behind it. I just found out last night that the letter was shown to the family, the children and the mother as well. She has forgiven

    myself and Josh and is very happy to see the work that Josh and I are doing. There was a London Times reporter who went there to see what they felt about the letter. And there is one comment from

    the mother that she could forgive me because if it wasn’t for me her children might be dead.

    That must make you feel pretty good.

    Definitely, but it doesn’t stop there for me or for Josh. We are definitely going to continue speaking out on this and do everything we can to have our voices heard about the policies, the rules of

    engagement and the war. As well, we are hoping to set up a trust fund for the children, as we know that they’ve had a pretty rough life afterward due to the injuries and whatnot. Hopefully, it will get

    them some medical care.

    Could you describe the events of that day and what your platoon was doing?

    It was much like many of the days in Iraq. The neighborhood we were in was pretty volatile; at least it was on the rise, with IED emplacements and with our platoons being shot at with RPGs and

    sniper fire. We didn’t know who was attacking us. It was never actually really clear, at least in my eyes, who the supposed “enemy” was. We were conducting what were called knock-and-searches,

    where we would knock on the doors of the homes and search for documents pertaining to militias or any weapons they weren’t supposed to have or any bomb-making materials. We didn’t really

    find anything at all. We were getting ready to wrap up at about one o’clock in the afternoon. We started to funnel into an alleyway and started to take small arms fire from rooftops from AK-47s. We

    didn’t know what was happening with the Apache helicopters. They were attached to us from another unit to watch over us for this mission, which was called “Ranger Dominance.”  We could hear

    them open fire, but those of us who were on the ground, outside of the vehicles, had no idea what was taking place. We couldn’t hear the radio chatter and we were pretty caught up in our own

    situation. When that situation was neutralized, we were told to walk up onto the scene. I was one of about six soldiers who were dismounted to first arrive on the scene.

    What did you see when you got there?

    It was pretty much absolute carnage. I had never seen anybody shot by a 30-millimeter round before, and frankly don’t ever want to see that again. It almost seemed unreal, like something out of a

    bad B-horror movie. When these rounds hit you they kind of explode — people with their heads half-off, their insides hanging out of their bodies, limbs missing. I did see two RPGs on the scene as

    well as a few AK-47s. But then I heard the cries of a child. They weren’t necessarily cries of agony, but more like the cries of a small child who was scared out of her mind. So I ran up to the van

    where the cries were coming from. You can actually see in the scenes from the video where another soldier and I come up to the driver and the passenger sides of the van. The soldier I was with, as

    soon as he saw the children, turned around, started vomiting and ran. He didn’t want any part of that scene with the children anymore. What I saw when I looked inside the van was a small girl,

    about three or four years old. She had a belly wound and glass in her hair and eyes. Next to her was a boy about seven or eight years old who had a wound to the right side of the head. He was laying

    half on the floorboard and half on the bench. I presumed he was dead; he wasn’t moving. Next to him was who I presumed was the father. He was hunched over sideways, almost in a protective

    way, trying to protect his children. And you could tell that he had taken a 30-millimeter round to the chest. I pretty much knew that he was deceased. I grabbed the little girl and yelled for a medic.

    Me and the medic ran into the houses behind where the van crashed to check whether there were any other wounds. I was trying to take as much glass out of her eyes as I could. We dressed the

    wound and then the medic ran the girl to the Bradley. You can hear in the video where he says, “there’s nothing else I can do here; we need to evacuate the child.” I then went back outside and went

    to the van. I don’t know why. I thought both of them were dead, but something told me to go back. That’s when I saw the boy move with what appeared to be a labored breath. So I stated screaming,

    “The boy’s alive.” I grabbed him and cradled him in my arms and kept telling him, “Don’t die, don’t die.” He opened his eyes, looked up at me. I told him, “It’s OK, I have you.” His eyes rolled

    back into his head, and I kept telling him, “It’s OK, I’ve got you.” I ran up to the Bradley and placed him inside. My platoon leader was standing there at the time, and he yelled at me for doing what

    I did. He told me to “stop worrying about these motherfucking kids and start worrying about pulling security.”  So after that I went up and pulled security on a rooftop.

    Did you face further repercussions for what you did that day?

