Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Race To the Bottom -- and What To Do About It

The economic and political race to the bottom continues with remarkable energy and speed. It appears that the Governor -- and now the Government -- of Wisconsin is simply ignoring the injunctions and restraining orders of the courts and barreling ahead with the Koch-funded ALEC-Walker "budget repair" provisions passed by the Republicans in the legislature.

They don't care what you think or what anyone else thinks about it. They are going to do what they want -- and they dare you to do anything to stop them. Double. Dog. Dare you.

This is part of the process of "reform," don't you see. It is the way :Leadership: should be practiced.

In California, we don't know how much worse the budget atrocities are going to get. We just know they are going to get exponentially worse because the rump Republicans in the Legislature adamantly refuses to allow the People to vote on the extension of higher taxes to fund essential services. Absolutely refuses, that is, unless the Governor and the majority Dems in the Legislature adopt the Republican policy program in its entirety and then agrees to govern as if Republicans had won any statewide office at all.

In all of the wrangling over state budgets and their "repair", one thing seems to be universally agreed on: there can be no increase in taxation on the rich, on corporations, or on wealth whatsoever, and in fact, taxation on the well-off must be reduced.

This is Doctrine.

Everywhere and for all parties.

And it is, of course, a leading factor in the race to the bottom.

Wages and pensions of workers must be cut; prices must rise. But absolutely nothing whatever can be allowed to take even one feather from the comfortable nests of the High and the Mighty. It cannot be contemplated. The idea is verboten. Don't even think about it. (This was also a problem in the 1930's -- despite higher tax rates on wealth then than now -- and it is one reason the Great Depression went on so very long.)

Economic policies must be adopted to foster another series of bubbles, because that's how the High and the Mighty get so High and Mighty -- the only way, in fact, for most of them to continue to accumulate their riches and their power.

The untermenschen must be made to pay more for the privilege of being ruled by these ever fattening predators.

What is so striking about it is that the Overclass is literally offering the proles nothing in compensation for the pillage. Their program is simple: reduce everyone else's standard of living to -- or below -- the barest minimum so as to ensure the continued comfort and convenience of the merry Masters of the Universe. What do the proles get? They get to "live." If they can. "Freedom!" Don't you see?

They get the "Freedom" to support their betters or to starve. Genius.

It's a masterpiece of reactionary bullshit.

Seemingly no one knows what to do about it, despite the fact that there is a spreading grassroots world-wide revolt-revolutionary movement against this sort of garbage, some of it taking place right here in the United States, that has captivated attention.

The success or failure of the Revolutions remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Ruling Class, no matter where they are, is not giving up without a fight, and in the United States, they are not giving up at all. They are if anything doubling down on their demands and they are simply ignoring the People's Will and the Public Interest in their quest for ultimate Victory.

There's plenty of opposition, but they don't care, and they will not yield. They want what they want and they fully intend to get it, regardless of any and all opposition.

It's interesting that some observers seem to recognize and to diminish the importance of the truth of the matter by asserting, for example, that the Koch Brothers -- among others -- are not really all that powerful or all that important in the larger scheme of things, and that whatever they are doing is not really making all that much of a difference in the long run.

Um. Sure. Whatever.

The implacable Will to Power of the MOTUs doesn't really make all that much difference. Never did, never will. If you believe that, there are any number of poorly maintained and dangerous bridges on the market... cheap.

Even Sweet Baby Ezra seems to have caught on to the notion that an Opposition that is predicated on Preserving Remnants of What Used To Be, ie: keeping the Looters from Taking Everything, is simply inadequate to deal with what is really going on.

Even he sees that trying to maintain Social Security as it is is a losing strategy, when the crying need is for critical and systemic improvements to a system that is set up to barely cover the most minimal retirement and disability costs of those who rely on it. In other words, the Social Security system is not even remotely adequate as it is, yet all the talk is about making it less so.

This is, in a word, stupid.

So. What to do?

Of course the first thing is to recognize there is a problem.

Our political class does not recognize it.

But the key to reversing the trend toward declining living standards for the masses so as to ensure the continued comfort and convenience at the top of the pyramid is for the proles to come up with their own demands, not to "preserve" the status quo but to significantly improve the condition of the masses. This should be simple to understand, but apparently it is not.

Instead, the opinion leaders of the proletariat seem to be content to await the pleasure of the political class to tell them what is important and what to think about it.

Whenever actual improvements of programs and services to the masses are brought up, actual methods of improving the economy or putting people back to work, or whatever, the political class says, essentially, "No. Nothing like that can be done. We will be lucky if we can preserve this, that, or the other aspect of What Used to Be, and we can consider that a Victory."

This is where we've been for years. And years. And years.

As conditions get worse and the race to the bottom accelerates, even the idea of making improvements in the conditions of the majority is lost.

Restoring that idea and developing it further and further is the key to bettering conditions for the Many.

I've talked and written about it frequently. I'm still waiting for anyone else to pick up the thread.

We want Better.

It's that simple.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What to do about Bradley Manning....

As has been clear from what I've written about it in the past, I'm not much of a Bradley Manning devotee.

As abusive as his situation is, I don't find it to be particularly unique. I have a close relative who spent four years in solitary confinement in Marine Corps brigs (including his pre-court-martial confinement), and the only times he was out of solitary were when he was hospitalized recovering from the injuries he sustained when the guards beat the living shit out of him. Many other military detainees, at home and abroad, can easily verify the commonality of gross human rights violations in military custody up to and including severe torture. At least from reports, Manning is not being subjected to the worst he could be under the military detention scheme now and for many years in place.

Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of domestic prisoners, by far the majority of them in civilian custody, who are subjected to far worse treatment on an ongoing basis than anything that has been reportedly done to Bradley Manning in Marine Corps custody. And many of them -- hundreds at least, and perhaps thousands -- are in pre-trial custody and have been convicted of nothing on any given day. Many of those are children.

Therefore I am not about to single out Bradley Manning for special attention. His situation is deplorable. Yet so is the detention situation for tens of thousands, perhaps over a hundred thousand Americans in custody among the millions of incarcerated Americans.

Solitary Watch has established itself as the go-to resource for information and heartbreaking stories of what goes on in the dark recesses of our prison-industrial complex -- and what is being done about it.

The other day, Solitary Watch linked to a guest column in the New Jersey Star Ledger by George Hunsinger, a founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. In it, he recognizes the plight of Bradley Manning as emblematic of the plight of so many Americans, many of them awaiting trial just as Manning is but none of them "deserving" the treatment they are experiencing. For there is no justification for tolerating torture.

