Pride Season

Long ago, a half century and more ago I learned I had to be true to myself.

I wasn’t always right in my actions, sometimes took the wrong paths, let myself be led astray and be persuaded by leaders I should have questioned.  Made some stupid mistakes, got knocked down but picked myself up and went on.

I’ve always between a reader and a student attending a university without wall, with teachers whose works live on pages bound up into books.

Today Amazon delivered me a self bought birthday present of a song book by Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People.  A decade before people call the folks of the bohemian, alternative culture hippies, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen dubbed people of the alternative culture, beatniks.

Well in 1957 I was bookworm beatnik wannabee. Then came the great folk music scare of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I discovered a magical place called Greenwich Village. Aha, a place for me. Because, you see, I have always been an outlaw.

Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were beacons of clarity during the turbulent 1960s. I marched for civil rights for all, to end the war in Vietnam, to protect the environment.  I marched for freedom, for women’s rights and the rights of LGBT people.  I didn’t need to out source the seeds of my radicalism and look to Mao, Lenin, Marx or Che.  I’m yankee born and raised.  I had the Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams, Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson too.  I had John Brown and the Abolitionists. Susan B. Anthony and the Suffragists.  I had the mine worker’s union organizer Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood and the women textile workers.

All American Radicalism…  Sometimes seems like we all went astray.  Particularly when we looked for radicalism that wasn’t All-American, at radicalism that divided us up into identity groups.

Recently I saw a Rainbow flag that was some sort of weird mutation of the Rainbow flag. Funny thing is I felt included back when it was “Gay Liberation”.

But I was a hippie and felt more a part of that and that “Gay Liberation” was just another battle to be fought.

Now I’m old and never ever dreamed things would get as bad as they are today.  We have a bunch of full blown Nazis in power while the left is all divided up into various identity groups and the words of Rev. Martin Niemöller seem truer today than ever.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Over the years it seems like so many of the leaders from the 1960s died questionable deaths or were out right assassinated. Worst mistake we ever made was driving out LBJ and refusing to support Humphrey.  Started us down the road to today.  Trump is a million times worse than Nixon and we thought Nixon was the worst.  But the Republi-Nazi pukes keep on moving the worst possible goal line and now we have this useless pile of Nazi shit.


I still feel pride when I listen to Pete Seeger sing “Which Side are You On” and “Solidarity Forever”.  But Pete and Woody and all the rest of the Almanac Singers are dead and seems like those of us who were inspired by them mostly have one foot in the grave as well.

Pride… It is hard not to feel ground down by events, hard to overcome all that divides us, hard to pull together and fight the good fight.

Pride… Mostly pride means keeping on, keeping on and not getting demoralized.

Come November go to the polls and vote the straight Democratic Party Ticket.  It may be the last chance we get before things deteriorate to camps and guns and a civil war.

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Tom Russell-Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall

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‘INFEST’ — The Ugly Nazi History of Trump’s Chosen Verb About Immigrants

From The Forward:

Aviya Kushner
June 19, 2018

When President Trump characterized immigrants as “animals,” some people waved it away, claiming he was only referring to gang members. But today’s use of “infest” in connection to human beings is impossible to ignore. The President’s tweet that immigrants will “infest our Country” includes an alarming verb choice for anyone with knowledge of history.

Characterizing people as vermin has historically been a precursor to murder and genocide. The Nazis built on centuries-old hatred of Jews as carriers of disease in a film titled “Der Ewige Jude,” or “The Eternal Jew.” As the U.S. Holocaust Museum notes on its website, in a section helpfully titled “Defining the Enemy”:

One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.

What is happening now is “defining the enemy. Substitute “continent” for “Country,” capitalized, and you get the picture. The roots of the particular word “infest” are also telling. The English word comes from the French infester or Latin infestare ‘assail’, from infestus ‘hostile’. So yes, it’s a word rooted in hostility.

“Infest” also appears in Late Middle English, meaning “torment, harass.”

Many dictionaries confirm what we all know: that infest is used to indicate in contemporary American conversation to mean insects or animals taking over a space.

The use of the word “infest” by an American President was immediately noticed by reporters.

The Washington Post’s White House correspondent, Seung Min Kim, was quick to point out “infest” in a tweet. Maggie Haberman, the White House correspondent for The New York Times, tweeted some additional context:

“Also — insects infest. This public language about immigrants from a US president after, say, 1970, is remarkable.”

For anyone familiar with Nazi history — the exhibit of “Degenerate Art,” the film “The Eternal Jew” and the persistent campaign to paint Jews as vermin or animals, and certainly not human—the word “infest” is not only remarkable, but terrifying.