    After coming back to the FOB [forward operating base], nobody really talked about what had happened that day. Everybody went to their rooms; they were tired. Some of them went to make phone

    calls. And I was in my room because I had to clean the blood off of my IBA [body armor] and my uniform — the blood from these children. And I was having a flood of emotions and having a real

    hard time dealing with having seen children this way, as I’m sure most caring human beings would. So I went to see a staff sergeant who was in my chain of command and told him I needed to see

    mental health about what was going on in my head. He told me to “quit being a pussy” and to “suck it up and be a soldier.” He told me that if I wanted to go to mental health, there would

    be repercussions, one of them being labeled a “malingerer,” which is actually a crime in the US Army. For fear of that happening to me, I in turn went back to my room and tried to bottle up as much

    emotion as I could and pretty much just suck it up and drive on.

    You had another nine months or more still to go in your tour then?

    That’s right. It was a pretty long time with having to deal with the emotions, not only of that, but of many other days. What happened then was not an isolated incident. Stuff like that

    happens on a daily basis in Iraq.

    Are there other incidents that took place in the following months of your tour that bear this out?

    Yes. Our rules of engagement were changing on an almost daily basis. But we had a pretty gung-ho commander, who decided that because we were getting hit by IEDs a lot, there would be a new

    battalion SOP [standard operating procedure]. He goes, “If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street.”  Myself and Josh and a lot

    of other soldiers were just sitting there looking at each other like, “Are you kidding me? You want us to kill women and children on the street?” And you couldn’t just disobey orders to shoot, because

    they could just make your life hell in Iraq. So like with myself, I would shoot up into the roof of a building instead of down on the ground toward civilians. But I’ve seen it many times, where people

    are just walking down the street and an IED goes off and the troops open fire and kill them.

    During this period were you conscious that you were suffering from post-traumatic stress?

    Yes I knew, because I would be angry at everyone and everything and at myself even more. I would watch movies and listen to music as much as possible just to escape reality. I didn’t really talk to

    many people. The other problem I had is that before the incident shown in the WikiLeaks video, I was the gung-ho soldier. I thought I was going over there to do the greater good. I thought my job

    over there was to protect the Iraqi people and that this was a job with honor and courage and duty. I was hit by an IED within two weeks of my being in Iraq. And I didn’t understand why people

    were throwing rocks at us, why I was being shot at and why we’re being blown up, when I have it in my head that I was here to help these people. But the first real serious doubt, where I could no

    longer justify to myself being in Iraq or serving in the Army, was on that day in July 2007.

    How did you come to join the military?

    I had always wanted to be in the military, even as a child. My grandfather and my uncles were military. Then September 11 happened, and I decided it was my duty as an American to join the

    military, so that’s what I did in 2002. I joined the Navy. In 2005, when the Army had what they called “Operation Blue to Green,” pulling sailors and airmen into the Army with bigger bonuses, I

    made a lateral transfer. I had pretty much had it in my head that I was going to make a career out of the military. But going to Iraq and dealing with the Army completely changed my outlook.

    What was your reaction when you saw the WikiLeaks video?

    Shock. I had dropped my children off at school one morning, came home and turned on MSNBC, and there I am running across the screen carrying a child. I knew immediately it was me. I know

    the scene. It is burned into my head. I relive it almost every day. It was just a shock that that it was up there, and it angered me. I was angry because it was in my face again. I had actually started to

    get a little bit better before the tape was released. I wasn’t thinking about it as often; it was getting a little bit easier to go to sleep. But then everything that I had buried and pushed away came

    bubbling back to the surface. And the nightmares began again, the anger, the feeling of being used. It all came back. It wasn’t a good feeling; it was like a huge slap in the face.

    Do you think that the way you were told to forget about the kids and suck it up is indicative of the general culture in the military?

    Yes, there is such a stigma placed on soldiers seeking mental health. It’s like you’re showing a huge sign of weakness for needing to speak about things or for seeking help even for getting to sleep.

