Saturday, January 31, 2015

Death By Police

Police should not be allowed to carry guns. They can't handle them responsibly. They prove it every day. A steady stream of reports of killings by police comes in over the internet now. Murders, most of them.

Here's a video of a cop in New Rochelle, NY, who pulled his gun on some kids who were having a snowball fight. "Don't fucking move," he keeps repeating. To kids.



Thankfully no one was killed, which happens more and more.

Another case that came in this weekend. A 17-year-old girl with known psychological problems was blown away by three cops in the lobby of the Longview, Texas, police station.

Be careful around the police. Be lucky, I should say. More and more of the police killings are of people who have their hands in the air. If it's not already, it won't be long before the leading cause of death in this country is the police.





Home Internet Through A Cell Phone

Updated below.

This is a picture of my laptop streaming a youtube video through my iPhone 4 cell phone's "personal hotspot" feature, while the modem provided by my CenturyLink internet provider sits idly by to the right.




I have a pretty basic cell phone service through AT&T, but my cell phone streamed a few videos without a hitch and downloaded pages like Yahoo mail and Google News quickly. Besides posting things to my web log and reading things from web sites, that's about the extent of what I do on the internet.

I'm thinking about cancelling CenturyLink service and just using the cell phone from now on. CenturyLink is charging me $41 and something per month, but at some point after I signed up I noticed on my online invoice that I'm getting a one-year "promotional discount" of $44. This was never discussed when I signed up over the phone, so it looks like they've set me up to raise my rate by $44 after one year. No one who lives in the United States will be surprised to read this. We're used to US Capitalism.

If CenturyLink does hike my rate, of course, it'll be adios CenturyLink, but I'm tempted to give them the heave-ho even before that. Of course I'll I want to find out just how many gigabytes I actually use first because AT&T is going to charge me for every byte. I think I might be able to do it with my computer's Activity Monitor, which keeps track of data sent and received in megbytes and resets itself every time you turn off the computer.
  
Addicted To Speed

On the CenturyLink web site you can run a "speed test" to see how fast your CenturyLink service is. I ran it several times and it ranged from 12 to 29 megabytes per second. I'm paying for 40. US Capitalism. I didn't do anything first that they said to do to optimize the results, like close everything else down and hook the computer directly to the modem insted of having it connected by wifi, so that might have slowed it down a bit, but I've never had any service that was as fast as they said it would be. I've always tested them and they were all much slower than what I was paying for. US Capitalism.

There are some free online speed test web sites if you're interested in testing your internet ocnnection. I used to have a couple bookmarked, but I guess that was a couple computers ago. I can't find them now, but if you search "internet connection speed test" a host of them come up.

By the way, I remember the first time I called Comcast to discontinue my service (it took several calls) they immediately offered to cut my rate substantially. The Comcast internet here at the apartment complex often didn't even work during the day and I was so sick of Comcast they could have offered it to me for free and I would have laughed at them. But if you have Comcast I recommend calling and saying you want to cancel your service. It's worth a try. US Anti-Capitalist Subversion.





















Update: After I posted this I connected the laptop back to the CenturyLink modem and pages downloaded at lightning speed. They still download almost instantly. I never had internet like that.

Do you suppose that after you use the speed tester at the CenturyLink web site it automatically juices your connection? Do you suppose they track visits to the speed testing page and find that they get complaints and cancellations after people visit the page?

If they don't track visits to the speed testing page, the should.

I'll be watching to see how long my lightning speed CenturyLink connections lasts, CenturyLink. And my monthly rate. Thanks!





FDR's Birthday

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945)



I bet a good half of Americans know nothing about Franklin D Roosevelt, and that includes Democratic elected officials, especially those in New Mexico who sure as hell know who Ronald Reagan was but have not uttered a peep about the anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt's birth.

Roosevelt and the broad swath of New Deal policies he implemented not only brought the United States out of the Great Depression but brought unheard of prosperity to the American working class, whose unionized forces obtained the buying power that made the US into the number one superpower in the world.

Sadly, Democrats have turned their backs on Roosevelt and what he stood for. We now have the disgusting prospect of Democrats, including all of New Mexico's Democrats, voting to cut New Deal programs like Social Security, Medicare and Head Start, and in many other ways assisting in the dismantling of the great nation Roosevelt created. Democrats continually vote for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, which, coupled with the diminishing buying power of the working class, leaves governments unable to keep the country's industrial infrastructure intact.

A large part of the New Deal, and the primary reason for America's prosperity following the New Deal's implementation, was that it strengthened unions, which had the result of raising wages and living standards for all workers, as employers, in order to compete for workers, had to offer pay and benefits comparable to union pay and benefits.

New Mexico Democrats refuse to even utter the word union in public.  The do sometimes meet with pathetic union leaders in low key unpublicized forums who are so flattered by the attention that they throw their support behind the candidate, while being unaware that the Democrat they now gush about is helping undermine unions and American workers' living standards. How pathetic. How disgusting.

Happy Birthday, FDR.



Note: Here's what New Mexico's elected Democrats were talking about on their official web sites and Facebook pages the past few days while Roosevelt's birthday came and went without them mentioning it at all. How much more disrespectful can they be?

Martin Heinrich: Climate change poll, tar sands, a photograph of Ronald Reagan, heralding cutting the deficit (which is taken out of the hides of working people, by the way, as the rich have their taxes cut at the same time!) Heinrich also brags about supporting overtime pay protection. This is a tactic Democrats have adapted since losing control of congress. Now that things like this have no chance of passing, they are all for them, yet they weren't promoting them before.

January 28 post on Martin Heinrich's Facebook page
Heinrich's post was about Grace Hopper, who deciphered codes. He had to pass by many pictures of Grace Hopper posted on the internet, that show her more favorably, to get to the one that includes Ronald Reagan that he posted. This, below, is the first one that shows up in a web search, followed by many, many pictures of Hopper that don't include Reagan:





Tom Udall: Congratulating a retiring fire chief, tar sands, Keystone XL pipeline, self promotion about funding the Department of Homeland Security, the superagency created after 9-11 and given super draconian powers to spy on Americans and seal our borders - no word about that from the senator.


