Saturday, August 29, 2015

Perspective

The Texas sheriff deputy killed at a gas station Friday "is the 23rd officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page," the Washington Post reports.

The police this year have killed 787 people, according to the web site killedbypolice.net.

In June The Guardian did an analysis and found about 1 in 4 people killed by police this year have been unarmed. More than twice as many of the unarmed victims of police killings were black than were white, despite black Americans being far fewer in number than white Americans.




Friday, August 28, 2015

A Great New Mexican

I've written about New Mexico's Dennis Chavez, the first Democratic Hispanic US Senator, who voted for the legislation that created Social Security and wrote the legislation that created the Rural Electrification Administration, which literally transformed America and still provides electricity to millions of Americans in areas commercial power companies find too unprofitable because of the cost of running power lines to them.

Thomas J Hagerty
Thomas J Hagerty

Thomas J Hagerty was a Catholic priest who became radicalized after being posted to a parish in Las Vegas, NM in 1901 and seeing the conditions Mexican railway workers lived under. Not many years earlier Las Vegas was the center of the resistance to the US takeover of New Mexico, and its independent minded people may have had an influence on Hagerty, too. He became a Socialist and helped popularize the movement nationally with his writings in the Socialist press and for a time ran a leading Socialist newspaper. He later became a founding member of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, the iconic Anarchist union. His use of his office for politics and his use of the Bible to justify his Socialist beliefs enraged the conservative pro Capitalist church hierarchy and he was first relieved of his church duties and ultimately defrocked.

"The Ballot Box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation of the working class, and in my opinion it never will."

That was written by Hagerty. I've been expressing a similar sentiment lately, that no significant change can be brought about working within the political system (except as brought about by the forces that control that system, of course) but that it comes as a result of movements outside the system. I've cited the IWW's way of organizing as an example. They don't work to get contracts, but to be organized in a way that they can exert their power directly. They don't run candidates for office, as Socialists do. Socialists would take over government, Anarchists would eliminate government and run their work places and communities through direct democracy.

Hagerty wrote the stirring preamble to the IWW constitution, reproduced below, which is often reprinted by radicals and Leftists. I remember the first time I read it being floored by it. I probably shouted and lept to my feet with my fist in the air. I became even more enthralled with the IWW constitution itself, a remarkable document, written more than one hundred years ago, that lays out how to run a organization -- a union, a society, anything -- so that no one can accumulate power and that everyone has a voice. Everyone. It's a beautiful document.

I don't doubt there's a lot of Hagerty in it, being he was an IWW founder and a writer. Hagerty represents a vein in Catholicism that's hard to find in Protestantism, which I was raised under, by the way, that I think sees in Socialism the earthly manifestation of the best parts of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. It has less to do with God and more to do with how we relate to each other as human beings. We humans are a mixture of good and bad, to put it simply. We have strong impulses both to love and to fear. We can decide which of those we live by, which we try to work on, which are expressed in government and in our personal dealings.

Not that everyone is entirely consciously aware that they have that choice, but we can help each other be aware of it. That's what people like Hagerty did, or what Oscar Romero did. Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador, who was murdered in 1980 if not directly by the by CIA then by people who were part of the CIA's efforts to keep in power the Latin American dictators and butchers who kept imperialism's oligarchic allies in power, was one of the leading proponents of what's called Liberation Theology. It's called that because it encompasses the liberation of people from oppression, but it also finds support in the Bible for Socialism as the alternative to Capitalist Imperialism.

Hagerty was kicked out of the church by the same thing that killed Romero. Church leaders, Catholic and Protestant, who whether they are involved in conservative political movements directly or are only saying they are against Socialism or are only saying that politics have no place in the church and who go after people like Hagerty, are taking sides with Capitalism, which has survived as a system because it's been a successful way to manage our lesser natures, our greed, which emanates from our fear, and in supporting such a system all have chosen for whatever reason to live by their lesser natures. Not so Thomas Hagerty.


Note: Anarchists and Socialists share a Marxist analysis of Capitalism and Society -- the main difference between them is in how to organize society after Capitalism's overthrow. Their common Marxist analysis is evident in the IWW preamble that Hagerty wrote:

Preamble to the Industrial Workers of the World Constitution 

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.






Thursday, August 27, 2015

Newspapers Are Dead - Long Live Newspapers

Today's update by the Washington Post on the fate of the New Orleans Times-Picuayne, whose publisher after Hurricane Katrina decided to try putting out only three print editions a week and focusing on the newspaper's new online version, contains some bad news for those of us hoping Journalism will survive the relentless decline of the newspaper industry. The verdict is that the print edition still brings in all almost the revenue, and that revenue continues to decline.

This dovetails with national data showing that internet ad revenue has been slowly increasing but not nearly enough to help the newspaper industry.  In other words, an online newspaper can't come close to supporting itself.

Note that in my introduction I focused on the "publisher" of the Time-Picuyane, who is a rich man. The Washington post didn't talk to him. They talked to the man who runs the paper, the editor. They approached the story from the point of view of Journalism -- how many good reporters have been lost, what about the overall picture for newspapers? The reporters and editors at the Washington Post are naturally concerned about what being lost when newspapers are lost. Many of us cherish our newspapers. We look forward to the morning paper with our coffee. We appreciate the well written story that fleshes out something about American life. we appreciate thorough reporting on government and good investigative journalism that alerts us to problems in need of our attention.

But remember that newspapers have always been the voices of the people controlling the purse strings. When our founding fathers enshrined press freedoms in the constitution they were enshrining the ability of the members of their economic class of merchants and landowners to carry on an open debate among themselves. Their slaves didn't have their own newspapers, nor did the white working class, nor did women.

The most promising progressive web sites, like The Intercept and the Center for Public Integrity,  rely on funding from progressive rich people. Like the newspapers they are replacing they will only contain information and opinions progressive rich people want them to contain.

Locally, the New Mexico Political Report shows promise. It's funded, I learned within a few minutes owing to the the miracle of the internet, by Michael Huttner, a lawyer from Denver who has built a network of progressive news outlets. I also learned that Huttner is an Obama supporter and part of the Democratic Party establishment. I doubt it would take much more digging to find out that he gets financial help for his project from the Democratic Party, but even if he doesn't his publications' politics aren't going to stray outside the parameters allowed by the Democratic Party. They won't challenge the party's ties to Wall Street. They won't challenge Capitalism. We the people will continue to be the losers.

