JP124: May Day

Scroll against the machine…

HaymarketRiot-Harpers.jpg(The Haymarket Riot, Harper’s Weekly – http://www.chicago.org/hadc/visuals/59v0460v.jpg)

“Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest,
Eight Hours for What We Will!”

“The Haymarket Affair”, William J. Adelman, Illinois Labor History Society

No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance”

William J. Adelman


The 124

There’s a famous curse, which Bobby Kennedy dubiously designated a “chinese curse”,  which condemns: May you live in interesting times. These are interesting times. The “elected” executive of the most powerful government in history is a buffoonish, talentless, heir and the opposition party, the Democratic Party, long in decline, is hindered by a rift between the empowered neoliberal faction and a leftist, new deal uprising. A rash and reckless Republican Party should be easily contestable, but may continue to gain power due to the Democratic Party’s inability to reconcile its contradictions.

By influence of political history scholar, Thomas Frank,  it is my view that the only way to change the reactionary tide is for an authentic people’s party to emerge — be it the Democratic Party or otherwise.

Perhaps revisiting this nation’s illustrious, but too often neglected labor history could be a source of inspiration. In honor of May Day, this month’s 124 will be dedicated to heroes of the labor movement.

Labor Hero of the Week: Lucy Gonzalez Parsons

Lucy_Parsons.1920.jpg
(Lucy Parsons 1920, wikipedia.org)

“Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth”
-Lucy Parsons (1853-1942)

“More Dangerous Thana Thousand Rioters: The Revolutionary Life of Lucy Parsons”, Kelly Gallagher, The Nation

There is one word we should all be thinking in these first days under president-elect Donald Trump. One word that we should be shouting as we begin the work of combating the racist and misogynist policies that will inevitably come. One word we should embody now more than ever: Organize. Under Trump, we will need to come together in radically new ways, ways we haven’t even envisioned yet. In moments like these, artists have an especially unique role, actively encouraging community and care, critiquing misogyny and white supremacy, and resurrecting important histories of resistance and rebellion.


Weekly Roundup

“This May Day, Don’t Go to Work, Take to the Streets and Strike”, Michelle Chen, In These Times

From the Muslim ban to the border wall, President Donald Trump’s first 100 days have unleashed a blitzkrieg of terror. But on May 1, the communities he thought he’d backed into a corner will put him on the defensive with equal and opposite force.

Bernie Sanders with investigative journalist Jane Mayer, author of ‘Dark Money’, The Bernie Sanders Show

“‘Fear City’ Explores How Donald Trump Exploited The New York Debt Crisis to Boost His Own Fortune”, Naomi Klein, The Intercept

When I published “The Shock Doctrine” a decade ago, a few people told me that it was missing a key chapter in the evolution of the tactic I was reporting on. That tactic involved using periods of crisis to impose a radical pro-corporate agenda. They said that in the United States that story doesn’t start with Reagan in the 1980s, as I had told it, but rather in New York City in the mid-1970s. That’s when the city’s very near brush with all-out bankruptcy was used to dramatically remake the metropolis. Massive and brutal austerity, sweetheart deals for the rich, privatizations. In classic Shock Doctrine style, under cover of crisis, New York changed from being a place with some of the most generous public services in the country, engaged in some cutting-edge attempts at racial and economic integration, to the temple of nonstop commerce and gentrification that we all know and still love today.

“Black Politicians are Fighting a ‘Stand Your Ground’ Resurgence”, Mike Spies, The Trace

Soon after the start of his first term as a black lawmaker in the fifth-whitest state in the country, State Representative Ras Smith brought his hoodie to work. For the eleventh year in a row, elected officials in Iowa were going to take up a “stand your ground” proposal, authorizing residents to use lethal means to protect themselves in certain situations. In other states, similar laws have disproportionately justified the fatal shootings of African-Americans.

“Which Way to the Barricades?”, Steve Fraser and Nelson Lichtenstein, Jacobin

Rise, like lions after slumber,
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many—they are few.

