Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The World Keeps Spinning

There are many reasons why I don't post much anymore. One the main reasons is that regardless of the situation that arises, it seems I've already dealt with it in the past. Here's a couple of lines from a post I wrote back in August of 2008. I think it makes perfect sense in the light of the court decision over the weekend. 

There are those that will accuse me of being a whiner or playing the victim card or the race card (whatever the f&^K that means), but until you've had to walk a mile in the shoes of someone else, you shouldn't judge them. The question I would ask is how many indignities does someone have to suffer before they have a legitimate right to complain? How many times does a society have to show that it considers you a less valued member before you can cry foul? How many times do have to be made to feel almost sub human before you say enough? How many times do you have to passed by for less qualified people who just happen to be white before you have the right to make some noise? How many times have I have heard people say that the racial problem would go away if people would just stop bringing it up. That always amuses me because it reminds of the attitude of many Southerners during the civil rights era. There are many quotes from people saying that there was no racial problem in the South. It was those agitators from up North that were stirring up the blacks. It's amazingly easy not to question a system that works in your favor. I have lived in NYC for 30 years and you would be amazed at the number of times that a minority has been "accidentally" shot or otherwise abused by the police. The amazing thing is that during all of the time that I've been here, there has never been an "accidental" shooting or incident of brutal violence by NY's finest against anyone who wasn't "of color". I find that an amazing coincidence. And I might have chalked it up to coincidence if I hadn't been subjected to sub-human treatment at the hands of the NYCPD myself.

There is some notion in the press that this is some kind of transformative event, but even if the improbable happens and Obama were to win, the facts on the ground would remain the same. The richest of us will continue to maintain and grow those fortunes on the backs of the poorest of us. Racists and bigots would continue to be racists and bigots. Who you know is still going to be more important that what you know and the police will continue to "accidentally" shoot and abuse minorities.This piece is probably a little more rambling than I would have liked it to be, but I'm just God damned tired of people trying to tell me what me what my reality is. or why I shouldn't feel the way I do about the police. Or why we don't live in country where the color of your skin can give you an advantage. I don't live in that fantasy land. The real truth is that America can be deadly if you happen to be in the wrong place and are the wrong color. Do you think that we would have heard of either John McCain or George W. Bush if they were born into the same circumstances as Obama? Comedian Chris Rock tells a joke about the fact that there wasn't one white person in his audience who trade places with him in spite of the fact that he was rich. That may have been intended as a joke, but it is also the reality of America.


It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Until next time. 





Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One More Time

Reposting something i wrote back in November of 2008. Seemed appropriate for today.

The most disappointing moment of the 2008 campaign for me came when Joe Biden said that he and Barack Obama did not support the right of homosexuals to marry (it was even more disappointing than Obama's vote on the FISA bill). It can only be seen as ironic that in an election when the American people decided to elect an African-American to the highest office in the land, the voters in four states decided to deny homosexuals the right to get married. In California, even more ironically, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for the ban. I am positive that neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden are opposed to homosexual marriage, but in order not to ruffle the feathers of the country, they took the more popular public stance.

This battle is very reminiscent of the bans against interracial marriage which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. In the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court stated:"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State." (Just as a side note, Alabama had retained their law against interracial marriage on the books until 2000)

According to the Supreme Court, marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man". However the bans against homosexuals marrying have been upheld in various court challenges. The highest court in New York basically said that the homosexuals cannot be given the same protection under the law because discrimination against them hasn't been recognized until the recent past.The New York Court of Appeals held in 2006:"[T]he historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries...This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism's worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s... It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past, and one our Legislature tried to address when it enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act four years ago (L 2002, ch 2). But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a by-product of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind. The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.

"I do believe that in time this will become a non-issue. It's just a shame that the American people always seem to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into giving oppressed minorities equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court has usually had to take the first step and I do have hopes that over the next 8 years, the Court will address this issue and lay it to rest once and for all.

Here is what Barack Obama said in his now famous Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic convention:"For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work."

And I would add that if there is one person or group who are having their "fundamental" rights denied, then we are all oppressed, even if my rights are not being infringed upon. Denying the fundamental rights of citizens to marry is separate from the fight for Civil Rights of African-Americans (and clearly less violent), but the right to vote, the right to live where you want and the right to marry who you want are unalienable rights that are essential to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, that according to the Declaration of Independence, we were all endowed with by the Creator. Eventually we, as a country, realized that denying basic rights to an entire group of citizens based on something as arbitrary as skin color was wrong. I hope for the day when we as a country will realize that denying the fundamental rights of any minority group makes us smaller and uglier in the eyes of history. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was implemented to protect the rights of former slaves, but it should be applicable to every citizen regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual preference.

The 14th Amendment, Section 1:"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Lost Cause

Posted this on 6/19/08. I have no idea why anyone would now be shocked and outraged at the idea that the NSA is collecting data on all of us. We lost this fight years ago.


The Democratic led Congress has decided to bring a so called "compromise" bill on the FISA law. I have previously called the Democrats to task for their capitulation to the Bush administration's continuing attack on the Constitution, but by proposing this compromise (which is not really a compromise since it gives the administration everything they want), they have sent a clear signal that they have officially crossed over to the dark side.

The fourth amendment of the Constitution guarantees that American citizens are protected against illegal search and seizure. If the government wants to spy on a citizen, it is supposed to prove probable cause and get a warrant. In a nutshell, FISA(Foreign Intelligence Security Act) set up a separate court to review evidence and grant warrants for electronic surveillance. FISA expired in February with much gnashing of teeth from the administration, along with claims that if the act lapsed, we would be in imminent danger of terrorist attack. There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, the US Government doesn't need a warrant to bug any calls that originate outside of the United States. And secondly the Bush administration has been engaged in a program of warrantless surveillance headed by the NSA for years ( the interesting fact about that is the FISA court basically rubber stamped every request for surveillance. The NSA initiative was put in place to get around any oversight regardless of how perfunctory it may have been). An amendment to FISA made those warrentless searches "legal" in August of 2007, but as I said earlier, FISA expired in February of this year.

This "compromise" bill that the Congress is going to introduce not only revives FISA as amended, but would essentially protect the telecoms from prosecution for their role in any illegal wire tapping that took place under the NSA initiative before the passage of the amendment in August of last year. The Bush administration has been pushing hard for this immunity because along with shielding the telecoms from prosecution, they believe that it would also shield them from any prosecution over illegal wiretaps. So what Congress would be doing, in fact, is forgiving the Bush administration and any who aided them, for trampling all over the 4th amendment.

The Democrats in the House and Senate are not only willing to give the Bush administration practically unlimited power to eavesdrop on whoever the hell they please, but they are also willing to turn a blind eye to any wrong doing that may have occurred in the past. This is what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that "impeachment is off the table". We have documented some of the failings of the Bush administration in this blog, but clearly we have let the now Democratic party controlled Congress off far too easily. I am literally amazed every day by the balls of this administration and it's utter lack of respect for the rule of law, but now the Congress is about to become more than just a silent partner in this disaster. Up until now, the Congress has just held it's nose at the multitude of Constitutional trangressions of this administration, but if they take this step, they will become a willing participant in the soiling of the Constitution.