With all the publications I've mentioned, as it's been with all the newspapers that may or may not be fading into history, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Nevertheless, the model the new online publications are developing holds promise for we the people and for the possibility of us developing our own news outlets that promote our own interests.




Monday, August 24, 2015

Ray Lewis





Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis became an icon of the Left when he showed up at Occupy Wall street in uniform to support the protesters. Memes like the one above were made of him and circulated widely. He has since developed a large following on Facebook where he leads discussions about the issues of the day, especially involving the police, and he's shown up various other places in or out of uniform, like in Ferguson, MO. He's definitely against police brutality and the continual gunning down of innocent people by the police, but also points out the reality the police face, as in this he posted today about what a cop would face if he tried to report another cop:








Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is It Time To Vote Yet?

"Truth and justice will never, ever, come from above. We will have to construct them from below."

That statement from a communique released this week by the Zapatistas relates to official complicity and impunity in some ongoing murders of teachers in Mexico, but is also meant to apply universally.

Zapatista women celebrate 20 years of struggle in 2014
The Zapatistas are indigenous people from the southern state of Chiapas who staged an uprising on January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA took effect. The uprising shook Mexico and made news around the world.

The Zapatistas are still fighting to keep their lands. They also have become a kind of laboratory and worldwide clearing house for constructing alternative forms of governance. Chiapas is probably the most radical state. It's teachers often go on strike and are met with deadly repression and go on strike again the following year. The Zapatistas, officially the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, named themsleves after "Emilano Zapata, the agriarian reformer and commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution."

Zapatista flag
Their communique is a reminder that the power structure never gives up power voluntarily. If you look at the change that's occurred in the US it's come from and because of mass movements -- the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti War Movement, the Labor Movement, the Tea Party Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Women's Movement. Any legislative reforms that followed were forced by those movements.

We must exercise our power directly, not hand it over to politicians. Neither can change come through the ballot box.

As the great Anarchist Lucy Parsons put it, "Don't be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth."

It's a difficult idea for Americans to get used to, bombarded as we are from birth with the importance of voting, of  'exercising our democratic right to vote', of  our vote 'making a difference' and so on.

 Even the most disillusioned Liberals and Leftists, while conceding that voting isn't going to change the fact that both parties are the party of Wall Street, and that as far as economic matters go, voting is a waste of time, point to Supreme Court nominations. You've got to vote because of who will be appointing the justices.

That's a ridiculous argument for a couple of reasons. First, the current Supreme Court is the most business friendly court in history. No one even notices that, or that Democrats appointed some of tjhose corporate friendly judges.

It's really all about abortion. But what did this court just decide in the issue of gay marriage? As the court has always done it followed public opinion, as it has done and will do with abortion. The court's whittling own of abortion rights will end when a cut majority is unambiguously opposed to that, which isn't the case.

The IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, is a union formed by Anarchists. Anarchists realize that you'll never get around the problems that occur when you hand your power over to the state along with your vote. It's the state. That's where they differ with Socialism, which would retain the state. The IWW isn't even concerned about contracts. They exercise their power directly, on the shop floor. They simply walk out and maybe break up a few machines on the way out, and they don't run candidates for public office.




Friday, August 21, 2015

Have You Been Purged Today?

There's something ominous going on in England. The Labour Party is purging members it thinks will vote for Jeremy Corbyn as party chairman. Corbyn, a member of parliament, and his supporters want to return the party to its working class roots and away from the Neoliberalism of Tony Blair and subsequent party leaders.

The Labour Party in justifying its purge is saying that many people who don't support Labour's "values" are joining the party simply to vote for Corbyn and thus hurt Labour's chances in the next elections. What I've been reading is that that's true, but it's not Conservatives signing up for Labour to vote for Corbyn but people on the Left who had become disenchanted with Labour but are inspired by some courageous stances Corbyn has been taking like going against party leadership to vote against the most recent ruling Conservative Party austerity measures -- in other words, the people joining Labour to vote for Ccorbyn are the people who should be Labour's natural constituency. That sense of things is documented in a new article by Kerry-anne Mendoza published in the New Internationalist titled The Labour Purge Is Underway, in which she reproduces an email sent around by the Labour Party leadership that I've posted here.

Blair is often compared to Bill Clinton, who led a movement of conservative Democrats-- see Democratic Leadership Council -- that included people like Al Gore, Joe Biden and Tony Coelho who took over the Democratic Party in the 1980s and 90s and moved it to the right. Both Blair and Clinton as prime minister and president were able to pass things like NAFTA and legislation dismantling social services that no Republican president or Conservative prime minister could have gotten away with at the time. The Democratic and Labour parties today unashamedly promote Reaganomics economic policies and remain "liberal" on only two social policies, gay marriage and abortion, and posture on things like the environment and racial equality only as needed to prevent a revolt of their base.

Party orthodoxy is enforced in various ways. In the US it's usually thought that the election process is the primary way; vast amounts of money must be raised and since rich people have the money, rich people call the tune. But it's hard to even get on the ballot in the first place unless you have the approval of the party establishment. In New Mexico, for example, both parties hold nominating conventions where a candidate has to receive a certain percentage of votes from enrolled party members to get a spot on their party's primary ballot.

I've wondered if it would be possible to take over a mainstream political party by getting a lot of like minded people to join the party. We're seeing what happens when you try that in England.





Tuesday, August 18, 2015

But what do Socialists think about Bernie Sanders?

(Update: What the Sanders campaign might mean for the future of Socialism is discussed below, and I mention American's increasingly more favorable views toward Socialism. Today the Christian Science Monitor has more on that with new survey results)


Bernie is sometimes called a Socialist and it's sometimes said he identifies as a Democratic Socialist. That's an amorphous term usually understood to mean something like a European style Democratic Socialist, also an amorphous term since, like it has in the US, the political center in Europe has shifted significantly to the right over the past few decades. In general though Democratic Socialists don't seek to overthrow Capitalism but to reform it. Some of those reforms include state ownership of utilities and certain industries, and social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, etc. that liberal Democrats also support more or less.

Bernie Sanders rally in Los Angeles on August 10
There are different currents in actual Socialism and the differences mainly have to do with tactics, The primary difference is whether they believe the transition to Socialism can be achieved by the vote or must be accomplished through revolution.

Naturally Socialists are interested in Sanders' presidential candidacy and whether the policies he's promoting, which are intended to reform but not overthrow the Capitalist system, hurt or help the cause of Socialism, and whether they would make the US more fertile ground for Socialism.