Ben Lujan: drug use prevention program, Sun Zia transmission project. On his official web site Lujan leads with his support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a meager works program that was passed six years ago.


Michelle Grisham: supports a program that privatizes academic research at a New Mexico public university, talks about food stamps but doesn't propose doing anything to prevent them from being cut further. Promises to be "relentless" in talking about food stamps while doing nothing about it.






Thursday, January 29, 2015

Republicans Begin Moving To The Left Of Democrats

A few weeks ago the 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made headlines when he talked about wealth inequality and about addressing poverty.

This morning, National Public Radio personality Steve Inskeep noted that Republican presidential hopefuls who spoke at a Koch Brothers debate last weekend also talked about wealth inequality, and on other issues sounded "more moderate" than Democratic president Barak Obama.

Mother Jones magazine is out with an article about liberal policies being taken by "tea party favorite" and prospective Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson.

It's quite natural that Republicans would start talking about issues like poverty and wealth and income inequality. Many of the working class whites whose votes they rely on have begun seeing first hand that these issues are of critical importance to them.

A recurring theme of this blog is that Democrats have become much more conservative over the past 30 years. I've shown how they've adopted Neoliberalism, i.e., Thatcherism, i.e., Reaganomics, i.e. austerity. I've put this shift in the context of a conservative swing by ruling and financial elites in the West, i.e., in our hemisphere and in Europe. I've written about how the shift has become institutionalized; i.e. it's been adopted by institutions like the World Bank and IMF, which are spreading Neoliberalism to the developing world by requiring other countries to adopt "austerity measures" -- cut taxes on the rich, cut social spending, reduce the power of unions -- before they accept the West's money.

I've repeatedly shown statistics and charts demonstrating that the effect Neoliberalism has had on the American working class -- people who work for a living --  is to hold down their living standards and wages, and how in conjunction with Reaganomics' upward wealth redistribution policies -- lower taxes on the rich, reducing or eliminating programs that help the working class, and deliberately weakening unions -- it's what has caused the tremendous inequality we're seeing between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, which is now worse than it was in the 1920s and has gotten so bad even the mainstream media now talks about it.

Remember that after the 2012 presidential elections it was being said of Republicans that after soundly losing two successive presidential election to an African American Democrat they were in crisis and would have to change if they were to regain the presidency. They're doing just that.

And Democrats aren't changing. Democrats are still voting to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Head Start, veteran's benefits, federal employees' retirement benefits. Democrats are running around having their pictures taken in front of beautiful landscapes. They're talking about climate change, alternative energy, government spying, abortion rights, and the are not talking about the declining fortunes of the working class and are not doing anything about it.

Democrats are sailing along, taking Wall Street and corporate money by the freight train load, assured in the belief that the shifting demographics of the country are on their side. Democrats are smugly ignoring the pain and economic insecurity of America's working class, just as they've been ignoring their own Left, because they think there's nowhere else for those people to go. Republicans have taken note of the Democratic Party's abandonment of the working class and are beginning to take advantage of it.

I can't offhand think of anything more richly ironic, or that makes me detest any more vehemently the current crew of lowlife office holders who call themselves Democrats.







Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Truck Driving In Bolivia

A woman Bolivian truck driver navigates the road to La Paz.





That truck stop at the beginning is an independent, not a national chain, I'm guessing.

It's definitely not in America. There are ash trays on the tables, like there are in Texas, which is also not in America.

Bolivia, of course, where current president Evo Morales, coca grower and trade union leader, made history in 2005 by being elected the nation's first indigenous president and in October was re-elected to a third term with 60 percent of the vote, is on the Bolivian Road To Socialism.


Evo Morales - AFP photo




New Mexico's Consevative Legislators

No New Mexico federal legislator belongs to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Zero.

It's not that they don't know about it. There are 76 congress members in it and it's been around since 1991, when it was created by Bernie Sanders, the Social Democrat from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, when he was a House member. He's now the only senator in the caucus.

So why isn't anyone from New Mexico's delegation in the Progressive Caucus?

"Progressive," to clarify that term, became popular as a term for a liberal Democrat after Ronald Reagan successfully demonized the word "liberal." Progressive Democrats aren't radical, aren't socialists, aren't communists. They're simply what Democrats used to be, except for white Southern Democrats who were always conservative.

I can think of two possible reasons New Mexico's delegation aren't in the Progressive Caucus. One, they're conservative. That is, they think it's OK that the rich are getting richer and they think the rest of us should be happy with two part time jobs at minimum wage, and that our kids should forget about college and having a happy life. Two would be that for strategic purposes, i.e., for the sake of holding on to their status and fancy titles, they don't want anybody to know they're liberals.

Taken together those two things account for most of why the American people are in the shit hole they're in, with declining living standards, declining wages, and no prospects for their children to live a better life than they did.

Recall how Democrats responded to Ronald Reagan's two landslide victories. You had people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore arguing that the party should become more conservative -- remember their Democratic Leadership Council and recruiting conservative Democratic candidates? -- and you had Liberals running away form the word Liberal. Remember how Michael Dukakis, in the 1988 presidential campaign to decide who would replace Reagan, wouldn't admit to being a Liberal? He kept repeating, "It's about competence, not ideology."

With those two things -- with some liberal Democrats being cast aside the rest ashamed of being liberal -- Democrats conceded the war of ideas to the Republicans. It left Democrats in a position from which it was, and still is, impossible to argue the Liberal cause. Democrats simply abandoned the American people for their own self interest.

