Thursday, February 16, 2006

Haiti Speech... and other amusings, anomalies and apocrypha that make you go "Hmmm"?

Ah Haiti, the black pearl of the Caribbean.

The land of U.N. experiments in policing the poor, the land of the poorest of the poor, and the land that time forgot.

One of them.

Either way they have elected a new Prime Minister, Rene Preval, amidst allegations of corruption made chiefly by the corrupt, and a mass popular uprising demanding that their election-day voices be respected.

Classic stuff.

An interesting thing struck me recently, and that's how fluidly and easily our opinion is influenced, both by pictures and print. An old thesis, but please, indulge me, it's beyond misleading and is misleading us towards fascism.

I saw some pictures from Crisis Pictures today, just randomly flipping through sites I'd saved, and was blown away by actually SEEING some of what's happening in Iraq, both brutal and benign.

It made the "war" real, like it's a real event with real people.

They've also got pictures (both brutal and benign) from around the world:

* Afghanistan
* Bolivia
* Burundi
* China
* Colombia
* Congo
* Ethiopia
* Guatemala
* Iran
* Iraq
* Israel
* Liberia
* Mauritania
* Niger
* North Korea
* Pakistan
* Somalia
* Sri Lanka
* Sudan
* Uganda
* United States

We don't seem 'em much these days, and we don't care about 'em much these days.

I've heard that 1/3rd of the CIA's budget is for propaganda, and they're only one of 18 or so intelligence agencies we don't know about. I also posted an AP article a couple of days ago that said the Bush Administration has spent $1.6 billion on PR over the last 30 months - to be used against Americans.


Wonder what $1.6 billion will buy you?

Overtly or covertly?

And I wonder... is this a lie too?

Things are inevitably worse than we find out...

Either way, whether it's buying us or spying on us, we've got to think that resistance is not futile or we'll just end up depressed. It's a dark sore-spot that grows, and I've seen evidence of it crop up in brutal cynicism about happiness in general. Not brutal as the brutalizing of Fallujah, but the cumulative effect is an accelerated acceptance of evil which could lead to a domestic "Fallujah".

Or, "Katrina".


I read this review of Green Day's "Bullet in a Bible" DVD recently on, a well-respected and generally fair music site. As a companion piece to the "American Idiot" album, a crucial piece of honest angst in a treacherous media-scape, I was shocked to find these polemical statements in an overall denigration of the idea that Green Day should even be "political".

Green Day
Bullet in a Bible
[Reprise; 2005]
Rating: 3.0 / 10

"...their superstardom is a mascara-clouded mess of sloganeering, middle age, and punk rock lip service, and the firebrand moments in 2004's American Idiot diminish with every millionth unit shifted."

"In theory Green Day's still singing to those suburban mudslingers, the '90s kids who grew up to find only apathy, fear, and nothingness beyond the fast food wrappers and blaring televisions. But American Idiot's rage seems more like artifice now, especially when it's performed from a stage of Stonesian proportions."

"...which leads into "Brain Stew" and "Basket Case" for the only stretch when Bullet sounds really alive. At least those songs are from an era when Green Day sounded like a band that didn't give a shit. With American Idiot they have a real problem, because, as Bullet in a Bible's very existence proves, their big Message Record is also a Monstrous Hit. They might have meant to beat against the Head Redneck's agenda, might have wanted to bury a punk rock pipe bomb at the intersection between populist politics and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. But here's Bullet in a Bible just in time for the holidays, the commercialistic addendum to Idiot's supposed apathetic anthems. Now everybody do the propaganda."


The same reviewer, Johnny Loftus, gave "American Idiot" a 7.2 in his earlier review, and was in full-praise of the album suggesting their political stance had given them new life.


Seems like cynicism really got to him, as all the qualities he'd appreciated before were now seen as trite or cliche, and their very success a reason to write them off.

Getting "political" is dangerous in these times, or at least we've made it so. We've legitimized criticism that diminishes criticism of those trying to limit or listen to our free speech, and that's bad. We're protecting power from the people by preventing protestors from protecting us.


Back to Haiti.

I was watching Steven Gaghan, the writer and director of "Syriana" (and writer of "Traffic") on "The Charlie Rose Show" the other day.

Among the crazy things he said was that he would never fly in a small plane again, they're too easy to blow-up and make it look like an accident; and rich oil executives place bets on the next country to be toppled by a U.S.-backed coup for it's oil resources. As the men sat around guessing the next government to fall, the biggest and baddest among them said: "Nope. It's Nigeria, it's happening right now, and it'll probably cost at the most $50 million."


That's it?

Man... you could do 20 countries for $1 billion dollars.

And... 32 countries for $1.6 billion dollars.

And... the United States of America for...?


This struck me as I checked out this mainstream news story about Haiti. They suggested that former Prime Minister Jean-Bertrand Aristide was "twice ousted by rebellious mobs"; and then later say he was a "a liberation theologist hugely popular among the poor".

Wait a minute... the rich don't "mob"!!!

Show me rich "rebellious mobs" and I'll show you Dick Cheney's hip hop collection.


In fact, Mr. Aristide was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup, probably for a lot less than $50 million, and was kidnaped from his country by U.S. marines. I've heard him speak about it on, and his cause is well-known throughout the world.

After a frustrating Google News search for "aristide coup" I found a small American newspaper, The San Jose Mercury News, picking up a newswire story alluding to the weight of evidence being presented by several parties to a formally recognized court of law. Then I found the biggest and most respected paper in Europe, The Guardian Unlimited, casually referring to what the rest of the world knows as an afterthought in their "World in a Week" section.