I will excerpt the excerpt that appears in Solitary Watch:

The conditions under which Manning is being held are deplorable. No individual, whatever crime he may have committed, should be held in prolonged isolation or be routinely shamed through the use of unnecessary forced nakedness. And that’s the key point — no prisoners should suffer cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment — no matter who they are or what crime they may have committed.

I’m not qualified to speak for Bradley Manning. What I do know, however, is that there are thousands of prisoners throughout the country who face conditions that are similar to, or worse than, those Manning may be enduring. Unfortunately, however, those poor souls are almost completely ignored.

Many prisons contain units in which prisoners are held in isolation for prolonged periods of time (months or even years). The lack of human interaction is profoundly damaging to many of these prisoners — some suffer sufficiently to cause actual physical changes in the makeup of their brains.

Long-term solitary confinement is torture. It has been known to cause prisoners to go insane. And it is unnecessary. In many cases, prisoners are held in solitary confinement to punish them for minor infractions, because of the severe overcrowding of our prisons or other administrative reasons, or because they are mentally ill.

We need to think about what sort of people we want to be. Do we want to be a people who ignore torture that occurs here? Do we want to sit comfortably at home, knowing that somewhere not far away someone is being broken, his mind shattered, by a severe loneliness that has lasted for years?

It is one thing to punish a criminal. It is another to abuse him or her — to strip away his very humanity by denying him contact with all other humans. Solitary confinement can cause permanent damage. And let us remember that under the law, Manning, an American citizen, is still innocent until proved guilty.

It is our urgent responsibility to create a prison system where there is no place for such enforced suffering and where the rights of all citizens are upheld.

And that really is the point. It needs to be made over and over and over again. I'm glad to see that some of those who have been keening and rending their garments over the treatment of Bradley Manning have begun to recognize that what has been happening to him is symptomatic of widespread abuses of authority endemic to our prison system, and that the military is by no means an exception.

When the advocates for Bradley Manning educate themselves to the real horrors that are so deeply ingrained in our civilian and military prison system and clearly understand that as bad as things are for Bradley Manning, they are not unique but are pervasive, endemic, and brightline violations of human rights and dignity, affecting at a minimum tens of thousands and quite likely hundreds of thousands of people including children held in our extraordinarily bloated prison system, then maybe they'll be able to actively participate in changing this disgusting and inhumane system instead of just fretting themselves into paralysis over Bradley Manning.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” -- Matthew 25:40

Here's a column by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella of Solitary Watch that appeared on Al Jazeera's website. It explains most of what Americans need to know about the topic.

Cruel and usual: US solitary confinement

As incarceration rates explode in the US, thousands are placed in solitary confinement, often without cause.

Give it a read. Then go forth armed and educated.

Cold Chills -- "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)"

Damn, she was good!

(I was with a group of people in Monterey when we saw her for the first time in June of 1967. Her performance was more than astonishing. It lit up the whole damp and drippy arena -- the FOG! Well, that's the California coast in the summertime...)

Bless her heart. She died way too young, and yet, the gods took her, and she has no doubt been serenading them every since.

"Try, just a little bit harder..."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ames and Levine on the Kochs

Go see what Ames and Levine have to say about the Kochs and Kochevism (which they call Koch-whoring) over at the EXiled Online.

I've tried to summarize some of the important points in my Koch series up top, but really, Ames and Levine are the masters of this material. They understand it perhaps better than any other Americans because they lived and worked in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of a Potemkin "democracy" under the glare and the grip of the Oligarchs.

When they saw it happening in the USA, they wanted to tell people.

The rest is history.

Go read the stories and watch the interview with Dylan Ratigan. Then go get some pots and pans and bang them in the streets.

Srsly, Ames and Levine rule.

Arizona Sux -- Again

Jeebus, what is wrong with these people?

The latest news out of the Idiocrat Secessionist State of Arizona is the Reactionary Rightist movement toward imposing a flat income tax.

Good idea, hm? Been yabbered about for ages. It's been the principal cause of the redoubtable Steve Forbes (is he still alive?) for years and years, and now that the Rs have such a stunning majority in the ISS of Arizona, by cracky, they're gonna impose it on the peeps.

Sounds like a plan.

Here's what it would do:

Looks like such a good idea, doesn't it?

Increase income taxes substantially on those making less than $100,000 a year, and reduce income taxes on those making more.

That's the way it's supposed to be, yes?

Taxes, being punishment and all, are supposed to reward success and punish failure. Simple. Anybody can understand that. And anybody who is scraping by on less than $100,000 a year is obviously a failure and deserves to be punished by being forced to pay double, triple, quadruple, or tens of thousands of percent more in income taxes than before, while those making more than the cut-off amount that determines success or failure deserve to be be rewarded with lower and still lower income tax obligations amounting to a 45% cut at the top.

This is alleged to provide incentives to the well-off to create "jobs" for the failures.

This is beyond absurdity, but there you are. It is Arizona, and there is no reasoning with these people; there is only Power and its application. They do not reason, they cannot think, they are strangers to consideration.

After all, Sheriff Joe took his tanks -- and Steven Segal-- out to round up a suspected cockfighter and had his people kill the chickens while he was at it. All in a day's work in Arizona.

These people are crazy. Out of their fucking minds.

Unconsciously hilarious. But extremely dangerous to consciousness everywhere.

Myself, I would just as soon let them secede, along with Texas and anyplace else that wants to go. Or I'd be happy to sell these reprobate states back to Mexico for a dollar.

I mean, come on. In Texas, which has at least as great a budget deficit as California, the answer to their financial dilemma is to make things worse, exponentially. By driving down wages and benefits further, forcing more and more Texans into poverty they will increase tax revenues. They're insane. But that's the way it is, and there is no reasoning with them. They believe what they believe and no amount of "evidence" will convince them otherwise.

At some point I think you just have to say "Let them go." And be done with them. Their redemption may come one day, but by then, we'll all be dead.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Marcy Winograd is the Real Progressive Candidate in CA-36

Who is Marcy Winograd And Why is She Running for Congress? from Kevin Lynn on Vimeo.

And yet... the so-called "progressive" blogosphere doesn't support her; never really has, though she primaried Jane Harman's bloodthirsty ass twice.

What's up with that?

When Harman declared her withdrawal from Congress to go head a think tank in DC, it was really kind of astonishing to see the so-called "progressive" blogosphere (with dKos in the vanguard) go on the offensive against the Progressive Winograd and cast about for just about anyone except her.

What is up with that?

Almost immediate pleas were issued for California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to enter the special election contest for Harman's soon-to-be-vacant seat, and sure enough, when Bowen accepted the call, the consensus of online "progressives" was to back Bowen to the hilt, against Marcy Winograd the Progressive, and against Janice Hahn, the near-clone of Ms Harman.

The excuse offered was that "Bowen could win." Yes, well. That's as may be.