    There’s fear of being chastised or being made fun of. So you end up self-medicating on alcohol. And as you probably know, alcohol is a depressant and just makes it worse. I was self-medicating

    when I came home, and I was hospitalized in a mental institute by the Army because of my problems with PTSD and self-medication. There were many times when I felt that I could no longer take

    what was going on in my head and the best thing for me to do would be to put a bullet in my head. But each time I thought about that, I would look at the pictures of my children and think back

    on that day and how the father of those children was taken away and how horrible it must be for them. And if I were to do that, I would be putting my children in the same position.

    Do you think that the pressure to bury these problems is driven by a fear that if you are allowed to question your own experiences, it can call into question the nature of the war itself?

    I was not able to talk about it, not able to get answers to like how I was feeling about this, why were we doing this, what are we doing here? It was just straight up, “You’re going to do this, and

    you’re going to shut up about it.” Soldiers aren’t mindless drones. They have feelings. They have emotions. You can’t just make them go out and do something without telling them, this is why we’re

    doing it. And the pressure just builds up. You hear in the video the Apache helicopter crew saying some things that are pretty heart-wrenching and cold. I’m guilty of it too. We all are. It’s kind of a

    coping mechanism. You feel bad at the time for what you did and you take those emotions and push them down. That’s what the Army teaches you to do, just push them down. And in a sense it

    works. It helps you get through the hard times. But unfortunately, there’s no outlet for that anymore, once you get out of the Army. When you get back home, there’s no one to joke around with,

    nobody you can talk to about these instances. What happens to that soldier? He’s going to blow up. And when he blows up, more than likely it’s going to be on his family, his close friends

    or on himself. So I think that’s why soldiers end up killing themselves.

    So a terrible price is being paid for this war in the US itself?

    Yes, I feel that just as the Iraqis, the soldiers are victims of this war as well. Like we say in our letter to the Iraqis, the government is ignoring them and it is also ignoring us. Instead of people

    being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers.

    They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do. Getting angry and calling these soldiers names and saying how callous and cold-hearted they are isn’t going to change the

    system.

    What do you think drives this system? Why are they sent to do this?

    As far as the hidden agenda behind the war, I couldn’t even begin to guess what that is. I do know that the system is being driven by some people with pretty low morals and values, and they attempt

    to instill those values in the soldiers. But the people who are driving the system don’t have to deal with the repercussions. It’s the American people who have to deal with them. They’re the ones who

    have to deal with all of these soldiers who come back from war, have no outlets and blow up. I still live with this every day. When I close my eyes I see what happened that day and many other

    days like a slide show in my head. The smells come back to me. The cries of the children come back to me. The people driving this big war machine, they don’t have to deal with this.

    They live in their $36 million mansions and sleep well at night.

    Were you hopeful that with the 2008 election these kinds of things would be brought to a halt. Were you disappointed that they have continued and escalated?

    I am not part of any party. Was I hopeful? Yes. Was I surprised that we are still there? No. I’m not surprised at all. There’s something else lying underneath there. It’s not Republican or

    Democrat; it’s money. There’s something else lying underneath it where Republicans and Democrats together want to keep us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I am hopeful that the video and our speaking out will help. There’s the old adage that war is hell, but I don’t think people really understand just what a hell war is. Until you see it first-hand, you

    don’t really know what’s going on. Like I said, this video shows you an every-day occurrence in Iraq, and I can only assume, in Afghanistan. So I hope people wake up and see the actual hells of

    war.

    To contact the WSWS and the

    Socialist Equality Party visit:

    http://www.wsws.org

    © World Socialist Web Site

    Mark Twain Centenary: “Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress…”

    with 23 comments

    One hundred years since the death of Mark Twain
    By James Brookfield and David Walsh
    22 April 2010

    April 21 marked 100 years since the death of Mark Twain, one of the greatest American writers in history. Twain (1835-1910) was a brilliant satirist, a comic genius, and a master at capturing the sound and rhythm of American vernacular in so many of its nineteenth century varieties.

    It is not possible in a single, relatively brief article to examine Twain’s life and writings in the manner they deserve. This is an enormous subject, full of complexities and contradictions. During his lifetime, the writer experienced great acclaim and success, along with financial bankruptcy and bouts of terrible personal tragedy.
    One of the great comic writers of all time, one of the few who provoke the reader to laugh out loud, “what burned in him,” suggested the editor of his papers, Bernard De Voto, “was a hatred of cruelty and injustice,” as well as a “deep sense of human evil, and a recurrent accusation of himself. Like Swift he found himself despising man while loving Tom, Dick, and Harry so warmly that he had no proper defense against the anguish of human relations.”

