30 July 2009

Ending term limits won't restore the best public democracy but build a better one

Former San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown, and I don't have much in common. I lived in San Francisco during his tenure, and witnessed the further ruination of a beautiful, multi-ethnic city - The City - I called home for 15 magical years. I could be a young working-class copy editor with many roommates and live next to a high-powered corporate lawyer, a few blocks from the Brown and Dianne Fienstein mansions, in the vicinity of Danny Glover or work as a public school teacher living in the diverse Mission District or artists, artisans, white-collar Financial District types, and LGBT's.

Willie Brown helped change all that by making the City an impossible place for the working class, which sees no color. High evictions. Higher rents. Brown's politics is a phony populism rooted in a cynical use of his blackness and underclass background to bring the shrinking and disparaged Black and working-class communities of that city to support Da Mayor's measures, which were orchestrated by Big Business.

So it might seem a relief that California only allows such a mayor only two terms in office. But it's not. Brown became mayor when he was forced to give up his California state Assembly seat because of voter-approved term limits. Brown was certainly in the pocket of Big Business then, too, but he was also a very early proponent of LGBT equal rights. For a Black, poor man from the rural South this act for LGBT's cannot be under-appreciated.

Brown and I share at least one thing of substance in common: we oppose term limits.

I went through three doctors when I moved to Los Angeles. The first, an educated, multilingual Arab seemed never to have dealt with a gay man and noticeably avoided touching me. The second only had an answering service, and I could never secure an appointment. When I ventured well beyond my Koreatown area and looked to UCLA I found the best doctor in the world.

Imagine if a law were passed to limit my visits to my current doctor to a set time.

I had to buy a car when I moved to LA. I did so reluctantly. I didn't need a car in San Francisco and most of my adult life didn't own a car. But I had to buy one, and invariably cars need repairs. Mechanics are an inconsistent lot, so when you find one that is thorough and honest, that's peace of mind. Like gold.

Imagine if a law were passed to limit my mechanic consults to a limited time.

Imagine having to set out yet again in search of a competent, honest, tolerant professionals.
In 1990, by a democratic majority of those who chose to vote, California voters imposed term limits and affirmed the constraint on themselves to re-elect competent professionals. 52%-48%.
Meanwhile, our judges serve for life.

There were no corresponding limitations on corporate powers with term limits.

No progressive taxation exists to end the inheritance of vast unearned fortunes from parent to child, even though the child has done nothing to create this wealth.

While the main artery to the public's power is severed, we have mysteriously left the other popular bogeymen unscathed, unrestrained.

I suspect this austere measure to limit the power of those the people elect is a direct attack on the people's power to wage class war. Our rulers have always - always - feared the power of the masses on the sanctity of Property. There: I said it. There is a class war, and it's mostly them against us.

When reforms were sought to ease term limits, it was predictably the Republican Party and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association who opposed it.

We need all the tools at our disposal, and this most especially includes being to elect again and again and again a pro-worker, pro-children, pro-equal rights ... pro-socialist candidate as many times as she or he might be needed.

Willie Brown may not be my role model, but he's right on this one.

Will the gay-basher in chief have a Coors beer to discuss his assault on LGBT rights?

For the 100th time, I do not share many of my LGBT comrades in my advocacy for "Gay Marriage." But as long as our civil society assigns a myriad of rights and privileges based on this useless institution, it cannot be closed to part of the population because of their sexual orientation.

It's a simple matter of equity. We deny rights and privileges to people based on due process (murderers deprived of liberty by courts of law) or age (voting age is 18 for the whole of the population). There is no racial, gender, class tests to having equal rights.

But apparently you must be a heterosexual to enjoy the rights assigned to the marriage bed.

Opponents to LGBT marriage continue to cite and lean on the Bible and Christianity, which have nothing to do with each other since the Bible and its holy folk are Jewish. Christianity has had its day in the sun, bloodied every corner of the earth, and is fading not fast enough along with the moral authority of the Western experiment (remember Gandhi's famous reply about Western civilization?).

President Barack Obama did not get my vote. Ralph Nader did. I declared my suspicion of Obama from the outset and was wrong only that he would get as far as he did, the highest office in the country.

But now in high office, he seems to have taken the Blue Pill and has back stabbed the anti-war supporters who backed him, is ready to abandon the public health care option, and dumped the LGBT community.

In the last, the Obama Administration continues Don't Ask Don't tell, and, last month, backs the Defense of Marriage Act in court. He didn't have to do this, but he did. Making Obama a gay basher in chief. Yes, that what he is, and that is exactly what my LGBT peer what call George W Bush if he made such a discriminatory move.