Scholars of Jewish literature and history have been sounding alarms over what is happening at the border and the language surrounding immigration. Ilan Stavans, the linguist, translator, Amherst College professor, and publisher of Restless Books, was born into a Jewish family in Mexico, and is the author of “Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language as well as Resurrecting Hebrew.” Earlier this week, Stavans tweeted:

The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children of their asylum-seeking Hispanic parents is spiteful. It is reminiscent of the Nazi strategy to divide Jewish families. Racism at its clearest. For how long will we remain silent? Are some families more sacred than others?

The last two questions posed by Stavans are especially important now; the verb “infest” is, indeed, to borrow a bit from Stavans, language at its clearest.

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Fall of the American Empire

From The New York Times:

By Paul Krugman
June 18, 2018

The U.S. government is, as a matter of policy, literally ripping children from the arms of their parents and putting them in fenced enclosures (which officials insist aren’t cages, oh no). The U.S. president is demanding that law enforcement stop investigating his associates and go after his political enemies instead. He has been insulting democratic allies while praising murderous dictators. And a global trade war seems increasingly likely.

What do these stories have in common? Obviously they’re all tied to the character of the man occupying the White House, surely the worst human being ever to hold his position. But there’s also a larger context, and it’s not just about Donald Trump. What we’re witnessing is a systematic rejection of longstanding American values — the values that actually made America great.

America has long been a powerful nation. In particular, we emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles.

Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.

And his belief that there was a core of decency — maybe even goodness — to America was eventually vindicated by the rise and success, incomplete as it was, of the civil rights movement.

But what does American goodness — all too often honored in the breach, but still real — have to do with American power, let alone world trade? The answer is that for 70 years, American goodness and American greatness went hand in hand. Our ideals, and the fact that other countries knew we held those ideals, made us a different kind of great power, one that inspired trust.

Think about it. By the end of World War II, we and our British allies had in effect conquered a large part of the world. We could have become permanent occupiers, and/or installed subservient puppet governments, the way the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe. And yes, we did do that in some developing countries; our history with, say, Iran is not at all pretty.

But what we mainly did instead was help defeated enemies get back on their feet, establishing democratic regimes that shared our core values and became allies in protecting those values.

The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force. (There are actually some parallels with the ancient Pax Romana, but that’s another story.)

And while you might be tempted to view international trade deals, which Trump says have turned us into a “piggy bank that everyone else is robbing,” as a completely separate story, they are anything but. Trade agreements were meant to (and did) make America richer, but they were also, from the beginning, about more than dollars and cents.

In fact, the modern world trading system was largely the brainchild not of economists or business interests, but of Cordell Hull, F.D.R.’s long-serving secretary of state, who believed that “prosperous trade among nations” was an essential element in building an “enduring peace.” So you want to think of the postwar creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as part of the same strategy that more or less simultaneously gave rise to the Marshall Plan and the creation of NATO.

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Pop star Kim Petras: ‘I just write about emotions – nothing to do with being transgender’

I’ve long wondered if the transkids raised as the gender they identify with would buy into the transgender party line.

From The Guardian UK:

Her defiantly hedonistic music has put her on the map, and she wants to make people forget their problems with songs about ‘love, superficiality and rich dudes who broke my heart’

Fri June 8, 2018

In an era of “woke pop” – in which Beyoncé’s dancers are raising black power fists, Katy Perry is flogging “political liberation” anthems and Lana Del Rey singles allude to tensions in North Korea – Kim Petras’s music is almost defiantly apolitical. As the world burns, she sings through her thrillingly garish electropop of spending sprees, weed-smoking and unrequited crushes, while lounging on her pink bubble-wrap throne. On her debut single, I Don’t Want It at All – the video for which sees her worship at the altar of Paris Hilton – Petras is a millennial Veruca Salt, demanding she be given designer clothes she can’t afford.

In a way, such wilful hedonism is a statement in itself, particularly given that Petras’ very identity is politicised every day. “Sometimes, it’s hard not to get completely reduced to being transgender,” she says. Having moved from Cologne to Los Angeles aged 19, after a YouTube cover of a Chris Brown song got her noticed by a producer there, the German musician worked as a songwriter for more than half a decade, penning tracks for the likes of JoJo and Fergie. Last year, she broke out as a solo artist when I Don’t Want It at All topped the Spotify global viral 50 chart. A few months later, she collaborated with Charli XCX on the track Unlock It, before releasing more singles: the low-riding pop-rap of Faded, the strutting Heart to Break and the newly released Can’t Do Better, a lung-busting, bombastic power ballad. But on a recent trip back to Germany for a week of press, she wasn’t asked about any of that.

