Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Operation Black March 

Anonymous calls for month-long boycott of music, films, games and books to protest internet censorship.




The SOPA and PIPA so-called anti piracy bills that gave industry and government sweeping censorship powers over the internet that were being rushed quietly through congress until massive protests erupted are shelved for the time being, maybe indefinitely, but the secretly negotiated ACTA international trade agreement remains in place, and the file sharing web site Megaupload remains shut down, its owners charged with piracy. To protest ongoing efforts to censor the internet, Anonymous is calling for a month long boycott of all music, movie, game and book downloads. 



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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Conservative Brit On Inequality In America

(In this article from the Daily Beast, which is part of Newsweek, Conservative British professor and writer Niall Ferguson, who is also a fellow at the Conservative Hoover Institute based at Stanford University, confirms what I and many others have been saying all along, and what Republicans like to deny, that America under Neoliberalism has become a vastly unequal society. He also lists the dangers this presents for our future, and finally, takes apart what is the Conservative solution to the problem offered by those who at least admit to the problem.)

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Rich America, Poor America

GOP candidates denounce talk of inequality as 'class warfare.' But a conservative historian believes the economic divide is real-and offers a solution.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Indeed


Someone posted this on Facebook. I don't know if the great Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) actually said it but I'm sure it's true, and that the implications, for how we think about activism, the US political system, and party politics, are astounding.

Many people wonder why the Occupy Movement doesn't issue a list of demands and has shown no interest in electoral politics. They know what Lucy knew. Lucy was associated with the IWW, or Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World, which didn't get involved in politics. They knew, too. Change does not come through the ballot box, only by mass actions like protests, street demonstrations, strikes, boycotts.

The political system, as Lucy Parsons well knew, is tightly controlled. Candidates are vetted. In some places, like New Mexico, they must go through one of the two major parties to even get on the ballot. Even change that has come through the political system came only after and because of massive action outside the system, things that frighten the politicians and the moneyed interests who control the political system. Think of the Civil Rights movement, or the anti Vietnam War rallies when a million people demonstrated near the White House and President Nixon ordered that the buses that brought them be lined up around the White House. Only then did the endless "Paris Peace Talks" and Nixon's pronouncements of "peace with honor" end and the withdrawal of troops begin.

As the French Socialists under Francois Mitterand in the 1980s found out, and as Lula de Silva found out more recently in Brazil, and as America has begun to discover since 2008, you can vote in a Progressive government that has a Progressive agenda, but when Capitalism decides to withhold investment dollars or spend them somewhere else, the government soon changes its tune. Those who control Capitalism still control the economy, and as long as we depend on them for our jobs, they control us.

Looking at things from a longer view than from here to the next election, the 20th Century's rise in the standard of living of the working classes of America and Europe, to the point where they started to call us the Middle Class, began at exactly the same time as the Soviet Union and China were offering alternatives to Capitalism, and when, during the latter part of the 1800s and the early 1900s, Socialism was gaining in popularity in the US and Social Democratic governments were being voted in in Europe.  As soon as the Soviet Union broke up and Russia and the former Soviet satellite countries adopted Capitalism, and China's Communist Party converted China's economy to the Capitalist model, the increased standard of living that had been allowed the US and European working class began to be withdrawn.

The process is still underway. Wages are in decline as is our standard of living, according to our government's own statistics, and the process won't end until our standard of living is at what we now condescendingly call a third world level, as it was before the 1920s when, for example, 40 percent of Americans retired into poverty.

Marx talked about seizing the means of production, in other words, the factories, the supply chain, the resources, the transport systems. It's the only way, people.




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The Book of Cletis illuminates the Gingrich. Check 'em out.