My more politic, LGBT comrades will certainly be more discrete, say they are disappointed but will continue to Hope and leave open the doors of dialogue.

James Baldwin defended the militant activity of the Black Panthers - an activity he himself found distasteful - noting that one can petition and petition and petition but at some point one becomes only a beggar.
And this is what the LGBT Establishment is quite satisfied being: beggars at the gate, name-dropping their personal relationships and connections, and betraying the majority of their community.

The beggar on 7th/Pacfic Coast Highway here in Long Beach, CA., who waves to me everyday does not confuse me with a personal relationship or a contact. I am just a guy in a car who waves back.

The beggars can only hope that Obama will have second thoughts and invite the LGBT establishment and some gay bashers to the White House for a Coors beer, which all indications would be the beer of choice for this bigot.

27 July 2009

Our liberal elites in Hollywood show shallow support for progressive cause while real economy booms

The LA Times reports that the star-hosts of the reality show, "American Idol" [NBC] are in contractual negotiations for higher salaries. Paula Abdul is asking for $12 million. Ryan Seacrest for $30 million. Simon Cowell for $45 million.

Our economic system provides the logic for these TV personalities to demand higher salaries - for, to call them film or movie stars seems to lower an ambiguous bar too low. Ambiguous: Katharine Hepburn was asked which film she'd want preserved for posterity if the others were to be burned. "Burn them all," she said, as she often poo-pooed the notion of the art form.

Our economic system provides for production companies who stage the show, parent companies who manage the production companies, and megalomaniacal conglomerates with local PO Boxes but based in Delaware or some faraway island, who direct the parent companies. Anyone remember who BEATRICE is?

So, arguably, if the production companies are turning a profit, and the parent companies showing growth, and the megalomaniacs can afford to hide less of its increased cash flow, why shouldn't the man and woman worker-bee on the ground enjoy, proportionally, in this largess?

Unfortunately, this is the argument of many of our modern, de-fanged trades-unions. De-fanged at the beginning of the Cold War to purge itself of communists, their friends, and any foreign involvement in workers Over There. So much for "International Brotherhood." Their focus has been reduced to wages rather than building a truly democratic society. So we get these measures, which need to be discussed, of "living wage" ordinances, as if wages ends the social discussion, as if a living wage comes close to empowering a single parent to pay for all the socialism they now enjoy - like public libraries, public schools, public hospitals, police, fire departments, etc. A two-parent living wage household could still not afford these amenities.

The small percent who make millions of dollars - that other tier of our two-tiered, rich-and-poor country - may come close. But why only them? What these negotiations show me are two interesting, disturbing phenomena:

1. Depth of Hollywood elite's progressive politics a toddler wading pool. Compared with former Gov. Sarah Palin (who always told the truth during her VP campaign!), the Hollywood elite must seem like communists. But within the world of the left, the thing that puts them furthest to the Right is not only their wages but their investment in that wage scheme. In this respect, though it must sound rather harsh, they are no better than the French bourgeoisie who sought liberty and equality at the French Revolution only if it didn't block their trade routes or harm the profits on the theft and sale of Africans as slaves.

Revolution has its limits. I suppose when it comes to redistributing the wealth rationally we will have to take it out of their cold, dead hands.

I could imagine this Hollywood liberal elite putting these multi-million dollar salaries to better use, like funding a viable third party, backing viable third-party candidates, and beating the system at its own game. But they are too invested in the scheme, and their booster fundraiser status for the Democratic Party proves this.

With a few fangs restored in the trades-unions, this combination of International brothers and sisters, Hollywood cash, and third-party platforms would be unbeatable. Look at health care. Seventy-percent favor nationalized health care, but we lack the clout, the lobby dollars, and control of the corporate airwaves to make a dent in the argument put forth by the Establishment, of which Mr. Obama proves to be an honorary member.

Instead, this top percent of the income bracket understandably backs Democrats, the other white meat, the other capitalist political party.

2. There's Gold in the Hills and news of barrenness premature. All these profits from the megalomaniacs trickling down should alert us to the fact there is money in the economy, and that it is being told where to go and where not to go. This is called governance. To govern, one writer noted concisely, is to decide how the money is raised and how it is spent.

That the megalomaniacs are allowed multi-billion dollars per year in salary is not Divine Providence, it is not set in some natural order of things. It comes from fundamental political decisions. It comes from a value system.

Why that 70% pro-socialized medicine cannot affect this decision goes back to our lack of a viable political party. If Beatrice has one, why not Ethel and Fred? The current value system registers no irony in this disparity.

Speaking of nature, but not wanting to go too far in picking on the "American Idol" concoction, why does person A deserve to make $30 million while person B makes nothing? It is an elementary question that would seem to preface social and economic equity. But we are not allowed to ask such embarrassing questions.

