John Trudell 1946 – 2015


A great Native American activist, author, and poet John Trudell passed away on Tues 12/8/15 from cancer. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribestakeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He appeared in a few films featuring American Indians and was one of the commentators for a documentary (produced by Robert Redford) called Incident at Oglala which covers in depth the Pine Ridge reservation conflict in 1975. A documentary was made about his life in 2005 called Trudell. He was a very powerful speaker and mover who inspired and informed many, including myself.

His family released a statement concerning his last wishes:

“We know all the people who love John want to know about plans and how to pay their respects. John left clear instructions for his passage and for what he wanted to happen after he crossed over. He did not want a funeral or any kind of single gathering. He also did not want his family to write a standard style obituary or ‘toot his horn.’ He didn’t want to tell people how to remember him.

“His wishes are for people to celebrate life and love, pray and remember him in their own ways in their own communities.

“With love for all.”

Posted in World Events

World’s richest 10% produce half of carbon emissions



As the 2015 UN Climate Change conference wraps up in Paris one thing that I have learned is that poorer countries have an uphill battle if they are to lift themselves out of poverty and reduce their carbon emissions. Richer developed countries have been polluting for years at much higher rates.

This means that if poorer, less developed countries are going to lower their carbon emissions this will leave them little opportunity to further industrial production and grow their economies and wealth. Meanwhile developed countries have been the main contributors to the problems we are facing today and have been dumping billions of tons of carbon emissions and other environmentally unsustainable chemicals into the environment for over a century. As a result the poorer countries are asking for the richer countries to make larger concessions to balance the years of pollution that have affected their environments.

Of course one can surmise that the US, China, Europe, India, etc. are not going to make the sacrifices necessary to follow thru on any wide reaching climate change proposal. Doing so would greatly cut into their economic profitability. Unfortunately I think that the most that will come out of the climate change conference is greater awareness of the economic impacts that our changing climate will have.

My feeling is that “human nature” will prevent wealthy countries and people in them from making the very real sacrifices that need to be made in order to keep the earth sustainable for life in the long term. Particularly because this means that quality of life in developed countries would go down, voluntarily. “Human nature” in the modern world is such that we usually will not make necessary sacrifices until we are forced to do so. The problem is that radical climate change is perhaps the most real threat to the long term survival of humans and so many other species on our planet. The scientific community is trying to determine how far down the one way road of environmental destruction we are.

Oxfam international has just released a report that points out the world’s richest 10% produce half of carbon emissions while poorest 3.5 billion account for just a tenth. Some of the other things highlighted in the report are:

  • Someone in the richest one percent of the world’s population uses 175 times more carbon on average than someone from the bottom 10 percent.
  • Someone in the richest 10 percent of citizens in India uses on average just one quarter of the carbon of someone in the poorest half of the population of the United States.
  • The emissions of someone in the poorest half of the Indian population are on average just one-twentieth those of someone in the poorest half of the US population.
  • The total emissions of the poorest half of the population of China, around 600 million people, are only one-third of the total emissions of the richest 10 percent in the US, some 30 million people.



Posted in World Events

Zappa Swiss Cheese / Fire!

I occurred to me that on the evening on 12/4/71 one of many legendary Frank Zappa concerts took place at the Montreux Casino in in Montreux Switzerland. It was in the middle of this show that a (most likely drunken) fan thought that it would be neat to sneak a flare gun into the concert and do a little amateur pyrotechnics. During Don Preston’s synthesizer solo for the song called King Kong one of the vocalists, Howard Kaylan (aka Eddie) can be heard to exclaim “Fire!” Frank then gives introductions to calmly exit the venue.

This is because the flare that the wayward fan fired in the ballroom stuck into the ceiling and proceeded to ignite the room on fire. That was the end of that show and the old casino. That fucker burned down in a couple of hours. Fortunately everyone got out safely, but it was certainly an unfortunate end to a really, really good show. Some tapes of the show, recorded incognito by a fan, were saved and released a few years later as bootlegs (later released by Zappa himself in his great Beat the Boots collection). They were distributed as two albums “Swiss Cheese” and “Fire!”

For such a dangerously disappointing end to a concert, the music itself was amazing! In fact I would call that show one of the best audio documents of the “Flo & Eddie lineup” of Frank Zappa ensembles. It was a kick ass show… up until the place caught fire. The popular Deep Purple song “Smoke on the Water” is about this event. Deep Purple were recording in a mobile studio on the other side of Lake Geneva, where the Montreux casino is located and saw the whole thing go down. Well the casino was rebuilt in 1975 and life goes on.

Below are both “Swiss Cheese” and “Fire!” together to make the complete show. Complete with abrupt ending. It’s worth noting that the intro is rather psychedelic noise and Hot Rats begins at 8:50.

Posted in Music & Art

An Interview with Roger Baldwin

I wanted to start posting some interviews by the oral historian Studs Terkel that are posted on one of my favorite web sites Internet Archive.