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Barak Hemlock






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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anonymous At War


Following Thursday's arrest by the FBI and New Zealand police, in New Zealand, of the owner and staff of the file sharing web site Megaupload.com, Anonymous, that loosely knit band of social justice hacktivists that predates but is closely allied with the Occupy Movement, took down the web sites of the FBI, the US Department of Justice, the US Copyright Service, the Motion Picture Association of America, Universal Music and the Recording Industry Association of America. You may have missed it if you get all your news from corporate owned media, but there is a good rundown of why and how they did it in Mother Jones magazine by Josh Harkinson, who actually interviewed some Anonymous members at one of the secure chat rooms they use to communicate with each other, and talked to a scholar who closely follows the group.

The arrests in New Zealand, coming as they did one day after the mass internet-based protests against the efforts by congress to pass the internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA, were taken by Anonymous as a declaration of war, and they retaliated immediately by shutting down the government and industry web sites that have the most to do with those internet censorship efforts.

The web site Megaupload.com, while it did contain some copyrighted material, which the site owners removed when they found it, was overwhelmingly used by people who want to legitimately share large files that are too large to share via email and other usual means. But the FBI shut down the entire site and deleted everything on it, causing many people to lose material they had posted there that was important to them. It's a prime example of government overreach and of why government power must be curtailed.

It's surely not right or fair to deny artists their means to make a living by stealing their work, but two things must be said. One, as the FBI raids show, laws already exist to protect copyright.

Those laws may need to be updated to adopt them to current conditions, but the other, and most important thing to keep in mind, is that SOPA, PIPA, and the FBI's actions on Thursday, are not about copyright protection.

They must be seen in the larger picture of the many things government has been doing to curtail free speech, intimidate citizens and quash dissent: the Patriot Act, the assassination of US citizens abroad, the ability bestowed recently by the NDAA to "disappear" US citizens, the ongoing mass wiretapping of the phone and internet communication of regular citizens, extra-judicial rendition, the hauling of law abiding environmental and pro Palestinian activists before grand juries to, essentially, shut them up, not merely to get them to rat out others but to destroy the ability to lawfully dissent in America, as is happening right now in Chicago, and of course torture, which, make no mistake, is not done to get information from so called terrorists. Torture by our government, or their agents, is for your and my benefit, so that we know exactly what our government is capable of and what it is very willing to do to those who displease it.

The Megaupload arrests, and other efforts to control the internet like the "internet kill switch" Sen. Joe Lieberman dreams about, the efforts by the telecommunications giants to privatize the internet, and SOPA and PIPA, must be seen in this light. Any authority given to the government, or its corporate masters, will necessarily be used, and ultimately abused.

SOPA and TIPA have been shelved, but Anonymous today released a video warning about their replacement, the Online Protection of Digital Trade bill, or OPEN, a kinder gentler sounding bill, but which also broadens the government's authority to shut down web sites, an ability it already has and is already abusing, as in the case of Megaupload.com.

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The following video, also attributed to Anonymous, tells a little about the group. There is no "official" Anonymous web site, Facebook page or YouTube channel that I know of. I subscribe to several YouTube channels where their videos are reposted. I compare those to each other, and look for a couple things, like the page views. The more page views the more likely the video is legitimate. I also look at the graphics they use and whether or not the voice is encrypted. People who know enough to participate in Anonymous activities know how to disguise their voices so voice recognition software can't nail them. Finally I search the internet to see if any of the news web sites that regularly report about Anonymous are reporting a particular newly posted video.

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We have a tendency to discount some things as alarmist. Some things are, but we also tend to not even notice some important advances in civil liberties, or the continuation of existing ones, because only a few vigilant people like the ACLU, the NAACP, The National Lawyers Guild or the Electronic Freedom Foundation were involved.

We also tend to forget that it has happened here before, from the Alien and Sedition Acts through McCarthyism. We take a glance at places it has happened, like Germany, where one of the most progressive governments in the history of Western Civilization, the Wiemar Republic, became Hitler's Nazi Germany overnight, and think that it can't happen here.

If you think not, you must be able to explain the current round of attacks on civil liberties and answer the question, 'Why not?' Please, at least, keep yourself informed.


