Monday, June 29, 2015

The US Isn't The Only Place

Where police simply pull out their guns and blow away unarmed people. In Brazil, a cop was caught on live camera emptying his gun into two youths who had just crashed.From an article at the Free Thought Project.







Greece


Which I wrote about last post. In a piece published in Market Watch, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz breaks down the situation in Greece, which has deteriorated since I posted about it last evening. It's about wealth being trasferred to the top, and it's about power, Stiglitz says, and who will wield it from now on.





Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Disobedient Greeks

The stock markets don't like it that Greece isn't heeling under to its creditors. The Wall Street Journal today in a story with the sneering headline "Greek Suicide Watch" haughtily lectures Greeks about the consequences they face for not severely slashing their own wages and pensions. A weekend financial service article solemnly reports, "U.S. investors brace for more Greece debt drama."

In other words, rich people are concerned about what's being played out in Greece, and what's playing out in Greece is a classic example of an attempt by the Capitlist class to discipline the working class, and the working class resisting, or at least trying to.

The ramifications go far beyond Greece. The Capitalist class is well aware of the potential that working class insubordination will spread from country to country. Greece is important because similar cases of working class insubordination threaten to or have already broken out in many other places, Spain, for example, where PODEMAS Party candidates are winning elections, and earlier in the US with Occupy Wall Street.

What's happening in Greece is that the capitalist class, represented by the European Central Bank, the EU leadership and the IMF, the so called Troika, urgently want to break the spirit of working class resistance that has most recently broken out in Greece with the election last year of the Syriza Party.




Friday, June 26, 2015

The Rainbow House






The first time I saw this on my Twitter feed tonight I thought it might be somebody's Photoshop job but no, it's all over the place now.





Obama.

He shows these flashes of occasional brilliance. Bathing that big white house in a rainbow. I looked at part of his Charleston eulogy, where he sings from his soul and gyrates before the congregation channeling Cornel West. That was very emotional for a fanatic Socialist Black gospel music fan like myself. It's hard to think about going back to bland white presidents who stiffly maintain the "dignity of the office," as the media likes to say.

While brother in chief gyrates, though, home ownership in the US has reached a 20-year low, and it's been steadily declining all that time. How is it that home ownership, the checkpoint for the American Dream, has reached a 20-year low? Twenty years. Oh, but gay marriage. Oh, escaped convicts. Do a Google search for living standard in the USA and you find opinions. Some say it's declining. Others say it isn't. Other that it's not declined all that much. What you won't find is the expectation that it will ever go again.

Oh, that Democrats would lead. That Obama, and Grisham and Heinrich would get emotional about the American workers whose living standard have declined, who have lost their homes, who are paying higher rent, while they hobnobbed with the criminal bankers. Oh that Democrats would get emotional about the lives that will end up in the toilet because of this Trans Pacific Partnership huge corporate giveaway treaty they're easing past us in slow motion. As they pose and pretend to be against it, and slowly slide it past our noses so we can gradually get used to its stink.

Oh, that the president would put his heart into singing for his drone strike victims, and the nations, now, of people living under sheets of plastic far from home, and all the dead because of the string of murderous Middle East wars he's started, that they are all are complicit in.

Oh, that we still possessed a soul.

 



 





Thursday, June 25, 2015

It Was You And Me

Podcasts are my life. Not really, I have no life, but I listen to many podcasts.

I haven't followed it in awhile but one of the first podcasts I came across outside the Pacifica radio network was called Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds, which comes out of the Cherokee Nation headquarters in Talequa, Oklahoma, hosted and produced by Dennis Sixkiller, who gives much of the information in English and Cherokee.

Dennis Sixkiller
As I was driving out to Holbrook last night I looked it up on my cell phone to see if he still uses the same opening music, a nice little version of the gospel classic Turn Your Radio On sung in Cherokee. It's still there. It's a knockout, flawless performance of what is basically their customized version of the arrangement recorded by The Chuckwagon Gang way back when.  The Cherokees add a little more internal complexity and tailor it to their voices, I think. I don't know who's singing but it's obviously a Cherokee gospel quartet.

After listening to it a few times through my excellent ear buds I went looking for other versions on YouTube, which is where I found The Chuckwagon Gang version and why I say it's the same basic arrangement. Here's a nice 38-minute long collection of The Chuckwagon Gang recordings -- some sound rather repetitive, you might say, but some are pretty interesting. You have to like that kind of music, I guess. The beauty of listening to it sung in Cherokee is you don't have to know what they're singing about. Turn Your Radio On by the way was written by Albert Brumley who wrote such classics as I'll Fly Away.

Albert Brumley
I also came across a bizarre modern day re-incarnation of The Chuckwagon Gang. Some evangelical Christians, perhaps one or more of whom is a descendant of one of the orignal group, which was a father, son and two daughters, has re-recorded some of the tunes and then made one of those highly produced videos to sell them with where they pretend to be singing the songs they recorded earlier in a sound studio.

White Christian music is just plain bizarre. There's a code -- you can only move around so much, only get so vocally demonstrative. You've got to show that you're entirely under control at all times. If you're singing a song done earlier by Black people you must erase all the Blackness from it. No soul allowed. At all. No getting the holyghost on stage. (An exception is The Gaithers, who do get the holyghost on stage at times.)



The modern The Chuck Wagon Gang. These women are wearing the equivalent of burkas.




Here's something to get that image out of your mind with.





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Like Country of Origin Labeling For Meat? You Won't Like TPP

Under the Did you know? category:

Brazil and Mexico just won a judgement in a secret court in Geneva that will force the repeal of country of origin labeling on meat sold in the US.