I can only imagine what the founding fathers would think of the current state of politics. While they were no strangers to personal attacks and backstabing in politics, they would no doubt be appalled by the absolute disregard for the system of checks and balances that they worked so hard to perfect. The problem that we face is that most people in this country aren't aware that the rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution have been severely restricted. As with the Iraq War, most people are willing to view it as "someone else's problem". The "Low information voter" (a term which provided me and Sandy with a lot of laughs last night), has no idea what this administration has taken away from them. Hell, they don't have any idea what's even in the Bill of Rights.

Currently Congress is not acting in the best interest of the people (even low information voters deserve protection). They are acting on behalf of other politicians. I know that there won't be a great national outrage at what is about to happen, but I for one can't remain silent. I never thought that I would ever be a witness to the wholesale disregard and destruction of the most sacred document that this country has ever produced. Democrat and Republican politicians have very little that they can agree on, but in their mutual disregard of the Bill of Rights they seem to have found fertile ground for a new alliance.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

C -O - O - L, What's that spell?

I don't really have anything new to say about our current political situation so I've decided to write about something really important. The coolest song ever. Now a cool song doesn't have to be a great song, but quality definitely helps. You know it's like how Steve McQueen is the coolest guy ever on film, but he couldn't hold a candle to Cary Grant in the looks department. So anyway, after years of research, I've decided that it comes down to two songs. Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed and Shaft by Issac Hayes. It's a real nail bitter between these two. They both have the attitude, the subject matter and the delivery of perfect coolness. The pedal work on the guitars on Shaft is spectacular, the sax solo at the end of Wild Side is sublime. 
I could go into a long analysis of each song, but suffice it to say that they work on every level of cool. Cool can't be too earnest (sorry Bono). Cool can't be too socially conscious (sorry everyone who ever wrote a song about suffering). Cool can't take itself too seriously (almost every musician). Anyway, in a photo finish, I think the winner is Wild Side by Lou Reed (although that cat Shaft is a bad mutha...). The crowd goes wild and the colored girls say,  do, do do, do do!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Timing is Everything

This week there was outrage about the Monsanto amendment to the funding bill. Apparently the amendment was added to the spending bill anonymously and approved by Congress and signed into law by the President without so much as a committee vote. I actually find the outrage to be outrageous. Since when do our elected officials do anything that isn't motivated by money or power? I'm sure that there was enough money passed around by Monsanto to feed a small country many times over. Our politicians are motivated by greed and by the need to be reelected. There has been a flood of politicians who have all of a sudden found their voice when it comes to gay marriage. Why? Because the polls now show that a majority of Americans now approve it. The President came out in favor of gay marriage after the polls tipped the 50% barrier. Now that the numbers are moving toward 60% , there's a tidal wave of politicians climbing over each other to join the growing chorus. Where were these politicians when state after state voted against gay marriage? Where were they when the polls showed the majority was against gay marriage? I'll tell you where they were; They were sitting on their hands because they didn't want to take a position that might have cost them votes. 

Politicians only respond to a couple of things and doing what is right isn't one of them. It's terrible that a bill that allows genetically altered food to remain on the shelves regardless of pending legal action, was passed by the Congress and then approved by the President. And it's nice that Senators are finally coming on board to support gay rights. In the end it doesn't matter at all. Courage and common sense are severely lacking in Washington. Every decision is made with an eye toward the next election and in gathering the required cash to win that election. So thanks Mr. President, thank you Hillary Clinton and thanks to all the senators who were so "brave" in expressing their support for gay marriage. You guys really went out on a limb. Courage abounds! And as far as the Monsanto amendment goes, the old adage still applies, money talks and bullshit walks.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dream A Little Dream

I'm reposting this for the third time. As the President takes his last oath of office, I still don't think I've come up with anything better to say.

"...in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope". Those are the words that Barack Obama used in his now famous speech after the New Hampshire primary and it illustrates perfectly his connection with the man whose birthday we celebrate as a nation today. Hope is the tie that binds Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. The hope and the belief that America can do and must do better. Obama's speech not only made the point that the destinies of all Americans are intertwined, but that people must have hope in order to make a better world. MLK's most famous speech was all about hope. It spoke of a nation that didn't exist. It spoke of the dreams of an America where someone like Barack Obama can reach the highest position in the land. They share the dream of a better America. Whether it is an America where people are judged by the "content of their character", or an America where we strive to build "a more perfect union", their goals were the same.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Obama's election is the culmination of MLK's dream. It is clearly a part of what he hoped for, but it is not the end of what he hoped for. Before his death, he was working on organizing another march on Washington. This one was going to be a poverty march. He looked across the country and realized that the underclass had no one to speak for them. He realized that the poor had no voice and no power to change their situation. His dream had expanded to include the poor of all colors. Whites in Appalachia, Hispanics in California, Native Americans in Oklahoma, they all became part of the dream. Injustice will always exist, that is why the dream will never be fulfilled. It is a moving target, as is Barack Obama's dream to build a more perfect union. Obama's words imply that the union can never be perfected, but we must always strive to make it better.

MLK led the greatest moral campaign that this country has ever known. He led a generation of people who were willing to put their lives on the line to make this country a better place. Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the WWII generation entitled "The Greatest Generation", however I think that designation should go to those who worked and fought and died so that the dream of America could be shared by all Americans. It is somewhat easier to make those sacrifices when the entire country agrees with you, but when you are faced with the opposition of the majority of the citizens of this country, it takes an extraordinary type of intestinal fortitude to persevere. Barack Obama is not the successor to MLK. As President, his moral compass will not be as consistent as MLK's was. His goals will not be as single minded as MLK's were. They can't be. The job of President is much more complicated and Obama is not just the representative of some of us, he is the representative of all of us. Those who have expectations that Obama will lead a moral revolution on the scale of MLK will be disappointed.

MLK was the leader of a movement that changed this nation forever. Barack Obama is about to become the leader of the country and his election has changed this nation forever. They will always be inexorably linked. The fact that Obama will be inaugurated on the day after this nation celebrates the birthday of MLK would lead many to invoke the term, poetic justice. MLK's dream is alive in Barack Obama as it is in every person who strives to make this world a better place. The Dream and the Perfect Union remain out of reach, but it is in the striving for those things that we tap into the better angels of our nature. It is our willingness to try, regardless of the obstacles in our way, that keeps the Dream alive. MLK would most likely be very proud of Barack Obama, not only because of what he represents, but because Obama is still challenging the nation to be better. Indeed that is ultimately what links them. We can be better, we just need someone to show us the way.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where Lives Might Be Saved Someday, the Answer Is Never "Do Nothing."


Just because we can't or won't solve every aspect of a problem doesn't mean we can't solve any aspect of that problem: Gun violence is what I'm referring to obviously in light of yesterday.
In this interconnected life we live, in the developed world in which even our most emotionally driven responses can been twittered, texted, or IM’ed across all of our acquaintances familiar and distant, there have been some asinine responses to yesterday’s massacre in New Town. I say asinine because that’s the only word I can think of when people put culture, politics, or personal liberty above their own personal safety and the safety of others.
I've received messages and seen responses to posts on Facebook like:

“Gun control laws don’t solve anything!!!”

Statements like this of course reach the heights of stupidity as there are already several regulations and laws regarding gun ownership that nobody would strike from the books (Violent felons released from jail barred from handgun possession, age restrictions and so on) -already governing our lives in different parts of the country. Few would argue their necessity. The one constant refrain I hear over and over again from people so in love with their guns that no massacre can make them rethink anything is this: gun control hasn’t stopped every violent attack, therefore it is useless. –Well can’t the same be said of every single law ever enacted? The answer sadly is yes, -but no sane person would say that homicide laws should be struck because they didn’t prevent a neighbor from being killed, or in the case of Friday’s assault, the mass murder of several children.