Shelly’s “Masque of Anarchy” has been a spectral presence for nearly two hundred years, summoned at climactic moments of civil warfare. Composed to memorialize the 1819 Peterloo massacre, the poem commemorates the sixty thousand people who gathered at the very dawn of the industrial revolution to demand a radical expansion of suffrage, especially to those laboring in England’s dark satanic mills. Dozens died, hundreds were wounded.

“Brazil on Strike”, Lucas Iberico Lozada, Dissent

As darkness fell in Rio de Janeiro’s historic center on Friday evening, the smell of tear gas hung heavy. It had been a day of mass mobilization across the country: more than a million Brazilians in at least 254 cities participated in a day-long general strike on Friday, according to organizers; more are taking to the streets today for May Day, a national holiday here. The strike, said to be the biggest in decades, was meant to rally opposition to an aggressive pension reform plan that would weaken labor laws and raise the retirement age by a decade—the centerpiece of an array of austerity measures put forth by President Michel Temer, whose approval rating sits at a dismal 4 percent.

“Why Muslims are marching for climate”, Nana Firman, CNN

From the cropless farmer to the beleaguered first responder to the person forced to evacuate their flooded home, we all have our reasons for caring about climate change. As an Indonesian-born Muslim living in California, it is my faith that compels me to protect our earth.

“Gods of War”, Siddhartha Deb, The Baffler

When the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore flew in 1932 from Calcutta to Bushehr in Iran, he made a brief stop in Baghdad. It was a long journey, and although Tagore was extremely well traveled, this was only his second time on an aircraft. Seventy-one years old, curious about the world but critical of the violence and rigidity of modernity, Tagore was mostly unimpressed by his experience of commercial aviation. It brought to mind the mythical account in the Mahabharata of the warrior Arjuna being taken up into the air, making him reflect that Arjuna had lost intimacy with the earth by flying, his physical distancing resulting inevitably in a moral distancing that would allow him to kill from the air with­out compunction.

“Basic Income in a Just Society”, Birshen Rogers, Boston Review

“Amazon needs only a minute of human labor to ship your next package,” read a CNN headline last October. The company has revolutionized its warehouse operations using an army of 45,000 robots and other technologies. Previously workers known as “pickers” would walk among shelves to find goods. Now robots bring the shelves to them; pickers select goods, scan them, and put them into bins; after robots whisk the shelves away. A network of automated conveyer belts then sends the bins to “packers,” who spend just fifteen seconds on each, sealing boxes with tape that is automatically dispensed at the perfect length. “By the time you take an Amazon delivery off your stoop, walk into your home, find a pair of scissors and open the brown box,” the story intoned, “you’ve already spent nearly as much time handling the package as Amazon’s employees.”


al-Baqia

Daniel Suhre, who writes the Unknown Minstrel section on this blarg has written some damn fine songs. No Minstrel this week, but y’all should check out the demos he has up on his bandcamp — special attention to the labor anthem, “May Day”, which has a verse for our Labor Hero of the Week Lucy Parsons.

“Ghost in the Shell”
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera

No real surprise that Rupert Sanders’  yellowfaced and superficial adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” was a dud — good riddance. Let’s use this as an excuse to revisit Mamoru Oshii’s classic:

There are some complicated ideas explored in this film, here’s a great video from wisecrack to help out


…thank you for scrolling, comrades

JP124: Jury Duty

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The 124 on Jury Duty

It’s been a busy few weeks, honest! First it’s Easter and now I have this jury duty summons! But excuses are like assholes, right? Or maybe that’s opinions. . . anyway, going to have to walk back my commitments to doing 124s on Terrorism and Israel/Palestine for the time being. Turns out they’re rather daunting and all time management problems aside, I’d like to devote a little more time to those two topics regardless. This week: The Roundup, Unknown Minstrel Week 5, and some baqia.


Weekly Roundup

“In Indonesia, pious “punks” promote Islam”, Tommy Ardiansyah, Johan Purnama, Kanupriya Kapoor, and Nick Macfie, Reuters

My knee jerk response to this headline was to remember the Christian Rock garbage I was encouraged to listen to at summer camp, the sort of music to which Hank Hill famously opined “You’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock and roll worse!”. But comparative religions is risky business and I’m not here to be a critic. Interesting contrast to the Orientalist image.

