ADVENTURE RANCH

ADVENTURE RANCH
ADVENTURE RANCH

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Boatlift: American Resilience On 9-11

A short documentary tells a little known story of the rescue of 500,000 people in the aftermath of the attacks in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It was the largest boatlift ever to have happened – greater than the one at Dunkirk during World War II. Yet somehow a story of such large scale became lost in all the rubble. But a new 10-minute documentary called Boatlift by Eddie Rosenstein captures the boat evacuations that happened on 9/11. The film is part of four new short documentaries that were created for the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C."



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Fundamental Difference In The Right and The Left of American Politics

It is an ancient political tactic - the claim a candidate will "bring the Nation back" to something it was but is no more.

I've heard it so often from those on the Right in the last few years, but they are so delusional about what our nation is and was that I have no idea (and neither do they) where or when they want to take anyone to, other than a ride to the polls so the candidate can get elected.

So let me offer a view from the Left, and let's dive deep into the Left

What I like is that the pair of them do not view America or the rest of the world through ludicrous, limited lens of Washington politics and the sputtering media outlets of television and radio.


In a few short sentences, Chomsky nails exactly the status and nature of the political battle in America in 2011:

" ... there’s a more subtle reason why they’re opposed to [Social Security] it, and I think it’s rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system. Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient."

Here's a few more expanded comments from Chomsky on our economic issues-


"The Bush tax cuts were carefully designed so that, at the beginning, everyone got a little, and you had a feeling taxes were being reduced. But they were designed so that, as the 10-year period ended, it was overwhelmingly going to the very rich. Now, the population is strongly opposed to that. You take a look at polls during the lame-duck session, when this was coming up: very strong support for increasing taxes for those with incomes over, say, quarter-million dollars a year. Well, Obama didn’t push that. If he had appealed to the public, they, I think, could have overcome the opposition of the financial institutions, you know, the Republican—the new Republican congressional delegation and so on. But he didn’t even try. And that should be done.

Now, the current proposal goes partially in that direction by indirectly increasing taxes through elimination of deductions. But the tax code simply has to be revised. It’s become highly regressive. In fact, the share of GDP, you know, national income by—of taxes, is probably lower than it’s ever been, far lower than 20 or 30 years ago, particularly for the rich. All of that should be adjusted. There is a stimulus in the program, which is a good idea, but it’s much too small. And the concentration on deficit reduction, when the problem is—the serious problem is massive unemployment, I think that’s a very serious error. You can understand why the banks and insurance companies, and so on, like it, but it’s completely wrong for the—for trying to extricate ourselves from quite a serious economic crisis. The other things are unfortunately—the deficit itself, if you want to take it seriously—I don’t think it’s the major issue, by any means. In fact, I don’t even think it’s a serious issue, at least in the short term. But if you do want to take it seriously, it’s pretty easy to trace it to the roots.

Dean Baker, very good economist, has done—has pointed out, done the calculations which show that if the United States had a healthcare program similar to other industrial countries, which is not a utopian dream, not only would there be no deficit, but there’d be a surplus—that plus the huge military budget. Military budget is probably half the deficit. It’s way out of line with anything needed, certainly for any defensive purpose, but for any justifiable purpose. Ron Paul, who you heard before, was quite right about that. If the military—I mean, the U.S. is spending about as much as the rest of the world combined almost on military spending, technologically very advanced, new destructive techniques developing far beyond what any other country has. This is all—first of all, it shouldn’t be done, on principle, but it also ends up being harmful to us, essentially for the reasons that Paul mentioned. The—and very expensive, of course. That plus the hopelessly dysfunctional healthcare system, those are fundamental problems that have to be addressed."

---

On Social Security;

"Social Security is not in any crisis. I mean, the trust fund alone will fully pay benefits for, I think, another 30 years or so. And after that, taxes will give almost the same benefits. To worry about a possible problem 30 years from now, which can incidentally be fixed with little—a little bit of tampering here and there, as was done in 1983—to worry about that just makes absolutely no sense, unless you’re trying to destroy the program. It’s a very successful program. A large number people rely on it. It doesn’t pay munificently, but it at least keeps people alive, not just retired people, people with disabilities and others. Very low administrative costs, extremely efficient, and no burden on the deficit, doesn’t add to the deficit. The effort to try to present the Social Security program as if it’s a major problem, that’s just a hidden way of trying to undermine and destroy it.

Now, there has been a lot of opposition to it since—you know, since the 1930s, on the part of sectors of extreme wealth and privilege, especially financial capital. They don’t like it, for several reasons. One is the rich don’t barely—for them, it’s meaningless. Anyone with—you know, who’s had a fairly decent income, it’s a tiny addition to your retirement but doesn’t mean much. Another is, if the financial institutions and the insurance companies can get their hands on this huge financial resource—for example, if it’s privatized in some way or vouchers—I mean, that’s a huge bonanza. They’ll have trillions of dollars to play with, the banks, the investment firms and so on.

But I think, myself, that there’s a more subtle reason why they’re opposed to it, and I think it’s rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system. Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient. And I suspect—I don’t know how to measure it exactly, but I think that that’s a considerable part of the drive on the part of small, privileged sectors to undermine a very efficient, very effective system on which a large part of the population relies, actually relies more than ever, because wealth, personal wealth, was very much tied up in the housing market. That was people’s personal wealth. Well, OK, that, quite predictably, totally collapsed. People aren’t destitute by the standards of, say, slums in India or southern Africa, but very—suffering severely. And they have nothing else to rely on, but what they—the, really, pittance that they’re getting from Social Security. To take that away would be just disastrous."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On The Anniversary of Sept. 11th 2001 and The Rise Of Online Writers

This week I received an invitation from Michael Silence of the Knoxville News Sentinel for some thoughts about the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, about how that event influenced those of us writers who have created and maintained blogs over the years.