Feel free to compare and contrast, it's no fun being the butt of a joke played on you by your own independent and democratic free press...

The San Jose Mercury News

Posted on Thu, Feb. 02, 2006

Groups seek probe of U.S. involvement in Aristide's exit

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The human rights arm of the Organization of American States was asked Thursday to investigate whether the U.S. government helped orchestrate the ouster of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by withholding vital aid and blocking a reinforcement of his bodyguard detail.

The 47-page petition was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by three groups that have supported Aristide - the TransAfrica Forum, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Haiti-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux - and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.

Largely repeating allegations made by Aristide supporters in the past, the petition also alleges U.S. Marines spirited Aristide out of the country after blocking his communications in the final hours of his government and obtained a dubious letter of resignation.

It asks the commission to investigate the role of the United States, the Dominican Republic and the Haitian government in the armed rebellion in 2004 that forced Aristide to fly abroad. He now lives in exile in South Africa. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that Aristide voluntarily resigned and asked for U.S. assistance to leave the country, fearing for his life if he stayed.

"The U.S. imposed an illegal and immoral development assistance embargo on the elected government, while generously supporting the political opposition," said Brian Concannon Jr., head of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. "In the Dominican Republic, former soldiers and paramilitaries trained openly, and from time to time crossed the border to attack civilian targets and twice launched coup d'etat attempts."

The petition, presented just days before Haitians go to the polls to elect a new president, was filed on behalf of five Haitian citizens whose names have been withheld for security reasons.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights can recommend reparations payments to victims of human rights violations or refer cases to the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose rulings are binding.



The World in a Week

Peaceful vote gives Haiti hope

Tracy McVeigh, foreign editor
Sunday February 12, 2006
The Observer

Haiti went to the polls on Tuesday without the widely predicted scenes of violence. Four died in gang fights, but the strong turnout has almost certainly secured victory for René Preval,
an ally of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, deposed in the 2004 US-backed coup
. Haitians, who have endured years of grim poverty and fighting, are pinning all their hopes on this vote. Observers were proclaiming the election a democratic success for a nation described by the UN as in a 'catastrophic' state.

SOURCE -,,1707884,00.html

In this file photo taken on Feb. 14, 2006, Haitian President-elect Rene Preval smiles during a news conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Preval, a former president who is hugely popular among the poor, was declared the winner about 1:30 a.m. Thursday Feb. 16, 2006 by the interim government and electoral council, staving off a potential crisis over the disputed vote. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, file)

Yahoo! News

Preval Faces Familiar Challenges in Haiti

By STEVENSON JACOBS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 7 minutes ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti's new president Rene Preval faces the mammoth task of moving his country out of chaos, crime and crushing poverty, but at least all the challenges are familiar.

The shy, soft-spoken agronomist led Haiti from 1996 to 2001,
a period of relative calm between the two presidential terms of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was twice ousted by rebellious mobs
. Preval is the only democratically elected Haitian president to finish the five-year term.

"We will not be able to do everything right away," Preval told The Associated Press in his northern village of Marmelade on the eve of the Feb. 7 election. "But we are determined to do our best and raise the standard of living for the people of Haiti."

The 63-year-old Preval was declared the winner Thursday, staving off a potential crisis after days of protests by his supporters who alleged fraud and manipulation when initial vote tallies showed a runoff might be needed.

Preval studied in Belgium as a young man, then returned to Haiti in the 1970s and became active in the movement to oust the Duvalier dictatorship. After the fall of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in 1986,
he became a close ally of Aristide, a liberation theologist hugely popular among the poor

Preval was named prime minister after Aristide was elected president in 1990. Aristide referred to the president-elect as his "twin."

Aristide spokeswoman Maryse Narcisse said in New York the former leader would make a statement "pretty soon."

Preval followed Aristide into exile when the army overthrew him in a September 1991 coup and returned after a U.S. invasion restored Aristide to power three years later.

Preval's election in 1996 marked the first peaceful transition from one democratically elected president to another since Haiti won independence in 1804. Many felt he served as a placeholder president from 1996 to 2001 for his more dynamic mentor.

When he took office in 1996, Preval vowed to turn Haiti into "a vast construction site" and "re-establish the authority of the state." He now acknowledges that he largely failed.

But he said he struggled against corruption and had some modest accomplishments, such as successfully privatizing the state-run flour mill and cement factory.

"We didn't steal and we didn't violate human rights," he told the AP before the vote.

Preval's key achievement was leaving on time and of his own free will, said Robert Fatton, a Haiti specialist at the University of Virginia.

"In terms of accomplishments, Preval's first presidency was probably a failure," Fatton said. "But the fact he finished his term and left his office peacefully — the only such occurrence in Haitian history — makes it a political success."

The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Roman Catholic priest and prominent figure in Aristide's Lavalas party, said Preval had managed to improve education, create parks and make some judicial reforms during his presidency.

"The first term, he didn't receive support from the international community," said Jean-Juste, who was recently released from a Haitian jail to seek medical treatment in Florida. "I hope this time all the nations will join hands with President Preval and learn from their mistakes."

After his first presidency, Preval, who has two daughters, went to live in his grandmother's house in the north-central town of Marmelade, where he devoted himself to local development projects before Aristide was ousted again in 2004.

Preval insists he has emerged from the shadow of the ousted president. This time, he notably did not run on the ticket of Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

His party is called "Lespwa," Haitian Creole for "hope."


Associated Press reporters Alfred de Montesquiou in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Laura Wides-Munoz in Florida contributed to this report.

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