I've also written about these issues:

Anonymous addresses SOPA and PIPA

SOPA and PIPA

 Barak Obama's assaults on civil liberties

Government suppression of citizen journalism

Creative Commons, an alternative to copyright




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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some Glad Morning



Etta James performing the Gospel classic I'll Fly Away. Etta died yesterday. A short but sweet remembrance is on Karen Fayeth's Oh Fair New Mexico web log, where there is also a link to a longer New Yorker tribute.

As one of the commenters on the Youtube recording says, "somebody better play this at my funeral, and ya'll better be singing!!!"



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.Infringe The State




Mention the Rodney King video and many people know exactly what you're talking about. In 1991 a group of 15 Los Angeles police officers savagely beat a man, 25-year old Rodney King, as he lay on the ground and were videotaped by someone standing on a balcony who happened to have his video camera handy.

Police savagery was not new then and it continues to this moment, but now, people can make Rodney King videos with their cell phones, and as part of a phenomenon commonly known as citizen journalism, immediately post them on Youtube, and police misconduct is more likely to become public knowledge.

The right to record police activity comes from the fact that it occurs in public and from the fact that police are on the public payroll and rightly subject to scrutiny by the public, but with the rise of citizen journalism has come a corresponding rise in cases in which police have harassed, beaten and arrested the people who are doing the recording.

RSS link
The photography web site Pixiq keeps track of those cases, and of the ongoing efforts by police and by governments to prevent and even outlaw the recording of police. Pixiq is a nice photography web site in its own right, but if you subscribe to its RSS feed you get the stories about police being recorded and about police going after those doing the recording. If you click on the RSS link at the top of the Pixiq web site, you'll be offered a variety of ways to get the feed. To subscribe to an RSS feed I just click on the Yahoo link, and the feed is automatically added to my "My Yahoo" home page. RSS feeds, incidentally, are a handy, time saving way to keep up on multiple sources of news because, as the screen shot posted above shows, they allow for quick scanning of headlines from multiple sources. The My Yahoo home page can also be easily configured so that more detailed summaries of stories appear when you hover the cursor over them, and even for display of the complete story in a window without having to go to the actual site.

Big Picture

The struggle over the right to record the police is an important thing to keep abreast of because it's a key part of a larger issue. Part of the same issue are the recent debates over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) recently signed into law by President Obama into which provisions had been quietly inserted that allow for indefinite detention of American citizens without trial, without access to an attorney, and without access to the courts, i.e., to be essentially, "disappeared" like Latin American dictatorships once did to those who opposed them. Part of the same issue is the ongoing debate over the internet censorship bills now before congress, SOPA and PIPA, and over the infamous Patriot Act and over all kinds of other measures by which the government has been increasing its capacity to spy on and subdue the citizenry, a capacity which by its very existence means necessarily that it will be used.

The larger issue is, of course, whether the United States will remain a free country. The larger issue is how much the authorities, or more accurately, how much the rich, whose interests it is the primary function of government to protect, fear we the citizenry and to what lengths they will go to keep us under their control.

When the Rodney King video surfaced, the term "police brutality" was still in common use. Police brutality was still on peoples' minds. The term rose during the 1960s and 70s, when there were people in the streets in the US and the police were sent out to subdue them. There was the Civil Rights movement, the anti Vietnam War movement, the Chicano Rights movement, the Woman's Rights movement, the Gay Rights movement, and the general sense of dissatisfaction with the powers that be that was being expressed by those movements and embodied by the the millions of people who were trying to find a better way to live known of as the Counterculture. All these people knew what was meant by the term "police brutality."

Rodney King - Thurz album cover
After years of rightward drift of the political center in the US, and after years of cop reality TV shows, cop drama series, cop comedies, all of which almost universally show police in a favorable light, some of which even glorify police violence, the term police brutality has fallen out of common usage and indeed, on the Pixiq web site, in the comments section, there are often hot debates over whether the police who are recorded visiting violence on people are right or wrong.