25 July 2009

July 26th

Vietnamese liberation fighter, Ho Chi Minh, said that despite the successes of the anti-imperialist movement to wear down French occupiers in Indochina, the VietCong belief in itself was at a low ebb by the late 1950's.

Then he got a boost from halfway around the world, from a Caribbean island the US founders compared to a piece of fruit to fall in the US lap.

July 26th is Cuba's July 4th. That is, it is the day a band of men and women organized and led an assault on one of the US-backed regime's fortresses. As important as what happened in the bloody aftermath is why this assault took place.

Ho Chi Minh had once believed the hype and approached Western leaders to bring Vietnam into the Western liberal democratic tradition. He perhaps didn't know the West had already by early 1900's began to deplete itself of the last dregs of its moral authority fund. In any case, he was not even rebuked. Just ignored. He was after all a subject.

Fidel Castro had come from a new class Cuban family, held nationalist aspirations, became a lawyer, and was running as a Cuban senatorial candidate. When the Orthodox Party he had joined looked sure to win a majority of seats in Cuba's legislature, the US-backed regime cancelled the elections and declared a state of emergency.

Even a new class family, like Fidel's, were going to be ignored.

Down but not out, the cast-asides carefully arranged their assault on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba. Their plan was to overtake the garrison, take the weapons, and if need be retreat into the mountains to fight the US-backed regime of Fulgencia Batista.

Many things went terribly wrong. The assault was foiled, many of the men captured, tortured, and killed. A few others were imprisoned, among them Fidel, and his brother, Raul.

The regime released the prisoners a few years later as a goodwill gesture to garner a bit of public support. Batista, backed by the US government, was expropriating the best land profits to the US, protecting the Mafia-dominated economy, and sending death squads to crush dissenters.
Of course, Fidel and the others fled to Mexico to re-organize their assault and returned a few years later on the little yacht, Granma. Viz., Washington crossing the Potomac, I suppose.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution came January 1, 1959. The Moncada Garrison, long a symbol of the dictatorship and brutalization of the people, was turned into an elementary school, which I visited in 1992.

Ho Chi Minh writes that he was tremendously boosted by the site of this tiny, poor island masterminding the defeat of the forces of imperialism.

Present narratives being what they are, I write of two scourges to most of you. Vietnam and Cuba. Neither part of the US. Neither connected geographically to our landmass. Yet they are each heaped by official history with terrific burdens and the sort of expectations that would, frankly, fell the US allies in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt.

But the country that turned a large army garrison into a school for young children, gave land to peasants, and produces so many medical doctors they are exported to the Third World continues to be a US enemy. A country that stubbornly refuses to believe in this magic will equally stubbornly refuse to be the aspirations in the Mid East and will continue to arm "envoys" with strange expectations.

Happy anniversary, Cuba! May you inspire more brothers and sisters.

For more info: Cuba: How the Workers and Peasants made the Revolution

24 July 2009

Gates fracas shows United States a nation of inflated titles and architectural relics

"Do you know who I am?" Prof. Henry Louis Gates reportedly asked the Cambridge police officers who responded to a break-in call.

Whether they did or not, the ensuing conversation escalated to Gates being cuffed and booked and the arresting officer, who doubles as an anti-profiling expert, being called "stupid" by an uncharacteristically frank president.

Gates is a full professor and head of the African American Studies Dept at Harvard University, one of the premier universities in this country and the world. Please keep that mouthful of class credentials in mind the next time you grovel or quake when Harvard or any other of the Ivy Leagues are mentioned.

Reportedly, the arresting officer did not quake enough when Gates threw that mouthful of nonsense at him. Head of the department is an empty title, and the old, colonial building that is Harvard a relic.

During my 10-year tenure as a public school teacher I witnessed the shock and awe many held for these Ivy League schools and how they were embarrassed by our community colleges and smaller, four-year colleges. Why would a school instituted to perpetuate gender, class, religious, and race superiority deserve such reverence? They only yesterday admitted women, blacks, Jews; and we hold them in such esteem.

Where has Gates been all his professional life, not least of which he was heading a department ostensibly devoted to knowing about Black people? With this confrontation he's become a sort of spokesman for Black men, minorities, the poor and their problems with the police powers.

Is the head of the Harvard University African American Studies Department ready to wage class war, or is this a fad to excuse his meltdown?

Gates alone can't be indicted for the hollow ring of his protests. Harvard University is his employer and is equally responsible for creating both this creature and this institution of disdain for the high rates of unemployment in the Black community, the high propensity of young Black men caught up in the criminal justice system (which, by the way, Angela Davis* has some very cogent things to say about in her writings, like Abolition Democracy), the lower pay scale of Blacks, lowest among Black women.