Ahmad Zaki, one of the movement’s founders, believes the genre of punk is often associated with a “tendency towards misbehaviour” but he wants to change that.

“We can redirect ourselves to better, more positive things,” he said.

“The Airline Industry Is a Starving Giant That’s Gnawing at Our Economy”, Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

When the Carter administration began deregulating the airlines in the late ’70s, it did so in the name of fostering price competition. Sure, relinquishing public control might jeopardize smaller, rural cities’ access to convenient air travel, but free-market competition would also make flying more affordable for the vast majority of Americans.

But thanks in no small part to lax antitrust enforcement by President Reagan and his successors, deregulation ultimately turned a public quasi-monopoly into a private one.

War and Peace

“What We Do Best”, Patrick Blanchfield, n+1

Last night, on the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, President Donald Trump authorized the launch of fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian government military base. There has been no call for mass mobilization, no avuncular injunction to report to your local recruiting station. Donald Trump can launch $94 million of cruise missiles from the comfort of Mar-a-Lago; he does not Need You to do anything. But that won’t stop us.

“Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed with ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President”, Allan Nairn, The Intercept

Associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president. According to Indonesian military and intelligence officials and senior figures involved in what they call “the coup,” the move against President Joko Widodo (known more commonly as Jokowi), a popular elected civilian, is being impelled from behind the scenes by active and retired generals. . . .

. . . Like many officials I spoke with, Kivlan said that the current army-backed street movement and crisis began as a result of the Symposium, a 2016 forum organized by the Jokowi government that allowed survivors and descendants of ’65 to publicly describe what had happened to them and to discuss how their loved ones died. For much of the army, the Symposium was an intolerable outrage and in itself justified the coup movement. One general told me that what most outraged his colleagues was that “it made the victims feel good.” The Symposium, of course, had nothing to do with Gov. Ahok or with religious questions of any kind. It was about the army and its crimes.

Discrimination and Hate Crimes

“Chechen police ‘kidnap and torture gay men’ – LGBT activists”, Laurence Peter, BBC

Gay men are fleeing brutal persecution in Chechnya, where police are holding more than 100 people and torturing some of them in an anti-gay crackdown, Russian activists say.

Poverty and Class Struggle

“Investors are paying college students’ tuition — but they want a share of future income in return”, Frank Chaparro, Business Insider

Melissa Gillbanks is no fan of student loans, so when she was looking for a way to pay for her senior year at Purdue University, she was happy to sign away a portion of her future income in exchange for a very different way to raise cash for college.

Oligarchy

“Oligarchy in America”, Andrew Levine, Counter Punch

Ironically, though, over the same period, income and wealth inequality and other problems associated with plutocracy have gotten worse; voting hasn’t helped with that at all.   Indeed, many less well off voters nowadays vote for candidates and policies that make the problems associated with plutocratic rule worse.  So much for expropriating the expropriators through the ballot box!

There are many reasons why this has happened: false consciousness comes immediately to mind; it is surely part of the explanation.  For evangelicals and others with retrograde social views in the United States, so is “values voting.”

But the most important part of the explanation, in the American case, is the lack of a real opposition party that the system in place does not thoroughly marginalize.  The Democratic Party is useless for that.  To be sure, even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been known to mouth off about the evils of inequality.  But you don’t need a bullshit detector to see that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Israel/Palestine

“Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails begin hunger strike”, Nidal Almughrabi, Ori Lewis, Jeffrey Heller, and Alison Williams, Reuters

Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday in response to a call by prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a possible future Palestinian president.


Unknown Minstrel Week 5
By Daniel Suhre

Back at it again this week, this time returning to my PNW roots to pay homage to Kind of Like Spitting, a project of Ben Barnett that started around 1995 and lasted 10 or so years (with occasional releases/tours after 2006).

A friend introduced me to KOLS only last year, and what I found was a lot of music, probably created under less-than-ideal circumstances (though not without a sense of humor. Take a look at the cover of Professional Results:1999-2014 for instance).

What I like so much about Ben’s songwriting is he seems perfectly at home channeling Leonard Cohen as Death Cab for Cutie, and doesn’t get mired in purity struggles. On The Thrill of the Hunt we hear covers of much loved classics by Big Star (‘Thirteen’) alongside Dean Martin psuedo-deep cuts (‘Lay Some Happiness on Me’), all in an endearing bedroom folk configuration.

