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Finishing People’s History

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Seven years ago this month, I finished reading A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition.  I have posted blogs about the first part of this book in March, 2017 and April, 2017.  In these blogs, I have noted events described in the book, as well as my thoughts on them.  The book had a powerful effect on me, supporting and expanding my beliefs about under-reported US history.  This May, 2017 post covers the final section of the book.

FINISHING A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, HOWARD ZINN

            Monday, May 3, 2010—I read some People’s History, now at World War II and how brutal the US was, dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan for no good reason except economics, killing 100,000 people in Hiroshima, mostly civilians, and 50,000 or more in Nagasaki.

Why oh why would people do this, I wondered.  It explains why people are so afraid now, why Americans are such mealy-mouthed wimps.

Thursday, May 6, 2010—I spent the afternoon reading People’s History, up to page 462.  Now into the race riots of the 1960s and 1970s, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  The FBI apparently did everything it could to intimidate King.

I can understand why people are afraid of government, and it is becoming more paranoid all the time.  I’ve always believed blacks are inherently peace-loving people, and Martin Luther King personified that spirit.

I wonder why I’m so fascinated by People’s History, because it implicates the federal government as a vicious, tyrannical bunch of mobsters since the land’s discovery.  Yes, it gives me even more data to support my beliefs.  It reveals what hasn’t worked.   Zinn focuses so intensely on the hatred and violence, though, that I wonder what ultimate purpose it serves.

While I believe the government is justifiably paranoid, I have to respect its power to hurt.  I’ve learned my lesson, I hope, about pissing the wrong people off.

As Malcolm X said, if you remain radical long enough, you win your freedom.  This is my belief, too, because I’ve come back from the “lunatic fringe” with more elbow room, maybe.

Fidel Castro in 1959 pissed the US off by confiscating land held by US corporations, then distributing it to landless peasants.  The Bay of Pigs was a manufactured crisis by John F. Kennedy and associates to stir up revolution against Castro in Cuba, but Fidel was too popular.  The US was embarrassed because its tactics, so successful everywhere else, failed with Castro.

Saturday, May 8, 2010—I read some People’s History, now up to page 490 in this 688 page book.  We’re in Vietnam now, and it is astounding.  The US has made a career of sadism, so no wonder we have a nation of victims.  We have the CIA actively stirring up trouble in a pacifist, land-based, family-and-tradition-based culture, but the CIA couldn’t seem to control the outcome, no matter how many cities and fields they bombed, people they slaughtered, or poisons they sprayed and dumped hither and yon.  They couldn’t understand how the revolutionaries managed to maintain morale, and I contend they weren’t fighting governments but for a way of life.  Ho Chi Minh, the North Korean leader, was immensely popular among the people, because he confiscated land of absentee landlords and distributed it among the landless, similar to what Castro did in Cuba.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the CIA/US plant in South Vietnam, was hated by the people, and South Vietnam was essentially a US government invention.  When Diem became an embarrassment to the US, they allowed him to be captured and assassinated.  Three weeks later, JFK was assassinated.

Castro and Ho Chi Minh understood Communism in the communal sense of the term, by giving land to the landless, and this is why the people were so willing to fight for it.  They weren’t defending ideological political battles for governments, or other people’s turf.  They were fighting for their homes, families, livelihoods, and way of life.

It amazes me the CIA could be so stupid, because it is obvious to me.  Their self-defeating, blind irrationality did more to promote Communism–in the communal sense—than any leader could have achieved alone.

Perhaps if we thought of people as belonging to the land, rather than the other way around, we would have a more solid footing.

Friday, May 14, 2010—I’ve been reading People’s History tonight, wondering how people can be so cruel for so long, such that it is institutionalized and considered normal, including the lying and deceit in government and the military.

I read about the Attica prison riot, followed by other prison riots, all turned into massacres by federal troops, FBI, and militia.  The prisoners’ non-violence was more threatening than if they had been violent.  Same with the American Indians, who occupied Alcatraz, a deserted federal prison, on a rock in the San Francistco Bay.  There were forcibly evicted from there and also from land at Wounded Knee they had by treaty; but that was given to the government under “eminent domain.”  This occurred in the 1960s or 1970s and hundreds of Indian men, women and children were slaughtered after the government tried to starve them out first.