This statement about it is from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, one of several Socialist parties or organizations that run candidates for political office as a way to educate people about Socialism. They like it that a person who identifies as a Socialist can run a viable campaign for US president as Sanders is doing, and they place his campaign in the context of other social foment taking place such as the Black Lives Matter Movement and the campaign to increase the wages of people who work at places like McDonald's and Wal Mart, and say that, like those, Sanders' popularity is another good sign, like those public opinion surveys that show that young people are as open to Socialism as they are to Capitalism, that, despite setbacks to Socialism's brand like the Soviet Union, history isn't over and a more humane and equitable world is still possible.

I'll be writing more about the different Socialist takes on Sanders as his saga unfolds. I haven't had much to say about Sanders' campaign because I see it as being solidly in the context of Democratic Party politics, about which I write quite a bit. His popularity is an expression of popular discontent, and of the fact that people want something besides what they're getting from Democrats, but from the time he entered politics, when he became mayor of Burlington Vermont, through his tenure in the US House and now the Senate, Sanders has worked within the umbrella of the Democratic Party -- he gets committee assignments as a Democrat and votes with them on critical issues like filibusters-- and he has gone along with most of its more egregious policies, like its support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the bombing of Yugoslavia; he generally hasn't opposed US imperialism in its military or economic faces. He's a gun rights advocate.

Sanders has been a steady voice against Neoliberalism -- Reaganomics -- but doesn't openly call Democrats out for their embrace of it and isn't using this presidential campaign to speak out against their embrace of it. Much of his support is coming from Democratic Party liberals who aren't really aware of how their party has capitulated to Reaganomics, and his campaign isn't going to do much to change the course the country is on toward being just another third world country and a cheap labor pool for an increasingly powerful and bloated Capitalist system.





Sunday, August 16, 2015

As Social Security Turns 80 Dennis Chavez Can't RIP

Dennis Chavez is spinning in his grave.

Dennis Chavez
The New Deal New Mexico Democrat (there's a nice biography at the web site of the US House, where he also served) who as the nation's first Democratic Hispanic US senator voted for the legislation that created Social Security would be abhorred by today's Democratic Party as it executes a stealth attack on the program that has transformed what it means to retire in the US -- the poverty rate for seniors exceeded 40 percent when the program began and is essentially the same as for the general population now.

Because it's so popular and a so-called "third rail" in politics Social Security survives largely intact although it pays out less in inflation adjusted benefits than it should, but Democrats have their sights set on it. Their current leader, President Obama, when he took office formed a blue ribbon commission to give him debt reduction recommendations and packed it with Democrats and Republicans who want to privatize Social Security. (Democrats like Erskine Bowles, John Spratt and Dick Durbin, Republicans like Allan Simpson and Paul Ryan) and although that attempt was turned back he still makes ominous references to our "long term debt" -- code for Social Security -- despite Social Security not being part of the federal budget.

Democrats refuse to refute assertions that Social Security if part of the federal budget or the constant claims that the program is going broke despite the fact that it's been shown over and over that it's not and that a slight adjustment to the "cap" would beef it up substantially; only the first $118,500 of  a taxpayer's income is subject to Social Security contribution deductions, so millionaires and billionaires basically get off scot free and yet still draw their benefits.

New Democrats like those we have in New Mexico now usually profess support for the program when pressed but if you read statements they make about it it's always a qualified support, or they simply avoid the topic altogether. None has come out with a robust endorsement of the program as is. On their web site you'll see statements about the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened species but not about Social Security as a threatened program that millions of retirees depend on.

Republicans have never liked Social Security (although as they do with all other government benefits they complain about they take it) and make periodic attempts to privatize or undermine it. Democrats declining support for it must be seen in the context of their rightward transformation in the past 40 years and adoption of Reaganomics economic policies -- see the post below.




The Reagan In You: What the Steven Slaita case tells us about Reaganomics

University of Michigan professor Juan Cole in an article about the Steven Salaita case gets to exactly what's wrong with Reaganomics, the economic model of lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, decreased levels of social spending and government ownership, more privatization and attacks on the ability of unions to organize and negotiate wages, initiated in the US by Ronald Reagan and since then adopted by both US political parties.


Steven Salaita - Press TV


Salaita, a professor born in West Virginia to immigrant Palestinian and Lebanese parents, is a Native American studies specialist who has done comparative studies of the plights of American Indians and Palestinians and sometimes writes and comments about Palestine. He had been at Virginia Tech but was recently hired by the University of Illinois at Champain Urbana (the main UI campus, the "Fighting Illini"). When Israel began slaughtering Palestinians with its massive air and land bombardment of Gaza last summer Salaita posted some things on Twitter very critical of Israel and it's Prime Minister.

One or more wealthy UI donors got wind of the posts and strong-armed the university's board into firing Salaita, which the board ordered the president to do. Salaita sued and a federal judge in a ruling this week that let the case proceed condemned the university's handling of the case in harsh terms. There appears no way the uiniversity can win and they'll probably have to settle in a way amenable to Salaita. The president is also suing the university and resigned this week, releasing a statement saying she was tired of "carrying water" for the board.

Cole points out that, because of changes in our tax policies -- he means Reaganomics --  universities are so starved of funding that they've had to do two things. One is to sock students with very high tuition. We've all heard about how so many students now leave college and start their lives out very deeply in debt -- at least $25,000-$35,000 for most and commonly $50,000 and up.

The other thing is that universities now rely for much of their budgets on donations from wealthy alumni, and this is where the University of Illinois got in trouble in the Salaita case.

Cole talks about how the situation has affected free speech -- that's Salaita's main defense, plus the fact that he'd signed a contract with the university -- but Reaganomics has affected America in more ways than that. Think about infrastructure. Childhood care and development programs. Think about our public schools.

And the economy. Wages inflation adjusted have remained flat since Reagan came into office. Governments, no longer having the revenue formerly paid in by corporations and the wealthy,  have drastically reduced the amount of wealth they put back into the economy. Consequently the days of robust growth are over, which isn't my opinion but the consensus of economists. There's really no prospect for most working people to get ahead any more.

Since tax rates on profits are so low now, the wealthy no longer pump money back into their businesses in order to get tax deductions. They can now just keep all the profits, and they've been doing it for some time now.

A major tax deduction is for salaries and benefits paid out. Often it was "a wash" to pay those things -- i.e., it lowered your tax bill the same amount you paid out, depending on your situation, or at least close to it. It made it cheaper to pay more in salaries and benefits. Now it's to the benefit of wealthy major stockholders for corporations to keep salaries and benefits as low as possible.