It sounds unreasonable, but Brazil and Mexico challenged our country of orignin labeling under the WTO treaty and just recently won.

A treaty becomes part of the US constitution, remember, and this TPP is a treaty, not a "trade agreement," as the media like to call it.

Country of origin labeling has overwhelming support, but it's gone now. The TPP treaty is full of this kind of stuff. Only 6 of its 30 chapters have anything to do with trade. Mostly it's about expanding corporate rights -- to long term monopoly patents on medicines, for example,.

Ralph Nader breaks down the TPP here. And here.

President Obama wanted "fast track authority" and got it. Now I'm hoping details of the TPP, which is being negotiated in secret with 400 large corporations, become known widely enough that congress has no choice but to reject the entire treaty.

No one touts the benefits of NAFTA anymore. It's accepted that it hurt workers in both the US and Mexico. The TPP is more of the same and goes much further. It's as they say, NAFTA on steroids.






Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Senate Gives Green Light To TPP Juggernaught - New Mexico Democrats Smile And Wave As It Leaves The Station

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Noam Chomsky

The US Senate today gave the president "fast track" authority to ram through TPP, his pet NAFTA-on-steroids trade treaty with US Pacific Rim allies that Republicans want badly and corporations are salivating over. TPP, in addition to NAFTA-like provisions that make it easier for corporations to outsource and ship jobs to other countries, vastly expands monopoly patent protections and gives corporations constitutional authority to thwart any legislation that impede profits in any way.
 
New Mexico's fiscally conservative senators, Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, admirably voted against the "fast track" authority but have always carefully worded any statement they made about the treaty to make clear they don't oppose the treaty itself; they merely want some oversight over the negotiations so they can make their constituents believe they are looking out for their interests. They want a few weak, unenforceable labor protection provisions like were tacked onto NAFTA, and they want some money to retrain workers who lose their jobs; that is, people who can prove their lives were devastated  by the treaty can get trained for other nonexistant jobs and delay by a few months being thrown out into the labor market.

Mass media reports about the secretive treaty are obscure about its details, although significant parts of the treaty have been leaked, like the ones setting up tribunals of corporate attorneys who can issue judgements that require governments to pay corporations the amount of any profits or "future expected profits" the corporation think it will lose because of a law the government passed. So for example if a city doesn't want a mine dug that will ruin its water supply, the city has to pay the corporation whatever profits the corporation might have made from the mine. This will in effect stop any environmental legislation before it gets started.

The treaty also extends by decades the number of years corporations can maintain monopoly patents on things like medicines, enshrining in the constitutions pharmaceutical companies' ability to gouge US consumers who rely on those medicines.

Just recall that no one is defending NAFTA these days. No one denies that it sent millions of jobs to Mexican Maquiadoras -- jobs that are now in China, by the way -- and devastated small farming in Mexico by allowing US agribusiness to dump cheap corn on the Mexican market, devastating small farming in Mexico and causing the mass migrations northward of 1990s and early 2000s that further suppressed already declining US wages. This new TPP treaty goes far beyond NAFTA, and no one is arguing that, either. They don't have to. No one knows what's in the treaty because no one will say -- except those few media outlets on the Left that have reported on the leaked portions.

Udall and Heinrich used the same sleight of hand House Democrats used earlier in posing against the TPP. Knowing the treaty is inevitable -- because they've done nothing to stop it -- they pretended to fight for the window dressing of a few ineffectual worker protections.

Barring a massive uprising of the American working class, an eventuality Democrats do everything they can do to prevent, there is no protection from the effects of an economy that's been gutted out by the Reaganomics policies Heinrich and Udall support, and by treaties like NAFTA and TPP.

Discipline

If you've been following what's been happening in Greece, and the market fluctuations it's been causing, you know that the rest of the European Union -- that is, dominant members Germany and the UK -- on behalf of European and American banks, are trying to impose a severe economic austerity program in Greece. "Austerity" is what they call Reaganomics. They want wages halved, pensions halved, a permanently high unemployment rate that keeps wages suppressed. In other words they want to discipline the working class and make it an example to workers in other countries. They don't want people feeling empowered. They want to cut off the upswelling of hope the election of the Leftist radical Syriza party in Greece last year gave to working people across the continent. Every time it looks like that lesson won't be imposed, the US stock market plummets.

US workers are unaware of what's going on in Europe but the markets aren't because although the job of disciplining the US working class has been accomplished long ago in the US it can come undone.

As it stands now US workers are docile and subservient and making sure they stay that way is the Democratic Party's main function. You won't hear any calls for marches and protests from our Democrats. In keeping with the principle Chomsky outlines above, you hear a very limited range of debate from them. They want you to stay home, stay docile, and hand over your power to them so they can get on with the business of furthering Reaganomics with treaties like TPP.














Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nikki and Susie

Or, Nimrata and Susana, if you prefer.


South Carolina governor Nikki Hayley (full name Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Hayley) by calling for the removal of the Ku Klux Klan flag from her state's capital has propelled herself to the top of several pundits' Republican vice presidential nominee list, reports the New Republic. Hayley put her name out there as a VP candidate in 2012 by releasing one of those pre-candidacy autobiographies early in 2012, which got her a lot of network TV face time.

New Mexico's governor Susana Martinez, also frequently mentioned as a potential Republican vice presidential nominee, has not yet released the autobiography -- her handlers are still writing it. But she's been campaigning non stop for the VP job since she was elected governor five years ago and has spent as much time out of state schmoozing with Republican big money guys as she has being governor.

At the Martinez campaign headquarters, the Albuquerque Journal, they are completely ignoring the Nikki Hayley-KKK flag story.






Monday, June 22, 2015

Burger King

White Privelege Contd...