It’s telling that Ben chose to make an entire album of Phil Ochs covers. It was central to Phil’s music never to bow to the ideological demands of the folkies (Take, for example, the infamous Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album, a joyous romp of Elvis medleys and songs by Merle Haggard and Buddy Holly, complete with a telephone bomb threat, Phil smashing the box office window, and a three hour second set ended only by Carnegie Hall cutting the power).

I hear Ben’s music as somewhat of a continuation of Phil’s legacy. Class politics come through subtly on many KOLS releases, perhaps most pronounced on In the Red from 2005 (not coincidentally, this is my favorite KOLS album).

Around 2009, Ben started releasing songs with the band Blunt Mechanic, so more recordings to check out there. For now, listen to Sherriff Ochs (presumably about Phil Ochs, though I can’t verify that) from In the Red.

“There’s more to life than lovers and chores / there’s more to life than an office at the top floor”

https://kolsband.bandcamp.com/track/sheriff-ochs


al-Baqia

Jury Duty

In 10 minutes I’m going to sign in for my jury duty summons. While the timing is inconvenient, I’ve looked forward to jury duty since my 1st grade teacher Ms. Swenson was summoned in the spring of 1995. I hear it’s boring, but I’m also sappypleased to be doing my civic duty.

In honor of this life landmark, I’m posting the trailer to Pauly Shore’s Jury Duty, easily one of the funniest movies ever made about jury duty.


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JP124: Orientalism

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The 124 on Orientalism

d96e229552d0a9065bc81e6fead70eebc99c424d.jpgJean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Grand Odalisque, 1814, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Orientalism. What is it? Once upon a time it could be found on the course bulletin of every major university and it indicated the study of the orient,  land typically encompassing north Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia.

Literature professor and founder of post-colonial studies at Colombia, Edward Said (sigh-Eid, not sed) , analyzed this academic tradition and redefined it as the cultural component of imperialism, by which Europeans distinguished themselves, the enlightened Occident, from the near and far east or exotic Orient. He theorized that emphasizing the exotic was effective as justification for the violence and brutality of imperialism.

To this day it remains as a cultural lens through which the West views and defines the East disallowing the East from representing itself. Interesting to me is how amorphous the depiction is. There is little consistency to the orientalist representation, which once upon a time was a picture of lavish overindulgence and unabated sensual appetites. Hardly recognizable next to the today’s representation of rigid reactionaries who value piety and punish pleasure.

If the concept of Orientalism is new to you, I would encourage you to keep it in mind the next time you see Muslims depicted in movies, television or the news. Are you seeing common people you can relate to or something more exotic or fanatical?

That’s my two cents and you should take it for exactly what’s it’s worth. Here are a couple videos to elaborate:

“Edward Said – Framed: The Politics of Stereotypes in News” — Al Jazeera English

 

“What is Orientalism” — Quran Speaks

Exploring Prejudice

Stereotypes are often reinforced by the process of confirmation bias, the demonstrated human propensity to favor information that confirms our beliefs over contradictions to them. A relevant example: if you believe that Muslims are typically pious reactionaries, then the image of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be easier to recall than Safiyya Ally and Shabir Ally, even if you’ve been exposed to both. I think it illustrates it okay, but for more:

“Confirmation Bias”, David McRaney, You Are Not So Smart

The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.

The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions.

For the reading list

“Orientalism”, Edward Said ($9.50 used from Powell’s)

I first encountered “Orientalism” 8 years ago when I was studying Arabic in Morocco and we translated sections of the text from English into Arabic. Since then I’ve thumb through it a few times and have each time been impressed by Said’s profundity. After years of periodic grazing, I’ve finally purchased my own copy and will be reading it cover-to-cover very soon.

In the introduction, Said quotes from Italian marxist Antonio Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks”, giving me one of my all time favorite quotes:

“The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. Therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory.