But as the Occupy Movement emerges from its winter of regrouping, reformulating and reorganizing, as it is doing already, as Anonymous continues to shut down government web sites and expose the private lives of those who abuse power, as people in the Arab World and even in places like Russia continue to flood the streets in great numbers, as little heard about strikes continue to break out in China, and as under the Neoliberal economic model now embraced by the ruling classes worldwide, the economic screws being applied to the working classes the world over keep getting tighter, expect the term police brutality, or something like it, to be on peoples' lips once again. But be aware also that something else, something larger, something on the whole much more savage, is going on, too.



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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968




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Sunday, January 15, 2012

War On Iran

To the extent that you hear about Iran and the possibility of an attack on Iran in the US media, it is decidedly through the filter of US military and domestic US political aims, both of which are heavily influenced by Israel, our main ally in applying the pressure currently being applied to Iran, and by Israel's supporters in the US, i.e., the Zionist lobby and the neocons who see Israel as a US military outpost.

It's common knowledge that the US conducts ongoing covert operations in Iran and in various ways aids groups inside Iran trying to destabilize the government. The US led embargo is having devastating affects on Iran's currency and economy. A number of Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. Recently a US citizen and former intelligence officer was arrested in Iran and charged with spying.

When or if the US attacks Iran, or Israel gets the US go-ahead to attack Iran, has been a topic of discussion for some time in the Left media. However some are beginning to argue that the attack is already underway, or that at the least, the US and Israel have increased efforts of late to goad Iran into making a foolish move, such as mining the Straights of Hormuz, that would give the US or Israel a good excuse to launch an overt military attack.

Articles this weekend by Dave Lindorff and Alexander Cockburn discuss the situation, specifically in Lindorff's story and overall in Cockburn's, and importantly, I think, shed some critical light on the propaganda being pushed in and by the US media.

There is also this take from the Russian media, which puts in the perspective of the US presidential elections and the tottering US financial empire, and points out that a war with Iran and the resultant $200-$250 per barrel price of oil would greatly benefit Russia, a major oil producer.

So far, it appears, other considerations have prevented a war with Iran: our other military commitments, domestic political considerations, the Arab Spring, the earlier mass demonstrations in Iran itself. But observe how Iran gets played in the media from here on. See if at some point there isn't a ramping up of bellicose rhetoric from US government spokespersons. See if there isn't some action Iran is reported to take, real or fabricated, that is seized upon and lines in the sand begin being drawn, and remember that the preparations for a variety of kinds of attacks on Iran have already been made, and that as the election approaches, President Obama, with one eye always on the polls, already has his finger on the trigger. 


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012


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Professional football player Tim Tebow

Matthew 6:5-6

5. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.



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Sunday, January 8, 2012

America and Us


What the rest of the world is saying about us shouldn't be only the object of our curiosity. They sometimes see things about us that we don't. Also, as their good neighbors on earth, we should be good listeners.

They certainly pay attention to us. US presidential elections are of much interest in the rest of the world, and as in the US, the official start of the campaign in Iowa this past week made headlines in other lands. The stories often contained a different take, but also, because the foreign press doesn't cover the day to day, horse race aspects of an American election, the articles represent more of a big picture view. Their readers, who are generally more educated than American readers, want an occasional summing up, which requires context lacking in American "latest development" stories.

Watching America translates articles from the foreign press into English and also publishes articles from English speaking countries, and from foreign papers published in English.

I waited a few days to do this post. Articles about the Iowa Caucuses from places like England and Canada began showing up on Watching America the day after, but the articles that had to be translated didn't start appearing until yesterday.