Saturday, May 15, 2010—Reading books like People’s History shows I am not alone in my understanding—far from it–as people like Howard Zinn have tracked this for years and were even given a voice.  He makes no reference to the bankers’ playing both ends against the middle and leaves the stock market out of it, although he cites illegal campaign donations by specific corporations, like ITT and 3-M.

Reading about the American Indians validates my beliefs about the native American cultures, which respected the earth and all its creatures.  I wonder how much violence they had before the Europeans arrived.  I believe it was probably minimal and was developed in reaction to the European invasion and introduction of guns.

Sunday, May 16, 2010—I read more People’s History, through Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr.  All continued to serve the government/corporate marriage.  Pacifist Jimmy Carter increased defense spending significantly.  Zinn says the Democrats did more to impose regressive taxes—Carter increased payroll taxes—than the Republicans.

Zinn claims legislation like the Clean Air Act and OSHA  were deprived of teeth by subsequent caveats, administrative decree, or insufficient funding.  He does not go into the ways these bills helped the monopolists by stifling competition.

Zinn also seems to have a shallow idea of the domestic spending programs.  He implies they are good and necessary, but he doesn’t recognize they wouldn’t be necessary if the poverty weren’t artificially created by government’s social engineering.

Zinn says Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. used CIA to interfere in Nicaragua, Panama, Granada, and El Salvador, under various pretexts.  Bush Sr. hoped to restore American confidence in the military, since the Soviet Union collapsed and was no longer an excuse, so he created a war in Iraq.  They and all their aides lied throughout.  Congress had passed limp dick legislation to pander to public disgruntlement, and to curb presidential powers, but Ford ignored it, and so did Reagan.  No one objected.  Congress looked the other way, and the Supreme Court, of course, felt no obligation to reprimand the presidents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010—Now into the Bush Sr. years in People’s History of the United States.  Apparently HKW Bush was determined to do Desert Storm.

Zinn’s approach is becoming trite.  He emphasizes the contest between military and social spending without questioning the spending itself.  The idea that it’s a rich vs. poor issue, without understanding—as I suddenly did—that it’s a government control issue, as in controlling economic narrows.

Thursday, May 20, 2010—Down to the wire on People’s History.  We’re now into all the pacifist movements during the first Iraq war.  They were ineffective.

And on to the Clinton years.  Bill Clinton was as much a war hawk as any of them and cut social programs but not bureaucracy.

Government has appropriated unto itself responsibility for every area of people’s lives, so it needs the bureaucracy to dole out the money it has stolen, to return it piecemeal to those it deems worthy.

Zinn has some good ideas about how to rebuild America from the ground up, but he is still too tied to money, according to me.  The notion that everything must be tied to a monetary scale, like community involvement, restricts the flow of energy and diminishes the value of time, as well as other factors that have no monetary equivalent.

Friday, May 21, 2010—People’s History gives an account of the protests from many camps over the quincentennial of Columbus’ landing, on Columbus Day, 1992, so that hero has toppled from many pedestals.  The media ignored the protests.

Saturday, May 22, 2010—I finally finished People’s History.  Given his era and background, Zinn does a remarkably good job of describing the brutal history of the US and the rampant disregard for the very principles that citizens believed it stood for.  Rather than protect rights, nurture freedom, democracy and capitalism (in the human capital sense), it has made a mockery of all three, preying on a naive and gullible public to twist noble ideals into their opposites.

The current economic crisis is bringing it all to a head, I believe, because taxpayers are finding they have been used to dig their own graves.  The country is morally bankrupt, and there is no one to blame.  As the state assumed the role of lord, master, and god, acting as legal and moral judge, guard, and executioner, taxpayers must look in the mirror and see we are the state, and we are responsible for the monster it has become.

In People’s History, Zinn mentions protest against the bombing of Afghanistan following 9/11.  I remember being the only person I knew objecting to retaliatory gestures, and people around here hated me for it.