Antonio Gramsci, “Prison Notebooks”

“Native Believer”, Ali Eteraz

By happenstance I came across Ali Eteraz’s novel “Native Believer” on KPFA’s “Against the Grain” podcast. It’s about a secular Muslim living in the United States. Here’s the NYT Books review:


Weekly Roundup

“When Marx Meets Islam”, Ma Tianjie, Foreign Policy

Almost every Chinese person with even a middle school education must, at some point, run into the famous statement about religion by Karl Marx: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” It is enshrined in textbooks that introduce students to the philosopher’s materialistic interpretation of the world, which considers religion as a “fantasy” used by reactionary forces to disarm the revolutionary proletariat by promising salvation in the afterlife while preaching endurance in the current one.

“Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated By Racism Than Economic Issues”, Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept

IT ISN’T ONLY Republicans, it seems, who traffic in alternative facts. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise.

War and Peace

“The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria”, Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Climate Change and The Environment

“BLM Replaces Mountain Landscape Photo with Coal Seam on Home Page”, Kirk Siegler, NPR

On the top of its home page, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages more than 200 million acres of public land under the U.S. Department of the Interior, swapped out a photo of a young boy and his companion backpacking across a mountain meadow in favor of one showing a massive coal seam at a mine in Wyoming.

screen-shot-2017-04-06-at-6.20.00-pm_custom-522cadb84a19c6e48c27ad1753723c15b858bf95-s800-c85.png

screen-shot-2017-04-06-at-6.11.37-pm_custom-90a47691f392cdd6c5c4dcb52bd378026e3960f1-s800-c85.png

Public Health

“Trump’s EPA moves to dismantle programs that protect kids from lead paint”, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Environmental Protection Agency officials are proposing to eliminate two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which is known to cause damage to developing brains and nervous systems.

Poverty and Class

“Don’t Blame the Boomers”, Matt Bruenig, Jacobin

I was inspired by this piece in the Boston Globe, about how baby boomers have ruined everything, to go into the Survey of Consumer Finances and see just how well the boomers are actually doing, at least as far as wealth goes. The answer, as with all things, is it depends on what class of boomer you are talking about. Rich boomers are doing well. Poor boomers are not.

“At U-Va., a ‘watch list’ flags VIP applicants for special handling”, T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post

The University of Virginia’s fundraising team for years has sought to help children of wealthy alumni and prominent donors who apply for admission, flagging their cases internally for special handling, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

American Oligarchs

“Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel”, Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

“Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince is Advising Trump from the Shadows” Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the Defense and State departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

State Violence and The Carceral State

“Police Arrested This Cop Watch Activist — But Recorded Themselves By Accident”, George Joseph, The Nation

Last August, Jose LaSalle, a prominent New York City Cop Watch activist, was arrested after filming a stop-and-frisk near a housing project in the South Bronx. Though filming the police is legal, LaSalle was charged with “obstructing governmental administration.” LaSalle claims he was standing far away from the incident. To continue documenting his own arrest, the veteran activist left his two phones and a GoPro camera turned on and recording as he was being taken to a nearby police station.

“Video released of police killing Utah man, firing at him with his own gun”, Sam Levin, The Guardian

Utah police officers fatally shot a man after disarming him and then firing at him with his own gun, according to law enforcement officials and body-camera footage that captured more than a dozen bullets fired.


Unknown Minstrel — Week 5
By Daniel Suhre

Will be back next week. Promise!

In the meantime, check out….

“Goodbye, Oh Goodbye”, Andrew Jackson Jihad


Your Essay or Whatever-you-want-really Here

I’m encouraging you to start a news blog and then to share a little something that I can post right here. It’d be an exchange and I’ll send something to you too. This is a good idea. This is a fun idea.


al-Baqia

Fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” much to the distress of his friends, allies, and political patrons. Criticizing Vietnam was a bridge too far for the American establishment and the next morning Dr. King was condemned by the press, the president, many Democrats, and much of white America. By his assassination a year later, he was penniless and unpopular. The last Gallup poll before his death showed him as having 32% positive and 63% negative approval rating.

The last couple years of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life are largely overlooked; his legacy whitewashed in what Dr. Cornell West has called the “Santa Claus-ification”.

“Beyond Vietnam — A time to Break Silence”, Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”


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