In the post below are a few pictures demonstrating the difference between being Black and being White in this country as it plays out in reatment by law enforcement, and there are many, many such examples on the internet now.
 
The final picture showed racist mass murder suspect Dylan Roof, who received not only preferential treatment but was being protected by police, who gave him a bullet proof vest to wear while he was being transported.

The Charlotte Observor has a revealing account of how Roof was treated after his arrest by Shelby, NC police. Other media have reported that Shelby police received a tip from a woman who recognized Roof and had the woman follow Roof until they could get out there to arrest him.

The Observer reports that while they were questioning Roof he said he was hungry so they treated him to a Burger King meal. A prisoner has to eat, you might say. Remember also that Roof wasn't beaten up. He wasn't tortured to extract a confession, as happens routinely to African Americans. See Chicago, and New York. See many places in the US. He wasn't shackled and thrown into a cold cell face first. He wasn't shot on sight.

Shelby police sat in an office with him and they chatted while Roof enjoyed a Burger King.

Roof is White. He killed Black people.


Shelby, NC police chief Jeffrey Ledford

Saturday, June 20, 2015

In Trouble With The Police?


Invited to a children's pool party in a white neighborhood




Stopped for a broken taillight.




Arrested for selling single cigarettes.



Involved in a shootout that left nine dead.



Arrested for murdering nine Black people.

Provided by police with a flack jacket.




This is a sick fucking country, people.










Mass Murder Now What

#BlackLivesMatter

Always, following events like the handgun murders of nine African Americans in Charleston, SC, this week by a racist young White male, Americans try to make sense of the latest American on American massacre. There's talk about gun control. In this case some talk about race relations, and about the Ku Klux Klan flag adopted by the South Carolina state government and other southern state governments in reaction to the Civil Rights movement. Then it's back to business as usual.

#BlackLivesMatter's Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi (Divulgação)
By "Americans" I mean the few Americans who have something coherent and cogent to say and have media and internet platforms from which to say it, because when things like this happen most Americans can only shrug and look to the media or bloggers to find out what they should think. We aren't a nation of scholars, to put it mildly. We never acquire critical thinking skills. We know popular entertainment. We "have a team" when it comes to professional football.

The fact that Americans aren't deep thinking people brings up topics we could discuss, if we could discuss them, but even if we could, the fact would remain that what most Americans think, and what the media and bloggers say, is pretty much irrelevant.

I was reminded of this while reading what that well-informed, genteel voice of the left wing of the Democratic Party, The Nation magazine, had to say about Kshama Sawant, the Socialist elected to the Seattle City Council member in 2013.

Kshama Sawant (Independent Political Report)
I was reminded of the irrelevance of the masses of Americans by reading what their opinion leaders in media and on blogs were saying this week about the rising popularity of Bernie Sanders, the Socialist running for president as a Democrat whose steady increase in polling numbers has forced them to recognize his existence and rush out some articles worrying whether he poses an actual threat to Hillary Clinton who they've been proclaiming the nominee for years.

I'm reminded of the irrelevance of most Americans and how little their media and blogosphere thinking devices know about what young African Americans are doing to organize and resist racial oppression, people like DeRay McKesson from Ferguson, MO, who has 156,000 followers on Twitter, or the three women who originated the #Black LivesMatter movement Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.

When change does come to America it's because of people like them, and Sawant, who's been having some success in galvanizing Seattle public opinion around issues like housing and wages, and because of the kids in the Northwest who are blockading oil rigs with their kayaks and the people Freedom Flotilla members who are for the third time sailing toward Gaza in old trawlers, none of which causes a blip in the national news and blogosphere where tepid reforms are argued over while things gradually get worse.

America the Exceptional

Most Americans, when forced to stop and think about it, will say the USA is OK, at least better than those other countries. This echoes the stance taken by the media and punditry although to be fair it's lacking the unspoken nationalism -- which we prefer to call "patriotism" -- that always informs the media and punditry, whose members by and large live much more comfortable lives than most Americans do and therefore have more at stake materially and are more emotionally inclined to be conservative and nationalistic.

DeRay McKesson (Mediaite)
This national narrative, that things are pretty good here, is temporarily altered by things like the Charleston massacre to "Oh, we could make a few minor adjustments but things are pretty good here". The required reforms are dutifully listed, and are irrelevant because they are far removed from where the struggle over power occurs. It's the mere flapping of jaws.

Things are OK here not because of anything any average American does, or anything any blogger or media pundit or politician ever wrote or said or did. Things are OK here because at various times certain people figured out how, under their current conditions, to organize and to otherwise take on power in significant ways -- which in the case of the USA means the power of Capitalism -- and to force power to concede something -- privileges, benefits, money, whatever it was, but some of its power.

The USA that's "pretty good" has the current form it does because prior to now -- primarily in the first part of the 20th century -- people took on power; some unions took on power, some African Americans, some anti war resisters, some women, some gays.

For nearly 40 years now power has been on a counter offensive. Since Reagan. Since he began popularizing sentiments like those being expressed in places like National Review magazine and in documents like the Powell Memo. Basically, the people who have power and exercise it figured out why they were losing ground, regrouped, and pushed back, with Democrats meekly conceding and sometimes leading the way in redistributing power, and the wealth and privilege it brings, back upward.

Yes, the country retains much of its late 20th century form, but unions are weakened, there's massive domestic surveillance, police mete out violence at will, living standards for the masses are in decline, and institutionalized and structural racism is still rampant, and it all occurs against the backdrop of an ongoing and endless foreign war that serves both as propaganda tool and another means for the massive redistribution of wealth upward.