    Twain’s life spanned a remarkable period. He was born only 50 years after the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War—when many veterans of the independence struggle were still alive—in Missouri, at the time still frontier territory. Twain lived to see the US undergo a bitter Civil War, develop its industrial might and emerge full-blown as an imperialist power on the eve of World War I.

    Whether restless by nature or necessity, Twain experienced every part of the country and encountered every social type early in life. De Voto noted that the author, in his formative years, “had seen more of the United States, met more kinds and castes and conditions of Americans, observed the American in more occupations and moods and tempers—in a word had intimately shared a greater variety of the characteristic experiences of his countrymen—than any other major American writer.”

    Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Missouri in 1835, Clemens worked as a printer, journalist, and steamboat pilot on the Mississippi before gaining widespread recognition as a writer of travel letters, first on his trip to Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands) in 1866 and then to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East a year later.
    The material from the latter trip was turned into The Innocents Abroad in 1869. This work made Twain—he had already adopted his famous pen name while working at a Nevada newspaper in 1863—both critically and financially successful. The book sold 85,000 copies in its first 16 months.
    An aphorism from the conclusion of the text shows that Twain had already developed his socially acute sense of humor: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

    Two critics comment that Twain’s own move East to New York City in 1866 “signaled the start of his remarkable synthesis of the elements of post-Civil War American writing as he undertook to link the local-color and Western tradition of his early work with the social, intellectual, commercial and industrial spirit of the decades he himself helped name the Gilded Age.” (From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature, Richard Buland and Malcolm Bradbury)

    In his first novel, entitled The Gilded Age (1873), Twain (and co-author Charles Dudley Warner) looked at the period 1860-1868 as one that, in their own words, “uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.” In sum, a revolution had taken place, which had an enormous subsequent influence on artistic and intellectual life.

    Twain produced his greatest works between the early 1870s and 1890. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) clearly rank among them. Both works defy easy categorization: they offer comic scenes that generate tears of laughter interspersed with passages, for example, that depict the brutality of slavery as it existed in the antebellum South of Clemens’s childhood (and other disturbing facets of American life of the time).

    Briefly in the Confederate ranks in the Civil War, Twain unquestionably accumulated a deep antipathy for slavery. “A True Story,” a remarkable short story published in 1874, is told from the point of view of a black woman, a former slave. “Aunt Rachel,” now a servant, informed by her complacent employer that she seems to have lived 60 years and “never had any trouble,” turns on him and recounts how, in fact, she was separated from her husband and children by a slave auction, and only united with one of her sons after 22 years. Novelist and editor William Dean Howells, who published it in the Atlantic, told Twain that he thought the story “extremely good and touching and with the best and reallest kind of black talk in it.” (Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, Justin Kaplan)

    In Huckleberry Finn, one of the great achievements of nineteenth century American literature, the young title character (and narrator) recounts his adventures on the Mississippi River in the company of Jim, an escaping slave who is trying to get to a free state so he can buy his family’s freedom.
    Throughout the book, Huck’s conscience is bothered by the fact that he is “stealing” someone’s property in helping Jim escape. At one point, he determines to turn the slave in, and writes a note to his old owner. The novel continues:

    “I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
    “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
    “ ‘All right, then, I’ll GO to hell’—and tore it up.”

    The profound humanity and sympathy of this passage hardly need to be emphasized.

    Ernest Hemingway famously asserted that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Critic and commentator H.L Mencken suggested that the novel was “one of the great masterpieces of the world” and would “be read by human beings of all ages, not as a solemn duty but for the honest love of it, and over and over again.” Mencken, himself often consumed with misanthropy, noted that Twain in his writing laughed at people, “but not often with malice. What genuine indignation he was capable of was leveled at life itself and not its victims.”

    Another fascinating work from this period is Life on the Mississippi (1883), a mostly non-fiction account, which Twain wrote in tandem with Huckleberry Finn. Life on the Mississippi cost its author great effort. “I never had such a fight over a book in my life before,” he wrote Howells in 1882. But the result is a beautifully written book, a detailed and emotionally intense account of life as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River in the years immediately prior to the Civil War.