Democrats today, those not in the Progressive Caucus, which is the vast majority of them, are essentially Republicans who are slightly liberal on social issues. They always vote with Republicans on economic issues in the end, after some posturing for the TV cameras, they vote to continue Reaganomic policies that transfer wealth upward, they have walked hand in hand with Republicans in returning the US to a level of economic inequality not seen since the days of railroad tycoons and oil barons in the 1920s when workers slept next to their machines. Democrats are essentially running a scam on voters in order to capture the liberal vote.

You can make up your own mind whether New Mexico's two Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and it's two Democratic representatives, Ben Lujan and Michelle Grisham, are so cynically self interested that they run as Democrats because they see that as their ticket to being big shots, or whether they are so weak and pathetic that they're afraid of being called liberals. Either way, you'd be justified in thinking of them as pretty damn pathetic. You'd be justified in wondering why some good Democrats don't take them all out and give them a good beating. And you'd be right if you said the reason is that there aren't any Democrats in New Mexico any more.



The Congressional Progressive Caucus

Monday, January 26, 2015

The One Percent

"In 17 states the 1% has captured all of the income gains from the economic recovery. In 22 more they got at least 1/2."

 The mainstream media when reporting on the economy tell us that it's recovering and give all the stats, and occasionally mutter something at the end about lagging wages or an uneven recovery.

What's happening is that rich people are getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer. The Nation covers that part in an article by Zoe Carpenter, who reports on a study that finds a trend of "uneven recoveries" that goes back to 1979, at the advent of guess what, Neoliberalism, i.e. Reaganomics.

Venezuela

The mainstream media is daily predicting Venezuela's collapse, as they have been ever since a Socialist was first elected president there in 1998. Venezuela's budget is highly dependent on oil and as prices continue to decline the hyperventilating rhetoric has reached fever pitch. Joe Emersberger balances some of it out in TeleSur.


Only In New Mexico

I was talking to my 87-year-old Mother in Michigan yesterday on the telephone and she said she'd been coughing a lot and "coughing things up." I called tonight and she had been to the doctor, who told her she had bronchitis and prescribed some antibiotics. So it wasn't pneumonia and she'll be OK.

Michigan is a terrible place to be in the winter time. They get socked with one big snowstorm after another. You see people trundling around, braced against the wind, wrapped in heavy clothing and sniffling. Always the sniffling.

I always had sinus problems when I lived there and they got worse when I moved to Northeast Texas and then to coastal South Carolina with their stifling summer heat and 110 percent humidity. Since I came to New Mexico I've been breathing out of both nostrils for the first time I can remember. My little cheapo thermometer/humidity gauge sometimes reads as low as 14 percent humidity inside my apartment. I love it here.

A blogger I know occasionally posts a link to an article in a national publication about our police department in Albuquerque and comments about the bad publicity, but in thinking about that, I think New Mexico has a long way to go before it starts getting a bad reputation. My family sees it as an almost exotic, amazingly beautiful place, with all kinds of interesting things about it and a fascinating history, a unique place, like no other, and I still do, too.

The way the police department acts, although embarrassing and unwarranted, is actually an outgrowth of the culture here. New Mexico in many ways is a last remnant of the wild wild west. There's a way of thinking, an attitude, the way people see themselves in relation to authority is different. People think and act more independently here. Some of us would like things to calm down a little, including me, but in some ways the police come with the territory and in some ways actually may enhance our image. They help make New Mexico what it is.





Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Congress Beholden To Israel

Everyone should contact their representative and senators and urge them to boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to a joint session of congress. Feel free to copy this message I emailed to Rep Michele Grisham and senators Martin Heiinrich and Tom Udall:

Dear xxxxx,

I'm urging you to boycott the upcoming speech before the joint session by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His appearance is intended to undermine the president's Iran strategy so by attending you will be participating in that project.

Your absence would also send a signal that our political system can't be held hostage to the so-called Israeli Lobby forever, and send another signal that you have the ability to demonstrate some political courage.

Regards,

Frank Conway
Albuquerque



Links to online email forms:

Grisham

Heinrich

Udall

The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity.

The words of Alexis Tsipras, chairman of the anti-austerity Syriza Party, winner of Greek elections Sunday, adding, "Democracy will return to Greece."

Alexis Tsipras of Syriza after voting today - Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg


"Austerity" is how Neoliberalism -- Reaganomics -- is referred to in Europe. The policy of cutting social services, lowering taxes on the wealthy and attacking unions, in order to redistribute wealth upward, has been forced on one European nation after another by politicians like Tony Blair and Angela Merkel and has been accepted by left leaning and liberal parties from the British Labour Party to the French Socialists, just as its been accepted by Democrats in the US. As the official policy of the ruling elite it's forced on countries who accept bailout funds from institutions like the IMF or World Bank, as it has been in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Don't be surprised if markets in the US and Europe act with alarm to Syriza's victory. It's not known yet how far Syriza will actually go in rolling back austerity, or how far it can go, but it will at least go partway, and any alteration from the uninterrupted progress of Reaganomics tends to disappoint investors, who have seen a steadily increasing stream of working peoples' money go into their accounts for three decades now and want that to go on forever.

Two years ago, Syriza, then newly formed, came close to winning while Greece was in the depths of budgetary problems caused by corruption and widespread tax evasion primarily by the country's wealthy and bourgeoise. That time, even as the "Troika" - the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank -- that was providing bailout funds to the Greek government demanded that creditors be paid off with the bailout money first, even as pensions were being halved and unemployment was soaring and "middle class" Greeks were eating out of dumpsters, the Greek people were alarmed by doomsday forecasts from their own politicians and Troika officials if austerity wasn't adopted, and were afraid to elect Syriza.

This time around, as Greeks came to see that they were not meant to ever benefit from austerity, and Syriza pulled ahead in pre-election polls, the Troika put on a full court press, threatening all kinds of dire consequences if Syriza won, but Greeks have given them one seat short of an absolute majority in parliament, effectively putting Syriza in the driver's seat. Under the parliamentary system, where coalitions can be formed to come up with ruling majorities, there had been talk before the election that Syriza would have to ally with a far right party that also opposes "austerity" but Syriza's stunning win likely makes that unnecessary as a much smaller party can be brought in and given a ministry in exchange for its support.


