January 14, 2010 by Ted Rall
As grim accounts of the earthquake in Haiti came in, the accounts in U.S.-controlled state media all carried the same descriptive sentence: “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere…”
Gee, I wonder how that happened?
You’d think Haiti would be loaded. After all, it made a lot of people rich.
How did Haiti get so poor? Despite a century of American colonialism, occupation, and propping up corrupt dictators? Even though the CIA staged coups d’état against every democratically elected president they ever had?
It’s an important question. An earthquake isn’t just an earthquake. The same 7.0 tremor hitting San Francisco wouldn’t kill nearly as many people as in Port-au-Prince.
“Looking at the pictures, essentially it looks as if (the buildings are of) breezeblock or cinderblock construction, and what you need in an earthquake zone is metal bars that connect the blocks so that they stay together when they get shaken,” notes Sandy Steacey, director of the Environmental Science Research Institute at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. “In a wealthy country with good seismic building codes that are enforced, you would have some damage, but not very much.”
When a pile of cinderblocks falls on you, your odds of survival are long. Even if you miraculously survive, a poor country like Haiti doesn’t have the equipment, communications infrastructure or emergency service personnel to pull you out of the rubble in time. And if your neighbors get you out, there’s no ambulance to take you to the hospital—or doctor to treat you once you get there.
Earthquakes are random events. How many people they kill is predetermined. In Haiti this week, don’t blame tectonic plates. Ninety-nine percent of the death toll is attributable to poverty.
So the question is relevant. How’d Haiti become so poor?
The story begins in 1910, when a U.S. State Department-National City Bank of New York (now called Citibank) consortium bought the Banque National d’Haïti—Haiti’s only commercial bank and its national treasury—in effect transferring Haiti’s debts to the Americans. Five years later, President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops to occupy the country in order to keep tabs on “our” investment.
From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines imposed harsh military occupation, murdered Haitians patriots and diverted 40 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product to U.S. bankers. Haitians were banned from government jobs. Ambitious Haitians were shunted into the puppet military, setting the stage for a half-century of U.S.-backed military dictatorship.
The U.S. kept control of Haiti’s finances until 1947.
Still—why should Haitians complain? Sure, we stole 40 percent of Haiti’s national wealth for 32 years. But we let them keep 60 percent.
Despite having been bled dry by American bankers and generals, civil disorder prevailed until 1957, when the CIA installed President-for-Life François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Duvalier’s brutal Tonton Macoutes paramilitary goon squads murdered at least 30,000 Haitians and drove educated people to flee into exile. But think of the cup as half-full: fewer people in the population means fewer people competing for the same jobs!
Upon Papa Doc’s death in 1971, the torch passed to his even more dissolute 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. The U.S., cool to Papa Doc in his later years, quickly warmed back up to his kleptomaniacal playboy heir. As the U.S. poured in arms and trained his army as a supposed anti-communist bulwark against Castro’s Cuba, Baby Doc stole an estimated $300 to $800 million from the national treasury, according to Transparency International. The money was placed in personal accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere.
Under U.S. influence, Baby Doc virtually eliminated import tariffs for U.S. goods. Soon Haiti was awash predatory agricultural imports dumped by American firms. Domestic rice farmers went bankrupt. A nation that had been agriculturally self-sustaining collapsed. Farms were abandoned. Hundreds of thousands of farmers migrated to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince.
The Duvalier era, 29 years in all, came to an end in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. forces to whisk Baby Doc to exile in France, saving him from a popular uprising.
Once again, Haitians should thank Americans. Duvalierism was “tough love.” Forcing Haitians to make do without their national treasury was our nice way or encouraging them to work harder, to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Or, in this case, flipflops.
The U.S. has been all about tough love ever since. We twice deposed the populist and popular democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The second time, in 2004, we even gave him a free flight to the Central African Republic! (He says the CIA kidnapped him, but whatever.) Hey, he needed a rest. And it was kind of us to support a new government formed by former Tonton Macoutes.
Yet, despite everything we’ve done for Haiti, they’re still a fourth-world failed state on a fault line.
And still, we haven’t given up. American companies like Disney generously pay wages to their sweatshop workers of 28 cents an hour.
What more do these ingrates want?
(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” He is also the author of the Gen X manifesto “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
January 13, 2010 by Ted Rall
Congress might tax bankers…but they probably don’t need to worry.
January 13, 2010 by NBM
“Roughly once a year throughout the ’00s, Rick Geary delivered another of his carefully researched, beautifully drawn “Treasury Of Victorian Murder” books (or lately, “Treasury Of XXth-Century Murder”). All are essential reading for comics fans and history buffs alike, but The Mystery Of Mary Rogers is especially fine.
Geary portrays the culture of New York in the mid-19th century as a hybrid of European sophistication and frontier barbarism, and as he muses on how a case can scandalize a community yet remain an utter mystery, he shows how fiction is born from our unceasing fascination with the lurid.”
We might have chosen another volume of Geary’s but hey! who are we to quibble?
January 12, 2010 by NBM
“The first comic in a long time to make me laugh in public. If you do not enjoy the non sequiturs of Family Guy, you will want to avoid this book. Everyone else is in for a treat of the lowbrow type. Vatican Hustle is one of those comics that you find yourself quoting amongst friends. The plot is so offensive that it quickly turns the corner and becomes funny once again. I highly recommend it. Grade: 9/10″
January 11, 2010 by Neil Kleid
“Brownsville, the graphic novel I created for NBM Publishing with Jake Allen, counts influences from mafia films and novels, history and transcripts, and comic book creators ranging from Will Eisner and Jack Kirby to Alan Moore and Harvey Pekar. But Leone’s epic tale of friends, love, crime and time gets pride of place as the second great influence and inspiration behind the book, sharing the spot with Cohen’s book.”