Those of you going around saying that the USA is pretty good, it still is, perhaps, but not because of anything you've done. The pictures accompanying this post are of people who most people who read this post will never have heard of, but who are devising new ways to take on power and are thereby shaping and creating the America that will exist 20, 30 and 50 years from now. If and when change comes to America it will be because of them.









Thursday, June 18, 2015

The South's Oldest Newspaper

(Updated below)

Someone has posted on social media a photo of today's Charleston, SC Post and Courier showing a gun coupon stuck over the headline about the shooting massacre at the AME church that left nine dead.


If you called the Post-Courier newsroom they'd say Advertising did it and if you called Advertising they'd say the coupon was scheduled days ago and was stuck on automatically or something like that.

That would probably be true but having lived in Charleston and knowing what a right wing Republican red neck rag the Post-Courier is it's nice to see them be embarrassed. Note how in the headline they put 'hate crime' in italics, as if to say "so called."

 They used to run a permanent little headline under the name that said "The south's oldest newspaper." I lived there when the African American community had just begun efforts to make the state stop flying the confederate battle flag on top of the capital building in Columbia. The flag they flew, the one that's usually called the confederate flag, isn't the actual confederate flag but one of several battle flags that were used. The one they flew of course is the KKK flag. There were people ready to die to keep the flag from coming down and as the efforts to remove the flag began to gain some traction the Post Courier editorialized to the effect that maybe if we got rid of some other "symbols of division" like Martin Luther King then we could take down the confederate flag.

Flag of the Confederacy

Charleston is another world. There's an old upper class there who live in big beautiful old pastel colored mansions that line Charleston Harbor who think they're sophisticated and keeping alive the traditions of their past. The Civil War is like yesterday there and it's as if they're still fighting it. Charleston of course is where the civil war began when confederate troops shelled a Union fort on a little island in the harbor, and yet many people there refer to the Civil War, even in print, as the War of Northern Aggression and sometimes even the War of Yankee Aggression.

The Citadel is in Charleston. It's a military cadet style college and everyone who wants to be in politics or business in South Carlina must graduate from it. (My ex actually got her Masters in Special Education from there but for graduate degrees you didn't have to be a cadet.)

In Charleston they always say the Citadel was begun to train officers for the Civil War, but that's not exactly true. I found out in doing research on Denmark Vesey that it was actually begun after the aborted 1822 slave revolt organized by Vesey, a free black man who lived in Charleston. Someone ratted out the rebellion and Vesey and 34 others were hanged, but it scared white Charleston to death because in those days slaves greatly outnumbered white people in South Carolina. So they started the Citadel to train white gentlemen to head up militias in case of another slave revolt, I learned.

The old Citadel, which is now a city office complex that includes the public library, has a big giant statue of John C Calhoun in front of it that's on a pedestal that must be four or five stories tall.

Calhoun/Old Citadel


That AME church where the shooting took place, by the way, is where I heard Jesse Jackson speak when he was running for president. That was definitely the most electrifying speech I've ever heard. I was the only white person there. I wasn't working at a paper at the time but I pretended to be a reporter because I wasn't sure if they'd want me to be there, so I didn't jump and and cheer, but those people who were there sure did. Jesse lit the place up.

There was no media coverage of the speech or of Jackson's visit to Charleston, as it turned out. That's Charleston.


Update: The Intercept tells the story of connection between Denmark Vesey and Emmaneul AME Church, were the massacre took place.





Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pepe Escobar

Neocon policy has got the US in a bad place, asserts long time alternative news journalist Pepe Escobar in a Counterpunch Magazine podcast. Escobar, the roving correspondent for Asia Times, details the extensive geopolitical moves China has been making to outflank the US and puts the so called conflicts the US is having with China, over its South China Sea islands building, and Russia, in Ukraine, into perspective. Very revealing.

I'd add that Hillary Clinton is pretty much on board with most Neocon policies. She voted for the wars in the Middle East and supported the policies in Libya and Syria that have left the middle East in ruins and has the US tied up in utterly senseless adventurism, and has caused the explosion in Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.




Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ecuador

Keep an eye on little Ecuador, where Rafael Correa has been angering the US by building one of the most progressive economies in the hemisphere but where a wealthy US-backed elite that's intending to take him down one way or another has been rapidly escalating its efforts.

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela, Evo Morales, Bolivia, Rafael Correa, Ecuador (Cubadebate)
An ongoing series of opposition street protests that turn violent are modeled after US-organized attempts to destabilize Venezuela last year and oust Socialist president Nicolas Maduro. You can bet US agents are active in Ecuador, too. The opposition is also working to get the US-dominated OAS to intervene.

Correa, re-elected in 2013 with 57 percent of the vote, 30 points more than his closest rival, was the subject of an attempted coup by the country's police forces in 2010 and has warned this week of efforts by the opposition to organize a military coup.

Early in his tenure Correa made US forces leave Ecuador and he has provided Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK since 2012.

For more analysis see here and here. Maduro has called for an emergency meeting of CELAC, the replacement body for the OAS created by countries in the region.




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Buses, Bikes And Cars




The Canberra Cycling Promotion Fund demonstrated how much road space is required to transport 69 people by various modes. They used 69 people because that's the capacity of a Canberra, Australia bus. They used 60 cars because that's how many cars typically are carrying 69 people (1.15 people per car by my math.)

The idea came from a similar photo once made in Munster, Germany, explains Daniel Bowen in his blog, where I got the details since they are buried somewhere in the Canberra Cycling Promotion Fund web site.



I'm not sure if Mayor Marion Barry has seen the photo but apparently our governor got the message:














Two Historians Talking


 

 
The two 1855 photographs by Crimean War photographer Roger Fenton of the battlefield that inspired Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" poem, one showing cannonballs strewn across the road and one without, have provoked discussion about how history is recorded. 