“I got asked: ‘Do you miss your dick?’” she recalls, incredulous. “I’ve worked for five years to become good at something, writing three songs a day, moving to a different country and making it there – and that’s the first thing you want to bring up? The first big headline I saw was, like: ‘Successful pop star in America – here’s what she looked like as a boy.’ They won’t let it go.”

Petras has been putting up with intrusive headlines like this since she was 16, when she became one of the youngest people ever to have gender-affirming surgery. Before that, she says, “I had to go to school in neutral clothing and cut my hair short because a doctor was like: ‘Your kid should go to school as a boy.’ As soon as I didn’t have to suppress myself, I was out there in dresses and heels, just living my life.” The subsequent media interest was overwhelming. She was invited on to TV shows and asked demeaning questions. “I was just really young and they would tell me to say stuff like: ‘Hi, my name is Kim and I used to be Tim and I was born a boy,’” she sighs. “Now, I won’t do any shit that anybody tells me to do, but I feel like my whole life I’ve had to explain it to people.”

It’s hardly surprising then, that Petras’ “unapologetic pop” revels in escapism. Blending 80s European disco with 00s pop, her music is bright and brassy, with insistent beats and synths that blare out like a melodic traffic jam. “I don’t have songs that are like, ‘I aaam transgender,’” she says with a laugh. “I’m just writing about my emotions; things that have nothing to do with being transgender.”

Recently, though, her apolitical position has been shaken by her decision to work with Dr Luke – the producer accused by Kesha of sexual and psychological abuse, allegations which he denies – and her subsequent assertion that “I wouldn’t work with somebody I believe to be an abuser of women”. I am told by Petras’s publicist that there will be nothing further from her on the matter, but after we speak, the news that she will be supporting the Australian singer Troye Sivan on tour pushed the controversy into the headlines again, with some of his fans objecting. “While I’ve been open and honest about my positive experience with Dr Luke,” she said in a statement on Twitter, “that does not negate or dismiss the experience of others or suggest that multiple perspectives cannot exist at once.”

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Germaine Greer calls for punishment for rape to be reduced

Repeat after me, “Germaine Greer is not now, nor has she ever been any sort of Feminist, radical or otherwise.  Germaine Greer has been a life long attention whore and fraud.”  My opinion YMMV

BTW the Guardian provides the washed up publicity whore’s punch line:  Book coming out in…..

Rest assured I wouldn’t read her garbage if I were given it.

From The Guardian UK:

“Feminist academic” tells Hay festival that ‘most rape is just lazy, careless and insensitive’

Arts correspondent
Wed 30 May 2018

Germaine Greer has called for the lowering of punishment for rape and said society should not see it as a “spectacularly violent crime” but instead view it more as “lazy, careless and insensitive”.

She suggested that a fitting sentence for the offence might be 200 hours’ community service and perhaps an “r” tattoo on the rapist’s hand, arm or cheek.

Speaking at the Hay literary festival, the feminist academic argued that rape is rampant in society and the legal system cannot cope with it because it always comes down to the issue of consent, with the victims becoming little more than “bits of evidence”.

She said the system was not working and radical change was needed. “I want to turn the discourse about rape upside down. We are not getting anywhere approaching it down the tunnel of history,” she said.

“Most rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever,” Greer said. “We are told that it is a sexually violent crime, an expert like Quentin Tarantino will tell us that when you use the word rape you’re talking about violence, a throwing them down… it is one of the most violent crimes in the world. Bullshit Tarantino.

“Most rape is just lazy, just careless, insensitive. Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal rights he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law.

“Instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime, and some rapes are, think about it as non consensual … that is bad sex. Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love.”

Rape trials were foundering and not ending in convictions as lawyers argued over the issue of consent, she said. Why not believe the woman and lower the penalty?

“If we are going to say trust us, believe us, if we do say that our accusation should stand as evidence, then we do have to reduce the tariff for rape.”

Greer acknowledged her thesis would be controversial. “It is moments like these, I can hear the feminists screaming at me, ‘you’re trivialising rape!’

“Well I’ll tell you what … You might want to believe that the penis is a lethal weapon and that all women live in fear of that lethal weapon, well that’s bullshit. It’s not true. We don’t live in terror of the penis … A man can’t kill you with his penis.”

She said that, in cases of obviously violent rape, the courts should concentrate on the violence which should attract bigger sentences, rather than having long trials in which women are humiliated for long periods.

Greer is publishing her full argument on rape in a new book, coming out in Australia in September.