I could go on an on. And I could go even further since Gates drew in other minorities in his protest, and the poor. The state of those statistics is shamble after shamble. Gates seeks to associate his cause with those of the wage-slaves.

Given Harvard's history, I can understand their mandate for such an unlearned academic department and confines they will impose on its head.

Recall what happened to Cornell West when Harvard's president gunned for him for his political work. West is co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.

"Do you know who I am?" Yes, Professor Gates, many of us know exactly who you are. Do you hear the drums yet?

[*Article/interview with Angela Davis on the publication of her book]

19 July 2009

A Labor[ious] Note on Verizon, India, and our further decay

I had computer problems last week. I had trouble getting online or staying online, which precluded me from contributing even a syllable to my blogs, satisfying my online news addiction, and keeping up with my Rosetta Stone lessons. After some investigation Dell determined it wasn't a computer problem but rather a software issue for which I could pay about $150 to fix, despite my warranty.

I called Verizon next. They provide my phone line and DSL service. After several days days and many several conversations with their technicians, the issue was said to be escalated and someone from Long Beach called and said they could send someone to me next week.

Now, all of these phone calls to technical assistance were made to various 800 numbers, but were routed to someplace in India. After several long days and many, many calls, the issue was only escalated after I had one of my tantrums, threatened to change DSL service (Verizon has a monopoly on phone lines in Long Beach (score Capitalism!) but not DSL, and demanded to speak to a supervisor, who was also in India.

The tantrum came not so much from my own problem. The tantrum came as the dimension of this phenomenon dawned on me.

I have nothing bad to say about these Indian technicians. They were very polite. They kept apologizing for my inconvenience and each, in turn, assured they'd fix the problem. A few of the guys gave good phone voice [wink]. But only able to keep to their script, they guided me through the same, inconsequential steps. After a single day, I knew the script. But to call them technicians is a misnomer, because they were anything but.

How did we get to India and what does our 11.6% official unemployment say about the canvass of this sort of civilization?

India has a strange history as it relates to the West. It had been settled by various imperial powers up to the mid 19th century, the most famous of these settlements was the East India Company of Great Britain.

Then, the US had what Gore Vidal calls our own Trojan War: the US Civil War. This shut down textile exports from the US South to Great Britain. Britain had to turn to a reliable new source, since the Confederacy would not be recognized by the British government.

Britain solidified its hold over all India, drafting it into its world empire, and making Victoria an Empress. It found its new supplier of textiles and lit a fire to India's own tantrums.

With Britain's imperial decline and the colonies insurgencies toward independence in the 20th century, India not only gained independence, not only rejected the monarch as head of state as many former colonies, like Australia continue to do, but it veered sharply left, allying itself with the Soviet Union.

With the Soviet Bloc gone, India was ripe for re-conquest, and the sole superpower - a term I use with deep reservations given our finances - has taken up the task, in spades.

This is why my calls for technical assistance are routed not to my former students who are technological whizzes but are underemployed, but to India, to workers bestowed the title technician rather like the Queen bestows earldoms on the establishment.

Paying my bill to a US company who employs India's proletariat is yet another canary felled in the mine shaft, or, to horribly mix my metaphors, a bird's eye view of where we are.

When playwright George Bernard Shaw spent a month-long visit to South Africa in the 1930's, the British government and Royal Family were firm supporters of the apartheid system. Shaw gave his warning calls, which we might learn from.

Michael Holyroyd's excellent biography chronicles this trip and what Shaw assessed of these white British subjects and the civilization they had awkwardly constructed in Black Africa:

"One of the first things I noticed when I landed was that I immediately became dependent on the services of men and women who are not of my color. I felt that I was in a Slave State, and that, too, the very worst sort of Slave State.

"If you let other people do everything for you you soon become incapable of doing anything for yourself. You become an idler and a parasite, a weakling and an imbecile, and though you may also become a very pretty lady or gentleman you will be helpless in the hands of your slaves, who will have all the strength and knowledge and character that come from working and from nothing else.

"The colored man is terribly dangerous in this way. He can reduce you to a condition in which you cannot open a door for yourself or carry a parcel.

"If white civilization breaks down through idleness and loafing based on slavery, then, as likely as not, the next great civilization will be a negro civilization."

That last line says much to why the Christian West (Team Capitalism) lost its moral authority some time ago, and the East beckons at our door.

Shaw's prescription was simple enough, but I doubt if we follow it, since we've had about 2,000 years and failed. The prescription might have been just as easily said by the Christian prophet, the Jew named Jesus: "What you have to do is abolish your slums, for which, let me tell you, Cape Town deserves to be destroyed by fire from heaven."

