Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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I dedicated a previous episode to their mother, Dorothy. I said that I suspected that Amy didn't spring out of nowhere. This has been confirmed by this sibling ribaldry. I put it this way because David, whose articles appear in the Washington Post, Mother Jones, Outside, The Nation, and others, brings out the distinctively sassy voice in Amy, as opposed to her usual journalistic detachment. There's a hint of David Sedaris in the understatement and witty nonsequitors: for instance, the oiligarchy and Bechtel's umbilical connection to the Republicans. It's refreshing to hear Amy unmuzzled. Given her unwavering professionalism on the show, it's hard to imagine how Bill Clinton could call her "Hostile, combative, and even disrespectful."
Michael Moore writes,
"She gets up every morning – long before the rest of us! – to be the only daily voice of truth on the radio in the United States of America. How sad that I even have to write those words! A nation of 300 million, a written guarantee of a free press, and no one will do the job that Amy Goodman does so simply, so profoundly."
I agree. Although more voices have joined as truth-tellers, and the orbit of other stations carrying real news keeps widening, Democracy Now remains the nucleus of independent journalism.
When someone asks me how they can start to become informed, I advise them to listen to Democracy Now. Occasionally, they'll respond, "But isn't she biased towards the left?" My answer is that if I ever found a time when she was, I'd no longer consider her a journalist. Balance isn't a compromise between two biases, as al-Jazeera pointed out when they went on-air in the US. I recently heard the saying, "Everyone has a right to their own opinions, but you don't have a right to own the facts." The facts exist, and a natural hierarchy exists for what should be considered newsworthy. Something that we as a country do that affects hundreds of thousands of people abroad is more newsworthy than one lone nut who kidnaps a girl. Yet the former doesn't count as news, while the latter dominates television.
In truth, I wouldn't know this except for working out at the gym, where I can't avert my eyes from the close-captioned TV's. It's like watching a slow-motion train wreck – the fear-mongering train zooms full-steam ahead while they slip advertising cars into the mainline content. How long can this go on without derailing public credibility? It seems that the potential is endless.
[Al Jazeera in Gaza – Changing Channels 07-02-09]
On today's episode, we'll look at The Exception to the Rulers. We'll also look at a Democracy Now blog post responding to Free the Slaves founder Kevin Bales, who appeared on the show. Christian Parenti has written an article called "Free the Truth," regarding Kevin's claim that child slavery has been eradicated in the cocoa industry. This is especially apropos the weekend before Halloween. We'll end with a recap of an author who came this week to Capitola Book Cafe: Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize winner for Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health. He was talking about his new book, Strength in What Remains, which we'll review.
But first, two poems: Seesaws by Samuel Hazo and, nostalgically in October, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.
Now let's look at Christian Parenti's response to Kevin Bales on Democracy Now. First, we'll hear Kevin Bales, author of The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, and founder of Free the Slaves.
AMY GOODMAN: You say, Kevin Bales, that many of the products that we use, from coltan in our cell phones to cocoa to sugar to coffee, are touched by slavery.
KEVIN BALES: It's absolutely the case. There's a whole raft of those. And cotton is another one that has slavery from several continents. The list is very long.
The real challenge of this, though, is that, unlike the slavery of the past, where, say, almost all the cotton out of the Deep South had some touch of slavery in it, today maybe two or three percent of the cotton has slavery in it. Maybe two or three percent of the cocoa has slavery in it. And what that means is that simple responses like boycotts of products are actually counterproductive; they harm the majority of farmers who don't use slaves in an attempt to hammer out the ones who do. And it makes it a little more challenging and a little more complex.
But the way that we've discovered that works best is actually to, instead of, say, attacking corporations and boycotting corporations, who don't do the farming on the ground, who are actually just part of that system of production and distribution, but bringing them into the mix and getting them to pay for the work on the ground. Now, we've done this with the chocolate industry to what I think is enormous success. And about $50 million has been transferred out of chocolate company profits over the last seven years into work on the ground in West Africa to remove slavery and child labor from cocoa production. Now, that's money that never would have come to human rights, never would have come to anti-slavery work, if we hadn't brought them in at the beginning. Now, we did have Senator Harkin and Congressman Engel to help kind of push those guys into the room to talk about it at first, but it means that things are happening in West Africa that never would have happened otherwise.
This Kevin Bales interview was on September 9th. On the 10th, the US Department of Labor released a list of products made by forced, child labor. Included in the List were 122 goods from 58 countries... The most common agricultural goods listed are cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, rice, and cocoa. In the manufacturing sector, bricks, garments, carpets, and footwear appear most frequently; and in mined or quarried goods, gold and coal.
Christian Parenti is an investigative journalist and the son of Michael Parenti. His article in Fortune magazine is called Chocolate's Bittersweet Economy. Last Valentine's Day, he debated the president of the World Cocoa Foundation on Democracy Now. His blog post on the Democracy Now website is called Free The Truth.
First, he describes the "Harkin-Engel Protocol" as "a toothless, voluntary, self-policing agreement created by the chocolate industry and signed on September 19, 2001." To avoid legislation that would've required labeling of chocolate as "child labor free," Big Chocolate promised to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by 2005. But that date came and went and was extended to 2008, which has also come and gone without any appreciable difference.
The International Cocoa Initiative, created by the Protocol, includes Kevin Bales' group Free the Slaves. When Christian Parenti and photojournalist Jessica Dimmock went to the Ivory Coast to investigate, they saw no evidence of the $50 million funded by the cocoa industry. The International Cocoa Initiative has one Ivory Coast staff member and one squalid shelter, where no children from the cocoa sector were staying. Jessica's photographs appear with the article.