    The following passage may help explain why Twain poured such a depth of feeling into the book: “In my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the minutiae of the science of piloting, to carry the reader step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists of; and at the same time I have tried to show him that it is a very curious and wonderful science, too, and very worthy of his attention. If I have seemed to love my subject, it is no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless pride in it. The reason is plain: a pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth. Kings are but the hampered servants of parliament and people; parliaments sit in chains forged by their constituency; the editor of a newspaper cannot be independent, but must work with one hand tied behind him by party and patrons, and be content to utter only half or two-thirds of his mind; no clergyman is a free man and may speak the whole truth, regardless of his parish’s opinions; writers of all kinds are manacled servants of the public. We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we ‘modify’ before we print. In truth, every man and woman and child has a master, and worries and frets in servitude; but in the day I write of, the Mississippi pilot had none.”
    The darker aspects of American life treated in Huckleberry Finn are even more pronounced in the less celebrated, but also remarkable, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894). The latter contains one of Twain’s few fully realized female characters, the light-skinned slave Roxana, so desperate to keep her child from being sold that she switches him in the cradle for her master’s child.

    The former novel, about a nineteenth century American, Hank Morgan, a resident of Hartford, Connecticut (where Twain had set up residence), who finds himself transported back in time to medieval England at the time of King Arthur and his knights, was initially conceived of in 1884 as relatively light-hearted.

    However, Justin Kaplan, in his biography of Twain, contends, “[O]ver the years this comic idea changed its course and headed away from burlesque and toward an apocalyptic conclusion in which chivalric England and Hank Morgan’s American technology—failures both, as the author had come to see them—destroy each other.”

    Twain wrote The United States of Lyncherdom, a significant essay published posthumously (in 1923), in outrage over the 1901 lynching of three black men in Pierce City, Missouri. In the piece, the author counters the claim that the people constituting the lynch mob approved and enjoyed the torturous killings. Rather, the crowds acquiesced for fear of scorn by their peers. In a plaintive suggestion to end these killings—then totaling more than a hundred per year in the US—Twain wrote: “[P]erhaps the remedy for lynchings comes to this: station a brave man in each affected community to encourage, support, and bring to light the deep disapproval of lynching hidden in the secret places of its heart—for it is there, beyond question.”

    Throughout his adult life, Twain was scathing about American political life and its practitioners. Who could look on the self-important and thieving corporate toadies collectively known as the US Congress with the same eyes after a dose of Twain’s wit? For example, he once noted, “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” In What is Man? the novelist observed that “Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.” A personal favorite: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

    Several significant episodes in Twain’s life have received relatively scant attention in tributes this week. One of these is Twain’s critical role in the publication of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had been the US Civil War general most responsible for the military defeat of the Southern slavocracy, and later became US president. The memoirs, with their singular political and literary value, would not likely have seen the light of day without Twain publishing them himself. And he did so with considerable generosity towards their author. Grant finished the memoirs five days before his death in 1885. Twain awarded 75 percent of the proceeds to Grant’s estate, allowing his widow to escape the poverty in which Grant had been left after being swindled out of the last of his money.

    Another fascinating episode in Twain’s life was his sojourn in Vienna from September 1897 to May 1899. It is not possible to do justice here to this period in the author’s life (which is the subject of an excellent book, Our Famous Guest: Mark Twain in Vienna by Carl Dolmetsch). But it should be briefly noted that from Vienna, Twain wrote articles for the American press denouncing the anti-Semitism of the ruling party and articulating a warm sympathy for and appreciation of the Jews who were the subject of widespread persecution. [Note: Twain, however, was anti-Zionist].

    Twain had no shortage of personal tragedy, which, one suspects, helped shape his literary and personal sympathies. Three of Twain’s six siblings died in childhood. One of those who survived, his brother Henry, died in riverboat accident in 1858 while only 19 years old. Much later, in 1872, Twain was to lose his year-old son Langdon to diphtheria, an event for which he largely blamed himself. One of his three daughters, Susy Clemens, died of meningitis in 1896. His wife, Olivia, 10 years his junior and to whom Twain was very devoted, died in 1904. His youngest daughter, Jean, died on Christmas Eve, 1909. Jean’s death followed by only seven months that of his close friend, the oil baron Henry Rogers.