Bowen is a fine person, and she was just re-elected to be California's Secretary of State, where she has done very good work to restore and maintain election integrity after a series of transparent Republican efforts to essentially institutionalize easily rigged elections.

I have nothing against Bowen in the abstract. But she's really no more "progressive" than your standard issue California Dem pol.

Listen to this candidate forum to get an idea of the really strong differences between Marcy Winograd and the other Dems vying for Harman's seat:

It is absolutely clear that Winograd is the real Progressive in this campaign, and the others (including the Republican mayor of Redondo Beach) are standard-issue Dems.

But the real Progressive candidate is not supported by Internet Progressives -- who have almost all endorsed Bowen.

What's up with that?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

I've always had a strange fascination for Elizabeth Taylor. I think the first of her movies I remember (sort of) seeing was "Elephant Walk", as turgid a melodrama of the White Man's Burden Out In Injah -- it was actually Ceylon, but close enough -- as there ever was. It made an impression for its scope and color, though I don't think I could tell you what it was about.

There was something personal about her fascination, though. You see, she and my sister strongly resembled one another. The resemblance was quite striking at various times of their lives. I don't know where it is right now, but there is a picture of my sister taken in San Francisco when she was 12 or 13, and she looks hauntingly like Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet" -- without even trying. There are pictures of my sister taken when she was older, say 17 or 18, on the beach at Pismo or puttering around the yard, and there is remarkable sense of glamor about her.

Elizabeth Taylor and my sister were about the same age, Taylor being a few months older. When my sister was very young, she had blonde curls and an open round face and of course she was compared with Shirley Temple, but she didn't really have a close resemblance to Temple -- apart from the curls. Soon enough, her hair turned dark, and by the time she was in her teens, she had a smouldering look about her and she was strikingly beautiful.

She was fifteen years older than me, and she left home when I was three to go to college. The next time I saw her was five or six years later when she came to visit with her new husband. She was dressed amazingly, with a giant hat, gloves, a striped full skirt with petticoats, a long coat, and very dark glasses. She was consciously trying to look like a Movie Star, and I thought it was wonderful and strange and astonishing. She had married into "money." Well, a department store family, and they were well off, but I wouldn't say they were so very rich by today's standards. Her wardrobe was from the fashion section of her father-in-law's store. Ah, that explained it.

But still, it was glamor like I had never seen in my own home and have not seen since.

And yes, I think she was consciously trying to emulate Elizabeth Taylor, and she pretty much pulled it off.

Later, after she had kids, she would not try for Glamor any more, but her natural look was quite lovely without all the get up of perfect make up, fancy dresses and hats and gloves and so on. As she got older, she still resembled the older versions of Elizabeth Taylor that appeared everywhere in the celebrity media.

My sister died almost 20 years ago and I did not see her for almost ten years before she died, she having moved to far northern California, and then back to the Central Coast while I was being peripatetic all over creation until I came back to Sacramento to do something different. By that time, she was living in Templeton, and I didn't get down that way at all anymore.

So I don't know what she looked like as she passed through her fifties and barely into her sixties. All I know is that she did not show her age; she always looked an indefinite age, much like Elizabeth Taylor throughout her life.

Taylor's movies, especially "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", will live on as the extraordinary (and sometimes very pedestrian) accomplishments they are. People will continue to watch and discuss her work, both on screen and off, for a good long time. And that's as it should be.

Elizabeth Taylor was an image, absolutely. But she was a woman, too, and from all accounts, she was one of the most remarkable women of the 20th Century. She helped define an era, and she went beyond any expectation in using her fame and influence to literally force the American government to pay attention to the AIDS epidemic that was devastating a whole generation of gay men and would have become much worse had it not been for her tireless efforts.

The world is a better place for having her in it.

Bless her heart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Uncertainty" -- and The Libya Thing

What's going on in Libya is one of those Grand Mysteries of Empire that defy logic. The situation there was never apparently dire. It was just "uncertain."

And for some time now, Our Rulers have been obsessed with the notion that somehow "Uncertainty" is crimping their style and their pocketbooks, and the whole -- and only -- point of Government is to provide them (Our Rulers) with "Certainty" so that they may be comfortable in their own skins and reliably profitable as they scam the rest of humanity.


So when things began to go south in Libya, the "Uncertainty" Principle was invoked, louder and louder, to justify military intervention. Well. Intervention. It was not entirely clear that those who were calling loudest for Intervention were aware that the kind of intervention they were calling for was actually a military intervention. It is not clear that these people understand even the most basic aspects of civilization, to tell you the truth.

Which gets us into another question of whether the Ruling Class is actually composed of ignorant and savage Barbarians. But that question will have to wait for another time.

Meanwhile, the Uncertainty in Libya filled the Rulers with dread. What if the Wrong People got hold of the Oil? You see? You see how awful it is? When rebellions erupt in Oil Rich regions, it becomes imperative to ensure that only the Right People have their grubby hands on the Oil Spigots. In Libya, the problem was that nobody knew who ultimately would have their hands on the Spigots, when and if they were turned on again, and that was intolerable.

Either the Madman Gadaffi would restore his authority and cooperation with his Oil Buddies, or the Unknown Rebels would win, with who knew what results?

Ergo, Intervention was imperative.

All the yabbering about "humanitarian" concerns is so much jejune palaver meant to mask the true nature of the mission: not to seize the Oil outright -- that's never necessary -- but only to ensure that it goes to market with as little hassle and interference as can be and that the profits from the sale of the Oil go to the Right People, not the wrong ones.

Under the circumstances, there are no "humanitarian" concerns at all.

The United States of America does not do "humanitarian interventions" in any case; we should be quite aware of that by now. The United States only does Interventions that enhance the pecuniary interests of the Government's sponsors. Unless those interests are served first and foremost, there will be no Intervention no matter how horrible the consequences for the Poor Devils on the ground.

So. What we're looking at with the Libya Thing is an Intervention intended to impose
Certainty on an Uncertain situation for the purpose of providing as much comfort and convenience to the Oil Oligarchs as possible.

That hundreds or thousands of Libyans will die in the process is of neither interest nor concern to those who must have Certainty.

Never was.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fake Revolutions?

[Headed back to California today and tomorrow...]

Things may not be what they seem department.

Word has it, from no less authority than Prof Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research and the redoubtable DEBKA File (by which I mean, 'continue to doubt it') that things may not be what they seem to be in Libya, and if they aren't there, where are they? (links via "American Everyman", a resource for skeptics everywhere on just about any topic of interest you care to name, but not much Show Business.)

This is always the problem with an abundance of skepticism. Because nothing can be taken at face value, nothing is "true" -- but then, nothing is really "false" if everything is false. It's all a muddle, and you're just lucky to remember to breathe day to day.

