Thursday, January 25, 2007

Listening to Democracy Now

The interesting things one learns from the radio:

HARRIET WASHINGTON: Right, the early years, it was quite chilling. First of all, it's important to understand that there was a scientific animus called “scientific racism,” which at that time was simply science, and it posited that black people were very, very different from whites, medically and biologically. And this provided a rationale and an underpinning not only for the institution of slavery -- slavery probably could not have persisted if there hadn’t been this medical underpinning -- but also for the use of blacks in research.
It's a cheap shot, and hardly a complete answer, but the next time some Dawkins/Harris disciple tells me that religion is the chief cause of woe in the world, I will be tempted to point this out, and remind them that the abolition movement in America started in the Christian churches. Nothing is ever so simple as to be (pardon the pun) "black and white".

You can also learn about the radio:

Five years ago this week, a one-hundred-twelve car train derailed just outside Minot, North Dakota - the state’s fourth largest city. The accident occurred shortly before two in the morning on January 18, 2002. Minutes later, the train’s conductor called the local emergency dispatch.

Two hundred forty thousand gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked out of the train producing a vapor plume that floated over the town. Limited exposure burns the eyes, the skin, and the lungs. Larger doses can shut down the human respiratory system. The chemical leak in Minot, North Dakota ended up killing one person and hospitalizing hundreds. But questions remain to this day over how the crisis was handled and the role played by media consolidation.

The radio giant Clear Channel owned all six commercial stations in Minot, North Dakota. None of them broke into regular programming to provide emergency information to the city’s residents. After the town’s Emergency Alert System failed, local officials tried to call the stations - but no one answered. The stations continued to play music piped in from out of state.
Listen to the audio on this one, especially the tapes of the 9/11 calls. If you aren't cursing the heartless bastards who made this accident worse, and who to this day continue to insist they weren't part of the problem, then you need to check the state of your soul.

This story is also good, and enlightening on the issue of immigration and New Orleans. Until the transcript is up, you'll simply have to listen, or rely on my paraphrase. It seems that most of the reconstruction of New Orleans (such as is being done) is being done under the aegis of "H1B" visas, the "quest worker" program the President touted on Tuesday night.

The first issue, of course, is: why are companies recruiting construction workers from out of the country, when there are so many unemployed people forced out of New Orleans who would gladly relocate for the chance to work? The answer, of course, is: $$$$$.

First, "guest workers" can only get jobs in New Orleans by paying recruiting firms who advertise the jobs in their home countries. This gets them the visa, too, which makes them "legal." But they are only legal for 9 months or so, not until the work is done. And while they are here, they are paid whatever the company wants to pay: from $9 an hour to just above minimum wage, depending apparently on what country you are from. But then, you owe the company money (for charges they make sure you incure), and by the time your visa has expired, you're sent back home, or you're unemployed, and you're in debt.

It is, as the report notes, the "new slavery." And it is precisely why these are jobs Americans don't want; and corporations do.

Bill Moyers spoke recently of the "ownership class which has arranged the world for it's own benefit." Such societies never last; but owners continue to live as if their ownership and power were eternal. When will they ever learn?

Woe betide him who builds his palace on unfairness
and completes its roof-chambers with injustice,
compelling his countrymen to work without payment,
giving them no wage for their labour!
Woe to him who says
'I shall build myself a spacious palace
with airy roof-chambers and windows set in it;
it will be panelled with cedar
and painted with vermilion.'
Though your cedar is so splendid,
does that prove you a king?
Think of your father: he ate and drank,
dealt justly and fairly; all went well with him.
He upheld the cause of the lowly and poor;
then all was well.
Did not this show he knew me?, says the Lord.
But your eyes and your heart are set on naught but gain,
set only on the innocent blood you can shed,
or the cruel acts of tyranny you perpetrate."--Jeremiah 22:3, 13-17, REB

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