Personally as someone who has no small history with guns (I’ve had them pointed at me in aggression more than once before I even turned 18, and I’ve returned the favor more than once) and as no stranger to firing ranges, I am intimate with them as weapons and tools. In the nineties my familiarity with guns was often a skill, an ability that got me hired often as an AD on independent film sets where I’d be asked to “clear” a weapon before handing it over to an actor or stunt player, then keeping it under lock and key until the production was over. I’ve never questioned the need for regulation and laws in a city where people’s proximity to each other makes for daily conflicts that can turn lethal if the conditions are right.

My feelings about guns and especially certain accessories is this: laws governing the possession of assault rifles and high capacity magazines are inefficient when they enable any shooter to kill as many people as they want before they can be stopped. Gun control isn’t ONLY about eradicating every single gun on the street, much can be done to ensure that high capacity magazines, assault rifles, armor piercers –in short all the weapons of choice for mass murderers are not as accessible as, say aftermarket exhaust parts, because in the end, the fact that a killer can bring down as many people as he wants because his ammo will never run out, is often the deciding factor in whether Police response will be effective in saving many more lives or many less.

I’ll say it again, just because we can't or won't solve every aspect of a problem doesn't mean we can't solve any aspect of that problem:
-That problem is weak gun control and a culture that insists any legislation on arms is an affront to liberty no matter how many children get killed.
-That problem is America’s Gun Lobby.
-SJ

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A More Perfect Union

I am just as proud of my vote this year as I was 4 years ago. Thank you Maine, Maryland and Minnesota for affirming the rights of those who should have always had them. Thank you Wisconsin for showing the way. Thank you Missouri and Indiana for standing up against ignorance. Thank you to everyone who voted. It is an imperfect system, but it's the best one in the world. And thank you Mr. President for giving us 4 more years of your life. I may not always agree with what you do, but I know that without a doubt, you are the best person for the job.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New Low, and a Goodbye.


Greetings to all five of you who may be still linking to us, or following us etc.

It’s been a long while to say the least. My longest hiatus by far in the brief history of this blog, and sadly this post does not signal a return to the haughty days of yore (2008 or even 2010) when MyCue23 and I posted several times a week. I’m afraid I don’t think I will ever again be (in the way I proudly, maybe erroneously think I was) a part of the fraternity of bloggers, whose work and force of reason still humbles me as I read their, in most cases, weekly posts.

It’s a new low for me on this blog, and I feel, at the very least to myself, an obligation to understand and explain the possible reasons why this particular outlet of questions and perspectives MyCue23 invited me to partake in some five years ago has gone without my contributions for so long.

For my part, I’ve been extremely busy these last months with my job, motion picture production, comics, professional development and life in general. The last six months have brought no shortage of new things to comment on, and be outraged by, if not old things, then old problems that keep manifesting in increasingly sinister iterations.  2012 has brought many wonderful opportunities my way. This year I had the chance to meet Stan Lee, Joe Sinnott, Chris Claremont and George Perez (all childhood, and now adulthood heroes of mine,) I had the honor of assistant directing (doing the scheduling and yelling on a movie set) for a longtime collaborator and dear friend Todd Bevan on several (5, I think) production shoots thus far. I finished another story for World War 3 Illustrated; my publisher of now over twenty years and counting. But in February I also lost my friend Ezra Talmatch. There was no herald or omen save a sudden late-night phone call, from another old friend telling me that Ezra, who I’d only spoken to 10 or so days earlier, was gone.
To say that Ezra Talmatch’s passing has deeply affected his friends and family is a world of an understatement. So great is his absence, such was his affection and kindly influence on his peers that I can count no less than 10 new friends, thrust upon me in the shockwave of grief that threatened to flatten us all, had we not all had the good sense to instinctively reach out to each other. Then there are the friends I have had for many years, flung far and wide, connected, as if stitched by our own sinew, to this man whose voice still echoes joyfully in our minds, but will not be heard again in this life.

I miss him.

Ezra, and in some ways for me this blog, belong to another time and place now in June of 2012, and it’s regrettably a place I don’t think I can return to, as much as I want to.

For all my writing on this blog, I don’t know if I’ve ever expressed the thought, but I am in awe of politics. I am humbled by the concepts and theories of law and the dynamics of social contracts and the structures of societies. Government, particularly as expressed by our Congress here in the United States is an incredibly beautiful thing. Despite its vulnerability to corporate influence, lobbyists and crooks, we must never forget that as it voted to defraud and murder the Native peoples of this land, it also moved to end slavery. For all of its messiness and dysfunction, it is the Congress’s core mission of compromise in service of the people that at time leaves me with an almost spiritual hope, that the crimes and mendacity of the last centuries in America may yet stand to be argued into a civil life and rule of law that is fairer, more just and ultimately a reflection of the promises of our Constitution and not manifestations of its literal technicalities and shortcomings. I think as far as animals go, you can do far little better than human beings despite all of our cruelty, and our inability to capitalize on our sentience and self-awareness to see the obvious horrors further down the roads we ourselves are indeed paving.    
  
A year ago, I undertook a project, a pop-up bookstore here in Washington Heights. It was an impossible task: to create a Community bookshop that no one had asked for, in a city where real estate has managed to crush several nonprofit and for-profit businesses for centuries. But a year later, the Word Up! Community Bookshop stands. It’s an oasis in a neighborhood crowded with fast food joints, 99cent shops and beauty salons that has been embraced by the local community in a ferocious act of willful self-determination and enlightened self-interest. The bookshop was only supposed to be in operation for a month, a year later, we’re celebrating its birthday on Saturday June 15th. In the shadow of the popular movements around the world, and here at home in the US, I now feel that rather than write about what I think are the correct courses of action, it is far more constructive to present alternatives to the things that are wrong, impractical, predatory, self-destructive or criminal in our world. For years I have talked about what is wrong with New York, America, Europe and rest of the world. I have found that the only solutions that work, are the alternatives that exist or that we create.

So that’s going to be my road from here on out.
I’ll never say something as permanent and binding as my days of writing about politics online are ended, but I have to be honest about the fact that these days I’m more likely to get excited about starting up a rooftop farm in a nearby tenement, than write about the lack of one online. 

I sincerely wish good luck to you all, especially those folks who may have seen me as an enemy or provocateur. I never came here to argue, and I’m leaving the same way. So as a fictional, but altogether wise man once said to me through the television,

“Live Long, and Prosper.”  

-SJ

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Make One Thing Sacrosanct in 2012…


Another year is about to be come an irretrievable part of the past, joining all other years in memory, in the imagination.
It’s customary to make a wish for the coming year, and so I’ll make mine known here. In 2012 I would like a bill proposed to make the camera, whether a video camcorder or a cell phone’s tiny sensor an inviolable and untouchable personal possession.
Every time authorities block a camera’s view, or confiscate a recording device, they do so because they are about to do something they don’t want seen by others… they are about to do something wrong. No police officer, national guardsman, agent… -no one funded by my tax dollars has the right to cover their tracks by stopping someone from recording reality.
It would be great if there were a law on the books that protected the right to record, photograph and expose, -in a sense the right to bear a camera (the way many in America insist laws should protect the right to bear arms.)
Just a thought, just a wish I have for 2012.
Happy New Year.
-SJ

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"You Can Get Jail Time for Killing a Child Molester."