Something Cole didn't mention is that universities have also increased their partnerships with corporate America. Corporations are funding professorships, construction projects on campus, and research, giving them more say over what collegges and universities teach.

We have it here in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. Research done in these corporate partnerships can be patented. No other academics can see it or get the benefit of it. They can't learn from it, build on it, or teach it to their students. One of the primary ways knowledge has been built up over  the centuries is being cut off, as will be the benefits that knowledge brought to humankind.

The responsibility for the situation we're in lies with Democrats and those who support them. Elected Democrats fall into two groups: those who actually believe in Reaganomics despite the absence of any evidence showing that it ever worked for anybody except the rich, and those who know it doesn't work or who just think it's bad for Americans but are afraid to say so, for fear of losing their fancy titles, their big salaries and their status.

Ultimately the blame lies with us. We're either too ignorant to know what's going on or if we do, too lazy, and too selfish, to do anything about it.





Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fidel Turns 89



Bolivian Information Agency photo

The iconic Cuban revolutionary leader received visits this week from, among others, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Bolivian President Evo Morales (left and center in the photo), also men who have found themselves in the crosshairs of the most powerful nation on earth and survived.

All are polarizing figures, loved by people around the world and despised by people around the world for the same reason, trying to find other ways for their countries to take besides being vassals of the United States, ways that are not Capitalism.






 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Press Under House Arrest

In New Mexico we talk about how the Albuquerque Journal is the propaganda arm of the Republican governor's office and Republican mayor's office. The state's bigest newspaper wantonly slants its coverage of both of them, publishing articles that shield them from any bad news and refusing to ask them any hard questions.

John Milton
This kind of thing is not unique in the US. We have what we call a free press, constitutionally protected by what has evolved over time into the judicial principal of "no prior restraint". Our media can publish anything it wants to. Anything. It might be subject afterward to getting sued for things like libel or privacy invasion, but no court or government agency can prevent anything from being published. The courts have only allowed limited exceptions to this principle in times of war.  "Let truth and falsehood grapple," a quote from John Milton, is often used to justify our open press. I first heard that quote in a journalism law class - a judge had used it in a court decision in colonial times.

When our constitution was written, and for the country's first 150 years there were many competing newspapers. A town like Albuquerque would have had several newspapers, big cities a dozen or two. But most US newspapers have folded. Something like six corporations control something like 80 percent of media content -- newspapers, TV, movies, music, all of it.

The concentration of media ownership poses a threat not only to Democrats' blood pressure but to democracy, and all the civil rights and liberties necessary for it and commensurate with it, because truth and falsehood can't grapple. We now have just one paper here in Albuquerque. An evolving blogosphere and internet based alternative media threaten to even things out -- if, and only if, congress can be forced into resisting ongoing pressure from big businesses to privatize the internet. That is, if we get off our asses and put pressure on congress.

LA Times

A frightening story is emerging having to do with one of the country's most prestigious newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, where a political cartoonist was recently fired because the police union said so. The police union has that kind of power because it owns the Times -- rather, it owns $30 million worth of stock in the Tribune Company, which owns the LA Times, making it one of the LA Times' primary owners.


Ted Rall cartoon - rall.com
It's also an interesting case because the cartoonist, Ted Rall, is fighting back. He uncovered that about the union's ownership of the Times, but also about how the police lied to get him fired.

(Rall was interviewed about the case on the Counterpunch podcast and has written about it at his blog.)

It began when Rall wrote an LA Times blog post about an incident that happened 14 years ago, when a LA cop stopped him for jaywalking and proceeded to rough him up and handcuff  him, prompting several passersby to stop and criticize the police officer. The police saw the post and went back and dug up an audio tape of the arrest and gave it to the paper's editors. The paper fired Rall and even went to the unusual length of publishing a blurb saying Rall had been fired for lying in the paper and would never work for the Times again. The blub would have been a death knoll for Rall's career.

The problems was, in justifying why it was firing him an editor had emailed Rall a copy of the recording. When people who knew of Rall's work found out about him being fired, Rall says, several of them contacted him saying they were audio engineers and that they'd like to go over the recording, which is several seconds of clear audio followed by several minutes of street noise. When they cleaned it up, it backed up Rall's version of events. He's now trying to get his job back, and if he doesn't says he will go to court. He says the paper is ignoring him so far. Rall also thinks the cops who roughed him up should be fired for lying.

Rall's research led him to the police union's ownership of the paper. He says the police union, which has a huge pension fund, has deliberately embarked on a campaign of buying media stock; soon after buying a stake in the San Diego paper it got half that paper's editorial board fired, he says, for not being "police friendly."

The Imminent End Of Venezuela
"As the country’s economy goes from bad to worse, writers about Venezuela are running out of modifiers to describe the situation: imploding, reeling, collapsing."
If you follow Venezuela in the US media you know it will soon collapse under the weight of Socialism and Socialist mismanagement, probably before the end of the week. Venezuela's collapse has been being predicted since Hugo Chavez began taking Venezuela on a Socialist course not long after his first election in 1998. The quote at the beginning of this post is from a blog from January. Some of the headlines currently on my Google news page section on Venezuela are:

"Venezuela's disastrous course" (CNN)

"Venezuela's food shortage keeps getting worse" (Business Insider)

 "Venezuela is tilting toward a major social crises" (Business Insider)

"Venezuela congressional election: campaign amid chaos" (Miami Herald)

Venezuela is of course in the US government's sights for a number of reasons, but all are related to the Monroe Doctrine, the longstanding attitude of the US Capitalist ruling class that Latin America is supposed to be their feudal colony. Venezuela has been leading a movement to independence from US dominance in Latin America that has resulted in the region rejecting the Monroe Doctrine and building its own institutions of economic and security cooperation. The US government on behalf of US Capitalism is of course trying to subvert the movement and the US mainstream media has been their propaganda arm to that end.

The same goes on in US media coverage of Russia, China, or any other country that represents a challenge to US led Capitalist global hegemony. It reflects the narrative many of us adhere to that sees US actions on the international stage as benign and those of other countries as malignant. Fortunately there are alternative news sources quickly accessible on the internet now where they don't buy into such a narrative.



