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Health Care & Environment
11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]
11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder
11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]
11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]
11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]
11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]
11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]
11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]
11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]
11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]
11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]
International & Futurism
11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
The End of the Little Red Cars: Remembering East Berlin
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation yesterday, 10 November 2009
They cheered on Gorbachev, whom they saw as emboldening their revolt, and they were hungry for news of dissdents in other parts of Eastern Europe. But not once did I hear any of them mention Ronald Reagan.
In this week’s 20th anniversary celebrations of the “fall” of the Berlin Wall, two images predominate: First, Ronald Reagan stands before the Brandenburg Gate, intoning “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Next, throngs of jubilant Berliners stream through Checkpoint Charlie, while others clamber atop the Wall or hack at it with sledgehammers, often to the musical accompaniment of David Hasselhoff. Based on these images, you’d never guess that there were more than two years separating these two events–and you’d certainly never know how little they actually had to do with one another.
The mainstream media this week has been full of homages to what they call the ”speech that ended the Cold War.” Some news outlets–along with Angela Merkel and the German people themselves–have had the decency to acknowledge that Mikhail Gorbachev had something to do with it, as well. Either way, most accounts attribute the destruction of the Wall to actions and policies that came from the top, from the leaders of the two great Cold War powers. Largely forgotten or ignored are the ordinary citizens who for years had gathered in the churches of the GDR, placing themselves at great personal risk as they peacefully and persistently worked for change.
I caught a glimpse of this grassroots movement when I went to East Berlin in the first days of October 1989, a month before the Wall was breached. Along with Sylvia Plachy, the photographer, and Bettina Muller, a young West German journalist, I was ostensibly covering the 4oth anniversary of the GDR; actually, we were there to cover the growing pro-democracy movement. For the better part of the decade, dissidents had been meeting in protestant churches in Leipzig and Dresden, as well as in Berlin–initially to protest the arms race, and later to advocate for political reform. These churches were tolerated by the government and allowed to provide a protective cover for the opposition–although, like everything else in the GDR, they were closely monitored by the Stasi.
By the fall of 1989, the movement’s numbers had swelled, and there was a sense of excitement, but also one of fear: East German leader Erich Honecker was a hard-liner with no interest in perestroika. Some movement leaders had been arrested, and after the carnage in Tiananmen Square a few months earlier, there were worries that the government would choose a “Chinese solution” to the growing protests in the GDR.
I remember a cold, damp October afternoon when my colleagues and I tried to make contact with someone who had offered to direct us to a meeting of the pro-democracy activists. Entering a small square, we cast a quick look around and saw that at every corner there was a Trabant, the boxy little East German car, each with two men sitting in the front seats. All the cars seemed to be red: This was the Stasi, and they had no need to hide their presence.
We turned up a sidestreet and went halfway up the block to an address we had been given, the office of an environmental book store. But the windows were shuttered, the door padlocked shut. As we retreated down the block, we passed a young couple, bundled up against the raw cold. They nodded, and walked straight past us. Their clothing was plain and worn and, like everything else in East Berlin, drab. But on the girl’s coat collar, tucked almost out of sight, was a little pin. “That’s it,” Bettina whispered. “They’re here.”
Keeping an eye on the Stasi vehicles, we watched as the couple crossed the square and disappeared into the door of a nondescript building. We followed, and found ourselves in a small café with a dozen or so people. Noone talked much. They seemed to be waiting. Here and there among them we saw the little pin. Soon, paying no heed to us, they began to drift out in ones and twos.
Bettina had spoken briefly with a young man who gave her another address. We now doubled back out, got into a half-empty metro, went a couple of stops, and crossed another square to a large church built of red stone, with a parish hall next door. It was beginning to get dark, and lights shone through the windows. Outside, all around the building, were little red Trabants.
We had found our way to the Erloeserkirche, or Church of the Redeemer, where that evening thousands of people had gathered by candlelight. Some represented various pro-democracy groups, who were drafting a joint declaration laying out the terms of a new society in East Germany, with free speech and free elections. (Capitalism, at least then, wasn’t on their agenda.) Many others had come to Berlin from deep in the east to catch a glimpse of Gorbachev, who was about to arrive in the city to celebrate the GDR’s anniversary. They wore–timidly at first, then proudly–their little perestroika pins, proud emblems of what seemed to be a peaceful revolution.
I couldn’t understand what was being said, so I watched the crowd; they listened quietly and seriously, but the air buzzed with subdued energy. When the meeting came to an end, we followed the crowd outside. Suddenly, the doors of the little red cars slammed shut. Their engines turned over. The men inside glared out as they began to follow their targets off into the night.
If this all sounds too much like a John Le Carre story, it’s because things really were like that in East Berlin, right up to the end. While there was some sense that things were changing, my colleagues and I didn’t know that we were witnessing the run-up to a cataclysmic transformation in global politics. Neither, I think, did most of the people inside the church. But that week, churches in Berlin, Leipzig, and elsewhere would become the site of mass demonstrations and mass arrests. Another week more and Honecker would resign. In a month, half a million people would demonstrate in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz; a few days after that, the Wall would be breached.
The members of pro-democracy movement who gathered in those churches invoked the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who opposed Hitler and was executed by the Third Reich; they paid homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., who launched a liberation movement from his pulpit in Atlanta. They cheered on Gorbachev, whom they saw as emboldening their revolt, and they were hungry for news of dissdents in other parts of Eastern Europe. But not once did I hear any of them mention Ronald Reagan.
Although it may be lost in the bombastic rhetoric of Western, especially American, self-glorification, the fact is that the fall of the Berlin Wall–and in fact, our so-called victory in the Cold War–had almost nothing to do with us. It didn’t result from the billions the United States spent on nuclear arms, or the thousands of spies we deployed (none of whom, by the way, saw this coming). It did owe some debt to the maverick Soviet premier who created a window of opportunity. But in the end, it was down to people like these unassuming young East Berliners, who braved a 40-year habit of repression and a fleet of little red cars to gather in a church on a raw October evening.
(For those interested in this history, I recommend this piece by Andrew Curry in the Wilson Quarterly.)
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