Possessed by the Ideological Demon
Der Freitag, Germany
by Konrad Ege

A nice overview of the political situation in the US, containing some observations you don't often hear here. One is about the new restrictions placed on voting in Republican controlled states, aimed at reducing the vote among populations that vote Democratic, one of which is requiring a state issued "voter id." In states that now require a "voter id," 11 percent of the population doesn't yet have one. The Republican dream of disenfranchising these people, taking away their voting rights, is being realized.

White House: Race to Disappointment
La Stampa, Italy
by Lucia Annunziata

Fascinating analysis of how the economic crisis is forcing politics to change. This is one of those articles that make me think, Why is our media so damn stupid? So uninformed? So uneducated?
You can understand American political analysis if you can get through TV Guide. We've got Paul Krugman, maybe. We used to have William Safire, on the tier below that, but he's gone. George Will thinks he's full of knowledge but he's just full of crap. I had to use my dictionary to read this article.


Plan Backfired
La Prensa, Honduras
by Sergio

An analysis of the recent showdown between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner over the payroll tax. The Honduran media is controlled by the oligarchy. I included this article more as a matter of interest. One of the first foreign policy initiatives of the Obama Administration was to assist in the coup by the Honduran oligarchy and parts of the military in overthrowing democratically elected Manual Zelaya, himself a member of the oligarchy but who was undertaking to improve the lives of Honduran working people. Apparently Obama did not want a bad example like that being set so close to our borders, since he knew that the policies he was about the embark on would only further the economic decline of the American working classes.

US-Political-Economic Tension Internally, Economic Pragmatism Externally
Zerkalo Nedeli, Ukraine
by Oleg Shamshur

A very adept rundown of the current state of affairs here, especially as they affect the chances of Obama and the Republicans in the elections. Shamshur says, not in so many words but definitely intimates that America is at a crossroads. Leave behind the social welfare state, i.e., the idea that we accept any responsibility for each others' well being, or become a place where it's the survival of the fittest. 

Weaker Tea and a stronger establishment
The Globe and Mail, Canada
editorial

On the lack of significance of the Tea Party in the Iowa caucuses, from a conservative perspective. The tea bagger's favorites, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, came in last in Iowa, and their least favorites, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, came in first. Basically, the tea baggers have shot their wad. In the US press, with so much attention focused on the Occupy movement, child raping coaches and Kim Kardashian, I have not seen much about the tea baggers' demise. Keep in mind that it was not a grass movement but was orchestrated and funded by big money Republicans. They had no agenda except to elect Republicans with agendas meant to cause further hardships for the working class people who attended tea bagger rallies. It attracted mainly racists who were simply opposed to Obama being the president, and were against whatever might make him look good. There's not much future in a movement like that. The KKK can't suddenly be made to be mainstream.


The GOP goes to pieces
Macleans, Canada
by Luiza Ch. Savage

An analysis of the Iowa Caucuses arguing that the Republican Party has been fractured by the current candidates and the only winner so far is President Obama.



America's Torn Conservative Movement
Die Welt, Germany
by Clemens Wergin

The Iowa results in the context of the disappearing American Dream. I often write about the decline of income and standards of living of working Americans. If you think I've been making it all up, read this.


Romney's tainted Iowa win suggests the Republican race might run longer than expected
Telegraph, UK
by Tim Stanley

A British historian compares Mitt Romney's plight to those of Bob Dole and John McCain who likewise failed to inspire the party's conservative base. It's always been good news for the Democratic candidate.


Barak Obama's Long Route
Le Monde, France
by Corine Lesnes

An election analysis focusing more on Obama, again citing the importance that working Americans' economic decline will have in the election, and the question of whether or not America wants to follow the prescription of Republicans and conservative Democrats like Barak Obama and become a Medieval, barbarian country. This one also brings out the recent, highly significant demographic shifts in the US electorate that favor Obama. There are more "minorities" registered to vote, up from 18 percent to 28 percent in just four years, 2008-2012, and the percentage of the electorate that are "uneducated whites," the largest Republican voting bloc, has declined from 50 percent of registered voters to 39 percent in the last ten years. These shifts terrify Republicans and explain why wherever they can they are disenfranchising populations likely to vote Democratic, that is, the poor and minorities, particularly Hispanics and African Americans. As Amy Goodman outlines for The Guardian, as have many others, assaults on the voting rights of likely Democratic voters are underway or have already been written into law in many Republican controlled states. It was no coincidence that the first thing newly elected Republican Governor Susana Martinez did here in New Mexico was embark on a costly witch hunt of voters of Mexican descent in an attempt to intimidate them from voting again.