    Rogers had been instrumental in helping Twain extricate himself from financial ruin in 1893. Following his declaration of bankruptcy, Twain undertook a worldwide lecture tour to repay his debtors. Approaching his seventh decade and under no legal obligation to do so, Twain undertook considerable efforts to pay back his creditors in full.

    If there is a misanthropic vein in Twain’s humor, especially his later humor, it should be seen in the context of these personal difficulties and tragedies, as well as his growing disillusionment with the political and social trajectory of the United States.

    Believing initially in the mission of the US government to “spread democracy,” Twain first supported American military intervention in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war. By 1901, however, Twain wrote that he had changed his view diametrically and concluded that the whole campaign had been waged “to conquer, not to redeem.” He went on to become the vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League.

    Most media treatments of Twain’s life and career shy away from his increasingly critical and radical pronouncements on American society and political life toward the end of his life. Twain had witnessed the transformation of the young American bourgeois democracy into a modern power. Revolted by US imperialism at its birth, Twain became an outspoken critic. The bourgeois press of today does not wish to be reminded, nor to remind anyone else, of this critical element of Twain’s life.

    A longtime champion of the early trade union movement, the Knights of Labor, and a foe of anti-Chinese immigration, Twain had reached quite radical conclusions by the late 1880s. Kaplan writes “that he was passing through some crisis of ebbing faith in the Great Century …‘The change … is in me.’” he wrote to Howells. “When he said this in August 1887, he had just been rereading Carlyle’s French Revolution, and he recognized that ‘life and environment’ had made him ‘a Sansculotte! [working class radicals of the French Revolution of 1789]—And not a pale, characterless Sansculotte, but a Marat’—calling for death to all ancient forms of authority: monarchy, aristocracy, the Catholic Church.”
    The media is similarly reticent today in regard to Twain’s anti-religious writings.

    Initially inclined towards a form of deism, Twain essentially rejected all organized religion and subjected religious conceptions to withering criticisms, especially in his later work. Even his relatively early writings like Innocents Abroad and Tom Sawyer take a fairly irreverent and humorous view of theological matters. But his later writings, especially Letters from Earth (written in 1909, but not published until 1962 owing to his surviving daughter’s apprehension), take a bold and combative turn. In the Letters, Twain has Satan describe with great amusement the self-satisfaction of mankind who “thinks he is the Creator’s pet” even though the reality is that, “[w]hen he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable….”

    God is not spared any criticism here either. “Will you examine the Deity’s morals and disposition and conduct a little further? And will you remember that in the Sunday school the little children are urged to…make him their model and try to be as like him as they can?” Twain then lists Biblical injunctions for the ancient Israelites to exterminate the inhabitants of the “Promised Land.” With such a model for moral teaching, Twain says, it is no wonder that society perpetuates violent human conflict. It was Twain’s revulsion at such conflict, particularly in its brutal colonial forms, that impelled him to attack the religious conceptions that defended or apologized for it.

    In the closing sentence of My Mark Twain, his friend, critic and fellow author William Dean Howells said famously: “Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes—I knew them all and all the rest of our sages, poets, seers, critics, humorists; they were like one another and like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature.” With this statement we can certainly agree.

    No less true, although less often cited, is the preceding sentence in which Howells described Twain’s appearance at the funeral: “I looked a moment at the face I knew so well; and it was patient with the patience I had so often seen in it; something of the puzzle, a great silent dignity, an assent to what must be from the depths of a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the unwise took for the whole of him.” How fitting are these words that point to the complexity of the great author.