14 July 2009

Is Christianity trying to assert its relevance to the poor? It's too late

Recently the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, issued a sort of white paper on the widening class divide. Without irony, the head of the Catholic church, which funded armies to massacre heretics, sea voyages to conquer new worlds, and chattel slavery, is alarmed at poverty and human suffering as perpetuated by the market system.

Not to be outdone, the head of the Anglican community, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams - which broke from Rome in the 16th century so an English king could divorce his Spanish wife - spoke more recently against the profiteers of the free market. He said this current economic catastrophe required a moral response.

A few millenia ago, a Jewish religious sect maneuvered its ways into the halls of power and has moved hand in hand, arm in arm, sword to sword into a bloody history of pillage, conquest, imperialism, oppression, the ineptly termed "slave trade" (nothing traded, and no merchandise: just neighbors) ever since. That Jewish sect is Christianity, whose titular prophet never said a word in support of such imperial crimes. Thankfully, he lived and died a Jew, an intellect, a working-class revolutionary. He did not have a born-again moment, and left that beautiful ancient religion untainted.

The unwritten Christian story finds its analog in the story of the rich and famous. When Korean-American Margaret Cho wanted to break that glass ceiling and be a superstar, she found TV network handlers criticizing her weight, changing her biography, and assigning her to Asian Coaching. Drink, drugs, and abuse followed. Similarly, for Christian dogma to "make it", like any aspiring superstar, it had to find the right producers and share their values and explicitly support its missions.

The producers were the potentates and emperors, not the constituency of Jesus.

I remember before the first Gulf War, the head of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth II, blessed the British troops sent out not to liberate death camps but rather to make them.

Despite the horrific crimes, over which your public school textbooks have glossed with frescoes, many of the Christian faithful have sought to manifest its role in humanity, and have been rebuked.

Has the Pope forgotten about the liberation theologists, who all over Latin America at the height of US assault on their economies, creating huge swathes of poor and mass graves, fought in Jesus' name to bring social justice? Those priests and nuns of the Catholic church were strongly rebuked. Once on the tarmac at the Managua airport, Pope John Paul infamously rebuked a liberation cleric for getting involved with the poor.

When Prince Charles said he wanted to be, as king, defender of many Faiths, Williams rebuked him, since to the archbishop of Canterbury there is only apparently one faith. More irony: the kingly title "Defender of the Faith" was bestowed on Henry VIII for defending the Catholic Church from the heretic Martin Luther.

Anglicans and Catholics may make up 58% of the globe's Christians, but 58% of a thimble-full of water won't satiate a rat.

We in the West continue to live in a shrinking glass bowl. The USA may very well be in the very center of this little bowl. We are all unaware and uncaring of what goes on beyond the bowl, those dark corners, Bush dared to call them. This has precipitated the moral degeneration of the Christian Ethic and made it a relic, like the pyramids. Neither Alice nor Dorothy mistook the fantasy land into which they had been plunged, but the western world lost its reality check long ago.

Williams asks for a moral response. Here's one:

"Human rights are very often spoken of, but we must also speak of humanity's rights. Why should some people go barefoot, so that others may travel in expensive cars? Why should some people live only thirty-five years, so that others may live seventy? Why should some people be miserably poor, so that others be exaggeratedly rich?

"I speak on behalf of the children of the world who don't even have a piece of bread. I speak on behalf of the sick who lack medicine. I speak on behalf of those who have been denied the right to life and to human dignity.

"Some countries are on the sea, others are not. Some have energy resources, others do not. Some possess abundant land on which to produce food, others do not. Some are so glutted with machinery and factories that even the air cannot be breathed because of the poisoned atmosphere. And others have only their own emaciated arms with which to earn their daily bread.

"In short, some countries possess abundant resources, others have nothing. What is their fate? To starve? To be eternally poor? Why then civilization? Why then the conscience of man? Why then the United Nations? Why then the world?

"You cannot speak of peace on behalf of tens of millions of human beings all over the world who are starving to death or dying of curable diseases. You cannot speak of peace on behalf of 900 million illiterates. The exploitation of the poor countries by the rich must cease.

"...Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons. Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick, and the ignorant, but bombs cannot kill hunger, disease, and ignorance. Nor can bombs kill the righteous rebellion of the peoples .... Let us say farewell to arms, and let us in a civilized manner dedicate ourselves to the most pressing problems of our times. This is the responsibility, this is the most sacred duty of the statesmen of all the world. Moreover, this is the basic premise for human survival."