 

Zinn on First Americans

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A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES:  
1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
Published 1980; fifth printing, 2003

Introduction:  One of the best American history books I have read, this stellar work upsets any romantic notions one might have about our nation’s beginnings.  I read the book seven years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, March 12, 2010—I sprang for A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, who just died a couple of weeks ago.  I have read 40 pages of this 690 page book and find it most inspiring, surprisingly enough.  It begins with an account of Columbus’ brutality in slaughtering the Arawak Indians in the Bahamas (which Zinn never calls the “West Indies”) and the blood lust that accompanied the gold lust and slave lust that characterized not only this but subsequent genocide in North and South America.

Apparently there were 10 million Indians (Native Americans) living in North America when the Europeans arrived, with their strange notions of property rights, their guns and superior attitudes.  Many of these natives were organized in loose confederacies by language.  The Iroquois spread through much of New York , with various centers or pockets of clans distinguished by their regions or specialties.  The Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), and the like.  They were generally pacifist, meaning they existed in peaceful harmony with each other and other tribes.  Disputes were generally between individuals.  Land and housing were held and worked in common.  There was no sexual one-upmanship.  The senior women controlled the decisions about whether to wage war, elected the tribal leaders, and removed them if they got out of line.  They made the moccasins and tended the crops, so they controlled the supplies for warring missions.

The English in Jamestown and New England behaved as badly as Columbus, but here the issue was land rather than gold.  They plopped themselves in the middle of established Indian turf and used guns and deception to bully and con the area Indians into submission.  In the beginning, the natives were willing to share, because this was their way, but when the Brits began to reveal their barbaric, exploitive, attitudes, the Indians grew wary.  Brits raided Indian villages, stole women and children for sex, slavery, and sport, murdered at random, and burned crops for no good reason, even though they were starving.  They couldn’t get along with each other, either, enough to cooperate, and they were all too lazy to work.  Those settlers who defected to the Indians for safe harbor and food were severely punished if caught.

So this is our heritage.  Zinn says the combined assaults of war, disease, and famine decimated the North American Indians to about one million in a few short years (maybe 50).

A quote from Chief Powatan to John Smith in 1607:  “Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?”

I like Zinn’s approach.  He does not romanticize or pander to the cultures that were obliterated.  He is the ultimate egalitarian, so far, recognizing the clash of values in the clash of cultures, and writing the history from the perspective of the vanquished.

The book, and especially the first chapter, spoke to my soul, because the descriptions of Arawaks and mainland natives sounds much like my ideal commune, a place where everyone has a role to play for the communal good, and no role is considered better or worse than others.  I sense the Indian spirit is rising again, by default, if nothing else.  We are backing into it, because we are too weak and debilitated to fight, and there is little left to steal.

This is the great dilemma of modern man.  We have progressed ourselves into a quandary, slaves to our own progress, with a wheel that is spinning out of control.  Progress downhill fast has hit the swampy bottom, I hope, and is having to deal with the muck, sewage, toxins, landfill, and dysfunctional technology it has created.

The “health care crisis” is a political statement, and a wise one.  “Sorry, I’m too sick to go to war, to work, to pay taxes or contribute to the economy.  Where’s my check?  You promised.”
They are learning instinctively if not intellectually, that the way to downsize government is to bankrupt it.

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2016

I posted this entreaty on my now-defunct website in October, 2001.  I still believe what I wrote then.

By Katharine C. Otto,  October, 2001

I am sad for the planet right now, but as usual, not for the same reasons as everyone else.

Because I believe in the immortality of the soul, I don’t believe in death. I see those who gave their lives in the September 11 tragedy not so much as victims but as participants in an event that rocked the world. They have moved to other dimensions, out of sight, but not out of mind and heart.

I am sadder for those of us who must deal with the consequences. We stand in a precarious position. We are outraged. We are sad. We are afraid. There is a sense of urgency, a push to do something, but we don’t know what to do.

Meanwhile, internal cohesiveness is growing. Americans feel united against a common enemy. We are nicer to each other. Flags are flying. People feel free to talk about God.