Note: As a point in interest, Alexis Tsipras' reference to democracy returning to Greece will remind many that Eurocentric historians say, and most Westerners believe, that democracy originated in Greece. As if the rest of the world was too stupid to ever think of it. Western and US histories generally trace "our" civilization in a straight line from Greece, to Rome, to Europe and ignore any outside influences and omit most of the history of the rest of the world. Remember that democracy wasn't practiced in Rome and hasn't been the form of government in Europe for most of its history, although it was practiced by the germanic tribes populating Europe that were conquered by Rome.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Good Bye, Ernie


Ernie Banks 1931-2015

Ernie Banks, star player for the Chicago Cubs professional baseball team while I was growing up across the lake in New Buffalo, Michigan, where our TV was Chicago TV, our radio was Chicago radio and Josenhans drug store sold the Sun Times and the Tribune, has died at 83.

Ernie hit more than 500 home runs, was MVP twice, was a perpetual All Star, and was voted Mr Cub by the fans. He's in the Hall of Fame. He was loved by generations of Cubs fans, including by me. I stood at the plate like Ernie did, held the bat like Ernie did.

Ernie and another player, as a duo, were the first African Americans to play for the Cubs, breaking the color barrier in 1953, six years after Jackie Robinson had done it for the Dodgers and the national pastime. Ernie seemed eternally grateful just to be in the big leagues. He played while Phil Wrigley, of Wrigley's chewing gum, owned the Cubs and ran them like a dictator. Ernie pretty much kept quiet during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Another great Cubs player of that era, Ron Santo, said he only ever heard Ernie swear once, after an opposing pitcher knocked him down multiple times. He said Ernie came back to the dugout and said he'd give $100 to whoever knocked that so and so down.

Ernie was known to us for always having a smile on his face. He used expressions like "Let's play three today." Each year he made a prediction about the upcoming season in the form of a rhyme. The Cubs will shine in 69. The Cubs will be heavenly in 1970. Ernie made us feel good about ourselves. He made us forget -- forget that he was Black, what we as a nation had done to Blacks, were still doing. He calmed that little wave of fear than ran up and down the stairway to our soul when we saw a Black person. His kind were thought of as Uncle Toms by some young Blacks, and by young radicals like me, but I always excused Ernie. Ernie grew up in Dallas, Texas, a pretty mean town, and as had all African Americans of his and earlier generation come by his adaptive skills when there were still regular lynchings across the United States.

For me, he's a reminder of my youth, of limitless possibilities, of my favorite bat. I don't miss those times. There were plenty of problems, uncertainty about what I'd do in life. I don't want to relive those days. I don't yearn for them. I don't feel melancholy about lost innocence, my country's, or mine. Only when Ernie dies.










American Sniping

In reviewing the Clint Eastwood film American Sniper -- which I haven't seen and won't see, not necessarily because I never get around to seeing any movie before it disappears from theaters -- Eamon Murphy talks about various changes Eastwood made to the original story the movie is based on, a book by a US military sniper who from what I can gather from media accounts is a deranged, psychotic, highly delusional individual. A sicko.

The changes Eastwood made to the nutbag's story aren't the focus of Eamon's review, which is more about how the film excuses our war crimes in Iraq. (American Sniper also reviewed here.)

The Film Industry

By Eamon's account, some changes were made to broaden the movie's appeal, some seemed intended to make it more controversial, some were made so as to keep Americans from having to look at themselves and their role in perpetuating their country's policies: policies of, I'll clarify, aggressive Capitalist imperialism.

Note how all the changes have as their intention, consciously or not, to get more people to watch the film and therefore to make more money off it. This is Capitalism, but it demonstrates a particular aspect of it; how the few Capitalist elites who control the means of production -- a critical Marxist concept -- use that control to accumulate bigger piles of money for themselves.

Means of production is usually thought of as factories, machines, railroads, trucks, and all the other things necessary for industrial production, but as we see here it includes access to Hollywood, i.e. the mainstream film industry. It also includes the control of other media like newspapers and TV, which are then used to promote and propagandize certain views and facts and keep others out of the public discourse, and not just to hawk Capitalism's output, its production.

Lasting Effect

American sniper will soon fade from the headlines. Remember all the controversial movies from the past? Eamon refers to The Passion of Christ, which you never hear about any more. This list of the "50 most controversial movies" includes others.

In an article about an upsurge in death threats against Arabs following the release of Eastwood's new film, Rania Kahlek writes, "American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East."

Controversial movies may quickly disappear from public discussion, but they are continually produced and while they are here keep certain things about ourselves near the surface. They keep the waters stirred so that things like our proclivity for and our admiration for violence don't sink to the bottom and disappear entirely into the unconscious where they live and originate from, invisible to our conscious gaze.

Movies like American Sniper, that justify and excuse our lesser natures, exhibit how the control of the means of production -- not just the ownership of factories but control of the media -- can't be left in the hands of a few.




By the way, I ask you, will American Sniper be offered in multiple formats and 70th anniversary Blu Ray editions 70 years from now? I think not.





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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ukraine - US Adventurism Gone Bad

The Obama-Kerry Ukraine scheme has turned into a disaster, which is why you don't see US media reports about Ukraine these days. The crises caused by last year's US-instigated coup, carried out by neo fascists in Ukraine and cheered on by the US media, has left the Ukrainian economy near collapse. Neoliberal IMF bailout terms will mean already hurting Ukrainians have much more suffering ahead. US and Europe's US-ordered sanctions against Russia threaten to spread its economic problems to the Eurozone, and once compliant European allies one by one have called for the US to back off. None of which is being reported in the US mainstream media, of course, but Patrick L Smith has an update in Salon.




Venezuela Looks To The East

Every day, headlines in the US media, as they have for years, pronounce Socialist Venezuela on its last legs.