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Friday, January 6, 2012

 Private Sinners, Public Saints

I was having a smoke outside the laundromat this afternoon and was reading the front page of the Albuquerque Journal through the glass door of the newspaper vending machine. The governor's proposed budget "rests on two pillars," said one story, a big wet sloppy kiss on the governor's big broad behind that I'll bet that reporter has reread at least five times since getting home from work.

Actually, the governor's budget rests on three pillars if you count not giving state employees a raise, again, four if you count the bullshit that started piling up in the state capital when the governor said the days of the state living beyond it's means are over, when the state is running a surplus.

At the top of the page it said there was a special New Mexico centennial section in the paper today, so I put two quarters in the machine. I detest the Journal but I like New Mexico history, and I wondered if my famous friend Jim Baca would be in the special centennial section.

The top paper in the stack was separated into the individual sections, as if someone had taken it apart and put the sections back in the machine. There were papers underneath it, but since it was on top I picked it up, and found that the special centennial section was missing. Holding the vending machine door open with one hand I used the other to check the paper below it, to make sure it had a special centennial section in it. The special section was missing from that one too, and the one below that and the one below that. It was missing from every paper in the damn box. Some pissant had taken the special centennial section out of every damn paper.

This is the same laundromat where the time before last someone stole my jar of quarters. I had put it down in my laundry basket, which is tall and deep, and was outside having a smoke, right outside the damn door, when they stole it, ten or twenty dollars in quarters.

You may be thinking, if I didn't smoke I wouldn't have got my quarters stolen, and I wouldn't have noticed there was a special centennial section in today's Journal. Could be, but smoking had nothing to do with my license plate being stolen the day before yesterday.

The day before yesterday I went outside after work to find that someone had stolen my license plate from my pickup truck. I go in at midnight, so my pickup sits on a dark side street in an industrial park until 12:30 or 1 pm the next afternoon. What kind of little pissant steals license plates? If you can't afford registration, but want to drive, or have to drive, and you're really stupid, you can steal a license plate and hope you never get pulled over. It might get you by for awhile, but I'll bet that if you do get stopped you'll get more than one ticket, and depending who you are, you might spend a night or two in the Bernalillo Hotel downtown.

It pissed me off. I wasn't feeling lucky, and I already have way more points on my CDL than I should have, so I drove straight to the nearest Motor Vehicle Division, which happened to be the one at San Mateo and Montgomery, the most crowded MVD in the country, and I know, I've been to them all.

I was at that one numerous times a few years back. They had put new Commercial Driver's License requirements in place, a 9/11 thing, although it took them six years to finally get around to doing it, and everyone at every MVD was afraid to give you a comercial license. You had to shop around. You had to keep going back. No one at MVD seemed to know the new rules for sure. No one wanted to be the one who gave a CDL to a terrorist.  No one wanted to be responsible when they played images over and over on TV of a semi truck flying into a building.

I finally got my CDL renewed at an MVD further up the hill. I'd gone to the one right downtown first. They wouldn't give me the time of day. They sat behind the counter staring straight ahead with their jaws clenched.

One nice thing, when my license plate was stolen, I got a free year out of my emissions inspection. I hate emissions inspections. I always drive old pickup trucks, and they never pass the emissions test. I hated emissions tests when I lived in Wisconsin and had to go back two or three times to pass the emissions test. When I moved to New Mexico, I lived in Moriarty first, where you don't need an emission test. After I moved down to Albuquerque, I kept my pickup registered out in Moriarty for as long as I could, so I wouldn't have to face the emissions test, but when I renewed my CDL I had to change everything to Albuquerque.