I once came across the podcast New Books In Russian Studies so I tried a few. The host was Marshall Poe, a college professor who teaches and writes book about Russian history -- a Russian historian, in other words -- based most recently at the University of Iowa who interviewed other professors about books in Russian history they'd recently written. Sometimes it was a book about the gulag under Stalin, sometimes about the administration of the Russian government under the czars, then maybe a book about how Neoliberal privatization has been difficult to implement in Russia in the post Soviet era because of things like the fact that entire cities were built during the Soviet era without electricity meters.

The time frame of the books jumped around. Poe interviewed the authors after he'd read the books, but how he chose them I didn't know. But I became a big fan. I of course have an interest in Soviet Socialism but also in Russian history itself after having read or listened to many of the classics by the famous Russian novelists.

Poe would always get the author to give us a good synopsis of the book, and also ask how they'd become interested in the topic and researched the book. They'd sometimes trade stories about navigating what are apparently vast Russian archives flung across that huge country and are often housed in the dusty basements of provincial office buildings, and of dealing with notoriously cranky Russian archivists, and of sometimes being pointed toward fascinating stories by those same archivists. Poe, who is of course an expert in the Russian history field, would often zero in on something in the book and they'd discuss it at length. Aware of controversies surrounding certain things Poe would sometimes make the author defend conclusions they'd come to.

The podcast delighted me not only for what I learned about Russia and the USSR but about how "scholarship" is done. How is research done, what the author's interests and biases have to do with the picture that evolves from their research. Historic research is a "scientific" process but it has that personal element, that must be taken into account whenever you're reading anything anyone has written, or says. Like all of those things, research in history is also part of a larger process, an argument among historians and the broader public over what specific events mean and about what larger concepts mean, and of our own inquest into the meaning of life.

You might be aware, for instance, of an ongoing debate among historians over what role the German people actually played in the Holocaust. How active were they? How anti semitic was the general German public? Were they willing participants? Or victims themselves of Nazi propaganda and terror tactics? This debate is ongoing via books and articles being published by historians, and in news media coverage of the books and articles. The implications of an argument like that should be obvious to us, as we debate how our government uses the ongoing "war on terror" for various means; to promote certain policies or increase domestic surveillance or to militarize local police forces, and ongoing debate about whether there even is a terrorist threat to the "US Homeland" and if not, what that means.

Likewise there's a debate ongoing about what the USSR actually was and it affects the ongoing debate about the merits of Capitalism and "the American way." in the USA our picture of the USSR and, by design, of Socialism, is shaped primarily by Cold War propaganda put out by the US government and politicians and by Capitalism and the Capitalist media, which of course all were deathly afraid of what the USSR represented -- namely the potential for the people here, us, to take control of the economy and of the reigns of power.

In the years since the Soviet Union dissolved the Russian archives have again become open to western scholars and a different picture is gradually emerging of the USSR. Of, for example, the Stalin era. Claims we've always heard of millions being murdered or left to starve in the gulags have some basis in fact but are also being shown to have been wild exaggerations and even fabrications, kindling of course renewed debate over what many had hoped were settled conclusions about the supposed horrors of Soviet Socialism.

But also, the belief long held by Leftists that Lenin was the good guy but Stalin came along and messed things up is being challenged, as historians are arguing that Lenin also had an authoritarian style and actually originated the dictatorial nature of Russian Communist Party rule.

New Books About All Kinds Of Things

As it happens New Books In Russian Studies (now New Books In Russian and Eurasian Studies) is one many New Books podcasts called collectively the New Books Network, which his Wikipedia article credits Poe with founding and which, since I've become aware of it, has expanded from a few areas to include many, and even has interviews with authors of books outside the traditional range of historiography. For instance I noticed an interview with Rory Carroll about his book about Hugo Chavez. I've written about Carrol, formerly Latin American correspondent for The Guardian, who covered Venezuela from the Caracas Country Club and never met a Socialist or socialist policy he couldn't hate without having to look into it and still makes his living trashing Venezuela's socialist government.

The New Books interviews, though, are a delight, especially, for me, those still done by Poe who administers the entire network but still does some interviews. I don't always agree with Poe, who is a former Leftist who has become somewhat conservative, but he's a very good interviewer and has an appealing often self effacing sense of humor. It's interesting to hear a former Leftist who's trending conservative explain himself. It's in some ways a self critique, a means of examining ones own assumptions and convictions and especially the basis of one's own idealism. As an example, Poe sees the failures of the Soviet Union and its leaders that are being discovered or verified by new research as proof that that system failed and not so much as a way to understand why it failed, to put it in general terms.

I've grown to especially enjoy the interviews where he takes other veterans in the field of Russian studies, or German studies, where Poe is also an expert, off into discussions about the various debates going on among historians, such as his interview with Robert Gellately of Florida State or with Mark Mazower of Columbia, both accessible here, which ended up having not a lot to do with the books but more about what they say about the eras they covered and about the nature and politics of historiography.

If you have iTunes on a computer or a cell phone the New Books podcasts are easy to find in that format, and also are at the New Books Network web site.

From the New Books Network web site:





Saturday, June 13, 2015

New Mexico Delegation to Obama:



(Updated below)

All our New Mexico federal representatives yesterday said "No" to President Obama ramming through the Trans Pacific Partnership big gift to big business trade treaty, joining our two senators who voted against so called "TPP fast track" two weeks ago.

Democrats Michelle Grishm and Ben Lujan stood up to some high pressure lobbying by the president and his administration.

Conservative Republican Steve Pearce voted against fast track also. Reports that Pearce was confused and thought he was voting against sun rooms turned out to have been fabricated by me.