Of course the plethora of Revolutions popping up everywhere should be taken with a grain of salt, if not an entire barrel of it. Our Rulers have been manufacturing dissent for almost as long as they have been manufacturing consent. It's all a matter of Rulership, which they have no intention of giving up voluntarily any time soon if ever.

As Chris Hedges says, "Power yields nothing without a demand," and I'd go further to suggest that Our Rulers yield nothing to a demand from the "wrong people," in fact Our Rulers will merely ratchet down even further and harsher in response to demands from DFHs. Even if they don't demand. The ratchet is always being tightened.

The struggle must be relentless.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Fares Teh Revolution?

Getting Unstalled?

Not clear. But becoming clearer is the notion that this is a World-Wide Class War, between a shrinking handful of Oligarchs and Plutocrats and the Masses, the Proles, the Workers, and the People.

Our nation is coming late to the struggle, of course, whereas much of the rest of the world is already engaged, more joining the struggle day by day.

The story out of Tripoli, that Crazy Gaddafi is backing off his planned slaughters under threat of annihilation by Britain and France, is interesting. It doesn't mean that what these people are saying is what they will do, but it is a clue that there are actions which can alter events.

No Revolution has a smooth path forward, and it may be that the apparently smooth paths in Tunis and Cairo lulled the the People into thinking that Revolutionary fervor would be enough to bring down the tyrannies that rule us, but facts on the ground are proving otherwise.

Our Rulers may be craven and stupid but they are most definitely resilient. It is up to us to break the spell they have over us, and that is still an elusive goal.

I was somewhat despairing that the uprisings in the Middle West were losing steam as the various Plutocratic Powers sought and gained their main objectives in the face of the uprisings, basically daring the People to do anything about it. Marching and chanting and carrying signs of Outrage™ is all well and good -- and necessary -- but it will not, by itself, stop the Oligarchic Juggernaut.

It's time for something more.

The next phase is the movement toward a Nationwide General Strike. If it happens, it will be a turning point. And there will have to be still more.

The only thing Our Rulers understand is Power. And if that Power is in the hands of the People -- which it obviously is not at this point -- the Overclass may rethink its path forward. Then again, it has shown itself to be so stupid it may not.

Then all bets are off.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scott Creighton on 'Product Assange' and the Stupidity of the Liberal Class

As some of my handful of readers know, I've never been convinced of the -- shall we say -- motives and independence of Julian Assange and his business enterprise, WikiLeaks. I have my own reasons for skepticism and disbelief which I have extensively detailed here and elsewhere. Scott Creighton, at his "American Everyman" blog has detailed his rationale for not accepting the "Product Assange" that's being sold to the public, in a number of posts over the last few months.

His latest on the topic takes the matter a few steps further and essentially indicts the "Liberal Class" (h/t Chris Hedges) for its uncritical acceptance of Julian and his business enterprise at face value.

It's well worth the time to read and consider, especially given the signs of outright madness Assange has been showing more and more of lately.

It's all about him, in other words, and it has always been all about him.

Those who fall for this crap strike me as seriously foolish, people who have really lost their way and can be manipulated to believe almost anything as long as it appears to be opposed to the prevalent power structure. With the emphasis on appears to be.

I recognized early on that Julian really isn't opposed to the prevalent power structure, not at all. He is quite comfortably aligned with it. The fact that the main outlets for his leaks have been Establishment media, and the sole American outlet has been the New York Times (even after his little spat with them over John Burns thing) which everyone knows -- or should know -- is a deeply involved Government propaganda organ, is an obvious tip off of what's really going on here.

Apparently the Left, what's left of it (!), and its Libertarian hangers-on is so desperate for a Hero to Lead Them Out of the Wilderness, that they will readily attach themselves to a mountebank like Assange and celebrate his "triumphs!" and ritualistically denounce anything that suggests things may not be what they seem with him and with WikiLeaks.

The desperation on the Left for a Hero is what's been so striking to me. Instead of doing the hard and necessary work to achieve the important values of social and economic Dignity and Justice, what passes for the Left in this country has come to rely more and more on a handful of Heroic Figures in politics and the media to do it for them. In other words, they seem to believe that Faith is sufficient.

This is sad. Faith matters, no doubt about it. But it is never sufficient unto itself, especially if that Faith is focused on individuals.

Much as I admire Chris Hedges, for example, and as much as he puts his own comfort and safety on the line to make his point, I don't elevate him to Heroic stature mostly because I see him as a scout, a pathfinder. He's looking for a way through the Wilderness, he has not declared he has found it or that he necessarily will find it. He is on a path of discovery. And along the way, he indicts the Liberal Class as thoroughly as anyone has, bless his heart. He knows what's gone wrong and he's trying to find a way to rectification.

Julian? Not so much. Because everything on the whole planet is about him, and he was the cause of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East (and no doubt the Middle West as well), his efforts have never been about any sort of rectification of conditions, never about justice, never about dignity, they are only about his personal prominence, and particularly about fostering the triumph of the essentially Rightist political faction that knows how to do Imperialism correctly. He is opposed to the failures of the New Imperialism, not to Imperialism itself.

I could go on and I have gone on and I won't go on at length about this any more.

But I do recommend Creighton's piece on the matter of "Product Assange" for a corrective viewpoint.

[Oh, Happy St Patrick's Day! Faith and Begorrah!]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Earthquake

Japan is reeling from another disaster, certainly the biggest one since WWII, and one that threatens nuclear “catastrophe” -- as was just reported on NPR -- that will affect far more than Northern Japan.

As I have often said, I don’t have access to broadcast television while I’m in New Mexico, nor do I have cable television here (or in California), and as of 03/12/11, I don’t even have a dial-up internet connection, as the ancient laptop I was using for dial-up access here finally gave up the ghost and probably will not be restored.

I haven’t been out to get a Sunday paper yet -- the Albuquerque Journal is pretty thorough -- so the only real news I have about The Earthquake and its many hideous aftermaths is from NPR on the radio, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that the… reporting is… halting. At best.

When things are going on that defy the Narrative of Events, reporters in the field -- not just on NPR, but generally in the media -- flail. Because they don’t know what the story is supposed to be and events are (to say the least) fluid, they hesitate and stammer and choose their words very carefully rather than use their journalistic skills (assuming they have any) to tell what they know -- and what they don’t know -- about what is going on.

It should be a fairly simple matter to do that: “here’s what we know, here’s what we don’t know; here’s what we need to find out; here’s what we’re doing to find it out.”