I have a segment on my Google news page set up to capture stories about Venezuela and the scorn and ridicule heaped on that country by the mainstream media is relentless. Like the stories the infamous Rory Carroll, longtime Latin America correspondent for the Guardian used to write, the stories are devoid of content and most are sourced from the Venezuelan oligarchy that would love to turn the country back into a feudal Gringo colony for a handful of silver, or the US interest section in Caracas, the defacto embassy. In other words, the mainstream media acts as the propaganda wing of the US State Department, which is actively trying to destabilize Venezuela and bring about regime change and collapse of the Socialist economy. With supporting votes by New Mexico's legislators. The mind set is, 'Don't you dare try to find another way besides US dominated Capitalism, even if the people of the country want it and repeatedly vote for it election after election. We, the US State Department, We, senators from New Mexico, will decide what's best for you.'

Inflation is high in Venezuela, just like it always has been, not as bad as it was when the oligarchy ran things, and the price of oil is down, which hurts Venezuela's oil dependent economy. But as WT Whitney Jr writes in Counterpunch, Venezuela isn't alone any more in fighting back against the US imperial agenda that would destroy any alternative to US dominated Capital in what the US considers its back yard. As has been reported here, a host of Latin American alliances have been brought into existence to do what the US dominated OAS, World Bank and IMF had done. And now there's China.





Sunday, January 18, 2015

UNM Bosses: Why Ain't No Students Coming?

"UNM seeks answer to declining enrollment" reads the headline in the campus paper the Daily Lobo.

Here's a clue for the UNM regents and president:


While most Americans' living standards declined in the past 30 years, Democrats and Republicans were lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations so many times they no longer pay a significant amount into our collective coffers. We the people pay it all, out of our shrinking paychecks.

That's why colleges, public schools, and governments at all levels are always in crises mode. And in response they keep cutting social spending, including many types of college tuition funding such as Pell Grants and outright payments to educational institutions.

The federal and state governments caused these problems by adopting Reaganomics, and to solve them, local governments have also adopted Reaganomics.

By the way, UNM's solution to increase enrollment is to spend some of their limited funds on gussying up some buildings. They don't even mention charging less for tuition.


Note: That the yellow line in the above chart keeps rising, because it shows the "median" income, the one in the middle, which rises even as working class income decline because incomes for the top 10 percent have skyrocketed and incomes for the top 1 percent have gone galactic.











Saturday, January 17, 2015

A British Biker

On his Twitter page Patrick Fry defines himself as "Green member. Biker. Hates toryscum. Thinks for himself."

Patrick is from the UK and sends out lots of tweets, mainly about politics in Great Britain, largely about what the Torry scum are up to, which is roughly what the Republicans in the US are up to: throwing poor people into the streets and helping the filthy rich get filthier and richer. Fry also tweets a lot about a slowly unfolding pedophile scandal in the UK involving mainly conservative UK politicians who had a sex ring of young boys and about the fact that while Margaret Thatcher was prime minister the sex ring was in full swing and there are indications she knew about it and overlooked it because powerful men and important allies were involved. The scandal has flared up recently because news has emerged that a young boy was murdered during one of the group's pedophile orgies.

One of Patrick Fry's tweets today, however, was simply a picture of a motorcycle.




It's a 2014 Brough Superior.

A man named George Brough, 1890-1970, made big, fast motorcyles in England between the 1920s and 1950s. They were expensive and superbly engineered. TE Lawrence, the British diplomat known as Lawrence of Arabia (who gets mentioned in a book review I posted recently) owned eight Broughs and died on one in 1935. Jay Lenno owns a 1925 Brough and features it in one of the videos he's made of his huge collection of vintage cars and motorcycles called Jay Lenno's Garage.

Someone has resurrected the Brough name and is selling Brough motorcycles, but just as someone in the US is selling Indian motorcycles that don't share a lineage with the magnificent old Indians, the new Broughs are made by Boxer Design, a company that "offers expertise in electric vehicle development, engineering and industrial development and design and prototyping" and Akira Engineers, a company that designs industrial pipe.

The new Brough Superiors sell for £50,000 each but appear to be very nice. The specifications page lists all the things a motorcycle that bills itself as superior should have as far as engine design, brakes, electrics, suspension, wheels and so on. I always look for the weight, which on specification pages is given as either wet or dry. The Brough has a "dry weight" -- with no gas or oil in it, which add 20 or so pounds -- of 395 pounds, which is an indicator of good engineering. When you're designing a motorcycle it's hard to keep the weight down, but it's critical to its handling. For a big bike, if it's around 400 or even a little over, you've probably got yourself something. Even the British motorcycles made for the masses, Triumph, BSA, Norton, were around 400, very light compared to most other brands' big bikes.

It interested me that Patrick Fry posted a picture of a motorcycle, and with no explanation for it. Just, "There it is. Behold."

Motorcycles are different things to different people. You see many Harley Davidson's being driven by older men dressed in a specific costume and having a specific hair do. They look like they stepped out of a Harley Davidson ad.

Harley Davidson was in trouble in the 1980s, when they hired some good ad people who re-branded the company from something somewhat negative to what it is now. Some people were still buying the big road cruisers, but many Harleys were destined to be customized and especially to be made into choppers, and the image of the Hells Angels hovered near the Harley brand. But after a marketing campaign that's often pointed to as an example by marketing people, the image is of a middle aged man who will never really grow old as long as he rides with the wind on a Harley. In Albuquerque you also see a Hispanic Harley-riding counterpart who gets himself up in another kind of costume and hair do.

Motorcycles, hunting, playing sports, watching sports, tearing around in old hot rods, bragging, one-upsmanship, the things men do that betray a kind of perpetual adolescence, and fear. A fear of getting old, of petering out, of being overwhelmed.

I've had a motorcycle of some type since I was 16. Several kinds of British bikes, a Ducati, a Yamaha, a Honda 450 I bought from Colvin Young, a Black sergeant I knew in Germany, and rode around Europe in the summer of 1978 just before my three-year tour in the US Army was up.