"Last year Tulane released their 400 page-long report on the impact of the protocol. It found that 'the vast majority of children in the cocoa growing areas... do not report exposure to any intervention projects in support of children.'"
Worse yet, Kevin Bales' organization Free the Slaves defended the chocolate industry when the Department of Labor sought to list cocoa as a product tainted by slave and child labor. Free The Slaves urged the Department of Labor not to put cocoa on a list of tainted products but to instead support the model of the Protocol...
If Bales was serious about removing child labor from West African cocoa production he would have pressured the corporations – who are his buddies on the International Cocoa Initiative board – to pay higher prices for cocoa. This would allow the parents of child laborers to send their kids to school.
Only paying cocoa farmers a living wage, a decent wage, will keep their children out of the cocoa groves. Only when corporations pay producers will there be change. This goes for not only cocoa but also cotton, rubber, and tobacco."
Tom Harkin, who wrote the Protocol, is also tackling child labor in Uzbekistan's Cotton Fields. This time the American Federation of Teachers is signed on, although I've wondered where they've been with World's Best Chocolate fundraisers and soccer balls, usually stitched by kids in Pakistan.
In an article for the LA Times, Senator Harkin writes,
"As youngsters in the United States return to school, children in Uzbekistan will be returning to the fields. For them, it is the autumn cotton harvest. From now through the end of November, instead of attending classes, 2 million Uzbek children ages 6 to 15 will be forced to spend their days picking cotton."
He goes on to describe a mandated government shutdown of schools, hospitals and public offices, where instead, everyone works in the field. President Karimov holds the monopoly as the sole purchaser of cotton, which he does at 1/3rd of the price on the open market, which is where he sells it. Uzbekistan is the third-largest exporter of raw cotton in the world. The children receive little more than meager meals.
The campaign, like the cocoa Protocol, has plenty of heavy-hitters in the apparel industry giving lip service to its goals. If the US were serious, however, it would impose a hefty import tax on all foreign-made goods, and then exempt those who can prove that they've respected human rights all the way through their supply chain. But that would assume the government wants to solve the problem rather than just show they're trying.
Let's break for Michael Franti and Spearhead from their Stay Human CD, where they broadcast fictional pirate radio between the songs. Amy Goodman writes that the day after Spearhead appeared at an antiwar rally, military investigators interrogated and threatened a band member's mother, whose other son was in the military. This song, called "Sometimes," says back to that, "faith to the people who be seekin' the truth, y'all."
[Michael Franti & Spearhead – Sometimes]
In the final segment, I'd like to talk about Tracy Kidder, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health. Paul Farmer is to healthcare as Amy Goodman is to journalism – they're both unreasonably stubborn about what equality means. At one point in Mountains Beyond Mountains, after Paul is married, he wonders if he can continue to value his own child's life no more and no less than any child's. It's the litmus test of equality.
Tracy's new book is called Strength in What Remains. It follows Deo, a Tutsi medical student, who escapes the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda to land in New York with $200, no English, and knowing no one. He gets a job delivering groceries. He sleeps in Central Park, afraid of dreaming of the horrors he's witnessed. Through a series of determined strangers, he ends up going back to medical school at Columbia University and working with Partners in Health to start a medical clinic back in Burundi. There the average life expectancy is 39 years and one in five deaths are caused by waterborne disease or lack of sanitation. For the seven million people of Burundi, there are only 300 doctors.
Tracy Kidder, like Paul Farmer, isn't afraid to follow the thread back to the colonist policies and monied interests that have led to the conflicts. In his historical notes, he cites Peter Uvin, who writes extensively about the role of international development aid. As their economies became dependent on it, the distribution of aid became a vehicle "for exclusion and for the reproduction of privileges for a small elite." He refers to this as an "unwitting" structural violence. But I think that Amy Goodman would question the word "unwtting," and ask, "whose interests were served?" Deo wonders where the guns, machetes, petrol, and gas-powered chainsaws come from in a country where people can't afford salt. Whoever supplied the weapons wasn't unwitting.
Today is my last episode as an official member of the Free Radio Santa Cruz collective. Reading Amy and David Goodman has been a balm to my soul. Having only started hearing Democracy Now a year ago, I forgot that Amy Goodman wasn't always Amy Goodman. Before that, she was some shrill, obnoxious broad who doesn't know when to shut up, who's disruptive and combative, and who brings her own personal agenda into everything. At the Overseas Press Club awards banquet, she and Jeremy Scahill are shushed as cranks by Tom Brokaw and no journalist in the room backs them up. Without a crystal ball, there must have been times when she wondered if there was something wrong with her.
It will be strange doing a radio show that may or may not be broadcast on any radio station. Ken Dowst of New World Notes writes, "You must feel a bit like a castaway . . . now floating about the Internet without a ship, pirate or otherwise. Ernest Gusella writes, "We are sorry to hear that you have left of course. BUT, with every crisis and change comes a new opportunity; sometimes what appears negative at first, can have a positive impact if one can see thru the weeds."
He pointed me towards Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. Like the I-Ching, this is a card set of provocative, ambiguous statements. Through Wikipedia, I found a site that deals you a random card. The three I was dealt read as follows:
While contemplating the blank white card, I made some decisions. I won't be tempering my views in order to get played, not of Israel, not of the Bible, not of the Constitution, not of NPR, nor of Obama. As Michael Franti says,
It may have taken me 51 years to find Amy Goodman or Paul Farmer, but my recognition of an uncompromised voice was immediate. Telling a lie takes two – one to tell and one who's willing to believe. I'm sticking with the coalition of the unwilling.
This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for sound production and Mike Scirocco for website production. Our last song is Michael Franti and Spearhead from their new CD, All Rebel Rockers. This is "Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong."
[Michael Franti & Spearhead – Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong]
Thank you for listening.