But they don’t do that. Instead, they repeat what they’ve been told by Official/Government Sources (usually unnamed), and if they have any other information, they couch it very carefully so as not to directly contradict Official Sources (Unnamed). Their stammering and hesitation is a good clue that they’re hiding something important that they can’t say because the Official Media Narrative either hasn’t been coagulated yet, or they’re afraid of losing All Important Access to Unnamed Official Sources -- who will, of course, Help Make Sense of What Is Going On. Thus forming the Official Narrative which then becomes the Standard Media Narrative. Without those Official Sources, the Narrative cannot be formed.

This gets very dicey because it is not just Government Sources the media rely on. No, they also rely on High Powered Corporate Sources and Their Interests, often intimately linked with Government Sources, but not always. The Narrative is formed by the interplay between Corporate Interest (which includes the major media of course) and Official Government Information.

In the case of The Earthquake and the nuclear dangers, the issue is fraught mightily. Corporate Interest is found in the denial of any serious problem that cannot be dealt with adequately by application of appropriate procedures. Corporate Interest favors expansion of Nuclear Power. The Earthquake -- much like the Chernobyl Disaster and Three Mile Island -- has made it potentially very difficult to proceed with the expansion of Nuclear Power facilities.

So how to describe what’s going on?

Until the Japanese Government stated directly that one of the nuclear plants damaged in The Earthquake “may be partially melted down” there wasn’t even a hint in NPR’s reporting that there could be more than a minor problem at the nuclear facilities in question. Exactly what that problem might be, they couldn’t or wouldn’t say. But you knew from their hesitations and stammers that they knew… something. We were not privileged to know what.

This is so dreadful and so aggravating.

On the other hand, the NPR reporting on the Wisconsin Thing was outright atrocious, deceptive, and fit the Corporate Narrative seamlessly. As far as their Narrative is concerned, Scott Walker and his sponsors and supporters are simply doing What Has To Be Done and they are all being perfectly honest and reasonable about it, whereas their opponents and the dozens of protesters in the streets are at best a distraction from the Important Business of State, at worst, violent vandals with no civic consciousness at all. There is no hesitation or stammering: this is the NPR Line on the Wisconsin Thing, and that, as they say, is that.

Then there is the NPR O’Keefe Sting Thing.

Today NPR’s Weekend Edition reports that Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” site is reporting (ah, steps removed, you see, and “The Blaze” is all Conservative And Shit, so it’s OK) that the O’Keefe Tape that resulted in the Firings of NPR’s CEO and Chief Fundraiser was doctored (much as other O’Keefe Stings and their clones have been doctored) to deceive. Hm. Who’d a thunk?

The institutional damage -- which was the whole point of the sting -- has already been done, and there is very little that can be done now to restore whatever has been lost. That is the point of these things. The fact that NPR instantly fell for it (much as the Dept of Agriculture did in the case of Shirley Sherrod) is appalling.

But it says something about how remarkably frail our Institutions are to the predations of the likes of O’Keefe and Breitbart and the rest.

These institutions seem impervious to Reason, but they are brittle and easily shattered -- or stampeded into doing stupid things -- by predators bent on taking them down.

Of which there are plenty.

Pointing out the situation, unfortunately, doesn’t provide a solution.

For example, I’m in something of a quandary about What To Do. Providing government services requires more revenue which should by rights come from the predator class that’s been benefiting mightily from an abundance of tax cuts all these years. The problem is that any advance in revenue -- no matter where it comes from, but the only source allowed to be discussed is the working class and poor -- will go to finance more Imperial Wars of Aggression which have been working out so well.

That’s how the Captive Government works. Everything for the bloodthirsty predators who own and control the Government. Nothing -- or rather, less -- for the “Lesser People.”

So why provide any more money for this Government when you know it will be used to pad the bank accounts of the already obscenely well off and to kill and maim brown people and destroy their houses abroad. That’s all. We’ve seen abundant evidence that there is nothing the People can do to change that. Certainly elections can’t do it.

Therefore, I’m not in favor of taxing the rich on behalf of this Government. We need a different Government, and in my view a different kind of Government, before taxing the rich will make any sense.

And we’re not there yet. Very far from being there, too.

I wish the people of Japan every possible blessing in this time of horror and immense trial for them. What’s happened is almost inconceivable -- except that we’ve seen so many repeated incidents of horror formerly unimaginable in the last few years. Events are in control. Not our petty fretting and concerns.

How petty can I be? Well, I discovered there were several other plumbing issues around the house that needed attention. So I’ve spent most of the morning attending to them. I think I’ve got them fixed, but it remains to be seen. Yes, that’s what I needed to do right now, but all the time I was doing it, I kept thinking how lucky I was compared to so many people who are suffering much worse than me. At least I was able to do these things. They don’t have water. Electricity. Food. Or in many cases homes to putter around in.

My petty concerns are nothing compared to the increasing suffering of the Growing Multitude.

Change must come. But how.

Back to studying my Rousseau, I guess…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Fares Teh Revolution?


Well, I don't want to go quite that far, but maybe so. Since I tend to slow down while I'm here in New Mexico, I'm not really up on all the News of the Uprisings Around the World, but I did hear that the Wisconsin legislature is plowing forward with their anti-union measures and doing it in defiance of the Democrats (still in exile in Illinois) and the People. I heard that the Egyptian military "cleared" Tahrir Square in Cairo with a great deal of violence and that the masses in Iraq are still up in arms -- and apparently still being shot down -- over the absolute corruption of their imposed and managed "democracy."

And then of course there's the continuing slaughter in Libya and the constant dithering over it in the capitals of Europe and the United States. The slaughter in the Yemen. The other Uprisings and slaughters here and there.

The upshot, from my partially disengaged perspective, is that The Revolution is sputtering and best and being turned back on many fronts -- despite some extraordinary rhetorical and documentary efforts on the part of the Revolutionaries and those who support them.

In other words, the rhetorical war is being won rather handlily, but the ground war is not going that well at all, even though there have been a number of apparently victorious removals of tyrants.

A rhetorical device that's making the rounds is this chart demonstrating the direct effects of the Class War that's been underway -- with or without Revolutionary push-back -- for more than a generation.

The Class War hasn't stopped; in fact, the battle has been redoubled by the Billionaires who are determined -- more than ever -- to have their way. In addition, there is a constant litany of "social war" issues being pressed with more fervor than at any time in the past.

As I've said for many years most if not all of the Revolutionary fervor in this country is on the Right, not on the Left, and even though we're seeing some union push-back on the economic front now, for a very long time it has been a matter of holding on to the status quo at best, with very little or no forward thinking, especially not on economic matters.

We're seeing some resistance to the overwhelming corporate influence on Government and the dreadful results that has had on the well-being of the People. The existence of resistance is encouraging, but until the issue is expanded beyond the narrow economic interests of a sub-section of the working population ("Hey! At least they still HAVE jobs!") the Revolution is bound to stall.

In Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, Revolutionary fervor is being attacked militarily in some places, attacked with minutiae in others. While it's obvious to me that the Revolutionaries have broadened their issues from the purely pecuniary to more fundamental principles of Dignity, Justice, and Community, their opposition is strong and there is no easy path forward. That doesn't mean the Revolutions have failed, but neither have they succeeded.

In another post, I asked whether we were seeing a version of 1848, 1968 or 1989. Indeed, as the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt seemed to successfully overthrow tyrants and tyrannical governments, allusions to 1989 were seen and heard with some regularity. But then Libya happened, as well as the stalled Revolutions in Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and so forth, and allusions to 1848 cropped up more and more. A couple of the Revolutions of 1848 were more or less successful in changing the nature of governments to some degree, but most were brutally crushed. The Revolutionary philosophies that came out of the Revolutions of 1848 (especially Marxism) were more important ultimately than the uprisings themselves. And that may be the case now.

But what of 1968, a period of largely student driven uprisings all around the world, that were ambiguously successful. What happened as a result of the 1968 Uprisings is actually very complicated. Governments did fall, troops were called out here and there, and many, many student Revolutionaries were slaughtered (Mexico City was one horrible example.) But in China, the Revolutionary fervor of the young was channeled by the Government into the Cultural Revolution which had the ironic effect of strengthening Mao and the regime while nearly exterminating all opposition.

Something like that took place in America when Reagan and his sponsors cleverly -- brilliantly, really -- co-opted the Revolutionary spirit, language and rhetoric (of "liberation" and "freedom") from the student uprisings and used them to further the corporate/aristocratic factions at the expense of everyone else.

It worked and it is working now. The question is whether it will continue to.

The Rightist argument is wearing very thin. People are at the point of not listening any more. The Left may still be in a quagmire of supporting the support for the Status Quo, holding on rather than moving forward, but even that doesn't hold back the resistance from other quarters.

There are still mountains to climb.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Up in Santa Fe

Or "Fanta Se" as it's sometimes referred to.

Yes, well, it is The City Different, and it is 400 years old, so y'all can just sit your bad selfs down and have some cocoa -- with a twist.

Went up to Santa Fe yesterday to do some visiting and check out some sights. The ruined chapel in the pic above, for example, is on Cerro Gordo. I'd heard it was there, but I've never seen it. No wonder. It's at the top of a hill, and unless you're looking hard, you're not going to see it as you're driving the narrow winding street. You better not be looking hard! Tough enough navigating Santa Fe with your eyes on the road!

I've posted before about how New Mexico is dotted with ruins. They are literally everywhere. One day, I'll have to document all the ruins and abandoned structures right around our house -- which was an abandoned ruin when we bought it.

So yesterday, I wanted to find, and did find, this really exquisite ruined chapel on Cerro Gordo. It's up a flight of stone steps from the road, quite a climb really, but sadly, there is a rough barricade posted with No Tresspassing signs before you can actually get to the chapel itself. And beyond that first rough barricade, there is another one in case you didn't get the message the first time. Nevertheless, there were plenty of signs of use -- at least up to the barricades -- by passers-by and perhaps pilgrims, who knows. There's a little shrine down by the road where people have left their offerings -- some of them very interesting, like a clam shell that looks like it's from the Pacific -- and all along the stone steps up to the chapel, people had placed farolitos/luminarias in paper bags weighted with sand. Up by the first barricade, there were dozens of them, so this is really a sacred place, even if you can't get all the way to the chapel. It was clear that just being on the path was holy.

Isn't that something? We often forget holiness even in the simplest things. In New Mexico, though, you can't do that for long. There is a deep and pervasive spiritual presence and belief here, a deep seated religiosity that even the most rigid atheist will -- eventually -- succumb to.

One of the rooms of our house is labeled "The Jesus Room" because it has a nicho filled with religious totems and objects of all kinds where we sometimes light a candle or two and always keep soft illumination on the portraits of saints and madonnas and Jesus Christos assembled there. We also have a Santo case in another room where there are many ceramic sculptures of saints -- and sinners too. We have candles there as well, but so far haven't lit them. Then there is the shelf where we keep the sacred memories of close companions, Betty's ashes, and many tokens of her and that cat Mao who was with us for so very long.

It's what you do here. We've only been to Santuario de Chimayo one time, and it was a very moving experience. It was not full of tourists or pilgrims that day, just a handful of folks come to worship or to inspect the shrine, so we had some time with the priest, Father Roca, who essentially founded the pilgrimage site. He was a remarkable gentleman, as are so many of the priests and religious figures in this region. One well remembers "Death Comes for the Archbishop," Willa Cather's 1927 novel based on Archbishop Lamy's efforts to correct the local version of Catholic devotions. Bless his heart. Well, of course, his chief legacy -- among so many things -- is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, that very gracious stone church at the head of San Francisco Street that is practically symbolic of the city.

So, I visited the chapel, visited with some folks I haven't seen for a while, and wound up late in the afternoon taking a stroll around the Plaza, the heart of Santa Fe now as it has been for centuries. And centuries. But the Plaza was somewhat sad. It is still the heart of Santa Fe, to be sure, but the surroundings have been kicked hard by the shitty economy. A couple of galleries I looked forward to visiting again were gone altogether. There were too many vacant store-fronts. Those that remained seemed almost dreary and forlorn. The Plaza itself was finely maintained, but around it? Not so much. Even the Plaza Cafe, one of Santa Fe's favorite gustatory destinations for generations, was closed. "For Remodeling" they said. "Remodeling?" Why? I don't know. I don't have an answer. They do what they do. So. I hope it reopens soon, better than ever.

I do like gallery hopping in Santa Fe, but the near absence of them on the Plaza was dispiriting. We have acquired a lot of paintings over the years, and I always love to see what galleries and artists are showing. There are still plenty of galleries in Santa Fe, so it's not like there is any lack of Art, but still... It wasn't the same.

It was as if the heart of the city were gasping for breath.

Or something like that.

Anyway, it was getting late, so I headed back south on that absolutely gorgeous and nearly empty highway to our place, thinking about just how deeply rooted beliefs are here, and how strong the spirit is. It's something very special about New Mexico, something I may have recognized without knowing it when I first encountered this Land of Enchantment decades ago, and part of what has kept me coming back and trying to settle in for so long. I say "trying" because we still haven't broken with California, going back and forth, forth and back.

But I'm perpetually glad to be here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not So Bad-- And Boy Am I Grateful

Fellow named Daniel came out from Public Works yesterday to turn the water on and stick around while I checked for leaks. The stories he told, jeeze. He said that there were broken pipes and flooding all over the place during The Cold, and he was running frantically from house to house turning off water because of busted pipes.