I buy two year plates, so I only have to deal with the MVD and with emissions tests every two years. When my plates were stolen the other day, I looked at my registration and noticed it expired in March, 2012, so when I went to the MVD I asked if I could just renew my registration. The young woman behind the counter said I could, if my emissions test wasn't expired. She looked in the computer and said she could only give me a one year registration because my emissions test would expire before the second year.

Then she gave me new plates and registration that are good until March 2013, and as I was walking back out to my pickup I realized that she had given me a free year on my emissions test. Last time I renewed I had gotten a two year emissions certificate, so it should have expired this March, but now it's good until next March.

I wanted to run back in and kiss the young woman. No, I wanted to go back inside and thank her, but I didn't, because it might have been a mistake and I didn't want to embarrass her, or maybe she did it that way on purpose. Sometimes they will do that. A kind, elderly lady at the MVD in Cottonwood Mall let me go on the eye test, I'm sure, and another woman gave me my CDL when I had the same stack of paperwork that everyone else had said wasn't enough.

When I'm at the MVD, and trying to get a CDL or a two-year registration or trying to pass the eye test which I can barely pass if I cheat a little, and if it's a woman behind the counter, I call them Ma'am at the first opportunity. I say Ma'am and then correct myself and say Miss. That way I get credit for both Ma'am and Miss. Ma'am shows respect, and when you say Miss it's like you just noticed they're too young to be a Ma'am.

That's my theory, anyway, and I noticed that when I corrected myself from Ma'am to Miss the young woman almost imperceptibly nodded. Of course, I was responding to a question about whether or not I wanted to be an organ donor, and it could be she nodded because the customer, me, finally decided what he was going to call her and answered the question and now she could move on to the rest of the registration and when that was done maybe she could finally go on break.

I was ecstatic, though. The emission test is that onerous for me. I start worrying about it as soon as I realize my plates are going to expire. Same with the eye test. I dread having to renew my CDL and start dreading it months beforehand.

Outside the MVD I was walking to my pickup and kept reading and rereading the registration. It was fun to read "expires Mar 2013." She had even fastened the sticker in the corner of the plate for me. She didn't have to do that.

I think about that, and I think about how Republicans demonize bureaucrats, the public sector, how they are going after the public sector because it's the last stronghold of unionized workers in the country. I think about the attacks on public sector employees in Wisconsin and Ohio last summer, followed by similar attacks on them in many other states. I think about New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez making a big show of spending $1 million to catch two illegal voters in order to burnish her anti immigrant credentials with the national Republican party but not wanting to give her own public employees a raise.

I think about our steadily declining standards of living and declining wages, and how the party of the rich won't be satisfied until we're a third world country. I think about that nice young lady who extended my registration until 2013 and the old woman at Cottonwood Mall and how despite the demonizing and the scapegoating and the job insecurity they have to live with every day now, they can still retain their humanity, be polite, be nice, be helpful, give a break to someone like me, someone who is just like everyone else they see from the time they unlock the door until quitting time, someone who doesn't care about anything but getting what they want.

That pleasant little experience happened in between my quarters being stolen and my license plate being stolen and some pissant stealing all the special centennial sections out of all the Journals in the box outside the laundromat, and it happened in between the daily grind of my dead-end, low paying, pathetic job, where no one wants to do their own work and where they leave it for me to do if they can, all of which make me quickly lose what little faith I have in the goodness of mankind. I kept reading and rereading my registration and admiring my shiny new license plate with the 2013 sticker on it and thinking about that beautiful young lady and I was damn happy. A car coming down the long driveway to the MVD off San Mateo almost ran me over and I didn't even care. I hardly even noticed. I'm good until March of next year.