In 2000 I bought a Moto Guzzi, a nice, big, Italian bike. For a few years I rode it off and on, but the last couple times it kind of scared me. The sense of invincibility, the thrill, were no longer bigger than the fear. Some would say good sense overcame me. But the balance had shifted. It sits in a storage unit at Central and Unser with just over 2,500 miles on it, and I haven't had it started in five years, but I pay them $45 a month to keep it for me, just in case.



Here are some pictures of some old and new Broughs. Behold.



.



Brough Superior 1940s - pick one up now for $400k


2014 models are £50,000 each


George Brough and TE Lawrence


Be effing hold




An old one - this looks like the Bonneville salt flats


TE Lawrence on a Brough - Jay Lenno pronounces it "Bruff."



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Martin Heinrich Joins Republicans To Repeal Wall Street, Big Bank Reforms

Now that those Republicans who are liberal on social issues, I mean, Democrats, are out of power in congress and there's no danger of anything they propose becoming law, they're running around saying we should pass liberal policies like taxing Wall Street and giving Americans paid sick leave. Those two proposals are part of a slate of proposals Democrats are calling their "action plan." The deep irony of that name is described by veteran journalist Dave Lindorff of the media collective This Can't Be Happening.

The cynical Democratic populist blather has George Zornick over at The Nation, the voice of progressive Democrats, doing some hand wringing over whether this means Democrats "heard the message" of the mid term elections and decided to become the party of working people. LOL.

This Can't Be Happening has compiled a list of 13 Democratic senators who sided with Republicans last week to defeat liberal Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warrens' attempt to save the Dodd-Frank regulations passed in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Those rather mild reforms addressed some of the more egregious gambling and illegal practices that led to the Wall Street and big bank bailouts. Among the 13 who helped Republicans repeal Dodd-Frank was New Mexico's Martin Heinrich.

That's right. So-called Democrat Martin Heinrich has said to Wall Street and the big banks, Happy Days are Here Again! Gamble all you want with the peoples' money. We'll pick up the tab and send it on the the ignorant working stiffs who vote for us thinking we're actually on their side. LOL. While you're at it cut me a nice check. At the least don't come after me when I run for re-election in 2016.

Watch these 13 to see if they continue to side with Republicans on critical votes when real Democrats try to block Republican bills.






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Freedom To Be A Dam Hypocrite

Everybody's free speech heroes the French today arrested comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala for mocking the Charlie Hedbo attacks.

Dieudonne M'bala M'bala - photo Joel Saget/AFP
Free speech my ass. As noted in the post below the French and everybody else who's been running around pretending to be free speech advocates are nothing but blatant, lying, hypocrites. Free speech is the furthest thing from their minds. They want the freedom to spew hate and bigotry at Muslims and others they don't approve of, but when speech they don't like is directed at them and their friends you're going to jail.

In France, remember, where everyone is a free speech hero, it's a felony to deny the Holocaust. That would be disrespectful of Jews, but you can show the prophet Mohamed having anal sex. Let's have a parade and congratulate ourselves on that one.

The level of hypocrisy on display is sickening. Where are all you free speech advocates now that Dieudonne M'bala M'bala has been picked up for the exact same thing you were celebrating the other day?









Monday, January 12, 2015

Hypocricy On Parade


Someone posted this with the caption World leaders not really "at" the Paris rallies. There's no attribution or anything but it reminds me of the massive display of hypocrisy we've witnessed in the past few days. Massive. A staggeringly massive display of hypocrisy. How many adjectives can I think of. They wouldn't be enough.

So called "leaders" and pundits who care less about freedoms of press and expression and never mention it -- never -- are now suddenly telling us that a little group of bigots in France are our free press heroes. These people who fought and fought to prevent the release of information about their governments, especially in the US where many press people agree with the government's right to keep secrets and have let whistleblowers rot in jail and have never said a thing, always forget to mention that in France it's a felony to talk about the holocaust in the wrong way. They forget to mention that whenever anyone else wants to express themselves they are arrested or castigated.

Using Islamaphobia to boost yourself in the polls is the flavor of the week, and that's what this little magazine in France is, Islamaphobia, making money off French Islamphobia and since this event, worldwide Islamamhobia.

France has instituted a series of anti Muslim laws in the past few years. Women and even little girls, for example, are forced to remove their religious head gear in public, for no end except to humiliate them, and France's Muslims, who are almost all refugees and their descendants from France's brutal, inhumane occupation of Algeria -- as were the killers in this rampage -- are treated like dogs in France. Nobody will hire them so they have to live in deplorable public housing miles from the city center, that the government doesn't maintain, where their chances of finding a job or food they can afford are even more remote. We saw the other day the spectacle of France's Socialist president inviting the head of the fascist National Front party, Marie LePen, to the presidential palace so they could talk about unity. A unified bigoted front against Muslims.

No one jumps up and shouts freedom of expression when any other group is the object of base bigotry. All this self congratulatory chortling about a free press and the photo ops and marches in Paris are nothing but bigotry disguised as hypocrisy, and I commend President Obama for turning his back on it and passing up the chance to score cheap political points at the expense of Muslims.

Charlie I am not.




Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reviewing My Life


Book Review: Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell



The Middle East in 1921


Ever since the US, over the past two decades, began invading the Middle East every few months, I’ve come across occasional references to how the current Middle Eastern borders were arbitrarily laid out by the European powers after WWI, and about the problems that’s still causing.

But if you told me you could learn a lot about it by reading a novel about a schoolteacher from Ohio who takes a trip to Egypt and hobnobs with Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, and a slew of other fascinating characters, I’d be skeptical.