Fidel Castro to the United Nations General Assembly, Oct 1979

10 July 2009

We won't have creole socialism in the US because we still don't acknowledge our creoleness

Why were these black and brown children asked to leave a pool site in the city of brotherly love? Why were several bars in liberal San Francisco found to be charging black and brown men cover charges when none existed, more for cocktails, and showed a pattern by a city attorney investigation of not hiring black and brown bartenders?

I've just returned from seeing BRUNO, a shocking, in some ways brilliant, gross, hilarious collection of Sasha Baran Cohen being the court jester he is and making deliberate mockery of our civilization. Go Girl!!!

The movie previews made my mind turn to the those children at the pool in Philadelphia and my old news reportage on those bars in San Francisco's Castro District who demonstrated a pattern of the sort of racism one might expect to find in the Jim Crow South.

The previews were well-crafted, nicely edited for shock and suspense and laughs, and were 99.99% white and just as close to being blond. Such is the cultural trash our enterprises continue to litter the landscape and hide the truth of our differences, even to the harming of young children.

Does this country know from whence it came?

Recently, in an interview printed widely in Europe in general, the UK in particular, Mariela Castro, niece to Fidel and daughter of current Cuban president, Raul, was interviewed. She was asked to speak at an LGBT Pride rally in London last week, and the interviews were perhaps more the usual publicity of her visit.

Ms. Castro has had a lot to say about LGBT rights and been a staunch advocate for enshrining these rights in Cuba's constitution. We in the US probably wouldn't know about this since Cuba has long ago been reduced to an old, bearded revolutionary named Fidel after it had long been a Caribbean casino for US jet-set, new class. Most things, including most movies, are grossly simplified.

Ms Castro was also asked the usual political questions about socialism and Cuba, and she used a term that resonated: in saying Cuba always strived to be authentic and participatory, she distinguished its "creole socialism."

These are two concepts alien to the US popular and political cultures. But the first is a reality we continue to ignore - hence those dreadful movie previews and the ousting of those children from an afternoon of fun; the other is a reality we must evolve toward if we are to meet the needs of humanity.

Creole. Socialism.

James Baldwin wrote in his last book that white people do not hate black people: if they did, he observed, they'd be all black. Please digest that. Digest it ,and know it extends to all the colors of what one colonial Mexican writer described not as creole but rather as the "cosmic race." The continent is not white and has never been. It is not the extension of a racist fantasy of a handful of Europeans on the make, but the continent has been victimized by their efforts.

Ignoring this creole or cosmic race has perpetuated Nazi, eugenicist films with white, blond people and maybe a minority side kick tossed in, ghettoized our literature, and shocked the good white people of Philadelphia to storm the dark children away like fumigators.

For more info: BBC Mundo entrevista con Mariela Castro Espin [español]

09 July 2009

The public option

The latest, twisted argument from establishmentarians - conservative and liberal - against socialized medicine is that setting such a public option up against the private option would ruin the private option.

This is further proof our capitalists are capitalists in name only and have betrayed their spiritual godmother, Ayn Rand. They are in reality orphans wanting government to protect their meal-ticket at any cost. An historical argument suggests that this is the very purpose of government: to protect commerce and enterprise. They do not want a free marketplace of anything but a monopoly of power and to be the deciders of who lives and who dies, who gets benefits and who does not. They themselves and they alone want to right to ration health care.

That this argument has been floated in the public airwaves and debated with any credibility is alarming, as alarming as George Bush's chat with Jesus to be reborn to drop bombs on innocent men, women, and children; as alarming as a serious, cogent debate about Santa Claus's circumnavigation.

I fear another set up. I do not want to wake and hear another sober, serious estalishmentarian lament the failure to set up universal health care because it unfairly threatens other options.

Other options being private for-profit health care corporations.

I am a socialist. Putting something so critical as health care in the hands of any private interest is short-sighted at best. Basing something so critical on the ability to pay approximates a human rights violation.

But I accept that we do not live in a socialist utopia. I accept the private option will not be eliminated any time soon. But this persistent argument, given so much weight, that a public option will undermine the private is wrong on its face.

Countless times, I have mentioned the US Postal Service. This is a public option. For a very small price you can mail a letter any place in the country, no matter how rural and sparse or metropolitan and dense. This is has not undermined the United Parcel Service, DHL, or Federal Express.

I have mentioned the nation's public school system. This too is a public option. A cost assumed by the public for the public good does not undermine private schools no more than the nation's public universities undermine private universities. Stanford or Harvard Universities do not attack Univ of Massachusetts or California State Univ. Long Beach for undermining their existence.