File that under the many things I learned this year, -another long year where at certain points I felt stupefied at all the things improbable that were made real. Some things I just learned over again, like making a proper Windsor knot before the Power Considine wedding, or the limitations of lenses in photographing moving subjects and even static ones.

Bin Laden was cornered and shot dead; -so much for ever-present, omnipotent Fu Manchu-like super villains twirling their mustaches. They can get shot in the head just like anyone else. As for the foreign policy and militaristic overreach they inspire or enable,
-that’s harder to kill. That’s our ongoing war to fight as a citizenry if we care to heed President Eisenhower's warnings.

I learned the battle against what we call Fascism will never end. Tomorrow’s "Dick Cheney" is out there, -he’s probably in college right now, learning how to be this century’s great offstage dictator, although like all his predecessors he’ll be missing some fundamental thing that’ll tip us off. He’ll have some inhuman reflex, -like the inability to not shoot his friends in the face while on vacation, -or that curious inability to smile without letting you know he’s the devil’s own.

I found out that American administrations can actually end wars and occupations, if that’s what they suddenly decide they want to do. The desire to "do" can uncomplicate things mighty fast. The Iraq war Xmas 2011 deadline was nice to be sure, but how about two Xmases ago? -Or three, or four.... I don’t know that there’s been any satisfactory explanation as to why now as opposed to earlier times other than vague statements about "stability."
Is it ever to early or too late to end a war that was started on a lie?
-No. Never.
Remember to say "Welcome home."

Currently News Corp. is embroiled in a phone hacking scandal centered on its disregard for privacy and civil rights, and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes are still referred to as people who work in the business of journalism? I found that the word "news"can be thrown at any enterprise; -kind of the way you can found a religion on the premise of a flying spaghetti monster, (or a dead Jewish rabbi-carpenter on a cross.) People can try and de-legitimize the legacy for the New York Times for its support of the Iraq War (The Left) or its relentless backtrack on the war and reportage on the Yellow Cake claims (The Right) but there is nothing as destructive to the concept of journalism as the fact the FCC will do nothing about the fact that Fox "News" Channel, includes the term "news" in its name and product description.
They are an opinion and disinformation network whose focus is Right wing, wealth-protecting elitist propaganda.
All they can do is deny it, as they deny so many other things on a 24 hour cycle.

Having a Black president and a Black Attorney general doesn’t mean the Constitution is any safer. The Patriot Act provisions were extended... And there’s that business of guns going to Mexico.

There are still a lot of stupid people loose in the world emboldened by the "me-too" culture of the early 1980s that continues today, bigger than ever. Misinformed people aren’t ever confronted if they are angry enough. Opinions are given the weight of fact. A lie can be given the same authority of a fact when no one has the guts to point it out. People’s stated beliefs are accepted as counter arguments to reason in America, -and around the world, religious fundamentalism continues to spread like a wildfire of cancers. People still focus and get fired up about stupid and inconsequential things. -Case in point, this blog, founded by MyCue 23 where we have discussed every subject under the sun, for better or for worse and drawn some heavy arguments from self-perceived adversaries, and people who just out-and-out don’t like what we have to say, has had one post that stands above all in terms of total numbers of visitors and vitriolic reaction:


You’ll note I didn’t bother responding to a single one of those replies because frankly, they speak for and refute themselves quite adequately. I was going to post a follow up to that post on his birthday called, "Michael Jackson: Baby Fucker." but whatever people may think about me or MyCue 23, we don’t post on here to upset or antagonize readers, even the people we don’t agree with. The fact that a post about Michael Jackson that points out the obvious problems with how his celebrity immunized him from due process of allegations (that for example recently ended the tenure of coaches at Penn State and Syracuse) drew such emotion and passion (and typographical errors) but not a single cogent argument against my notion that Jackson would likely have ended up in jail had he not been so talented, so famous and so wealthy (like many other celebrities and artists) really says it all, and frankly proves my point. I saw no need to write "Michael Jackson: Baby Fucker" this year.

Well, there’s always 2012...

But the greatest thing I learned this year, a small, precious thing I had long forgotten since I last marched on Washington DC in 1989, was the simple fact that the people have the power. For better or for worse. This year, in Wisconsin, in Cairo, in Athens, in downtown Manhattan, people defied every mechanism of control that manages our daily oppression and started a new era of defiance, freedom, visibility and citizenship that cannot be rolled back. I learned that the words I read in a comic book more than twenty years ago, were more than just an empty, theatrical threat, -but a suggestion as to what our responsibilities to each other really are as a society, and as a world.

A merry Christmas day, and happiest of holidays to you all.

-SJ

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Over.



Many will be home by Christmas. Iraq will begin a long drawn out process of assembling itself, possibly for the first time in the modern era as a centralized state and not a conglomeration of fiefdoms... -or not. They have a lot of dead to bury and account for.

I hope most of the armed services personnel can get on with life after being put in the service of an American administration’s opportunistic power grab disguised as preemptive foreign policy. The whole of government and the nation still owes these men and women an apology for risking their lives on a strange bet made by the Bush administration. The 9 year war in Iraq has now ended. It has ended after the spending of many more billions of dollars and after many more lives than were promised by President Bush in his stilted, laconic, bragging forecasts. No will hold him or the conflict’s true architects, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, accountable. They all got away with this crime free and clear. -That this war made millions for Dick Cheney’s friends in industry is never directly discussed, as if his refusal to answer any questions he doesn’t like could somehow operate as reasoning, justification, or policy.


The war is finally over Mr. Cheney. Thankfully, you and your Nixon-era cadre are finished too. I don’t think the country could survive another bout of what you call “keeping us safe,” incompetent, lying thieves that you are.


Merry Christmas.


-SJ

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THEM.



They’re Still at It. They’re not going home.

…Occupying this and that, over here and over there. OWS participants are annoying and scaring everyone from formerly unconcerned stock traders who “don’t know what everybody’s so mad about,” to minimum-wage janitors who work at corporate banks and wish that the great unwashed sitting at Zuccotti Park would just all go get a job and take a bath.

Even the cops’ frustrations are hitting an existential boiling point as they aggressively defend the dignity and peace of mind of a transnational financial community that has no empathy and less in common with their own way of life than people in their own economic strata, like those girls they are cowardly pepper spraying on occasion. Cops aren’t as stupid as everybody likes to pretend. They know what happened to their 401Ks while the banks returned to profitability on their own dutifully paid individual income tax funded bailout since 2008. Cops know that not a single institution on Wall Street will ever stand with them when it’s time to fight for the raises and pensions of policemen... Yet they continue to follow orders that amount to open and violent transgressions against the right to assemble and the right to dissent in our republic, conveniently forgetting that even the police have to occasionally take to the streets to fight for their own rights and be heard. Even cops are “labor” in the end. It’s an odd wrinkle of hypocrisy in America that persists generation after generation.
For all the calculated misinformation about what this, now nationwide, action is about (It’s been called “unfocused,” “aimless,” “infantile,” “disingenuous,” by the Right and by the Left) it seems pretty obvious that among the several things the OWS participants want are: the elimination of corporate and banking institutions from our political and electoral processes, and law enforcement and criminal prosecution (as opposed to negotiated fines paid with money illegally gained in the first place) every time transnational banks break the law.