If I needed details about the Cairo Conference of 1921, the actual historic event Mary Russell's Dreamers of the Day is centered on, where the modern Middle East was created, or Churchill’s or TH Lawrence’s or anyone else’s role in it, I could probably come by those pretty quickly. Besides, the Marxist analysis of Capitalism renders the details of imperialist ventures somewhat immaterial. Imperialism, a function of Capitalism’s continual need for raw materials and new markets, is just going to be there. It’s pretty simple. Capitalism can’t function without imperialism, so it happens. I’d never bothered before to read up on how the Middle East was divided up, but the fact that it happened, the reasons for it, were understandable to me anyway.

If you asked me if it mattered that this Ohio schoolteacher, nearly 40 and a still virgin, ends up having an affair with a German spy, I might ask to see the book so I can page through it, but I still wouldn’t likely read it. There’s just too much on my reading list already.

I recently posted something, though, about how I listen to audio books during my endless hours of driving and was saying how the narrator can make or break a novel, and someone who’s opinion I respect recommended Dreamers of the Day and said it was nicely narrated, so I downloaded it. Since then I’ve been to Egypt and back, had a very entertaining week, have a better understanding off the Middle East, and learned something about myself.

With modern technology, I had the audio book downloaded in my laptop’s iTunes program within minutes. But once it was in there I couldn’t load it into my trusty iPod. It looked like it loaded, but it didn’t show up on the iPod. It’s almost ten years old and I’ve been half expecting something like this to happen.

A quick search turned up lots of discussion about this kind of thing, but I was about to get ready to go to work and didn’t have time to read through it let alone try anything. Then it occurred to me to just load the book into my iPhone, and it went in there just like that.

While the iPhone was working its magic it also downloaded all my podcasts and a couple of other audio books, and was about to download my entire music library, too, but it did stop and ask me about that.

I opened up the iPhone and found a nice, handy new menu with all my downloaded books and podcasts in it, all listed in print that’s huge compared to the old iPod, and there was no annoying thumb wheel that often selects whatever it wants to on the iPod.

Then I noticed the little iPod sitting there and realized I probably won’t be using it anymore. There’ll be no reason to. Everything I used it for is now in the iPhone. It made me kind of sad. That little iPod has travelled a million miles me (124,000 average per year and I got it in 2006.) It’s always worked, a bit cranky but 100 percent reliable. It’s given me hours upon hours of pure pleasure, informed me, enlightened me, educated me, and never left me.

I’ve had that sensation of loss before, with other things.  I wondered about that. Usually, like the iPod, it’s been some kind of machinery. Cars, pickups, bicycles, once a typewriter. We’re like that with our pets. We come to love them. Face it, they’re easier to get along with than people are. You get a real good read on animals. They're direct and honest all the time. But machines? Like with our pets, there are memories associated with them. And  we also endow them with human characteristics they don’t really have. But machines are made by people, for people. When people make machines they’re imagining how they’re going to be used, and they’re being made with the idea of making  their user’s life easier, more pleasant, better, and they do that or people wouldn’t buy them and use them.

Change

Despite what’s often repeated about old timers being set in their ways, old people, I maintain, are much better at accepting change than their children or grandchildren, who often resist change. By the time oldtimers make it to oldtimerdom they’ve seen everything change, completely, several times. I think it’s part of why they so easily and unconditionally not only love their grandchildren but accept what they do. They’ve seen the strange styles of youth come and go in several generations, and they have a longer view of what people go through when they grow up and come of age than the kids’ parents do. They remember their own youth, not as someone who’s trying to pretend they’re no longer young and foolish but as someone who understand the limits of human wisdom. The essence of life is change, it’s often repeated, and old people know that making mistakes is just one more part of life you have to get used to.

But if old people can accept change, why do we, why do I, cling to my old possessions and habits? Is it that we’re used to change in the external world but resist it in our own, internal world?

I’ve been wondering about that all week. I normally wouldn’t listen to a book like this. When it comes to what I spend my spare time on, I almost never use it to simply entertain myself. It’s seems as though I’m on a drive to learn as much as I can before I die, not about just anything but important things, what the great writers and artists and philosophers were thinking when they painted and wrote and sat drinking and smoking in the salons of Paris or the staterooms of St Petersburg or the taverns of the East Village. I like to write, and I don’t want keep doing it in a halfassed way forever, if I can help it. I want to be able to contribute in some way to the conversation those writers and artists were, and still are having. I want to say something important. I want to be important. So reading, watching films (never movies!) is almost like work to me. It’s interesting work — good books are actually entertaining and fun to read, the same with good movies, and it’s joy to gaze at a very good painting — but with me it’s all in the context of a serious endeavor.

A bit of literary snobbishness has crept in there, too, I suppose. As I began finding myself able to recognize good art, good books, from mediocre, as my reading list accumulated weight, as my knowledge base grew, after I’d been to many art museums and read many critical essays on art and literature, I began seeing myself in a certain way. Not consciously — my proletarian bias prevents it — but as someone who is better at at least this one thing than the average person. I don’t have a lot of accomplishments to look back on, but I’m pretty well informed.

I was quickly engrossed in this audio book. First, with the way the author deftly made those improbable occurrences seem quite plausible. The schoolteacher had lived quite sensibly and it wasn’t her fault that she came into the family’s money. She was almost compelled to go to Egypt. She couldn’t avoid coming into contact with Churchill and Lawrence. And of course as the character develops and grows it becomes almost necessary to lose her virginity with her German spy acquaintance; in fact I began to wonder if they were ever going to get into the sack and only when they did could I move on with my own life.

But it’s an interesting book on several levels. Much of its plausibility comes from the tremendous amount of reading — research, as they call it — the author had to have done. She speaks commandingly about the Middle East, and about a view of it that’s probably held by most US and European policy makers, and state department Middle East specialists, who know as much about their areas as anybody. It’s a viewpoint steeped in history, as it pertains to Western imperialism.

The book also contains a lot of delightful travelogue. You can almost imagine the author taking notes during an excursion into the scary ancient heart of Cairo or on a hot, dusty train ride up into Palestine or on a cruise up the Nile River on a steam boat. The book is set in the 1920s and it’s as if someone was taking notes back then. She’s just a good writer, and to weave the story she tells into the history and the traveling is quite an accomplishment.