No one right around our place had that problem he said, but it was just crazy for days.

As for our place, when he turned the water on, immediately the meter started going indicating there was a leak or an open faucet somewhere. I checked inside again, and there was no sign at all of leaks in the kitchen or laundry room, no sound of water spraying under the house. When I went to check the bathroom, however, I heard that tell-tale sound, and my heart sunk for a moment. The sound was coming from the toilet, so I checked the tank, and sure enough, the fill valve was split and water was spraying out, even though the tank was full. I turned it off with the valve where the pipe entered the room, and the sound stopped. Went to tell Daniel what I'd found, and said, "Did you turn the water off at the toilet?" I said yeah. "Well, the meter has stopped turning. I think you found the leak."

Really? That simple? "Water isn't running now," he said. "So I think that was probably it."

I just sort of stood there dumbfounded for a minute while he told more tales of what was going on during The Cold. Temps actually got down to -32 he said, and there were at least ten days (rather, nights) with temps at -15 or below. Just brutal. This has never happened in this area before, and even though there was warning it was going to be cold, people weren't prepared for how cold it was going to be. Luckily no one around here lost gas or electricity unlike the unfortunates up north of Santa Fe or down by Alamogordo or Silver City. But pipes were freezing and breaking everywhere. I told him that the previous owner had replaced the house plumbing with PEX; it's not supposed to break in a freeze. But at temperatures that low? Who could say?

What happened was that some of the plastic in fixtures inside the house had split. It wasn't just the fill valve in the toilet. I also found that the spray valve on the kitchen sink had split. We keep the heat on in the house, at a relatively low temperature, 50 degrees or so, when we're not here, but I'm sure it can get colder in the bathroom and kitchen because the heat doesn't circulate all that well. Though our heat is gas fired, it's from a heater in the living room that functions like a big parlor stove. It's warm when you're close to it! But when you get to some of the peripheral rooms, there can be a distinct chill, and I know the pipes -- even the drains -- froze in the kitchen once while I was here and the heat was on. So, what might happen in a Real Cold Snap is anyone's guess.

What did happen may well have saved us a lot of other grief. When the fill valve split in the toilet, the water just ran continuously but safely. It was draining out as fast as it was pouring in. That kept water flowing through all the pipes during The Cold so there was no chance of them freezing. What a wonder.

I'm kind of gobsmacked and very grateful. Simple repairs took part of an afternoon, and that, as they say, was that.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Here in New Mexico

Arrived yesterday afternoon. Got a room in Abq because there's no water at the house. From what I could tell, there was no interior damage from leaky pipes at all, and there was no sign I could find that pipes under the house had any leaks. So I was grateful about that. Looked around outside, and it appeared that the driveway had sunk quite a bit near the water meter. There were extensive signs of the ground having liquified in that area, and for maybe another ten or fifteen feet around, so I'm suspecting that there was a break near the meter.

Have to wait to turn the water back on to be sure, but I wasn't up for it yesterday.

And then get it fixed.

Neighbors said that The Cold was brutal. One night the temp was 30 below, and there were at least ten nights altogether when the temps were at least 15 below. They were grateful none of their pipes had broken but especially that they had gas for heating through it all, unlike tens of thousands of people north of Santa Fe and south in Alamogordo and Silver City among other places. It was simply cruel what was going on. There is a class action suit in process against New Mexico Gas Co to compensate for some of the suffering and damage, but my sense is that the Powers That Be are trying setting the parameters of the New Normal -- and that means when it gets cold you're not going to have gas, and you may not have electricity, either. Even if it isn't cold. Just because.

Lawsuits are not going to fix it.

People around here know how to raise a ruckus though. Heh.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Than Half Way There

Dateline: Early Morning, Kingman AZ

Wiping the crusts from my eyes, I'm stumbling around a motel room looking for bits and pieces of my wardrobe and grooming accessories to get ready to go down to breakfast before heading out on the second leg of my journey back to New Mexico, the journey that was postponed due to... coughing up blood and various annoyances associated with pneumonia and suspected other diseases. Well, I have officially been declared TB Negative, and I have the paperwork that proves it with me, so that part at least is done.

Got a call last week from our public works dept in New Mexico. They'd turned off our water. Good thing. Of course it had been running for who knows how long, the bill is something like $94 so it could be days, it could be weeks, but it had been running, due no doubt to busted pipes thanks to the freeze. Naturally, because the house was unoccupied when this happened, any damages are not covered by insurance. So my task is to assess the damage and get repairs under way if I can. It being New Mexico and all, you never know! This is not a slam, by the way. It is just the way things are in NM. It may take a while.

I worried that the pipes would break, of course, but the plastic plumbing that was used when the whole thing was replaced was supposed to be immune to freeze bursts. So I'm a bit puzzled. On the other hand, temperatures were so very low, double-digits below freezing on several occasions, it's not all that much of a surprise that they couldn't handle it. I keep thinking that if I had been able to go back in January when I intended to -- before the Big Freeze -- this might have been avoided, but the fact is I was too sick, and that's just the way it is.

Kingman is a little more than half-way there. It's a beautiful day as is so often the case, and though I dread what I may find, I'm very much looking forward to arriving. It's... hard to explain. But then, my heart soars whenever I pass over the line from Arizona into New Mexico. And once at our place in the East Mountains (ie: east of Albuquerque, south of Santa Fe) there is such a sense of... relief and release? Well, borderline joy will do! ETA sometime this afternoon.

Till then.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This is What a Tyranny Looks Like

Raw Video: 12 News Camera Captures Lawmaker Being Tackled By Police - Video - WISN Milwaukee

We've all been through so much over the last decade and more. During that time, our dignity -- along with much else -- has been stripped from us piece by piece, layer by layer, until we are left bereft of any shred of what we once considered our right and our privilege as citizens and as Americans.

We have largely accepted this condition as the New Normal, for fear on the one hand that if we don't, our situation will get worse, and on the other hand so many Americans have lost the imaginative power to invoke alternatives.

We submit. We justify. We rationalize. We avoid. We ignore.

This is what a tyranny looks like.

Ain't pretty, is it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

One of the Crying Shames of the recent rallies in support of the Wisconsin public employees and their collective bargaining rights has been the absence of Democratic elected officials from the rallies. Certainly that was the case at the California State Capitol. Where Democratic electeds hold all the state wide offices and nearly 2/3rd of both houses of the legislature. Just saying. Not one of them could bother their pretty, powdered and perfumed selves to show up at either of the Capitol Rallies, despite being invited.

Only goes to show, I guess, which side they're on, in case anyone had any doubts.