-The fact that there are so many things that are wrong and frankly criminal about the way transnational and high finance (and the Wealthy 1% they serve) do business was somehow presented as a failing on the part of their critics by the media, the New York Times in particular is the very height of protectionist denial on the part of the American ruling class. It is intentionally disingenuous and broken reasoning: Citing that an argument is unfocused or groundless because it isn’t “concise”… The problems that OWS’s argument addresses are composed of too many crimes to lay down in convenient sound bites for our collective idiot mind. OWS’s target and their focus on its abuses cannot be processed by CNN in its current form, and it will never be reported honestly by Fox “News” or any other corporate news outlet.

Amid the media’s own aimless story-hungry opportunism, it’s important to assert that this is no “let’s-pretend-the-60s-never-ended exercise.” The counter culture of the 1960s and the goals of the civil rights era have long been absorbed into the mainstream in everything from our systems of daycare, anti-discrimination laws, to the way we teach history, to recycling laws, to HR policy in the workplace. OWS isn’t a rehash; it isn’t leftie or progressive nostalgia or make-believe. OWS is a direct and public assault on institutionalized financial oppression. It is an assault led by the people directly affected, past, present and future.

As much as the GOP’s branded mouthpieces for the wealthy want to pretend that OWS is just a long running prank, they know it’s not. It makes them scared. It scares them because this isn’t the fake populism of the Tea Party, which at its heart is codified by concerns and policy arcs that were never important to its members until a Black man suddenly became president. The elite, the 1% are now names that are gaining permanent traction. We used to just call them the Rich. We used see through nonsense like the Bush (43) and Clinton era series of tax cuts for the wealthiest in America. We used to have a middle class. We used to have a manufacturing economy stateside, -not an offshore community of international vendors whose disregard for workers’ rights would make Upton Sinclair draw a gun.

Who didn’t know it would go this way after the deregulation policies of the Reagan, Clinton, Bush (43) years? –There’s not a single man, woman or child alive who knows the value of a dollar, or more importantly, -the horror of its absence, who didn’t see something like this coming. Flint Michigan’s collapse in the 1980s was the first of many to fall to an industry that used its Reagan era tax breaks and subsidies to automate -not hire. Reagan’s successor raised taxes to stem the tide in an act of sober politically imperiling responsibility we’ll probably never see again. Clinton signed the erosion of media ownership restrictions into law, thereby laying waste to local news as we knew it, allowing a damaging consolidation of jobs and establishments we’re only now assessing in its proper horrific scale after the move to online finished what the corporate takeovers didn’t. If Clinton thought we could afford the tax breaks he signed over to the %1, he should have looked further beyond the great budget surplus his administration successfully wrought in the 1990s to what was happening on Wall Street: the rise of wildly conditional instruments like derivatives that combined with the tech speculation bubble collapse of 2000 would bring in one of the toughest periods of my adult life here in New York.

We’ve seen these OCCUPY park encampments in history books and soon, with a generation of vets returning to at best a jobless recovery, the OCCUPY camps will be less of a political statement and more of an inarguable consequence of 30 years of policy. Once upon a time these encampments, these occupations were called “Hoovervilles.” They were consequences of the Great Depression.

It’s interesting that whenever we are under threat by the rich, elite, ruling class of old money monsters who engineer misery in America, whenever some big scam is about to be perpetrated that will cost many lives, like the Iraq War Dick Cheney concocted with the political inertia appropriated from 9/11, our theatrical hatred for the French is always dragged back out of the steamboat trunk, dusted off and resurrected at fever pitch. It’s a wonderful distraction and it works every time. I’m waiting for it to come up again, now that legitimate people movements are being completely dismissed again as simply “socialist” and “un-American” agitation. Our very notions of Right and Left politics come out of the ashes of the French Revolution. I hope this time people pause and give some thought to the image of Marie Antoinette’s head sailing into a basket as crowds cheered.

At the heart of it all, the banks protected themselves with our tax money, used every politician in government they had bought outright to engineer interest free loans to protect themselves and safeguard their way of business. No Bank EVP’s job will ever be off-shored, -no- that’s for the rest of the suckers at the bottom of the food chain in America who have interest rates imposed on them from on high… you know: me and you and everyone we know.

-They, the occupiers, students, the protesters, the children of the now eroded and all but imaginary middle class -and let’s face it, despite the New York Post’s campaign of lies, -the actual poor, are still at it. They are still assembling in my downtown right near the old house of Morgan. They are still at it in Boston, LA, Oakland and by the way, “they” have never stopped where it all started, in Wisconsin. “They” are not stopping anytime soon, because they have a lot of outrage to dish out, a little over two hundred years’ worth.


“Only in New York” they used to say about anything crazy or uncommon… but remember this current wave started in the mid-west when THE people decided to remind Governor Walker that he and the state legislature were only guests in the capitol. They came with sleeping bags and showed them.

They showed them that “they” are us.
-SJ

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Rest in Peace Champ

In honor of the great Joe Frazier, who passed away yesterday, I'm reprinting something I wrote back in 2006.

Ali-Frazier III. The Thrilla in Manila. The final meeting of boxing titans. Ali had christened the fight in his then famous "poetry". He said, "It's gonna be a killer, and a chiller and a thrilla when I get the gorilla in Manila." As if the fight needed any more buildup, Ali decided to dub Frazier the gorilla, which did nothing to lessen the already substantial animosity from the Frazier camp. On October 30, 1975 Ali and Frazier would wage the greatest heavyweight fight of all time. The battle was so monumental that neither man would ever be the same again. They left not only their blood and guts in the ring that night, they left whatever was left of their youth as well.

 Ali and Frazier fought for the first time on March 8, 1971. The fight that was billed as the fight of the century and lived up to that billing. It was quite possibly the greatest sports spectacle of the century. It featured the first meeting of undefeated heavyweight champions. Ali was coming back from a three year layoff after having his title stripped and being prohibited from boxing due to his refusal to enter the armed services. Frazier had stepped into the void created by Ali's absence and had won the title in the heavyweight championship tournament. Ali had a couple of tune up fights and declared himself ready to reclaim his rightful place atop the heavyweight division. Ali and Frazier were friendly during Ali's boxing exile, with Frazier even giving Ali money during a particularly rough stretch. Once the contracts were signed however, Ali began to taunt Frazier in public. He called him ugly and an Uncle Tom. He painted Frazier as the "white man's champion". He claimed to be the people's champion. He turned the fight into a battle between the status quo and the voices for change, between the old and young, between black and white, between rich and poor. Frazier didn't want any of it and he grew to hate Ali because of the taunting. The fight itself was an epic battle. Ali dominated the early rounds with his speed and his jab. Frazier, a notoriously slow starter came back in the middle rounds. The fight was fairly even as they entered the last five rounds of the fight. The years away from boxing had robbed Ali of his ability to dance around the ring for 15 rounds. As the latter rounds became more of a flat footed slugfest, the fight swung in Frazier's direction. Frazier knocked Ali to the canvas in the 15th and final round with a thunderous trademark left hook. Ali somehow managed to pull himself up at that count of 4, but the decision was never in doubt. Frazier had defeated him and could now lay rightful claim to the true undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.