On a deeper, more personal level, I believe the September 11 event has forced us to examine our individual values, recognizing everything we cherish can be swept away in a heartbeat, without warning or provocation. Our anger and fear are understandable, given the context. The enemy – whoever he is, or they are – used our own airplanes and skyscrapers against us. They collapsed our most visible symbols of wealth and power.  It only cost them a few plane tickets and the lives of some fanatical devotees who died believing they were doing their religious duty. Or so we assume.

Worse, for the first time since the United States broke free of Britain, civilians have been attacked from outside. We are faced with the real possibility of war on our own turf, should we act precipitously or irresponsibly. And, despite our world leadership in technology, education, wealth, and power, we are uncomfortably vulnerable in the face of this enemy, on whom our most modern defenses don’t work and may be used against us.

I think we should give credit where it is due. These enemies are wily and cunning, and it is foolhardy to underestimate them. They know our weaknesses. If we allow them to provoke us or frighten us into rash action, it will hurt us more than them. We have more to lose than they do.  I, for one, do not enjoy suffering.

I believe we win by developing our strengths, getting control of our own anger and fear, and approaching this situation with reasonable caution. There is wisdom in patience. Yes, fate happens. But individuals, groups, and nations have the free will to choose their responses. Anger and fear distort judgment and lead to bad decisions.

Of course, mastering one’s emotional responses, without denying them, is the challenge of psychiatry, psychology, religion, literature, art, and of life itself. There are no easy answers.

However, as the dust settles over New York, and as we reflect individually and collectively on what has transpired, I believe it will be important for each of us to take an honest inventory of our values. What is truly important, and what is not? And those qualities – spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical – that are valuable to us, let us take the time and energy to appreciate and build upon them. For me, those things are very close to home.

 

Spotlight Therapy “You ask questions.”

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I dreamed awhile back that I was in a public meeting about the latest GoverCorp outrage (take your pick). I took my characteristic Spotlight Therapy stance, which involves turning the lights on to reveal triangulation tactics.

Afterwards, a 20s-something minority female, eyes shining, came up to thank me. “What for,” I replied. “I don’t accomplish anything.”

“Yes, you do.” she said. “You ask questions.”

“Triangulation” is a term applied to the strategy of playing both ends against the middle. You don’t confront the enemy directly, but go for things that are important to him.  When you turn the lights on, the previously hidden manipulators are exposed.

When the dot.com bubble burst on March 10, 2000, my stock value suddenly shrank below my mortgage debt. At that time I was naïve and inexperienced.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have sold the stock before the bubble burst and paid off the mortgage.  Instead, I trusted a banker and stockbroker who I thought worked for me.  They wiped me out instead.

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I believe it was intentional. This sounds paranoid, but the financial setback started me on a reading tangent that validated my suspicions.  Books like Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, The Robber Barons, The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve, Supercapitalism, Wealth of Nations, Alexander Hamilton, The Whiskey Rebellion, and None Dare Call it Conspiracy,* to name a few—as well as the US Constitution–opened my eyes, and I was horrified.  These writings revealed how boom and bust cycles are created on purpose to consolidate wealth and political power in the hands of relatively invisible insiders.

Desperate people are capable of desperate acts, to save themselves. Perhaps my banker and stockbroker were feeling the squeeze before the bubble actually burst, and trying to save their own skins.

But the practice of trapping individuals and nations in debt has a long history. It gives the lender—the presumed lender, anyway—a strategic advantage in terms of control.  Often the presumed lender, like a bank, is lending other people’s money, called “leverage.” Newspapers like the Wall Street Journal regularly inform their readers how many billions this or that hedge fund or individual controls.

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This is triangulation in action. Between the stock market and the mortgage market, individual wealth has been gutted by seemingly random events.  Don’t believe it.  Spotlight the Federal Reserve, the “lender of last resort,” which has no wealth of its own.  It creates money out of thin air to “lend” to the federal government, which then disburses it to pay bills and fight wars.  This from The Creature from Jekyll Island, which explains the history of money and banking.  It also reveals the secret beginnings of the Federal Reserve Act, which essentially put Congress in the debt-creation business, to trap taxpayers in un-repayable debt until the sun burns out.  In other words, the dollar is backed only by government promises to pay.