The president having "fast track" authority to push through the treaty without any debate in congress is said to be necessary for the treaty's passage because it's believed some of the Pacific Rim allies involved in the top secret negotiations with the US and several hundred corporations will not sign it if the US congress is permitted to have any say in the treaty. This is because opposition to the treaty runs deep in congress especially among Democrats who would try to modify the treaty in ways that would protect workers from some of the more obvious forms of exploitation owing to the approaching 2016 elections.

Unfortunately the treaty, which dramatically expands copyright protections for big corporations and pharmaceutical companies, and will allow corporations to sue local, state and federal governments that pass any law that affects their profits or potential future profits, will likely end up passing anyway, as congressional leaders intend to keep holding votes on the "fast track" provision until it passes.


Update: EU Observer, published in Brussels, carries news about the European Union. It's kind of the voice of the EU in English. It quickly came out with an article saying the vote by congress could harm prospects for not only the TPP but a similar treaty the Obama Administration is negotiating with European countries, TTIP, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which doesn't get near the coverage as TPP but is just as bad.

EU Observer casts Obama's House defeat as coming at the hands of an "unusual coalition of left-wing Democrats and Tea Party Republicans."

I cite this last paragraph as an example that public discourse in Europe has followed a path similar to that in the US, where fiscally conservative parties like Democrats as considered to be "left-wing." In Europe the same thing has happened, as formerly leftist parties have turned to the right following the retrenchment of Capital known as Neoliberalism that was first popularized by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and then with formerly Leftist parties' cooperation became the status quo. Tony Blair's "New Labour" party oversaw the dismantling of much of the UK social safety net. The French Socialist Party has done the same in France. In Germany the Social Democratic Party has been in power for much of the time during which Germany, formerly home to the world highest paid workers, has become a cheap labor pool.

















Thursday, June 11, 2015

TPP Could End Medicare

The media doesn't seem concerned about it but Wikileaks has published some leaked sections of the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty being secretly negotiated between the president, corporations and our Pacific Rim allies.

The treaty, which like all treaties, if passed would become part of the US Constitution, as per the US Constitution, sets up "tribunals" that will be made up of corporate lawyers and if any government -- federal, state or local -- makes any law that any corporation can claim costs the corporation any profits or future profits, the tribunal can levy a fine of that amount on the government.

This is the opposite of discouraging investment. It's discouraging governments from making any law to protect their citizens from environmental hazards or corporate fleecing or anything, really. Imagine a city government wanting to deny a permit for a mine because it would pollute their water. A company like the Rio Tinto multinational mining giant could easily drive that city into bankruptcy if the paw was passed, and threatening to would simply make the city back down. I wrote awhile back about the small Central American country Costa Rica that's been hit with a big fine like that under another treaty.

The latest Wikileaks leak reveals that programs like Medicare and Medicaid have been explicitly listed in drafts of the TPP treaty as programs that can be challenged by corporations for cutting into their profits.









Wednesday, June 10, 2015

President Sanders?

In the past ten days columns have been appearing at some of the large circulation Left leaning blogs predicting that Bernie Sanders will win the 2016 presidential election.

Some make the case that his policy positions, like breaking up the big banks, spending on infrastructure, strengthening not whittling down Social Security and taxing the rich, are popular with most Americans and that no other candidate will be taking these positions. Others make the case the all other candidates have too much ideological baggage or are simply not taken seriously. They generally think Clinton's high negative ratings combined with Sanders' policies will propel him past her in the primaries and that considering the Republican field, winning the general election will be easier for him than getting the nomination.

Progressives and leftists have long made the case that both parties are to the right, ideologically, of where the general population is, and indeed, whenever a poll is taken that asks people specific, individual questions, and not general questions, it shows that the general public favors the kinds of policies Bernie is campaigning on. A column in Daily Kos points out that Bernie is running a smart campaign, focusing on a few basic points that could fit onto bumper stickers -- the kind of campaigning Republicans have been successful at. One makes the case that the primary schedule favors Sanders, and that were he to win the nomination it would be such big news that he would have momentum coming out of the convention. It would certainly cause some excitement in the country to think that someone different, who might be on the peoples' side, might become president.

I, myself, think Hillary Clinton will be unable to assemble the coalition Barak Obama did to win twice -- young people, women and African Americans. Obama relied on massive African American turnout and got over 90 percent of that vote and Clinton can't duplicate that, nor does she seem able to inspire much enthusiasm in general. It's just not in her.

Also, she and all the Republicans are wedded to the corporate elite and to Neoliberalism or even more right wing economic ideologies, which the public is well fed up with, and Bernie has none of that. He's basically an unknown and if he can successfully define himself and not let himself be defined he has a chance, I say. The mainstream media will try to prevent it but they might not have enough relevance left to deny him.

These aren't big time, well known known columnists but they are at least people who can get published and they do have substantial followings. You can read what they have to say here, here, here and here.






Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Christian Thing To Do

Awhile back Jim Baca on his Only In New Mexico blog posted a news story from Vice.com called America's Most Heavily Armed Church. It's about New Life Baptist Church in Albuquerque, a right wing church where the pastor is a cop and all the men wear guns to church and they have drills to prepare themselves for an armed invasion.

Just listening to the preacher talk to the reporter you can see that it's one of those churches that makes selective use of the Bible to push a right wing political agenda. Most of the denominations that have grown rapidly in the past couple of decades are of this strain, from big ones like Southern Baptist to small independents. The religious right, basically. They take all their doctrine from the books written by Paul and simply ignore the teachings of Jesus, i.e. the gospels.