The second fight in the trilogy took place in January of 1974. Neither man was champion at that point. Frazier had been knocked senseless by George Foreman in Jamaica a year earlier and Ali had lost to a previously unknown boxer named Ken Norton. Both were at the crossroads of their careers. The fight was held at Madison Square Garden in New York, which was the same venue as their first fight, it had none of the majesty of that fight however. Ali continued to taunt Frazier and Frazier continued to build animosity toward Ali. They even tussled on Wide World of Sports while doing an interview with Howard Cosell. Ali was probably just acting, but Frazier was dead serious. The fight in the ring was neither as interesting nor as close as their first fight had been. Ali won easily, although Frazier did score with a number of punches. The fight was really the beginning of the end for Frazier. He would fight only four more times before retiring. Ali went on to fight 15 more times after the second Frazier fight.

The third fight was supposed to be easy for Ali. He had just recently regained the heavyweight title from George Foreman in Zaire and Frazier was perceived to be at the end of the line. Ali didn't train heavily for the fight but Frazier threw everything he had into preparation. He wanted to shut Ali up once and for all. The fight took place at an indoor arena that had no air conditioning. Under the TV lights the temperature soared well above 100 degrees in the ring. The humidity was stifling. The only ventilation in the building was in the form of fans that were ineffective in battling the heat and only served to circulate the already searing air. Ali was confident as he entered the ring. He felt that he would be able to take Joe out in the early rounds. Joe had another thought in mind. The fight started in the familiar pattern of Ali - Frazier fights. Ali dominated the early rounds. He peppered Frazier with jabs and power punches that Frazier seemed unable to stop or dodge. The fight began to turn once again in the middle rounds. Frazier pinned Ali to the ropes and began to pound at Ali's midsection and score left hooks to the head. Ali tried his rope-a-dope technique which had been so successful against Foreman, but Frazier proved too smart an opponent to simply punch himself out. He was much more economical and precise in his attack than the outclassed Foreman had been. As the fight wore on Ali knew that he was in for a battle. In one of the clinches he said, "Joe, they said you were done", "They lied to you champ" was Joe's only response.

The later rounds saw Ali's punches begin to take a toll on Frazier's face. His head became a misshapen lump of bruises. His eye were swollen and his vision became compromised. Ali seized the advantage. He produced pinpoint power shots to Frazier's head and started to build a lead. Frazier did not stop punching however. He hurt Ali on numerous occasions as the fight wore on. Ali was later quoted as saying that those later rounds were as close to death as he as ever felt. The heat and Frazier's relentless attack pushed him to the brink of quitting. His corner pushed him out for each round and he continued his attack on Frazier's face. A series of shots in the 13th round sent Frazier's mouthpiece flying into the crowd, but he never stopped coming forward, absorbing punishment, but also dishing it out. Frazier's corner wanted to stop the fight after the 13th round but he convinced them to give him one more round. In the 14th round a nearly blinded Frazier absorbed a vicious beating from Ali and his corner did indeed call it quits before the start of the 15th. In the tape from the fight, you can see Frazier arguing with his corner about stopping the fight, but in the end his trainer, Eddie Futch, had the final say. Frazier was so upset by that decision that he never spoke to Futch again. Ali, upon seeing that the fight was being stopped, got off his stool, raised his hand and then collapsed onto the canvas.

Both men had absorbed a tremendous amount of damage in the fight. And while Frazier's face looked the worse for wear, it was Ali's body that had suffered the most in the fight. Ali always gave up his body in order to protect his face and Frazier exacted an enormous toll during the fight. Ali was under a doctors care for several days after the fight, while Frazier was able to walk away in generally good condition. Joe Frazier would once again lose by knockout to George Foreman in his next fight after which he retired. Frazier had a short lived comeback a few years later in which he fought only once, but basically his career ended that night in Manila. Ali said after the fight that he was going to quit and most people believe that he should have. Of course he wouldn't. He would go on to lose and then win the title one more time and he would suffer ignominious defeat at the hands of Larry Holmes in an ill advised comeback. Ali is now afflicted with Parkinson's Syndrome, which means that although he doesn't have Parkinson's he has all the symptoms of a sufferer of the disease. It's a more scientific term for what used to labeled "punch drunk". His speech has been affected to the point that he doesn't speak in public anymore. His limbs shake uncontrollably and his movement is limited. His continued boxing activity after that night in Manila is probably the main reason for his condition today.

The thrilla in Manila was an epic struggle between two extraordinary fighters. Both men were past their primes, both had already secured their places in boxing history, both had nothing left to prove, but on that night they showed the world something more than just a championship bout. They were no longer fighting for the heavyweight championship, they were fighting for the championship of each other. They had split the first two fights and the winner of this fight could forever claim victory over the other. Neither of them was willing to give up that fight. They both fought to the edge of death to prove something, not to the world, but to each other. Ali won that night, but paid a heavy cost by continuing his boxing career. The effects of his decision to continue to fight have made him a shadow of the person he used to be. Frazier is still relatively healthy today and while he says that he harbors no ill will toward Ali today, there has to be a lingering thought in his head that perhaps by losing, he was the ultimate victor that October night in Manila. +

Monday, October 10, 2011

Really Pedro? Really?






It was the emperor Servius Tullius, (6th king of Rome, technically an Estruscan) who invented the first census we know of. His reasoning, we are told, is that once you knew what you had in the way of families, males of a certain age, women, children etc. you could ascertain your potential as a nation, and also identify your limits and needs; As a ruler he could tell if he would have a shortfall of men to supply his armies with soldiers, or whether a growing population of aged, or infant classes demanded a need for food surplus to be generated or procured from foreign trade sources.

The Census is one of the great gifts (among many) that the Roman civilization’s ancient governments have given the modern world: The ability to know the size and characteristics of your nation’s population through tallies and demography.



But as John Madden once famously said; you can use statistics to prove anything.



As self-conflictingly Berra-esque as that statement of Madden’s playfully makes its curved point, its relevance to the science and practice of demography can’t be overstated in America. We are a Republic of districts, boroughs, counties, hamlets and parishes… it all makes about as much sense as the variegated shape and contours of baseball fields as equivalent platforms for playing the same game in principle.

Recently some surprising statistics leapt out of the National Census’s recent efforts.
“Whites” were seen as growing in the tallies accrued in 2010. Nothing shocking about that in and of itself except that it suddenly trended against the last several decades of demography. Upon further investigation, it turned out the increase was due to a nuance in classification; or more specifically an option in classification. Hispanics and Latinos are not recognized as a “race” by the Census. The Census forms explicitly say so. This of course flies in the face of centuries of institutional racism and conflict in the Americas, because anyone familiar with the word “Spic” would tell you it’s not a synonym for Yankee. There’s a wall being proposed to keep out Mexicans, -not Canadians.
The Census forms only allow for identifications of Hispanic Black, or Hispanic White, or Non-Hispanic White, or “some other race” where Hispanics are concerned. It seems Hispanics, filling out forms in the secrecy and anonymity of the enclosed world of their minds, were marking themselves down as Hispanic White, or White altogether.

It’s an ironic development in so far as one of the Census’ objectives is to allocate resources to communities at risk, or with special needs, such as English as Second Language classes for children of immigrants in hopes of assimilating them into the workforce and society more functionally, -more comprehensively. If it suddenly looks like there’s only “White” people in Spanish Harlem, the funds for that kind of schooling may never come to that district, to name one possible consequence.