Have a read and immerse yourself in one of the finest mob films ever made.
January 8, 2010 by NBM
Joe & Azat in the Smithsonian?
“Joe’s best guide is local Azat, “the computer expert at the education department” – never mind that the entire department has but one computer. Azat, “the greatest dreamer [Joe] ever met” is also his best friend in Turkmenistan. Azat makes sure Joe gets his stolen passport back, tastes the best cooking (including his mother’s manty), meets a few of the local girls (at least one of whom Joe should marry), and enjoys every wedding with or without an invitation. In return, Joe puts up with Azat’s bully-of-an-older brother, listens to Azat’s nonsensical schemes to get rich, commiserates with Azat’s yearning for a girl he can’t have, and patiently tries to answer one absurd question after another.”
Publishers Weekly had six critics round up the best of 2009 and our Story of O and Year of Loving Dangerously made the list. Also, Augie De Bliek, Jr. at Comic Book Resources puts Trondheim’s Little Nothings 2 in the top of 2009.
Speaking of CBR, Jason Sacks there says of Royo’s newly remastered collection Malefic: “You can’t ask for a more beautifully produced collection of fantasy art than Malefic.” And Andrew “Capt. Comics” Smith , syndicated in many papers through Scripps says of it:
“A very beautiful book, both in format and content. Royo is an absolute master of his craft, creating incredibly gorgeous and expressive women (and sometimes men), and switching easily from fantasy to sci-fi to horror.”
January 8, 2010 by NBM
Here’s what we’ve got being solicited for in comics stores this month, coming out in March:
Vol. 3: The New Centurions
Joann SFAR, Lewis TRONDHEIM, KERASCOET, OBION
The next 2 chapters in the decline of Dungeon: Terra Amata has exploded and the Dark Fortress of the Grand Khan needs to master the nitro tech. To that end, they hire Marvin the Red even as others plot malevolently… In the second episode, Marvin the dragon and Marvin the Red are trapped on a quickly revolving piece of the exploded planet, and must constantly run or fall off into oblivion!
6 1/2 x 9, 96pp., full color trade pb., $12.99, ISBN 978-1-56163-578-8
See more about the series
And from Eurotica, one of our best-selling authors today:
4 GIRLFRIENDS, Vol.3
After being used and abused and wrestling with her faith, naïve cutesy little Maria finally comes to grips, lets go and becomes… one hot porn star! Gambedotti continues to portray his sweet lascivious women with such gusto, they’re irresistible.
81/2x 11, 48pp. color trade paperback, $11.99,
See previews on our Eurotica side
January 7, 2010 by NBM
January 5, 2010 by Naomi Nowak
Hi everyone; happy new year! Holidays are coming to an end and I have no excuse to stay away from the computer anymore (it’s -17 c out, that’s 1 degree fahrenheit! It’s Narnia out there, eternal winter, no christmas. I refuse to stick even the tip of my nose outside the door). Anyway, Graylight is in stores, so let’s celebrate with two of my favourite images? Each chapter ends with a two page spread like this.
As you’ve probably guessed if you’ve been reading my posts here or over on my personal blog (which by the way gets a lot of updates) there’s a whole lot more magic going on in this book than the previous ones. In Unholy Kinship, it was there in the shape of madness. In House of Clay it was there as a dainty sort of half-dream twist on a mostly realistic story. I do fully believe in magic though, and witches especially. I remember in the very first interview I did about my comics someone (it was a panel interview) asked how much of my work was inspired by faerytales. I laughed and said that well, faerytales always meant a lot to me but … there’s no unicorns or anything. The audience liked my answer… but I’ve gotten tired of putting restraints on myself for fear of my work falling into a stereotypical “magical girl” genre. While trying not to be a stereotype is a good thing it very definitely takes a back seat to being honest and describing your real passions. You won’t see people throwing spells at each other in my comics because to me that’s not how it works. That’s fantasy and what I would ideally want to do is show how much magic I see everywhere, in this real world. I’ve met three (older) women I believe to be witches so far in my life. They’ve fascinated me like no other people I’ve ever encountered and I’ve had more dreams about them than anyone else. Here’s a strange coincidence: one is from the south (I met her before I started on Unholy Kinship), one from the north (I met her just as I began work on House of Clay), one from the east (You figure…). I guess there may be a fourth in my future. Okay so this probably all sounds ridiculous and perhaps too personal but now that Graylight is out I felt it was time to talk about my inspiration and motive more explicitly. Hopefully it will make someone want to read.
Moving on though, right? I’d like to write about new projects coming up this year … but I can’t. True to my partner in crime for one of my juiciest crimes yet (only in part comics related) I can’t share any news, but I swear this will be an exciting year… can I write stay tuned or is that cheesy? No, it’s cheesy. Ok. But stay with me.
ps. There’s gonna be unicorns some day.
pps. My website now has illustration and photography aside from paintings.
December 30, 2009 by NBM
“An ultra-broad send-up of ‘70’s blaxploitation flicks, Hustle follows the exploits of private dick Boss Karate Black Guy Jones, who’s hired to retrieve a naïve young thing from the clutches of Vatican City porn merchants. The two-fisted tough guy with a yen for Pottery Barn tchotchkes bulldozes his way through an assortment of garishly grotesque thugs, as a razor-brandishing degenerate Pope hits the bars for a night of debauchery.
You haven’t seen such gleefully energetic cartoon slander since the glory days of underground comix.”