The New Life Baptist church is across the street from my apartment complex on Los Volcanes Road and I see them come and go sometimes while I'm walking over to where I park my trucks on Airtport Drive and in the past few days they've been demonstrating what makes them so heartwarming. The other day a guy was pulling weeds from the xeriscape and tossing them in the gutter, so they'll wash down into the storm drain system and pollute the Rio Grande or else clog up the storm drains and we can pay city workers to unclog them. In other words, make it somebody else's problem.

About a week ago someone left a Smith's Supermarket grocery cart on the sidewalk that goes beside the church on Airport. The grocery cart was half on the sidewalk and half in the xeriscape that is New life Baptist Church's side yard. It sat there all week. Monday morning I came back from doing my Holbrook relay and saw that someone had pushed the cart across the street and into the weeds. They made it someone else's problem.

There's a phrase I used to hear now and then. "The Christian thing to do.." The Christian thing to do would have been for someone to put the grocery cart in the back of their pickup and take it to the Smith's Supermarket at Central and Coors about a mile away.

The Christian thing to do would be to take care of your weeds yourself and not make someone else take care of them for you.

Someone posted a remark on the internet the other day that said;

Christians say the problem is that Christianity isn't taught in schools. The problem is that it isn't taught in church.









Monday, June 8, 2015

The Police State

Police in the US have shot dead 400 people so far this year. Today, June 8, is the 159th day of the year.

The number of times the police have merely beat and verbally abused people so far is of course much higher. In the video below that started going around this weekend, at the 3 minute mark a foul mouth cop brutally throws a 14 year old bikini clad girl to the sidewalk several times and eventually kneels on her back with both knees.








This happened at some kind of pool party in McKinney, Texas. It was a very mixed race crowd, as you can see. Watching the whole seven-minute video you can get some kind of sense of how the police acted in what was a chaotic scene. You might even tend not to blame the cop for what he did.

But looks can be deceiving. The kid who shot the video is now being quoted as saying:




The people who congratulated themselves a couple of years with pronouncements that the Occupy Wall Street Movement went nowhere are in for a surprise, I think. The people who were in the streets then haven't changed their minds at all, not one bit, and now there's the Black Lives Matter Movement.

These young African Americans are way smarter and wiser than the white college age kids who were run out of city parks by the Obama Administration in 2011, and they have nothing to lose. That movement is growing, and there's a lot of talk going around about alliances.

If you have a minute, read this piece in Salon, an interview with Chris Hedges, the former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner who was in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall covering the uprisings and rebellions that swept the Soviet bloc countries. Hedges says that we, in the US, are in a "revolutionary moment."

"It’s with us already, but with this caveat: it is what Gramsci calls interregnum, this period where the ideas that buttress the old ruling elite no longer hold sway, but we haven’t articulated something to take its place."

He adds that "the facade of power — both the physical facade of power and the ideological facade of power — appears to remain intact. But it has less and less credibility.

"There are all sorts of neutral indicators that show that. Low voter turnout, the fact that Congress has an approval rating of 7 percent, that polls continually reflect a kind of pessimism about where we are going, that many of the major systems that have been set in place — especially in terms of internal security — have no popularity at all.

"All of these are indicators that something is seriously wrong, that the government is no longer responding to the most basic concerns, needs, and rights of the citizenry. That is [true for the] left and right. But what’s going to take it’s place, that has not been articulated. Yes, we are in a revolutionary moment; but maybe it’s a better way to describe it as a revolutionary process.

Hedges says that a "revolutionary consciousness" is building, but it's not yet known what will set the revolution off.

"That is the big unknown. When it will come is unknown. What is it that will trigger it is unknown. You could go back and look at past uprisings, some of which I covered — I covered all the revolutions in Eastern Europe; I covered the two Palestinian uprisings; I covered the street demonstrations that eventually brought down Slobodan Milosevic — and it’s usually something banal."

That part where Hedges talks about there being nothing articulated to take the place of the existing order. I don't hear a lot of talk about that. People are aware of the traditional alternatives, Socialism and Anarchism. There's nebulous talk about economies based on collectivism. There's talk about justice in the context of a reformed Capitalism. What there is mostly is just anger and disappointment, and disillusionment. Disillusionment encompasses losing faith in the existing order, and losing faith in its ability to solve the problems it's created.

When and if a real mass movement forms and gains critical mass, it's not going to surprise our government and our security forces -- the military and the police. It's part of their job to be aware of the potential for things like that, and to not talk about it so that the people who do still have faith in them don't lose it. They haven't been arming local police with military weapons and vehicles for the last ten years for nothing. They know nothing else but violence, and when something happens they will attempt to violently suppress it.

Wealth keeps accumulating at the top. All new wealth being created is going there, and has been. Living standards are flat. The Neoliberal, Reaganomics politics that have brought us to the point that very few people believe in the American Dream anymore aren't going away. Both parties are solidly on board with that. When was the last time you heard one of our New Mexico politicians talk about income inequality? The never do. You might have heard a feeble bleat along those lines here and there, but they have no intention of going against the Capitalist ruling class. Just look at their deeds. Look at what they vote for.

In the 1960s there were people who were very serious revolutionaries. It took a few years but they were eventually infiltrated, rounded up, isolated, or murdered by police and FBI. These young people are very aware of that and how it happened. They also have means at their disposal they didn't have in the 1960s. They have computers, for one thing. They know how to use them. They also have the fact that a different set of people make up the general population. People who don't necessarily believe that the future is a sure thing. People who have lost homes, lost jobs. People who have come here from other places where the history was different.

Those of you don't think it can happen here, who have already forgot about that Revolution in 1776, and the Civil War, and 1848, stay tuned.