I of course had a story - so many Americans and others around the world do. And I tend to write rather long essays, which Mike kindly excerpted and included in today's KNS newspaper along with some online heavyweights from East Tennessee, R. Neal at KnoxViews, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, and the creator of SayUncle - all very prolific, noted writers and bloggers. Mike's roundup of what we had to say can be read here - But my comment was from much longer response, which had to be cut due to size limitations and all, so I wanted to give readers all the context for my part of this tale, one still being told ten years on.

Here is my full response to his Mike's question (and I have to rib Michael at little here, as he has always been a very supportive reader of my blog and often links to me and quotes things I write for the KNS, but today he wrote that I blog from Green County and I don't, I live in Hamblen County, plus Green needs another "e" at the end of it, and my blog's full name is "Cup of Joe Powell" - Mike has confused me a few times with other Joe's on the internet, but he has to wade through tons of material daily, so I am just happy he points folks to my direction.):

"
I was actually the host of a radio talk show in Morristown the morning of the attack - the show, which I called "Cup of Joe Powell" on WMTN-AM, ended at its usual time, at 9 am.

In fact I was eager that day to air an interview I had made with a friend. I had called him on Sept. 10th and recorded a conversation with him via the phone as he sat in the stands at Wrigley Field, watching his beloved Cubs play. It was a great piece and it played just as the first plane crashed into the North Tower, though I could not see the studio's TV from my chair and knew nothing of the attack.

Just as the show ended, a staff worker came in the studio and said with a deathly pale face "Something horrible is happening in Manhattan"

I walked into the room where the TV was on, and we all watched in horror the repeated video footage of that first passenger plane slamming into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Stunned and confused, we saw suddenly another passenger plane curve out of the sky and crash into the South Tower and the giant fire ball that followed. An eerie quiet swallowed all our words.

I remember someone saying "This was no accident".

We stood transfixed, watching the news reports attempting to explain what was happening. A newsman said all air flights were immediately grounded.

Within about 30 minutes or so, a report came across that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

As my work was done for the day, I raced home, thinking I would find safety and some comfort there - but there was none, as the television kept rolling that footage and the aftermath. As I listened to an ABC radio station on the way home in my car, I heard that one of the towers had collapsed. The thought chilled me beyond definition.

Later that evening, the terrifying thought struck me - I would have to talk about this horror on my show in the morning. What could I possibly say? It seemed no words would offer solace to a single listener. That Sept 12th morning is still a blur in my memory, and I have never gone back to listen to the tape I made. The one memory I have is that I played the almost mournful instrumental version of "Star-Spangled Banner" by Bela Fleck often during that show.

One of the main reasons I began my blog and continue to blog day after day is my unshakable belief that American voices can and do make real differences in our world - I try and stay away from the endless strident denouncing of our world, preferring instead to present questions, and sometimes some add humor of all kinds.

I don't want my country to be defined by terrorism, which in my mind gives power to those who seek destruction.

In September of 2005, writer Bill Moyers offered an essay which I quoted on my blog on Sept 11, 2005 - it reads in part:

"But it is never only the number of dead by which terrorists measure their work. It is also the number of the living— the survivors— taken hostage to fear. Their mission was to invade our psyche; get inside our heads—deprive us of trust, faith, and peace of mind: keep us from ever again believing in a safe, just, and peaceful world, and from working to bring that world to pass. The writer Terry Tempest Williams has said "the human heart is the first home of democracy." Fill that heart with fear and people will give up the
risks of democracy for the assurances of security; fill that heart with fear and you can shake the house to its foundations.

Yes, we are vulnerable to terrorists, but only a shaken faith in ourselves can do us in."



POSTSCRIPT: It must be noted that the staggering loss of so many lives on that September morning is so large, as was the phenomenal efforts of rescue and survival, and all of the humanity which experienced suffering defies any one memorial or anniversary observances.

But one person I would like to highlight is Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who designed the Twin Towers. His life is uniquely American.

Born in 1912 in Seattle, a second generation Japanese American, his early years were spent in the poverty of a slum, but he pushed himself, and worked his way up from very humble origins to become one of the 20th Century's most acclaimed architects and designers. After high school, we worked at an Alaskan salmon cannery to pay his college tuition at the University of Washington, then later at New York University and earned a position with the firm of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the firm which designed the Empire State Building.

In 1941, he and his parents and family were almost sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War 2, but his employers worked hard on his behalf to insure Yamasaki remained free. He once spoke in an interview that neither poverty nor suspicion would deter his view of the world, saying that he would "
not to let that be the pattern into which my life would fall." Awards for his work grew throughout the 1960s, and certainly it was his design of those towers which marked the American landscape as very few designers have done. He passed away from cancer in 1986, and his creations can be found in America and beyond.

On the day of the opening ceremony for the Twin Towers in 1973, he spoke about just what the project meant to him, and how he hoped the world would view it --


“The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man’s dedication to world peace … a representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and, through cooperation, his ability to find greatness.”

With sheer idealism and optimism in my part, my hope is that despite the efforts of a few murderous madmen, that location in Manhattan will utterly defeat all the negativity and stand instead on the values Minoru Yamasaki held highest.