I’ve always marked down “some other race.” I’m Hispanic: The cops and all the gatekeepers of all the places I wasn’t welcome in as a youth never let me forget it, so there I will spitefully stay on the Census form, if only out of respect for my younger self and all of his hassles. I can understand the allure of wanting to pass as a member of a dominant class, it’s an obvious one, with obvious benefits, and with some dark, nasty drawbacks because at the heart of this all is a capitulation to the old-world idea that race is biologically consequential or “real.” At the heart of all this is the belief that skin color itself and not the social reality that stigmatizes it that determines one’s future.
I know someday, we’ll all just insist on being human counted as “human.” Although I’ve somehow managed to see the election of an African American president, I suspect that other day is a much longer way off, when so many of us are willing to mark down a color as if it were some portent of winning some crazy game in which we know everybody loses eventually.
-SJ

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remember Those Orders, Officer.



Officer, the next time the mayor tells you to go shove it, the next time they threaten to negotiate your contracts by firing masses of you and your fellow cops, remember all the kids you beat, remember all the girls you clubbed and shoved to the ground this past weekend. Remember all the people who you maced in the name of “order.” Remember all of the people you committed acts of violence against. Remember those people you hit in the face for exercising their right to assemble.

I don’t think you’ll so easily forget: it’s the people you are beating up.

Exactly who is it that you serve and protect, officer?
Who are you going to beat up over the nagging voices in your head?
Who are you going to beat up when you realize what end of the leash you are on?
-SJ

Monday, September 05, 2011

New Post.



It's been months.

But I'm back and I'll try to remain as long as it's sane to do so or as long as I'm able, which will be hard to do any case. I'm lucky enough to be working full time in this America.

Times are bad, times are hard; not as bad or as hard as they've ever been for our scurrying clawing species, nor as bad or as difficult as they will ever be... but when the king and pope of the Nixon-era goons, Dick Cheney, walks about freely, talking about himself in whatever fictional set of reappraisals he thinks most flattering and exculpatory, and it passes for fact in the minds of the many dimwits who oppose only the things that don't make them feel good about themselves and their country...

You and I had better do something, because an entire generation of people in our armed services are either maimed or dying daily. It's happening right now, right this second. They are our best and our brightest by sheer numbers alone, and they are being sacrificed to secure the fortunes of the elite rich in this country and the various industries those elites control: industries that do not even make it a priority to create jobs for this nation. Haliburton's name never comes up on the subject of job creation, but they sure have gotten rich off of these wars by exploiting the manpower and lives of the world's most powerful and capable military. Never forget that military is made up of single, individual human beings who have forsaken their rights as individuals in trusting that the Pentagon, and the Congress it answers to will never send them into lethal conflict unless it is absolutely necessary to protect their nation.

The 2000s were not that long ago, friends. I'm not entirely convinced they ended, not in any way that really counts; Not with two wars, a bank-ruled economy and a new squad of candidates talking about God and protecting the interests of the Rich... not with Rupert Murdoch's vile corporation beaming its lies and propaganda to the gullible and the willing, while it's been making a mockery of those most basic of its readers' rights: privacy.

I'm just a writer living in the 21st century, and that's what I can do: write. I can point out problems, I can point out the criminals masquerading as administrators and politicians from my own subjective corner of the fray. Maybe the best I can do is point out one single problem over and over again.

This is a problem I first noted at the age of six, when I overheard at the dinner table that my mother was being exploited, not by some company or global corporation, but by another immigrant with a different vision, a fucktard eden of their very own in the suburban hinterlands, a cul de sac in Massapequah perhaps, all dreams fueled by theft. For this vision of a better life of their own, they (these contractors who approached unemployed single women at labor offices and the port authority) skimmed thousands of dollars from workers, paying them below their government mandated minimum wage, and pocketing the difference. When a RICO-justified raid shut down the factory that my mother had worked at, she had by then already put herself through college and was working as an office assistant for a non-profit public defense fund in lower Manhattan. I can tell you as her only child, that a single dollar would have made a difference in those early days, and those thieving motherfuckers took much more than that from her wages, a lot more.

Back to that single problem of ours... The problem is simple as are most problems that we really, (in our hearts if not our minds) actually want to solve. The problem is that we are always ready to exploit people far ahead of just leaving them alone. We're always ready and eager to make something off somebody, well ahead of just letting them be.



-SJ

Saturday, July 16, 2011

USA! USA!

Seal of the United States Department of State.Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday, the Secretary of State announced that the US government has decided to recognize the rebel council of Libya as the official government body of that country. This will, in theory, lead to that body being able to get access to some of the funds of the Libyan government assets that have been frozen in foreign banks. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that our government is finally taking steps to recognize the legally elected representatives of the Libyan people...(oh, what's that you say, they haven't been elected by anybody). I'm sure that's just an oversight. At least when they get the money they will be able to provide the people of Libya with the resources I'm sure they so desperately need... (oh, what's that you say, they only want the money so that they can buy weapons to continue their civil war). Well at least the US government is setting a fine example for the Libyan people of supporting freedom movements all over the region... (oh, what's that you say, the US government has seen fit to ignore similar uprisings in neighboring countries like Syria where thousands have already been killed or imprisoned). Well at least the unfreezing of the assets can be viewed as humanitarian aid because it's not like we're at war...(oh, what's that you say, our drones sometimes fire rockets at targets). But since there has been no formal declaration of war and our President says that they have no real ability to harm our personnel that it doesn't qualify as war...(oh, what's that you say, just ask the family members of those that have been killed or injured by our rockets if they think we're at war). 

Well, in conclusion, I'd just like to say that this move by the US to recognize the Libyan rebels is a wonderful example of how we seek to promote and strengthen democracy around the world. I couldn't be prouder (oh, and by proud I mean absolutely disgusted).
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Friday, July 08, 2011

E Pluribus.





The words, “People shouldn’t fear their governments. Governments should fear their people.” were a small cast off remark by the imaginary terrorist “V” in Alan Moore’s (we can hardly call it “dystopian” anymore, much of it has come true in ‘90s London and ‘00s New York) “V for Vendetta.” The first time I was enlightened by the glare of those ten simple words I was riding a subway train, reading them in a serialized British comic book. I shut the pages, afraid someone might be reading over my shoulder. That was in 1988, -but to quote the words of singer songwriter Jello Biaffra, “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem, Now.

I had planned this post for the fourth of July, but my heart isn’t in it for theatrics or corny symbolism I used to employ on this blog.

All of the mid 20th century Orwellian projections of republics and “democratic” super states waging perpetual wars in order to enable governments to rule their people from above have come true in full measure. President Eisenhower tried his best to warn us about the confluence of our economy and our military. “Fear itself” as FDR rightly pronounced, is the thing to be afraid of… but not for the reasons he implied at the time. President Roosevelt was talking of the kind of fear that paralyzes a nation in the face of war; in the face of an expansionist adversary. On the contrary, we need to concern ourselves with “fear” of death that enables governments to justify any action allegedly committed in the name of national security… -because young people the world over are dying.