Beginning with an interview that Studs did with Roger Baldwin. Baldwin was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a great activist. The interview is from 1974 when Baldwin was an old man, but still sharp as ever.


Some points Roger Baldwin makes:

It’s always the people on the streets that bring positive change to society.

Many people didn’t know they even had rights until the movements in the ‘60’s. It was socially acceptable to be brutalized and treated like a serf in the dark ages. People just didn’t think that way. They thought being treated in ways that were racist, sexist, discriminatory, etc. was just the way life always was and will always be.

The people of various back grounds who do stand up for civil rights and justice are protesting not just for themselves, but also on behalf of the majority of others that are silent and feel that their efforts would be a waste of time and that no progress could happen in a fundamentally unjust world.

ACLU has defended Henry Ford, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Oliver North, Rush Limbaugh. They don’t discriminate based on political leanings. It has to do with defending civil liberties regardless of who you are. Those on the political right may disagree with this, but it is only because the right wing is often the group working to deny civil liberties. See desegregation movements, anti-war movements, gay rights movements, etc.

A great interview with a relatively unknown person whom history needs to remember.



Posted in World Events

Would You Harbor A Refugee?

In the 1930’s Jews living in Germany were becoming very uneasy about an ally of the United States and England named Adolf Hitler. His political party was called Nazi. It’s no secret that the Jewish people have been the targets of racism for a very long time. The beloved American Industrialist Henry Ford published racist anti-Jewish articles called The International Jew: The World’s Problem. He supplied the Nazi’s with auto plants even after the US was forced into World War II. Other companies that were business partners with the Nazis were GM, IBM, and Standard Oil. Racism is very normal in America. Case Western University professor Peter Shulman posted this illustrative example of standard American rejection of immigrants on his Twitter page:


A large majority of Americans wanted Jews fleeing from the beginnings of what would become the Jewish Holocaust to be turned away. So they were. Sorry Anne Frank, America doesn’t want you or your family.


Today American racism and rejection of refugees is still firmly in place. Time magazine reports that “Most Americans Oppose Admitting Syrian Refugees.”

Xenophobia as well as racial and religious prejudice are at the heart of American hatred of people who are suffering. The leading Republican presidential contender Don Trump said of Mexicans with racist hatred: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some I assume are good people.” This abomination of a politician may end up being “the leader of the free world.”

Points to remember if you think that immigrants from Syria are terrorists: Most terrorists who attack the US are domestic. Born in the US and are not Muslim Jihadis. Jihadists who do intend to carry out attacks in the US (they are certainly growing in number. I wonder why?) are almost never immigrants. They are usually visiting on temporary Visas. President Obama has pointed out that a mass rejection of Syrians who are fleeing unspeakable violence only to be greeted with hatred and rejection serves as an effective recruitment tool for ISIS and other growing organizations that want to hurt America. And last but not least, everyone who is not a Native American is an immigrant who is living on land that was stolen by the genocide of hundreds of native cultures.

Are we the land of the free and the home of the brave, or aren’t we?

Posted in World Events

Ken Saro-Wiwa

November 10th marked the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. A Nigerian activist who stood up against corrupt military dictators and the corruption of the Shell Petroleum corporation. He worked to defend the rights of the Ogoni people that he came from. Shell and military dictators made massive profits off of oil that was taken out of Ogoniland, and the people were kept in poverty. He was honored with The Right Livelihood Award in 1994. Less than a year later he was hanged along with eight other Nigerian activists after a sham trial by the corrupt government. After the killing of Saro-Wiwa Shell Oil pulled out of Ogoniland and currently only runs oil pipe lines thru the land. Now the problem is massive poplution due to poorly maintained oil pipe lines. The Ogoni people still work for justice in the midst of all the political strife that consumes Nigeria.


Posted in World Events

Einstein: How I See The World


I came across this documentary and really enjoyed it’s very human portrayal of who Albert Einstein was. It’s an old American Masters PBS documentary from 1991. Narrated by William Hurt. It’s the story of a fifteen year old boy who wondered what it would be like to ride a bike at the speed of light. So he proceeded to find out. The day the Theory of General Relativity is considered outdated and irrelivent is the day that the human race has made great steps forward in scientific understanding.

I didn’t realize what a celebrity he was during his lifetime. There is a story about Einstein meeting Charlie Chaplin. They were being driven to their destination and a crowd of fans and press swarmed around their vehicle. Einstein looked out at swarm, turned to Chaplin and asked, “What does all this mean?” To which Chaplin replied, “Nothing at all.” Some things never change. Our understanding of the Universe and our place in it however…



Posted in Philosophy & Science

The Drone Papers

Another whistle blower has come forward from the ranks of the government with information about the massive assassination program run by the United States. I find that the debate over these documents focuses on whether or not the assassination program has been successful. Even though the vast majority of the world disapprove of drone killings, the US, Israel, Nigeria, and Kenya seem to be the only countries who have a majority of people who approve. What is absent from the discussion on cable news is the fact that murdering people in secret on their soil, based on a hunch that they might be hostile to the US sometime in the future is a horrible crime.