So public options in and of themselves do not undermine private options. What these Chicken Littles are betraying is the knowledge how little public support they enjoy. It is not a question of lesser of two evils: the private health care option for those under 65 is the only evil option. The public is in a prison, and what the private health care profiteers do not want is for the prison doors to be opened. The profiteers know we will flee, and they know we will not shed a tear for their demise.

I do believe not only that the private option will fail due to lack of popular support but also that it should fail. They have only themselves to blame. Regardless, what will happen is the surviving private companies will merge like the baby bells phone companies to serve the privileged few, while the many will enroll in the public option, which should be modelled after the French, British, or Canadian systems. Purely tax funded.

03 July 2009

July 4th 1776 a day humanity took a big step backward led by the merchant greed

In a country without any holidays, January through December, July 4th is included among Christmas and Mother's Day as a purely commercial days. The US being a commercial enterprise from its beginning has no holy, spiritual, or religious days and has thus become untethered from any meaningful human values.

This will make public services impossible.

Some 200+ years ago, the merchant businessmen of the day set the Reagan Revolution in motion by getting government off their collective backs. This is supposed to be heroic stuff if you follow the narrative-script written for us. These men are heroes, Founding Fathers, Framers, the master race.

Whether you are a Univ of Chicago laissez-faire economist nut or if you only follow the empty hype about freedom and liberty behind this barbecue day, I would suggest taking the red pill. See now? Those African slaves are not dancing and they were not born with slash marks on their bodies. A wife is not to her husband as a child is to its parent, as court decisions of the time determined allowing husbands - even ex-husbands! - to beat their wives. This is what freedom from British rule looks like.

Waiter: reality check, please.

King George III may or may not have been a tyrant. If one is looking for moral low-points, the directing his colonial governors to serve British interests and not give free reign to these new class merchants cannot be as low on the list as, say, the massacre of Indians tribes and land theft. George's sons were drunks and womanizers, producing scores of children by women they did not marry. His own granddaughter, Queen Victoria, thought better than her politicians and made an end-run to stop her government from recognizing the Confederacy.

So we have been faced with a is-it-Barabas-or-Jesus moment, and we have put our fate on the side of the mercantile death squads for whom any body that obstructs their thirst for profits must be a dead body. The use or abuse of any body for the furtherance of said profits is by definition moral and just. These are the heroes we not only put on our currency but are our currency.

Is this the foundation for any civilization?

The US neighbor to the north, Canada, had no colonial revolution, remained within the British empire, became liberalized somewhat in the 19th century, and today is an independent member of the Commonwealth with the British monarch as their titular head of state. The scourge of royal-appointed governors that our own colonial revolting merchants had a problem with? They still exist. Canada, Jamaica, Bermuda, Barbados, etc., have governors who act on behalf of the British queen. The current Canadian governor-general is a Black woman from Haiti. Canada has national health care.

Ronald Reagan didn't start the Reagan Revolution, but he accelerated it. Bill Clinton kept the pedal to the metal. Barack Obama continues to speed the getaway car.

It's those merchants and their merchant values, which if we had any eyesight we would see these values are blowing the brains and body parts off our young we send to secure market value in Iraq. Those merchants continue to run the country, turning humanity on its head, dropping napalm, nuclear bombs, and welcoming the transfer of billions of public dollars into their pockets while people live homeless, hungry.

It is time to re-think July 4. With all honor and remorse to the Jews, gypsies, and gays of mid-20th century Europe, July 4th should be renamed to National US Holocaust Memorial Day.

02 July 2009

The modern world's sea change: it will be rough, and it is inevitable

Marxism arranges the past in a series of stages of development, beginning with communalism, followed by slavery, then feudalism, finally capitalism. Where we go from there is something worth thinking about by wider circles of the popular classes. That we are in fact moving is unnstoppable. Of course, Marxists say the next stage is supposed to be colored red.

A quick summary of the stages.

Communalism encompasses that period when humanity was more nomadic, foraging for food and water, and tending to a more sensible vegetarian diet since animal products had to be hunted and eaten quickly. Ownership of land was an unknown concept, hence the idea since no one owned it everyone did. The state as we know it today, with its cabinets, bureaucracies, and bloated militaries did not exist because they didn't need to. On a recent extended camping trip, a squirrel came up to my tent with a morsel of something in its little hands. I watched it munch away and realize that squirrels do not conspire to fight other squirrels because they spend too much of their day making sure they get enough calories.

The emergence of the state - in the later feudal era - is more or less viewed an apparatus to keep the chain of command in place, and property protected.

The slave stage emerged with the settling of these nomadic people on land from which food could be grown. The land - which had been a highway and open-air market - took on a special importance. Livelihood came directly from that plot. This stage includes not only agricultural laborers needed to increase yield of the plot but also women and their enslavement to property. Since it became critical for land to go to my progeny of its owner, the female partner's delivery of only children of said ladowner had to be ensured. Otherwise, my plot of land would be dispersed too vastly to support my family. Another phenomenon of this period is the world's oldest profession: women who were unable to access land had to make means in other limited ways.