Now anyone who trusts government promises deserves to suffer, and those who believe the government has the right to promise unborn taxpayers’ future earnings, in order to repay the Fed for its fiat money “loans,” is living in LaLa Land.

taxarrow0406 What Creature does not say is that the income tax was also initiated in 1913, two months before the Federal Reserve Act, in order to guarantee perpetual interest income to the Fed.  The precedent for this double whammy was set by first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton introduced legislation for the Whiskey Tax and the first US central bank December 13 and 14th in 1790, for the same purpose—ostensibly to pay off Revolutionary War debts, but also to provide a vehicle for trapping the fledgling nation in a bottomless barrel of new debt.

In my case, debt would force me to work in a career I had come to detest, to feed the absentee bosses and other middlemen, who work behind the scenes to call the shots, yet take no personal risks.

These days, you can’t get away from news reports, politicians, and “economists,” who are bemoaning the state of “the economy,” the need to “create jobs,” and concerns about unstable stock markets and central banks around the world. The hidden truth behind all this hand-wringing is, as Ron Paul has tried to say, “The US is bankrupt.”  (His book End the Fed, is also well worth reading.)

It appears the balance has begun to shift, because everyone–individuals, corporations, and government—is maxed out on credit. Bills are coming due, without resources to pay.  As the Boomer generation (that’s me), approaches retirement, and Social Security payments can’t keep up with expenses, Boomers are withdrawing money from the stock market to make ends meet.  At the other end of the earning spectrum, the millennials are dealing with student debt, credit card debt, automobile debt, and maybe mortgages, too. Not only are there fewer of them than of seniors, but they don’t have money to invest in the stock market.

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But what’s good for “the economy” is bad for individuals. The “strong dollar,” is hurting exports, meaning Josie Taxpayer’s dollar has more buying power at home. Percentage-wise, she pays less in taxes, too.  This “deflation” that terrifies the money churners could have the effect of grounding the dollar at home, where it belongs.  Also, as people get out of debt–whether paying it off, writing it off, declaring bankruptcy, or walking away–the inflated money supply shrinks even more.  Interest on debt, as well as inflation (a “hidden tax,” according to Creature), reduce the buying power of the money. This is great for people who have no debt, and bad for “the economy,” which now is $19 trillion in debt, equal to the gross domestic product.

For example, on Thursday, February 18, 2016, The New York Times ran an article entitled “Oil Price Soars and Shares Rise.”  The assumption by the NYT and Wall Street Journal is that what’s good for stocks and raises prices is good for America.

This false assumption becomes easier to understand when you realize a goodly portion of America is heavily invested in stocks through “retirement benefits” like pension plans, including public pension plans. Hedge fund and pension fund managers can make significant waves in the stock market by moving those large pots of money around.  “Investors,” then, are not primarily the wealthy “one percent” that the public has been taught to hate.

“Investors” are the groups and individuals who make their money through managing other people’s money, people they assume want the greatest value for their money. Only trouble is, the most profitable stocks are issued by some of the most unscrupulous companies, often those with incestuous ties to the government, and are beneficiaries of large, cushy government contracts.

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As is my habit—and one of my favorite pastimes–I underlined and scribbled in the margins of the above-mentioned article. Here, we are informed that stocks climbed the previous day as “investors clung to hope for an international deal” to cut production.  “The price of oil rose sharply, as did the stocks of major energy companies like Chevron.”

“Who benefits by raising oil prices?” I wrote.  I know the State of Georgia benefitted mightily by low oil prices last summer, as Governor Deal signed a six-cent gas tax increase as soon as oil prices fell.  Now, the State of Georgia can expect even more tax revenues.  Already the accumulated excise and sales taxes on gasoline amount to over 50% of the customer cost.

Who is the greatest consumer of oil and gas? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it’s the military, which probably doesn’t pay the taxes and competes for the oil.  I applaud anyone who wants to research that.

When the NYT repeated that “investors’” hope for an “international deal that will cap or cut production,” I commented it doesn’t matter, as demand remains low.  I also asked if this “deal” to cut production also applies to US offshore well drilling, new oil pipelines, fracking, and other domestic eco-rape.

 

We are told that Chevron and Hess profited. We are also told that Kinder Morgan gained, too, on the news that Warren Buffet has acquired a 1.2 percent stake.