One thing that I have concluded about foreign policy is that I’m not just opposed to much of America’s foreign policy, I’m opposed to the way foreign policy is conducted world wide. I find that as the 21st century continues to unfold and developed countries’ abilities to reap mass destruction become more effective, it is more and more likely that the 21st century will be the century of the nukes.

Our policy of drone killings is creating more terrorists than it is stopping. There are people who think that this is incorrect and that we should continue or even increase our drone killings around the world. One of the things about the study of foreign policy is that the idea of equality is not a possibility. It is the pursuit of hegemonic dominance. Any idea of “treat others as you would like to be treated” does not apply where foreign policy is concerned. So if someone is walking down the road in Yemen and all of the sudden they and everyone around them is blown up by a drone, that is heroic and acceptable. But if you are walking down the road in the United States and all of the sudden you and everyone around you is blown up by a drone from Yemen, that is a terrorist attack. It’s a double standard that is hypocritical and everyone in the world who are the victims of US drone attacks see right thru it.

Here is the report, released by the Intercept, an independent news agency:

Glenn Greenwald is one of the founders of the Intercept. He shared a Noble Prize in journalism with journalists at his previous job with the Guardian and journalists at the Washington Post for there coverage of the Edward Snowden whistleblowing leaks.

Some of the details out lined in the leaked documents:

• Drone strikes in Afghanistan were 10 times more likely to kill civilians than conventional aircraft.

• Nearly 90% of the people who have been killed in drone strikes were not the intended targets.

• Government statements that downplayed how many civilian casualties drone strikes caused were characterized by “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies,” according to the government source.

• In Operation Haymaker, a still-classified operation, of the 219 people killed between January 2012 and February 2013, only 35 were the intended targets.

• Assassinations have depended on flawed intelligence. Much of the information the government has employed for its targeting is from electronic sources, signals intelligence or SIGINT, not backed up by reliable human sources on the ground, HUMINT.

I also wanted to include a debate about the drone program between Glenn Greenwald and Christine Fair, who supports the drone program. It was broadcast on Al-Jazeera America:






Posted in World Events

Afghanistan Amnesia

On Sept 20th of 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 president George W. Bush made the first of a long series of blunders that would lead to disaster in the middle east region and show the world that he and his cabinet are war criminals.

He declared a “war on terror”. It’s impossible to physically attack an idea. The view that invading a sovereign country in order to dismantle a small extremist group (Al-Qaeda), being sheltered by an extreme religious regime (the Taliban), might bring justice is a testament to bad leadership. The reality of what has happened in Afghanistan is proof of this.

The first mistake was to lift terrorist criminals up to the level of soldiers. Al-Qaeda and similar groups (from anywhere) do not deserve the acknowledgement of being a group whom we wage full scale war against. They are not soldiers, they are criminals. To declare “war on terror” gives them the credentials that they wanted to gain. We have played into their hands time and time again.

The next mistake was the collective punishment of Afghan civilians during Operation Enduring Freedom, which left between 3,100 and 3,600 innocent people dead. That’s a lot of freedom to endure. The invasion and occupation was hailed as a triumph. I vividly remember being criticized for my opposition to it (as well as the Iraq war).

As the years dragged on the US shifted it’s cross hairs and targeted the sovereign nation of Iraq. Now 14 years after our invasion the typical amnesia has set in and we can act as though it isn’t the longest war in the history of the country. In December of 2014 the Afghan war was coming to a “responsible conclusion“. Earlier this month the Taliban re-took Kunduz. A city of over 300,000 people. This has been fairly minor news. The city was retaken by Afghan forces and now it’s future hangs in the balance. Fourteen years of war and the Taliban is as strong as ever. It is tragic and wrong that the Afghans have been left to their own devices. The modern history of Afghanistan is one of being invaded over and over again. The American lives, Afghan lives, and billions of dollars spent all seem to be wasted. This is not to mention the multi-trillion dollar price tags of our other wars in the region. We declared this “war on terror” (in fact it was Reagan who originally declared it), and if it’s a war on terror that we want, that means that American soldiers will be in that region for as long as the military might of the US is in place.

Now as the US prepares to meet with the reality that a “war on terror” is a forever war, the military is set to reengage in Afghanistan (as well as Iraq and Syria). War crimes like the American bombing of a hospital in Kunduz staffed by the aid group Doctors Without Borders will once again pop up in human rights reports. A minor PR inconvenience for the military.

George W. Bush was told years ago: “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people, you will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.” Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: “You break it, you own it.” Bet they wish they never mentioned that to Bob Woodward (he is the one who reported it). But they don’t need to worry, it’s already long forgotten.




Posted in World Events

Madeleine Peyroux

A great version of a Dylan song by singer/song writer Madeleine Peyroux.

Posted in Music & Art

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