Note: Ted Rall, who besides his cartoon work has been a foreign correspondent and columnist, has just written a biography of Edward Snowden, due out August 25th, that goes into Snowden's formative years and also into how Snowden grappled with his obligations to the NSA and to the American public at large. It's on Amazon already. It says on his web site you can get an autographed copy from Rall, but that link isn't live yet. This is the cover:






Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Identity Politics At Big Lots

Identity Politics and its limits are on display in the Democratic Party presidential primary campaign, where vitriolic skirmishes have broken out between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter activists and between Hillary Clinton supporting feminists and everyone else.

Young Black women have interrupted two recent Bernie Sanders campaign events and forced Sanders from the stage. Although he is being ignored by the mainstream media, Democratic-Socialist Sanders has been drawing the largest crowds of any Democrat or Republican. At an event this past weekend in Seattle, where a legitimate Socialist sits on the city council, Sanders drew 28,000 people.

Younger Black activists, many associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, are angry that their issues aren't taken seriously by white Progressives and that their votes are taken for granted. Their sometimes heavy handed "in your face" tactics have caused some heavy handed backlash from Sanders supporters, causing, in turn, some young Blacks to threaten boycotting the 2016 election: Internet radio host Elon James White tweeted this weekend:


Leftists, especially, have criticized the modern Democratic Party for being more a coalition of Identity Politics groups than being based on economic class interests. Identity Politics is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as:

"The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestos, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination."

Their article goes into some detail about Identity Politics, as does a Wikipedia article where it's defined essentially the same way and which gives examples of identity groups; "Examples include social organizations based on race, class, religion, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, information preference, history, musical or literary preference, medical conditions, professions or hobbies. Not all members of any given group are necessarily involved in identity politics."

People in various identity groups tend to be "one issue" voters at this stage of an election campaign. They see the world through the lens of the critique of American society created by their particular identity group, which puts their issues at the front and ties everything that happens to that critique in some way, and they want a candidate who favors their interests; interests as defined by their identity.

I often criticize Democrats on the basis of their abandonment of economic class politics, calling them Republicans who are liberal on two social issues -- abortion and gay marriage. That only hints at a misplaced emphasis on identity politics.

There are two things at work. The politics of getting votes, and the interests being served by those in power once they get in office. Democrats and Republicans both say all kinds of things to get votes from the working class, which includes people who work for a living including the false category "Middle Class" and makes up the overwhelming majority of the electorate. It includes most members of the various identity groups.

Once politicians are in office they occasionally "toss a bone" to their identity politics based supporters, but their main concern -- based on its overall significance and the time they devote to it -- becomes the group of economic issues that play out in federal budgeting processes.

Democrats should abandon identity politics based campaigning and build their base of support on class interests. They won't do that on their own, of course. For a number of reasons they have abandoned the working class, and will only be forced back into representing their economic interests. That will only happen when there's an increased awareness by the working class that their shared interests are economic, and that their identity based interests can best be furthered by gaining political power as an economic class. Part of this equation requires that Marxists and other Leftists make the case that things like racial discrimination and other interests important to identity politics adherents are rooted in the Capitalist system. It means fleshing out the age old premise that we are the products of our environment -- that is, our social and cultural environment -- which is one of the fundamental tenants of Marxism, which holds that the economic system -- Capitalism in our case -- is the primary determinant of our environment.

The Big Lots Effect

The Albuquerque Business Journal has an article speculating about how home values are influenced by proximity to certain upscale businesses. It refers to what's called the Starbucks Effect. Studies have shown that there's a correlation between how close a house is to a Starbucks and its value. The Biz Journal article looked at home prices relative to Trader Joes and Whole Foods Markets, both of which are in Albuquerque:

"The average value of a home near a Trader Joe's was $592,339. A home near Whole Foods was about $561,840. RealtyTrac found that on average, homes near a Trader Joe's appreciated 40.11 percent, compared to homes near a Whole Foods that appreciated 33.51 percent. The average appreciation of all U.S. homes is 34 percent, according to RealtyTrac."

Note I used the word "correlation." These kinds of articles are fun because they imply that there is a causal effect between being close to an upscale business and home values -- that being close causes the value to go up. If there is any causal effect it's probably the other way around. It's more likely that the homes were there first and the businesses followed. Real estate values and market potential made it more likely that a Trader Joes would go in than a Big Lots. The relation is most likely correlative and has to do with the way land gets developed. An overall pattern is established in the early phases of an area's development from raw land that affects what kind of homes and businesses will be there, and that pattern is established by other factors, mainly location. The home value and the Trader Joes are related to that, not to each other, thus their relation is correlative.

The closest retail store to where I live is a Big Lots. Damn Democrats.


Big Lots at Coors Blvd and Los Volcanes Rd - Google Maps


Note: To the right you can see China Buffet. I sometimes eat there, and I sometimes stop on my way to Holbrook and get a buffet plate to go -- because of the Big Lots and its loading docks there's room to park a semi in the back.

It's a pretty good Chinese buffet run by a young Chinese couple but they are very frugal. Get there at least an hour before they close. Nothing new gets put out onto the buffet unless they are sure they can sell it. I've learned by experience.






Monday, August 10, 2015

The Land Of Socialist Resistance




This billboard advertising New Mexico's Obamacare health exchange is visible from I-40 west bound as you approach Rio Grande Boulevard in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque has a Republican mayor. New Mexico has a Republican governor and apparently some subversive Marxist state employees.




Ducati 125

I found this picture on the internet. It's the same or almost the same motorcycle as my first motorcycle. This is supposed  to be a 1963 model and I think mine was a 1966. I saw many of them restored on the internet, but very few this color. Most are red, then blue. It's a four stroke and went about 55 miles per hour.




I happened to think about the  old Ducati when I was looking at pictures of a new Ducati model, an 800 cc Scrambler. Many manufacturers made on/off road bikes in the 60s and 70s and they were often called scramblers. Some were called Enduros. The new Ducati Scrambler, one of the "retro" style bikes that some manufacturers are putting out these days, is set up strictly for the street, but it's so light, 400 pounds, that you could ride it on some trails. It's rare for a big bike to be that light. Most bikes with big engines are 500 pounds or more.




There are actually four models of this new Scrambler and this one looks the most like the original Ducati Scrambler of 40 some years ago. One of them is around $8k, not bad for a bike these days and I'd probably buy one but I've got a retro looking 2000 Moto Guzzi sitting in a storage shed that I haven't had started in five years. It has less that 3,000 miles on it. This situation pretty much boggles my mind and if you don't see any updates to this blog after today it's because I've killed myself.