What you don’t get is very much about Middle Easterners themselves — the Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese and other nationalities that appear. You don’t learn much about their personal lives or what they thought about their countries being used as pawns or what they thought should have happened instead. I couldn’t decide why that was. Does Ms Russell not speak Arabic? But there are plenty of English speaking Middle Easterners. Did she not actually go there? All the historical detail in the book came from her reading and perhaps the travelogue did, too, but are there not English translations of Arabic writers from that time who wrote about what the people who were affected by it all thought? Yes, there are.

Maybe it was intentional. The book is, after all, about America, about our coming to the position we’re in, the most important imperial power in the world, coming to be the power broker of the Middle East on the heels of the great imperial powers of Europe. The schoolteacher, with her practical good sense, her ability to see over her own ego, is America. Her coming of age is its coming of age. Her Puritan mother always whispering in one ear and her Liberal flapper friend in the other are our own conflicted impulses.

It’s such a dense, engrossing, audaciously conceived novel, however, that not knowing what the natives think is more of a minor distraction, and in an extended, surprising epilogue our Ohio schoolteacher, much wiser than when she left for Egypt, does let us know how we can avoid the mistakes of the past and the ones we’re still making in the Middle East, and how we can come to see all human beings as human. I’m glad I listened to it. It was quite a lesson.



A note on the willing suspension of disbelief: The book is written in the first person. The main character is narrating it, telling her story. At one point she tells about an excursion by camel, organized by Churchill, to see the great pyramids. Churchill, courageous but never having ridden a camel before, falls off his. Lawrence, the Middle East veteran, falls asleep on his. Everyone is sore and tired by the time they reach the pyramids.

She describes a photograph being taken there. For the picture Churchill, his wife, Lawrence, and all the dignitaries lined up on their camels before the Sphinx, with the pyramids in the background. It’s an actual photograph, that I’d seen before. In the photo there are two women standing on the ground, and in the book, she’s one of them.

I started wondering if this Ohio schoolteacher, Agnes Shanklin, was really an actual person. Did the author spot the woman in the photograph, look up a few details about her, and come up with the idea for this novel? I searched all over the internet for who’s in that photo. The most famous people are always named. Sometimes a few of the lesser known officials are named. Never are the women standing on the ground named. They’re whoever you want them to be. I think the writer just got me on that one. Good job, Mary Russell.











Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je suis vissé

Following up on the prior post, another chart showing our wages declining as a percentage of GDP, i.e., as a percent of the economy. It starts plummeting in the 1970s. Think about it. Compared to 1970 there's much more economic activity, much more profit, much more money in the country, but we've gotten none of it, and our labor is what creates it.




Will the media ever wake up to this? Over the past week I've seen two articles that talk about this issue, out of tens of thousands of articles published during that time. They were both published in media that can't be considered radical but aren't really big enough to be counted among the mainstream media. One, in Business Insider, is by someone who realizes the scope of the problem, but another in Salon is from someone who doesn't.


Police Unions

A couple of recent cases have highlighted the role police unions play in facilitating corruption in police departments. In Orange County, CA, cops were trying to ruin city council members who opposed them by setting them up for arrest, and the police was union behind it. Here in Albuquerque, there's talk that a recently opened police investigation of the district attorney has similar motives. The cop union here has been credited in the past with taking down politicians who tried to reform it and when the union's spokeswoman was forced out recently it raised questions about her willingness to defend the police no matter what they do.

Alternet has an article out saying police unions have become too powerful in their ability to protect corrupt and killer cops, and that not even elected officials have control over the police.

If this is true it creates a dilema for those who support the Labor Movement, as I do, and also for the politicians, who rely on the police to protect the interests of the Capitalist establishment the politicians represent.

I haven't often commented on the problems with individual unions. The Labor Movement is so weak now, and that fact has so much to do with the declining living standards of American workers, and the reasons for things getting this way are so unknown to most people, I've concentrated on shedding light on the overall decline of Labor and the reasons for it. But some of labor's problems are self inflicted. Union members became complacent and let professional union leaders run everything. Union leadership became too cozy with the bosses. Presidents and top staff of the big unions are paid so much now they have more in common, in class terms, with Capital that with the workers they represent.

Police unions are a different matter. The police have a right to organize and bargain for the best pay and benefits they can get, in the context of the Labor Movement.

But to decipher the problems about police unions being a corrupting factor you have to look at the police from another perspective. Police are one of the coercive arms of the state (i.e. government and the Capitalist economy.) The police, like the military and the prison system, exist primarily to protect the interests of the state.

If the state can't control a police union, that's their problem. The problem lies in the fact that the people don't control the state. When the people are subject to police violence and corruption, it's not the union that has caused the problem but the state, which creates and legitimizes the police, the military and the prison system, and in the bigger picture our system that perpetuates state control over our lives.


Patrick Lynch


Incidentally, if you've seen pictures or seen or video of the president of the New York Police Benevolent Association (the New York City police union), Patrick Lynch, and thought he looks and talks like a mobster, you'd be excused if you recalled the interconnected history of unions and the mob, which is what they often call the mostly Italian mafia especially back East. When the young Labor Movement was coming under brutal, often lethal attack from governments, at the behest of Capitalists of course, the mob often defended the striking or protesting union members. This community minded aspect of the mafia has been highlighted in movies like The Godfather, and this part of Labor history is brought to light in Louis Adamic's classic labor history, Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence In America.

Today you sometimes hear about certain unions being under "mob control" or being "mafia influenced," such as construction worker unions in New York or Chicago, casino workers in Atlantic City, or various Teamster, Longshoremen or other union locals. This is something that's hardly discussed within the Labor Movement and is seen as part of the effort to discredit unions. When unions have been investigated for mob influence the evidence is usually limited to some mob influence over hiring.