And in Wisconsin, it's been noted that the Saintly Progressive, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, has essentially opted out of any direct support for the protests. Having other fish to fry as it were... Sure, Russ, whatever.

Petering Out?

You be the judge. The protests in Wisconsin, I'm told, are continuing apace, despite the fact that hardly anyone, now, seems to think that much of Walker's program will be thwarted -- if anything, really -- in the end.

If there's anything Democrats know it is How To Cave, and suspicion is growing that they will cave, even the Wisconsin 14, and that, as they say, will be that.

And what of the daily thousands?

That depends. It really does. If the issue is only collective bargaining rights for public employees, it's way too narrow a thing to maintain the kind of public support the demonstrators have managed to achieve over the past few weeks. If the unions and the workers give up on everything else, but insist that collective bargaining cannot be touched, in time, the public will tire of the controversy, and collective bargaining will be given up too. The problem with much union leadership in this country, such as it is, is that they are almost as willing to cave -- and as skilled at caving -- as Democratic politicians are. Unfortunately, they sell their rank and file down the river, for a mess of pottage as they say, over and over again. It's especially the case with public employee unions because they always want to be seen as "reasonable." For their part, the rank and file public employees will often enough slit their own throats to "protect their jobs" or some semblance of a pension or some other future benefit -- like a "raise" instead of yet another pay cut. I've seen it happen over and over again in California, and I'm sure exactly the same sort of thing goes on everywhere, including Wisconsin.

If the issue is solely collective bargaining and solely on behalf of unionized public employees, it's not going to get very far. It's gone about as far as it can.

Just as the Egyptians had to break through the Fear Barrier in order to achieve their Revolutionary objectives -- and they still have to struggle to maintain them -- our own putative revolutionaries have to break through what I call the Issue Barrier.

The Power of Division is still very strong in the United States, and our controlled corporate mass media ensures that it will be difficult (note: not impossible) to learn the truth of what is really going on.

[Speaking of: there is now some suspicion that the Shoving Incident In Sacramento that has gone into heavy rotation everywhere due to the Breitbart Effect, an incident that is supposed to prove the Thuggery of the Unions, was actually a provocation engineered by -- let's say -- Tea Party enthusiasts like Mark Williams and Sal Russo, who said they wanted to do something like this. There were apparently several other "Teamsters" with the young man who was cited, none of whom appeared to be quite what they were claiming to be. I saw some of these "other Teamsters" myself (never saw the young man who was cited) during Saturday's protest and noted they were... not exactly part of the protest. What tipped me off that things might not be what they appeared to be was that their Teamster Jackets never seem to have been worn before. Hm. Isn't that something? Well, nothing is proved, so I'm not going to make too much of it. But the fact remains that there was an announced effort to disrupt the Solidarity Rallies by impersonating protesters and causing incidents that would get on teevee. There was an incident in Sacramento that has been used by the Rightists to prove what Thugs Union Members are. Just keep it in mind.]

That's as may be. The point is that narrowing the issues -- rather than broadening them -- will ultimately sap the strength and the energy from the struggle, until, in the end, the Revolution peters out and fails.

The broader issues that I have seen in all of the North African and Middle Eastern uprisings, and that seemed to be coming to the fore in the Mid West and all the Solidarity Rallies in the United States were Dignity and Justice. These are among the deepest seated desires of human societies. But if those basic premises are lost or forgotten in the struggle over minutiae -- as seems to be happening, but I can't be sure -- then the overall struggle is lost.

Egyptians know that even in "victory," they have to keep the struggle going until they achieve their fundamental goals of Dignity and Justice -- which they know they haven't yet, they're only partway there, and they cannot relent now.

In Wisconsin, as of this moment, the protests have raised consciousness, but they have not achieved any positive goals at all. Walker is still dictating, the Kochs are still counting their money and buying policies and politicians to suit themselves, the People are still largely barred from the Capitol, and the opportunity to jigger and juggle the System through strategy has become the focus for all sides.

But what for? The Walkerites and Kocheviks know what they want, and they are relentless in obtaining what they want. Absolutely relentless.

What do the People want?

That's the question now.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tent City

Harpers has got a really good, but ultimately hopeless-feeling, story by William T. Vollman about the homeless situation in Sacramento -- which has once again burbled to the surface as local, state and federal budget cuts ensure that more and more people wind up living as best they can on the streets, in camps and whatever corners of creation they can find and hold before they are rousted by Authority.

The striking thing about the story, though it shouldn't be striking at all, is the extraordinary humanity of so many of those on the streets, a humanity that shines through all the suffering and puts the lie to the constant carping and denunciations of the chattering classes and the Better People who aren't -- yet -- forced to drag their few pitiful things from place to place ahead of the cops, or see them confiscated and burned if they don't get away fast enough.

There are all kinds of homeless programs in Sacramento and elsewhere, of course, and they all operate as little independent fiefs, jealous and territorial as shit, and none of them doing more than a fraction of what's necessary to aid and comfort the dispossessed and undisciplined. It's a crying shame, and it has been this way for decades, so long in fact that few have any idea any more that there could be a better way of... helping.

The author, for example, describes a parking lot he owns in the Alkali Flat area that was being frequented by homeless people, some of whom camped on his lot, some of whom left trash and more personal offal and debris in front of his door -- expensive to clean up -- and given the situation, he wondered if it wouldn't be better (though it would no doubt be illegal) for him to install a port-a-potty on the lot for use by its temporary residents. Would it "help" or would it actually make things worse -- for the author and the homeless who might relieve themselves in private...

These kinds of moral dilemmas seem bizarre in the extreme, as mad in their own ways as so many of the homeless wanderers on the streets. You do what needs to be done to the extent you are able.

And that's where Safe Ground comes in. They are a competing operation for the homeless with a goal of providing some kind of safe place to accommodate those on the streets and their pets, their goods, and their chattel, and to the extent possible, to provide them with transitional housing and social services so that those who are able can get off the streets once and for all.

They do what needs to be done, and what they do is fought by the Establishment -- both the homeless services establishment and the more generalized Establishment day in and day out.

It is a continuing "controversy." No doubt it will be discussed and argued for many years to come, for that is how things go in the "services" realm. Endless debate, endless foot dragging. And endlessly doing as little as possible -- for as much money as possible -- for those left behind in our country's mad rush into the Social Darwinistic Future.

Safe Ground appears to be trying to break that cycle, trying to make a real difference, by offering Dignity to the homeless they serve. They have provided the opportunity for several self-governing, self-policing, self-defending homeless communities to arise in the area (some in areas where such things are not welcome like the American River Parkway) which have begun to show the way out of the morass of endless homelessness and homeless servicing. And for that, they are pilloried, harassed, driven from place to place.

The time will come, however. The time will come.