I’m seeing more and more homeless vets in my neighborhood park, some strung out, others harmed beyond any physical measure, unable it seems, to stand each other’s company. These soldiers came back “home” to extreme joblessness and in some cases absent families that had moved on without telling them. On one of my morning jogs, a 29 year old named Henry D*******z told me that he had joined the military in the fervor of his own personal patriotism, wanting to protect the nation he had immigrated to at five. But when he got to Afghanistan, and subsequently Iraq, he understood that his patriotism, his love of country couldn’t be applied in a conflict that had no front, no visually verifiable enemy. He told me that whatever his orders on patrol, it was tacitly understood by his platoon that anyone could be the enemy, and therefore everyone was. His experiences in wars, the attitudes he was forced to adopt in combat, went against everything he had believed in his whole life. His time in combat challenged all that the Catholic Church and the Constitution had taught him about the sanctity of life, and the inherent wrong of killing. Strangely, I’d never thought of the United States’ Constitution that way: as a thing that “teaches” us. All of my life, until Henry offhandedly described it as such the other morning, I thought of the Constitution as law, as blueprints for living fairly, rationally. It was humbling. It is as humbling as hearing Henry talk about his eight some odd years in uniform. At 43, I can never serve my country’s armed forces in any respect, and for the first time in my life, I’m wondering just what kind of citizen that makes me. I have no illusions about the glory of war, but I have to ask myself why I have been satisfied to let my peers, and now my younger counterparts risk their lives in military service, at the pleasure of various administrations, -both the corrupt and the impractically idealist, while I have gone about my life in a distinctly separate society.
It’s not a fear of death, because although I am as afraid of dying as anyone walking the earth, I would not hesitate to participate as a fireman, if my local government deemed it necessary to the safety of the community.
It is the subjugation of my will to the larger vision of a given administration’s plans for the nation and the world that I cannot abide. This is the great sacrifice every enlisted person makes for love of country, short of the ultimate sacrifice in combat, beyond which nothing more can be given.

I would never make a good soldier.
But someone has to.

I haven’t seen Henry since the Second of July. It worries me a lot. I found myself looking all around for him this morning as I went through my exercises. I worry, even though I know people disappear all the time in New York City. People move on, or are forced to relocate. But often times it’s something far more tragic.

This morning, one of the more vocal, volatile veterans, a pale young kid I’ve always avoided, who has tattoos creeping up his neck, was asked to leave the park by the rangers. These transient ex-soldiers are beginning to scare the shit out of the yuppies who have overrun the formerly Irish, Dominican, and African-American neighborhoods of upper Manhattan these particular soldiers emerged from. Truth be told, the remaining native holdouts of those ethnic neighborhoods, don’t want them either. The mere sight of them congregating by the GWB Port Authority bus location draws a lot of complaints. These are bums, addicts, homeless people everyone says: -The fact that they are veterans of still raging wars is irrelevant during rush hour. I hear some white collar worker complain of having to step over their sleeping bodies on their way to the token booth and I know that more than their stink, more than their unseemliness, it is the wars they represent that offend people who want to just “get on with their lives.”

This is wrong. What happened at Walter Reade was a disgrace, but what is happening under this administration dwarfs that negligence in a scale nobody is contemplating.

As with the Clinton administration, the Obama administration seems to ostensibly wear a cloak of beneficence. These administrations represent politicians and policymakers that at least care to say the “right” things to the country’s people. But aren’t we past the point of calling certain problematic things, -things they are not? The rationalization that the last administration started these wars is holding less and less weight, and the excuse that President Obama didn’t promise an exit, but an escalation of commitments in Afghanistan is unconstructive to the point of meaninglessness.

What’s so benevolent about an administration that is waging two, maybe three wars at once? -Nothing. It’s the persistent myth surrounding Democrats, to their detriment and at times to their benefit, depending on a given election cycle’s place in world history. Democrats are no less likely to let loose the military on any target compared to GOP-topped administrations. Democrats certainly seem to resist pulling out of conflicts, hopeful that they can bridge enough time until another succeeding administration ends up holding the bag.

There is no Anti-War movement in America anymore. While I could never be a part of it, because I don’t believe in pacifism, the Anti-War movement is an important perspective. The Anti-War movement has been successfully neutralized, diffused and rendered impotent by the media, and the calculated obfuscation of pundits on TV and Radio, who represent the rich elites who benefit or profit from the making of wars.

E Pluribus Unum, roughly translates to “Out of the many: one.” from Latin. It’s only recently, now that I have to see the people who have fought the current wars, and see them every day (I live across the Harlem river from the VA hospital in the Bronx) that I’m realizing that there’s something wrong with that ideal. Unity, is always a murderously selective enterprise for our human species. Historically, unity is always proposed in advance of some conflict, some enemy real, imagined, or as yet unidentified. Dividing and conquering is an ages old strategy, proven time and time again… but what of the collectivizing of humans into this aggregate body we call a nation? Doesn’t that makes conquest of a whole other kind equally possible? Equally inevitable?
What about this blind unity that gives us, (We the people) as much direct say in world affairs and the future of the world, as much freedom as a roaming blood cell has to determine its fate and purpose?

I wish the journalists would do their jobs and tell people what’s really going on. I wish someone would devote a single headline pronouncing the end of our Republic, and the birth of our new Protectorate now that, without much noise at all, the Patriot Act has been extended.

Somebody with the ability to make us listen and the skill to make us pay attention has to point out that our young people are still dying because of ongoing wars, even after they return “home.”
-SJ

Friday, June 24, 2011

Keep It Coming

In recognition of the NY State Legislature taking a historic step toward equality today, I'm reposting something I wrote a few years ago. Let's hope it's the start of an avalanche.

The most disappointing moment of the 2008 campaign for me came when Joe Biden said that he and Barack Obama did not support the right of homosexuals to marry (it was even more disappointing than Obama's vote on the FISA bill). It can only be seen as ironic that in an election when the American people decided to elect an African-American to the highest office in the land, the voters in four states decided to deny homosexuals the right to get married. In California, even more ironically, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for the ban. I am positive that neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden are opposed to homosexual marriage, but in order not to ruffle the feathers of the country, they took the more popular public stance.

This battle is very reminiscent of the bans against interracial marriage which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. In the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court stated:

"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State." (Just as a side note, Alabama had retained their law against interracial marriage on the books until 2000)

According to the Supreme Court, marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man". However the bans against homosexuals marrying have been upheld in various court challenges. The highest court in New York basically said that the homosexuals cannot be given the same protection under the law because discrimination against them hasn't been recognized until the recent past.

The New York Court of Appeals held in 2006:
"[T]he historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries...This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism's worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s... It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past, and one our Legislature tried to address when it enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act four years ago (L 2002, ch 2). But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a by-product of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind. The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude."

I do believe that in time this will become a non-issue. It's just a shame that the American people always seem to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into giving oppressed minorities equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court has usually has had to take the first step and I do have hopes that over the next 8 years, the Court will address this issue and lay it to rest once and for all. Here is what Barack Obama said in his now famous Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic convention:

"For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work."

And I would add that if there is one person or group who are having their "fundamental" rights denied, then we are all oppressed, even if my rights are not being infringed upon. Denying the fundamental rights of citizens to marry is separate from the fight for Civil Rights of African-Americans (and clearly less violent), but the right to vote, the right to live where you want and the right to marry who you want are unalienable rights that are essential to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, that according to the Declaration of Independence, we were all endowed with by the Creator. Eventually we, as a country, realized that denying basic rights to an entire group of citizens based on something as arbitrary as skin color was wrong. I hope for the day when we as a country will realize that denying the fundamental rights of any minority group makes us smaller and uglier in the eyes of history. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was implemented to protect the rights of former slaves, but it should be applicable to every citizen regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual preference. The 14th Amendment, Section 1:

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
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