Sunday, August 9, 2015

Truck Driving And Capitalism

The top 250 trucking companies as compiled by trade publishers Randall Reilly, which publishes trade magazines both for trucking company owners and for drivers, has UPS at the top, surprisingly. The last time I saw one of these lists several years ago non union Fedex was number one, by far. Here's the top ten:



I can't link to the pdf file of the complete list but you can have Randall Reilly email it to you for free if you're interested. You have to give them your name and email address but they don't harass you, has been my experience.

If you click on the image you can see that Fedex actually has more drivers than UPS 144,184 to 99,795, but UPS has more trucks, 106,287 to 86,959. I believe that number is counting the delivery trucks you see around town. UPS has more "trucks" which I believe means semi tractors. From what I see out there, Fedex does a lot of team driving -- two driers in a truck with a sleeper berth take the load the whole way -- whereas UPS does more relays with single drivers -- where you meet another truck, trade trailers, and go back where you came from, the kind of route I do -- so maybe that accounts for the difference in numbers.

The ranking is actually by revenue. On the last list like this I saw several years ago Fedex was way in front in revenue, so that's the surprise. Those Fedex and UPS trucks, of course, are carrying hundreds of those little packages we receive and send at $10 or $15 each, so that's where the money is in trucking. The kind of trucking I do -- known typically as "truck load" -- is known for being low margin. You have to get big if you want to make big money.

There's been a spate of mergers and acquisitions in trucking so perhaps that's how UPS vaulted to the top. UPS just bought freight brokers Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion. A lot of truck freight, probably most, goes through brokers. Smaller manufacturers and businesses, especially, who don't have shipping and receiving departments, call a broker and want something shipped, and the broker arranges for a truck to pick it up. There are online "load boards" -- a term from the old days when loads were posted on the wall -- and I or anyone can call about the load and see what the broker is offering. You can negotiate with the broker then and there. If the load stays on the board awhile you might be able to do it for a higher price; the shipper has already told his customer the load is on its way.

The broker has already agreed with the shipper on a price for having the load shipped, and will of course try to get the trucker or trucking company to do it for as little as possible so the broker can keep as much of the money as he or she can. It can get nasty in that part of the business. Tales abound of brokers not paying, of brokers lying about the details of the shipment in order to get the load shipped, etc. I haven't gotten involved in that yet but probably will eventually. My philosophy has been to go slow and not risk any more than I have to, but as I become more knowledgeable and confident in what I've been doing I can visualize proceeding from here. I just have one contract, to do a relay, Albuquerque to Holbrook and back, and that's all I've done in the 2 1/2 years I've been in business for myself. A big part of it is playing the tax game, too.

My company, by the way, Albuquerque Cartage LLC, didn't make the list. I'll be trying, of course. Trucking is a critical industry in Capitalism. I've been keeping up more or less with the struggle of some drivers, mostly Latinos, African Americans and South Asians, in Los Angeles, mainly, who are fighting a battle with the trucking companies out there, who are essentially freight brokers for the loads that come off the container ships -- all that stuff that goes to Wal Marts and Best Buys and so on. The drivers own, or are buying from the companies, their own trucks, and often aren't getting paid for what they do. They are independent contractors and subject to the disadvantages that come with that.

They are making some headway though. Unlike your typical Anglo and Teamster driver, these Los Angeles drivers have an understanding of their potential power to really throw a monkey wrench into things if they want to. The entire economy depends on trucking. The Teamsters hierarchy knows this and is trying hard to sign these guys up as Teamsters and head them off at the pass, basically. The Teamsters is a very conservative union and has endorsed Republicans -- they endorsed Reagan and current president Jimmy Hoffa Jr is always threatening Democrats with endorsing Republicans. Unfortunately, many of the big unions now aren't that much different these days and collude with today's "New Democrats" in making sure the power remains in their hands, not with the workers. Unfortunately that's the kind of Democrats we elect in New Mexico now. You won't hear a union leader or a New Democrat ever say anything that might give workers a hint that they have potential power. Nothing that might foster the building of class consciousness -- the idea that we as an economic class have power, if we organize and work together, and can use it to further our interests. Class consciousness is something the ruling class has a lot of, and something Democrats want to prevent developing in the working class.

That power.  Forget the money.






Saturday, August 8, 2015

Who Drops The Bombs?


"The instant the A-bomb exploded, almost all of the houses collapsed. The scattered pieces of wood and other debris covered the ground, and in some places they were heaped into drifts. Those who were outdoors all died, and those who were caught under the collapsed houses were screaming for help, and those who barely escaped frantically ran around. The town got dark, and, when visibility was regained, the collapsed houses started to smolder and then took fire. While there were mixed outcries of calls and for help, the town turned into a sea of flames." 

 
I came across that account and these pictures on a Japanese web site that came up by simply using the search terms "hiroshima nagasaki photos."

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two of the most heinous war crimes ever committed; the deliberate slaughter of a quarter million Japanese civilians.

These monumental crimes, committed on August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945, have barely been mentioned this week in the US. Indeed, in the 70 years sine we committed them, we've never begun to come to terms with them or admit how wanton, inhumane and unnecessary they were. Our government has never apologized for them.




The primary justification for those mass murders, that they saved more lives than the number of Japanese people we massacred, is still repeated. President Truman, who had on his desk our military's estimates of 40,000 possible US deaths if we continued with a "conventional" invasion, knew it was a lie when he first told it while announcing the first bomb on the radio, and said it would save 500,000 American lives. We're still shown the same sanitized images -- a beautiful mushroom cloud, a leveled landscape with a bare tree -- that wartime US censors permitted to be shown at the time. Most Americans still haven't seen the pictures of burned and blackened bodies the first photographers on the scene recorded but that were censored, or of the tumors that grew later in those who survived or the twisted mutated babies born later to women who were exposed to massive does of radiation by our bombs.

As I was coming back from Holbrook Thursday morning, the anniversary of the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima, I happened to open up the Pacifica Radio app on my cell phone. The first Pacifica station, KPFA in Berkeley, was begun in 1949 by pacifists. There are now five stations and the first two I checked were airing special programs commemorating the bombings. The amount of information that was suppressed by the US government for decades, and still virtually unknown to the American public, is astounding. As I say it's now known, for example, that Truman knew a maximum of 40,000 American troops would die in a "conventional" military campaign to defeat Japan. In his radio address to the nation Truman inflated that to 500,000 and it's since been inflated to one million by others.