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‘Gender ideology’: big, bogus and coming to a fear campaign near you

From The Guardian UK:

The phrase is neither a legitimate academic term, nor a political movement but conservatives use it to sell a false narrative and to justify discrimination

Fri 30 Mar 2018

Costa Rica goes to the polls this weekend for a presidential runoff election in which economic concerns have unexpectedly been overshadowed by a debate over gay marriage.

The current frontrunner – rightwing evangelical candidate Fabricio Alvarado – leapfrogged 12 rivals to win February’s first-round vote, largely thanks to his pledge to ignore an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling which warned Costa Rica that it must guarantee same-sex couples equal rights to marriage.

What was even more remarkable than his sudden electoral surge was that Alvarado had managed to make the election in Central America’s most stable democracy hinge on an abstract – some would say specious – concept: “gender ideology”.

The phrase is neither a legitimate academic term, nor a political movement.

It is a theory drummed up by hard-right religious activists, who present it as a gay- and feminist-led movement out to upend the traditional family and the natural order of society. It’s a catchall phrase to sell a false narrative and justify discrimination against women and LGBT people. And it is winning elections.

The term first surfaced in the Vatican, in the mid-1990s, a time when sexual and reproductive rights were formally recognised by the UN, and when gender entered the lexicon of the global body. Gender equality was finally being protected and promoted by international legal obligations.

Advances in women’s rights threatened the Catholic church, which feared this would open the floodgates to abortion and promiscuous behaviour, and lead to the downfall of western civilisation.

By 1997 the notion of a “gender ideology” gained wider momentum with the publication of Dale O’Leary’s The Gender Agenda. This influential text – reportedly read by members of the Vatican – maintained that substituting the word “sex” with “gender”, in international spaces like the UN was part of a global feminist scheme to dissolve the family and remake society.

By the early 2000s, a transnational movement agitating against “gender ideology” was strengthening. And not just in Catholic Poland, Brazil and Ireland, but in reliably progressive countries like Germany and France.

One of the most remarkable deployments of gender ideology was during the 2016 Colombia peace referendum. After 52 years of civil war, Colombians were widely expected to vote for a peace accord. Yet in a stunning setback, voters rejected the deal by a narrow margin. It was Latin America’s Brexit moment.

One contributing factor was a fear campaign launched by peace opponents. They framed efforts to address gender-based violence and to ensure the political participation of women and LGBT people as the work of gender ideologues out to subvert the traditional family and Colombia’s Christian values.

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‘The Gig Economy’ Is the New Term for Serfdom

From Truth Dig:

Chris Hedges
Mar 25, 2018

A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth suicide by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

“Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion. Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft, has a net worth of $300 million.

The corporate elites, which have seized control of ruling institutions including the government and destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th centuries. When workers at General Motors carried out a 44-day sit-down strike in 1936, many were living in shacks that lacked heating and indoor plumbing; they could be laid off for weeks without compensation, had no medical or retirement benefits and often were fired without explanation. When they turned 40 their employment could be terminated. The average wage was about $900 a year at a time when the government determined that a family of four needed a minimum of $1,600 to live above the poverty line.

The managers at General Motors relentlessly persecuted union organizers. The company spent $839,000 on detective work in 1934 to spy on union organizers and infiltrate union meetings. GM employed the white terrorist group the Black Legion—the police chief of Detroit was suspected of being a member—to threaten and physically assault labor activists and assassinate union leaders including George Marchuk and John Bielak, both shot to death.

The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. The job conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, will not improve until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists. There are some 13,000 licensed cabs in New York City and 40,000 livery or town cars. The drivers should, as farmers did in 2015 with tractors in Paris, shut down the center of the city. And drivers in other cities should do the same. This is the only language our corporate masters understand.

The ruling capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of their obscene wealth. Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and opponents, they are among the most repugnant of the human species. Don’t be fooled by the elites’ skillful public relations campaigns—we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion, mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal information—or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs. These people are the enemy.

Ochisor, a Romanian immigrant, owned a New York City taxi medallion. (Medallions were once coveted by cab drivers because having them allowed the drivers to own their own cabs or lease the cabs to other drivers.) Ochisor drove the night shift, lasting 10 to 12 hours. His wife drove the day shift. But after Uber and Lyft flooded the city with cars and underpaid drivers about three years ago, the couple could barely meet expenses. Ochisor’s home was about to go into foreclosure. His medallion, once worth $1.1 million, had plummeted in value to $180,000. The dramatic drop in the value of the medallion, which he had hoped to lease for $3,000 a month or sell to finance his retirement, wiped out his economic security. He faced financial ruin and poverty. And he was not alone.

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