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Now Texas-based Kinder Morgan is a loaded kettle of fish. Founded by Richard Kinder, of Enron fame, it is in the process of appealing the state of Georgia’s denial of eminent domain for its Palmetto Pipeline.  Governor Deal did something right, for a change, when he denied Kinder Morgan’s request.  This would have set a dangerous precedent for publicly traded corporations to use state government to seize private property for a pittance.  Not only are oil prices low, and sales slow, but the pipeline is planned to run through 210 miles of coastal Georgia and to affect 396 landowners across 12 counties, only to transport gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and natural gas to the Savannah, Brunswick, and Jacksonville ports for export.  Kinder Morgan also expects to drastically enlarge its liquid natural gas storage facility on the Savannah River.  Meanwhile on the opposite side of the continent, Kinder Morgan is trying to trample Native American Tl’azt’en Nation’s native hunting and fishing lands in British Columbia.

I congratulate anyone who wants to investigate Kinder Morgan’s ethics and stock investors. I’m especially interested in public pension investments in Kinder Morgan, as well as its customers Marathon Oil and Marathon Petroleum, among others.  Remember that everyone in the decision-making “pipeline” from governor to judges to legislators and the United States Congress, state and federal levels of the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Division, Department of Natural Resources—and the military—have taxpayer-funded pensions handled by managers for whom there is no bottom line—if they can get taxpayers to subsidize profits.

 

I abandoned Wall Street in early 2008, when it continued to abandon me. I advise anyone who has more sense than money to do the same.  Also, as any stock broker might advise, “Sell high.”

 

 

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*Authors and publication dates are listed in a previous blog, “Sell the TV and Read.”

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Sell the TV and Read

If I am opinionated, these are my teachers.

If I am opinionated, these are my teachers.

katharineotto’s recommended reading so far

October 10, 2015–CURRENT READFDR, Jean Edward Smith, 2007

Independent Study of Literature, History, Culture, Medicine, Economics, Politics, and Philosophy
As of October, 2015

History, Economics, and Politics

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson and committee

United States Constitution, ratified in 1788-1790 by 13 states. Many authors.

The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, 1771-1790

The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson, 1821

Washington: The Indispensible Man, James Thomas Flexner, 1969, 1973, 1974

Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow, 2004

Thomas Jefferson: A Life, William Sterne Randall, 1993

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an

Unnecessary War, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, 2002, 2003

A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, Howard Zinn, 1980-2003

The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve,

G. Edward Griffin, 1994-2007 (realityzone.com)

The Robber Barons, Matthew Josephson, 1934, 1962

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins, 2004

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, A collection of essays by Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan,

Nathaniel Branden, and Robert Hessen, 1946-1967

Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman, 1962, 1982, and 2002

Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis,

William Bonner and Addison Wiggin, 2006

None Dare Call It Conspiracy, Gary Allen, with Larry Abraham, 1971

A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America’s Destiny, Patrick J. Buchanan, 1999

Why Government Doesn’t Work, Harry Browne, 1995

The Fair Tax Book, Neal Boortz and US Rep John Linder (R-GA) (Not.)

Supercapitalism, Robert B. Reich, 2007

The Waste Makers, Vance Packard, 1960

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter, 2006

Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas, Ken Foskett, 2004

The Water Lords: Ralph Nader’s Study Group Report on Industry and

Environmental Crisis in Savannah, Georgia, James M. Fallows, 1971

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, Susan Freinkel, 2011

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,

Eduardo Galeano, 1973, 1997

Cuba: A New History, Richard Gott, 2004

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang, 1991

The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, written 1513, published 1532

Medicine

Overdo$ed America, John Abramson, MD, 2004

The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they Deceive Us and What to Do About It,

Marcia Angell, MD, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of

Medicine, 2004, 2005

Philosophy and Memoirs

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell, 1956

Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank. B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1948, 2002

Tales From the Time Loop, David Icke, 2003

Rats, Lice and History: The Biography of a Bacillus, A Bacteriologist’s Classic Study of    a World Scourge, Hans Zinsser, 1934