Feudalism continued the importance of agriculture, peasants tied to the land, the defining/enslaving of gender roles, and wars, which were about the conquest of better land for better sustenance for inevitably growing populations. The state solidified as a force to protect property rights in the same vein that men's roles had solidified earlier to protect their private plot of land, and women's to be subservient to the same. One of the turning points is Henry VIII's break from the Catholic Church, when Europe-wide, Rome-dominated Christendom disintegrated and state power rose. Essentially, by Henry stealing Church assets he was marking a shift in the power of the tiny English state and the depreciation of Rome.

The capitalist stage is what we high school social studies teachers call the Modern World. It is marked with the French and US revolutions - at least that's where the textbook curriculum starts. It is also marked by imperialism. The capitalist era is the rise of urban merchants who were not the elite agricultural landowners [nobles] who had access to state power [the king and court]. This new merchant class were commoners, albeit increasingly rich ones who wanted a voice at court and government policy. Their wealth was in global trade, particularly the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of Africans from their homeland. When the United States could no longer provide textiles to the British, the merchant class turned state power on India.

The sea wearing away at rock is slow, methodical.

Unlike the acts of a staged play, one stage did not end abruptly and the new the next. It was not like an end-of-the-year sale where everything must go to make way for the new. The change could take several generations and hundreds of years to complete. To be in at the end of the nomadic period, for example, did come with headlines or fireworks. Invariably there were the Conservatives who wanted to keep on the move and the Liberals who wanted to try something new, like staying put and building permanent settlements.

With these decisions came new sets of values - monogamy, fidelity to home and king, private property but also racism, sexism, and homophobia. Part of this view of the historical record is that our supposed morality is a gift not from any god but rather a sort of by-product of our aims. For their times, they were necessary to an established order.

What would Henry do?

So it is strange to me to find modern people reaching back to slavery-age texts, like the Bible, as if anyone - especially the Christians! - would ever go back to that.

The Modern World is in just such a paradigm shift, a change of stages. Where we are is not as easy as referring to the clock on the corner of a YouTube video, but the evidence is in. If old King Henry VIII were alive today his spiritual brethren would not be found at Windsor Castle but Hanoi, Johannesburg, Havana, and possibly a cave on Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

Caliphate rumba, anyone?

01 July 2009

Franken's victory against Coleman icing on a cake baked by British MP George Galloway

Finally, Democrat Al Franken, comedian turned talk-show host, has been declared the winner in Minnesota's contested race for the second US Senate seat. Outgoing and defeated Republican, Norm Coleman, who lost by just over 300 votes, conceded and sent a congratulatory message to his new senator.

But dark clouds cast over Coleman a few years ago. It might be a tale compared to the old adage: he who lives by the sword, dies by it. In this case the sword was the United States of America's concocted invasion and occupation of Iraq, from which nothing good has come.

A US senator and chair of a powerful committee had just after the US assault against Iraq set about making allegations that a certain British member of Parliament was part of the smoking gun. The smoking gun was Saddam Hussein's non-complicity with al-Quaida; his penetration of British airspace with superbombs; and moneys given the "dictator" and by whom.

A US senator and chair of a powerful committee alleged something about oil for food and implicated this British MP.

George Galloway is no pussy cat. He bows and scrapes to no one. So for a US senator and chair of a powerful committee to name that particular Briton as someone secretly funneling cash to the Iraqi regime (which I suppose fuels its non-involvement with al-Quaida!) revealed pretty quickly his capacity for duty. Galloway stood up to Tony Blair and the New Labour complicity in the US-led, US orchestrated war, and he was thrown out of his political party for speaking truth to power. He ran for Parliament again, under a newly formed political party, won, beating a prominent Blair ally. He famously stood up to journalist Christopher Hitchens. He lambasted the BBC for ignoring the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Galloway authored a splendid biography of his friend, Fidel Castro.

Galloway took the US senator and chair's allegations serious enough where he flew to the US on May 17, 2005, to sit before the committee in charge - the whole committee did not show up, only two. Galloway dressed down its chairman mercilessly making me wonder how with Britons like Galloway and American politicians like Coleman did the British colonies ever free themselves from King George III.

That a US senator and chair of a powerful committee was none other than Norm Coleman. Ask not for whom the Gong Show tolls.

For more info: I am not, nor have I ever been, an oil trader: Galloway to the US Senate * Youtube Vid of Galloway dressing down Norm Coleman