It's surprising, too, that most Americans don't view our atomic mass murders in the context of the so-called Cold War, the continuation of Capitalism's unilateral war on socialism, that had been put on hold during the war when "Uncle Joe" Stalin was being portrayed as friend and ally, but which had already been resumed by the US and its European allies and was underway when the bombs were dropped. The Soviets invasion of Manchuria the same week is what determined the timing of the bombs being dropped. Many now see the bombs, the idea of the bomb, as being more for Soviet consumption than Japanese.

What's also astounding is that the peace and anti nuclear energy communities primarily responsible for keeping alive he memory of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the US never mention that a few months earlier more Japanese were killed in one firebombing raid on Tokyo than were killed in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. They don't mention the firebombing of the rest of Japan's cities, or of the terrible firebombings of the cities of Germany, also targeting primarily civilian targets, in the months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tokyo after "Operation Meetinghouse" firebombing raid


Maybe they don't know. Or maybe they're thinking about the atomic bombs we have today, which are thousands of times more powerful that the bombs we dropped 70 years ago. Maybe they're overwhelmed by the atrocities our government is committing now, every day, that they can easily read about on the internet now. There's only so much a person can handle, after all. Or maybe they just aren't as concerned about some deaths as they are about others.


No one among us isn't human, nor are we all inhumane. We're all disturbed by the things we consider to be atrocities, but we must fit the things that disturb us into the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. The stories of our lives, our countries, our people. We do acknowledge atrocities, even ones committed by our people, things like slavery and the genocide of the American Indians, but in order for them not to overwhelm our stories we must encapsulate our feelings about atrocities into discreet packages, that we then associate with the image of a mushroom cloud, a beheading, a dead, bloody Palestinian child. We see the picture, bad feelings come to the center of our consciousness and then eventually fade back to the recesses. Our story, the back story for the images that flit across the TV screen of our mind from the time we open our eyes every morning, and which is the basis for our understanding of what all those images mean, takes center stage, and holds it most of the time.

The American public, then and now, has consistently approved of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Polls taken in 1945 showed that substantial numbers of Americans, 13 percent, wouldn't have minded if all Japanese people had been killed. Some 22 percent thought of the Japanese as a subhuman species. Those figures haven't changed much, but we've transferred the objects of our dehumanizing and hatred to other groups; Black Americans, brown immigrants, Muslims.

We haven't changed, nor have the people in charge changed. They're still the most cynical, immoral and dishonest among us, the survivors of the brutal process of making it to the top. You can observe the changes taking place in them as they move up the ladder and learn what it takes to survive among the people more cynical, immoral and dishonest than themselves who inhabit the upper echelons of power in politics, business, religion and the media.

We get a glimpse of that world once in awhile, an insight into the criminality that abounds at the big banks. We hear about the president's glee in making out his weekly drone "kill lists" that he knows target things like wedding parties because they bring everyone together and out in the open. We see how those who run churches cover up, lie and then slide to bed with whoever.

We occasionally think about what a fantasy world the media, the biggest purveyor of government and Capitalist propaganda, creates for the smiling public officials and wealthy elites to operate in, but we can only take so much of knowing that it's an unreal image and that the reality is much darker. For our psychological and emotional well being we have to go back to the stories we tell ourselves about our country, and to our diversions, to the focus on the self, our own daily struggle. We're just trying to get by, enjoy life, survive. The world, well, that's how it is. That's how it's going to be. Not much I can do.

We assure ourselves that we're not in that 22 percent, surely not that 13 percent, who kind of liked it that Japanese people were burned alive, and who rise to cheer when a politician talks about building a wall on the southern border, who always take the side of the police and the military and the government, and who wish the Blacks, and the feminists, would just shut up once and for all. We assure ourselves even as we live among the 22 and 13 percent and let what they say stand uncontested because it acts as a shield against what we also fear but are too politically correct to talk about. Even as we let another anniversary of the mass murder of Japanese people pass knowing even worse weapons are being built every day.

We all have a little bit of the 22 percent, and the 13 percent, in us, but there are more important things to worry about. The payments, the portfolio, our health, our children. What's on TV. What's the weather like. Whatever it is that comes to mind when the images of mushroom clouds, and of stiff, blackened, burned bodies, so stark and disturbing when we see them, fade into the corners of our minds. The problem that resulted in the massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki isn't in our leaders, or our systems, or our governments. The problem is in us. It's in our nature. Human nature. Exactly where we aren't going to look for it.






Monday, August 3, 2015

Phrase Of The Day

You got life and bullshit confused.

That was said by a guy I follow on Twitter, Keith B Still.

It was in response to someone saying they were fed up with both Republicans and and Democrats...

"because everything is just back and forth between parties. He said she said bullshit."

Still went on the say that the "white supremacist" GOP would pay you to perpetuate such "false parity."

Still often makes the case that America is based on white supremacy. There's a good case to made for that, and white supremacy is also part of the Marxist critique of Capitalism. Sill is one of a number of Black people on social media who go beyond a strictly civil rights critique of American society, as does Cornel West, as Martin Luther King had begun to do in the last year of his life, before they did away with him -- many people think those two things are connected.



I just came back from taking my trash to the dumpster. I was surrounded by a chorus of what I at first thought was chirping crickets, then tree frogs, then realized was squeaking swamp coolers atop various apartments and from the housing development across the back wall.




Sunday, August 2, 2015

Father Goriot

Echoing somewhere in the back of my head are fragments of a comedy skit, possibly from one of those ridiculous English TV programs, in which someone keeps shouting "Balzac!" It's a fun word to say, and that's about all I knew about Honore de Balzac until I decided to partake of Father Goriot, his most famous novel.




Father Goriot actually centers on the life of Eugene Rastignac, a law student and ambitious young man living in a boarding house in one of Paris' working class neighborhoods where also lives Father Goriot -- as the boarders call Goriot, a retired businessman whose first name we never learn. It follows Eugene's attempts to establish himself in Parisian society, in which Goriot's two daughters are already prominent members.

Eugene becomes friends with and eventually the protector of Goriot, once a very wealthy man who on retirement had sold his business, used most of his fortune to provide dowries that established his daughters in Paris society, and was living humbly in the seedy boarding house so he could devote himself to his daughters success and happiness.

Eugene is quickly disillusioned by the utter depravity of Paris' upper class, while still being driven to become part of it. He eventually becomes entangled with Goriot and his daughters' lives, one of whom Eugene is having an affair with, as the daughters relentlessly drain the old man financially, emotionally and finally physically.