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 2005

A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut, 2005

Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854

Fiction 

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1912

Life of Pi, Yann Martel, 2002

The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan, 1991

Empire Falls, Richard Russo, 2001

Moby Dick, Herman Melville, 1851

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1947

Uhuru, A Novel of Africa Today, Robert Ruark, 1962

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith, 1943

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937

The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1868-1869

1984, George Orwell, 1949

Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1946

Oil!, Upton Sinclair, 1926

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852

The Octopus, Frank Norris, 1901

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck, 1931

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952

Remembrance Rock, Carl Sandburg, 1948

The Island of Dr. Moreau, HG Wells, 1896

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

Paradigms

Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions, Edwin A. Abbott, 1884

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl, 1959

The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra, 1975

The “Unknown” Reality, Jane Roberts (A Seth Book), 1979

Put your taxes to work. Use your public library.

Books: Cuba–A New History

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Cuba: A New History
Richard Gott, 2004

A Personal Response
by Katharine C. Otto

After reading Cuba:  A New History, I believe Fidel Castro may personify the best example we have of capitalism at its finest. He invested in human capital, and it has paid off. The book’s author, Richard Gott (2004), is a British journalist and historian who has visited Cuba several times and writes fluently about its history and culture.

Gott describes an island that was peaceful, until the Europeans discovered it. They brought the slave trade in the early 1500s, along with its accompanying violence and bloodshed. The book goes into the history of the Spanish-American war (1898), that first American attempt to expand its empire beyond North American soil. The United States won Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam.

I was sad for Cuba’s revolutionaries, when the US stepped in to “help” and ended up taking over in the post-war paperwork, through the Platt Amendment in March, 1901. Thus we have the Guantanamo Bay legacy, where the US takes prisoners in order to isolate, torture, and kill them in secret. The book says the Platt Amendment was repealed in 1934. It also says Randolph Hearst in the New York Journal, and other US press, originally inflamed America into war with Spain by blaming a Spanish mine for the US Maine’s sinking. An accidental coal-fired explosion in the Maine’s bunker was subsequently found causative, but by then it was too late.

That Castro has achieved success in the face of all that bloody history, in spite of the United States’ intolerant and divisive attitude, makes him the greatest capitalist of time so far. Why? Because he invested in human capital, proving that money without human effort has limited value.

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, and Cuba lost its primary trading partner, Fidel turned the tables on the money exporters by keeping local talent local and building from within. Castro bought bicycles for transportation, gave land to anyone who would produce a quota of food, and invested in health care and agriculture education. Students have no debt when they get out of school.*

Castro never tried to expand beyond Cuba’s boundaries, to build empires. He remained home with the people to whom he made promises, and he stayed with them through thick and thin.  Except to send ambassadors of health care around the world, Castro stood by and supported Cubans, imbuing them with survival skills technology in a world otherwise zombied out on TV hallucinosis. Isolated from Madison Avenue advertising and Wall Street profiteering, Cuba has triumphed over the economic war on the Cuban revolution.

Cuba’s author, Richard Gott, who met Che Guevara, gives a subtly unflattering but honest view of US policy, and its disastrous consequences over time. Gott goes into exhaustive factual detail about why the whole world hates us, and why we don’t like ourselves.

Castro understood that violence only destroys people and resources. He took a cooperative and communal (communistic?) approach that recognizes the land owns the people, and not the other way around.  Through gentle guidance, he promoted a “communistic capitalism,” that recognizes the value of shared overhead. Those willing to work the land get squatter’s rights, in Castro’s communistic capitalist society, concepts Thomas Jefferson and Plymouth Rock both supported.

My hat’s off to him, for what he accomplished. I hope the asset plunderers won’t descend on Cuba and destroy what he has brought about. I hope they can appreciate the abiding value of the culture they have scorned, rejected, and actively sought to destroy for so long.

The US could learn a lot from Cuba’s example, should we choose to see. It offers much of what we claim to want but don’t have the courage to try.

*See also   *the ecologist, “Cuba: Health Without Wealth,” by Brendon Sainsbury, June, 2005; and Harper’s, “The Cuba Diet: What will you be eating when the revolution comes?” by Bill McKibben, April, 2005.