Sunday, June 7, 2015

Vines

I kept hearing about Vines and finally looked it up. It's a six second looping video made with a software application you can download for free to a smart phone. Apparently you can edit video taken with your cell phone with some touch screen commands.







If you get sick of the thing you can click on it to make it top..




Saturday, June 6, 2015

Our Mother Of Music

Someone posted to Archive.org a nice collection of songs that have incorporated the "Bo Diddley beat." I may have posted this link before but came across it yesterday while I was looking for something else and it's so great I wanted to share it again. It includes:

Tribal Thunder - Dick Dale
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
Willie And The Hand Jive - Johnny Otis
I Want Candy - The Strangeloves
Rosalyn - The Pretty Things
Not Fade Away - Buddy Holly And The Crickets
Marie's The Name (Of Her Latest Flame) - Elvis Presley
Magic Bus - The Who
1969 - The Stooges
Hateful - The Clash
She's The One - Bruce Springsteen
Panic In Detroit - David Bowie
Get Some - Lykke Li
How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths

The Bo Diddley beat, a syncopated five-beat rhythmic pattern Diddley used in his first, signature hit and sometimes revived in other songs, originates from Africa and is one of a number of different African rhythms used in music like Rumba, Salsa and Latin jazz and has been incorporated by Rock and Roll, Pop, etc. It's one of several "clave" rhythmic patterns, according to Wikipedia, which has an extensive musicology article about them.
  
You can play the collection in Archive.org's player at the top of their page or save the entire file in one of several formats by right clicking one of the links on the right hand side. Arcive.org is where people post things that are in the public domain, i.e., the copyright has expired.

I also came across this 1939 recording of The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Soloman Linda and the Evening Birds. That song, made popular in the US by by The Tokens and others, is based on an African folk tune but Linda is credited with writing the commonly known version that's been recorded hundreds of times (I have at least 40 different recordings of it).



That's me on the far right. I'd given up drinking and was trying to get my life together and I really appreciated Soloman giving me the break, but soon after this picture was taken I met Melissa the cartographer and the rest, as they say, is history.





Wednesday, June 3, 2015

US Media Plays Grab Ass With China's Land Grab

You may have seen some news reports about China expanding the size of some small atolls and reefs in the South China Sea in order to build, it's assumed, small naval outposts on them. The frequency of articles about this is increasing and their tone is becoming frantic. NPR is calling it a land grab and wondering if the Obama Administration is ever going to do something about it. The same charges are repeated in an almost identical piece written by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think thank, that some papers have been reprinting as a news article. Other press, the BBC for example, talks of "Chinese expansionism."




None of these articles mention the "Pivot to the East," the shift in US global strategy that had been going on for a decade or more but was accelerated in 2012 by President Obama. Under it the US is significantly pulling out of the Middle East and repositioning its forces around the Pacific Rim, forming new military pacts with its Pacific Rim allies and positioning US troops in some of them, Australia for example.

The Pivot to the East is of course a strategy to contain China, which is rapidly gaining on the US in economic strength.

Neither do any of these articles mention the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP, which is also about containing China by lining up all its biggest trading partners and competitors into a trade bloc the US will dominate and by which it intends to control trade in the Pacific Rim, and China's economy.

As US efforts to corner China have proceeded so have provocative actions by the US and its allies around small islands the media always describes as "disputed." If you still wonder why China is trying to beef up it's naval presence in its backyard, notice also this map of the world's major oil routes and their "choke points." Notice the Straights of Malacca, between Singapore and Malaysia, which, if it wanted to, The US could easily blockade, cutting off almost all of China's oil which primarily comes from the Middle East and Africa.

Oil Change Project map


By expanding a few small islands and positioning naval forces there, China is simply doing what it can to defend itself -- not so much its land but its economy.

I'm not sure if the reporters who are carrying water for the administration, or actually for US Capitalism, even know what they're doing. It's conceivable that they don't know any the background, but the wealthy owners of the papers they work for do, you can be sure.

Ukraine The Same Thing

It's been pretty much the same story with media coverage of Ukraine. Not an article that accuses Russia of aggression and of fomenting conflict in Ukraine mentions what happened before the current situation in Ukraine unfolded. Since the early 1990s the US has been relentlessly expanding NATO by admitting old Soviet Republics and now has Russia's important population and industrial centers surrounded with missile batteries, and in some countries with US troops, that are positioned on Russia's very borders.

The US backed "Maidan uprising" that resulted in the US backed coup that ousted elected Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year was intended to bring Ukraine into NATO and deny Russia of it's port in Crimea -- Russia's only warm water port -- and to bring the network of pipelines that cross Ukraine carrying Russian gas to its southern European customers under US control.


None of this critical context is ever mentioned in the US media, which casts Russian maneuvering to hold onto Crimea as bold Russian aggression. It's never suggested either that Russia's ongoing involvement might have something to do with preventing the majority Russian population of Ukraine's eastern provinces from being subject to the kind of slaughters that were beginning to be carried out soon after the coup by the pro US fascists that control much of the new Ukrainian government.

These slaughters were barely mentioned if at all in the mainstream US media and when they were worked in ways that obscured obscure what really happened. Not so alternative media, which reported on the massacres in Kiev's Maidan Square and also on how Ukrainian nationalists shot Russian Ukrainians as they jumped from a burning office building in Odessa.

For the US media, covering Ukraine is all about demonizing Russia, and Vladmir Putin. Putin is Putin, but if was him I'd be doing exactly what he's doing, and exactly what the Chinese are doing, trying to fend of naked US aggression.






Monday, June 1, 2015

Call Me

While we can talk on the phone without the NSA recording it and storing it in a huge building-sized computer in Salt Lake City that uses up more electricity than a medium sized city it is said.