Balzac
There are other stories like this, that have as a theme the total lack of morality the upper class lives by, the back stabbing, the debauchery, corruption, greed, that lie behind the glitzy sheen the general public is aware of and that is usually the media's representation of the upper class that, after all, owns and media and pays its bills. It's an engaging story, not on par maybe with some of the great Russian novels to which I'm admittedly prejudiced, but it's engaging. What makes this a delicious novel to me, though, is the writing itself. This, my friends, is literature, and indeed, in Balzac's Wikipedia article it says he's been an inspiration for many famous writers, and it lists some of them.

What turns many people off to 'literature," I've thought, is the belief that it's dry and even boring reading, and maybe lofty ND hard to understand, when actually the opposite is true. The "classics" are good reading; good stories, interesting, characters you can get involved with, and pretty simply told.

What they do have, that what I'll call average writing doesn't have, is what you might call depth. Father Goriot is just dense, for instance, with insightful observation on life and human nature coming from a smart guy who's an excellent observer of human nature. At times Balzac pauses the narrative to expound on something or gives a character a platform to pontificate on something. Anyone can stop the story and give a speech. I'm always reminded of when John Wayne stops The Alamo, his attempt at move making, so he can make one of his corny speeches. They're so clumsily done that you want to laugh, but when that kind of aside flows seamlessly from the narrative and deepens your understanding of the narrative, the ins and outs of human nature playing out in the narrative, it becomes part of the narrative, and if you're engaged in that you're engaged in the aside.

I'll leave it and that and end with a couple of passages I copied from an online copy of Father Goriot at the Gutenburg Project. There are other free online sources for the book, too. I listened to the Librivox.org reading by James Carson, which is entirely sufficient. Librivox recordings are now posted in several formats making for handier playback.




He meant, like all great souls, that his success should be owing entirely to his merits; but his was pre-eminently a southern temperament, the execution of his plans was sure to be marred by the vertigo that seizes on youth when youth sees itself alone in a wide sea, uncertain how to spend its energies, whither to steer its course, how to adapt its sails to the winds. 



What could this old Goriot have been but a splash of mud in his daughters' drawing-rooms? He would only have been in the way, and bored other people, besides being bored himself. And this that happened between father and daughters may happen to the prettiest woman in Paris and the man she loves the best; if her love grows tiresome, he will go; he will descend to the basest trickery to leave her. It is the same with all love and friendship. Our heart is a treasury; if you pour out all its wealth at once, you are bankrupt. We show no more mercy to the affection that reveals its utmost extent than we do to another kind of prodigal who has not a penny left. Their father had given them all he had. For twenty years he had given his whole heart to them; then, one day, he gave them all his fortune too. The lemon was squeezed; the girls left the rest in the gutter."



Note on The Human Comedy

Although it's a complete novel in itself, Father Goriot is one of nearly 100 works Balzac wrote that are considered to be a kind of a series, related in that many have interconnected storylines and recurring characters, known of as The Human Comedy. A Balzac reading group has compiled a Suggested Reading Order of The Human Comedy.






US Militarism Returns To Latin America

US military spending in Latin America, thought by many to be a bygone relic of Cold War, when the US supported bloody dictators all over the region, is on the rise again, as laid out by two South Carolina professors in an article in the academic journal Social Justice Journal.

Again the US military is trying to assert its dominance in the region in furtherance of US economic interests, that is, Neoliberalism, or Reaganomics, and again human rights and the poor are on the blunt end of US policy.

The US has recommissioned the navy's Fourth Fleet, in an attempt to intimidate the 17 Latin American countries that have turned to the Left and elected leaders who are resisting the so called "Washington Consensus." Also known as Neoliberalism, or Reaganomics, it's the policy of shrinking government, lessening regulation, reducing social spending, privatizing all aspects of the economy, selling off government owned assets, and weakening unions.

Also, the US has been increasing military aid to its remaining allies in the region, Columbia, Mexico and Honduras, which are also the countries in the region with the worst human rights records and whose democratically elected leaders are pushing Neoliberal agendas.

Remember that Democrats, including all New Mexico's federal Democratic office holders, are fully on board with these policies. Note their backing of the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, which is sailing through the legislative process unimpeded after the Democrats staged a charade last month that allowed members to vote against the TPP before it was allowed to pass.

The authors of the article, Ginger Williams and Jenifer Disney, professors at Winthrop University, liken Neoliberalism to colonial policy, calling it Neocolonialism, because besides the features listed above it's an export driven policy that seeks to make a country's exports cheaper through lower wages and devalued currencies.

No Democrat worthy of the name Democrat should be supporting Neoliberalism, and yet these policies are supported by the majority of Democrats, including all of New Mexico's Democrats, all of whom have voted for every one of the austerity budgets of the Obama Administration, that have slashed federal spending in each successive year, all of it coming from social programs as military spending has increased.





Saturday, August 1, 2015

Democrats Versus Black Lives

The New York Times has compiled a video of just over three minutes of some of the police murders of Black folks over the past year.
 
Antonio Zambrano-Montes as he falls to the ground
The compilation includes citizen cell phone videos and dash cam videos the police have been forced to release. The Times claims they are causing changes in the way police conduct themselves.

Well, at least they've caused the media to start saying they're causing changes in the way police conduct themselves, because the slaughter of Black people by police continues unabated.

What has changed is the rhetoric of Democratic presidential candidates.

The change began two weeks ago following a protest by young Black women involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement at the Netroots convention in Phoenix during a town hall meeting attended by Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, both of whom were silenced and forced off the stage in turn.

Many white Progressives at the conference, and many more who weighed in on social media, were incensed, but the next day Sanders' and O'Malley's messaging included rhetoric about the ongoing carnage and other issues being raised by young Black people. Hillary Clinton already had on her staff young Black women advisers who can tell her how to talk to Black people, but her rhetoric about police violence and other issues affecting Black people has also been stepped up. The change was reflected in her address to the Urban League conference in Miami yesterday.

Democrats rely on a heavy Black voter turnout in presidential elections. Young Black people are well aware of this and are using it to force Democrats' hands. The Democratic rank and file, even so-called Progressives, aren't as enlightened. As I say, as news of the Netroots Nation protest rocketed around social media it caused a lot of heated debate between white Progressives and young Black people. Many white Progressives thought it was a bad strategic move, or rude, or showing a lack of gratitude. They argued that Democrats have a much better record on civil rights than Republicans. 

Young Black people hear this as being told to shut up and vote Democratic and aren't buying it. They're saying, "Stop killing us." And, "If you want our vote, you'll have to earn it."