    When considering Mark Twain a hundred years after the fact, one cannot help wondering what he would have to say about the America of 2010. One can only imagine his shock and dismay at the way in which the malignant social and political tendencies that he had observed in their relative infancy had metastasized.
    What an abundance of targets present themselves! The well-heeled hypocrites and liars in the White House and Congress, the relentlessly avaricious corporate aristocrats, the patriotic editors justifying a resurgence of colonialism, the millionaire preachers with their put-on piety, the fake, smiling face of television anchors, the charlatanry of the “self-help” experts and all the other fleecers of the population’s pockets—all of it ripe for, in Twain’s phrase, “a pen warmed up in hell”! Where are his heirs today?
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    Ken Burns’ Mark Twain: a not quite unflinching portrait
    [9 February 2002]

    Brilliant message: Rev. Louis Farrakhan on 9-11

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    IN CASE SOMEONE IS WONDERING – A Note from China Rose

    Is the phrase “The Synagogue of Satan” quoted by Rev Farrakhan the most egregious example of anti-Semitism in the New Testament? Lets’s take a look.

    The phrase Synagogue of Satan, is followed by a clear explication: “they who say they are Jews but are not.” Thus fake Jews are comprise Synagogue of Satan, not real Jews. So you cannot look at this phrase and see it as a blanket condemnation of every Jew. But it does condemn the poseurs. The problem that John’s vision reveals is people who claim to be Jews, but do NOT have a clue what being a Jew really means. The controversy over who is a Jew, and what that means continues to this day. Why is the nature of Jewish identity so disputed? Is being Jewish supporting Israel and AIPAC, amassing piles of money, following customs and traditions, living in Israel, being a cultured liberal, or embracing the  tenets of the Talmud? Reform, Conservative or Orthodox? Is it ethnicity, religion, national pride? Are Ashkenazism Jews at all? What about Zionism? Can a campaign to dominate a geographical region by force be a pre-condition of qualifying to be Jewish?

    John the Revelator’s metaphor suggests that all the above are pretenders and frauds and comprise the Synagogue of Satan. “Satanic” not because Jews are inherently evil, which is a ridiculous interpretation. It is a Satanic Synagogue because it substitutes worldly affiliations for spiritual, carnal values for Biblical. If there is one theme that persists from Old to New Testament it is this: God’s ways are not Man’s Ways, Don’t Trust in Man and in the succinct words of Jesus, “My Kingdom is Not of This World”  From the very beginning – the flight from Egypt – there were pretenders, worshippers of the Golden Calf, the self-deceived, who thought they could break God’s laws and get away with it.

    While it is true that very few Jews are following their own precepts, it’s also true for Gentiles.

    If there is anything that sets Jews apart, it is the level of hypocrisy required to maintain that their Jewishness makes them better than anyone else, and that being “the chosen ones” means they don’t have to study the Bible and read the phrases about God’s condemnations & judgements of a nation that was “uncircumcised in heart.” Jesus was aware of that hypocrisy, despised it and condemned it. Being Jewish, He was surrounded with it. But He was not the first. Most of the Hebrew prophets had already experienced the lethal hypocrisy of the their Jewish leaders. Their lives were threatened when they exposed it.

    Isaiah 6:5 So I said: “Woe [is] me, for I am undone! Because I [am] a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”

    God’s condemnations of the people of Israel and imprecations against them for their hypocrisy occur thoughout the people. The Book of Isaiah is a good case in point.  http://tinyurl.com/y35lthj   Read at least Chapter 1 if you think Jews have a free pass from God to do whatever they want and remain in God’s grace. In short the Synagogue of Satan refers to hypocrisy based on selfish motives and self-deceit. Unfortunately, this synagogue is still taking new members.

    ISAIAH 1:2-4

    2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
    For the LORD has spoken:
    “I reared children and brought them up,
    but they have rebelled against me.
    3 The ox knows his master,
    the donkey his owner’s manger,
    but Israel does not know,
    my people do not understand.”

    4 Ah, sinful nation,
    a people loaded with guilt,
    a brood of evildoers,
    children given to corruption!
    They have forsaken the LORD;
    they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
    and turned their backs on him.

    13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
    New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

    14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
    my soul hates.
    They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.

    15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
    even if you offer many prayers,
    I will not listen.
    Your hands are full of blood;

    16 wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds
    out of my sight!
    Stop doing wrong,

    Alice Walker in Gaza – March 2009: “sadistic, brutal, horrible…”

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    This is part 3 of a series…

    Poet and Author Alice Walker Speaking in Gaza.

    Thanks to Gilad Atzmon and Democracy Now for airing this segment