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Monday, January 2, 2012

Blue Dog Blogs in the Bluegrass State


I came across the most delightful group of Progressive web logs by Kentucky Liberals this evening when I clicked on one called Hillbilly Report, and I'm happy to report that Kentucky Liberals are Liberal, smart, well informed, funny, clear eyed, and Liberal, and don't pretend that Republicans are simply people like you and me except for a few differences of opinion. They remark upon it as it is, as in today's lead story:


Mitt Romney: The Right Man to Lead the Republican Freakshow

You know, if you look deep inside the Republican freakshow in Iowa, which will go a long way in determining the Republican nominee, you can sometimes see the hard truth. It does not matter which one of these zealots is nominated, if they are elected President they will further besiege the already battered and bruised American worker. All of them, no matter which one, want you want to believe that profits matter more than the people who produce them and that the American family and the working men and women that lead it is nothing more than a collective child that constantly needs to be lectured about their morals.

Yep, straight from the Bible Belt, a straightforward class analysis, plus, a jab at the unholy coupling between conservatism and the religious right.

There's a special section of reporting on the Occupy movement in Kentucky and an Occupy Wall Street Twitter feed.



Some of the blogs linked to are Blue Bluegrass, Blue Dog Jabbering, Ditch Mitch McConnell, Fake Consultant, Kentucky Fried Politics, Sorry This One Is Taken, Pajamadeen and Barefoot and Progressive, where there's The Conservative Christmas Story, the introduction to which begins like this:

The Conservative Christmas Story

By Ronnie Cottonpants

It's no secret that we at Barefoot and Progressive love Jesus Christ. Sure, not everyone worships Him as a savior, and yes, some of his followers have, let's say, occasionally shown a tendency toward being fucking bigots. But the man Himself: what a guy!

Of course, it's easy for us to love Him. We're liberals. Of course we dig the give-to-the-poor, take-from-the-ruch, radical, street-preaching, whore non-stoning, Prince of Peace from Nazareth.

The story itself begins:

And Lo, let it be known that in the town of Bethlehem, Mary was large with child. Joseph, alas, was off fighting velociraptors, which totally existed during that time, and left his wife at the mercy of the Pharisees. Mother Mary was desperate and due to her pre-existing condition of being raped by God, she was unable to obtain decent health care. Just as she was ready to despair, she saw a star shining in the east.

 One of the linked blogs over at Barefoot and Progressive is The Book of Cletis, where the header really cracked me up, but where today there's a thoughtful essay by someone who admired Christopher Hitchens despite often disagreeing with him. 






 A post a little further down at The Book of Cletis begins like this:


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Music Saturday #22 Bob Marley

I am moved by words and emotion manifested in music and nobody combined the two better than the great Bob Marley. His album, Legend, is a masterpiece of melody and lyric and Redemption Song is a prime example. The possibility of redemption, a yearning to go home that we bring with us from the Source, is ever present in our lives and quietly defines our path. Marley captures that need in his evocative voice which is, truly, the voice of all men and all women.
 

 Hillbillies indeed. Damn. 

One of the interesting things about Hillbilly Report is an avenue for reader input called Diaries, where readers post their own mini blogs. One points out the similarities between modern Republicans and Joe McCarthy, another talks about problems people are having with their new iPhone 4s in light of the media's hyping of anything Apple and Apple shares topping $300.

Southerners, especially those who are aware the world doesn't drop off at the edge of town, may weary of the stereotypical ways they are often portrayed. Embracing some of the language those stereotypes are encoded in may be a way of neutralizing their power. It may be a way of dealing with it. I don't know. I do know that if America is ever going to be a just and humane place instead of one where wealth buys justice and corporate greed robs us of our humanity, the South will be part of the struggle to get there. It has to be.

Another place Progressive Southerners blog is Leftists in the US South.
 

Hillbilly Report was just a link that turned up in a Google search. A fortuitous happenstance indeed.




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