Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Farewell, Tom

I just learned -- through the "Daily Kos" newsfeed, of all things -- that Tom Hayden has died.  ...Damn...  I hadn't thought of him in years, but it's still a jolt.  I knew him, back when.

I was just starting my freshman year at U. of Michigan while Tom was in his last year of grad-school there.  In fact, it was my first night there.  My parents no sooner took off, heading back to New Jersey, than I looked up a leaflet posted in the dorm -- announcing a "Stand-In for Fair Housing" -- picked up my guitar (a 6-string Gibson Hummingbird at the time) and my stock of protest songs and marched off to join it.  Why not?  I'd been devoted to the Civil Rights cause since junior high school, was eager to take it up in college, and had found my folksinging to be helpful.

At the announced place and time I found a small group of polite protesters lined up on a campus sidewalk, holding signs but otherwise not saying anything nor blocking foot-traffic: quite a modest little demonstration, only asking for equal housing rights for Blacks.  I took my place at the end of the line, pulled out my guitar and began singing.  I can't remember now which songs I sang (IIRC, there were a couple of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie pieces), but they made the demonstrators tap their feet and passersby slow down to listen.  Also, the organizer of the demo noticed.  As the protest was breaking up (it had an announced ending-time too), the organizer came over to me and said that if I was seriously interested in "this sort of thing" I should come join a political reform group that he'd helped organize recently -- and he handed me another leaflet, describing the group. 

It was called Students for a Democratic Society, and I later learned that his name was Tom Hayden.

Well, I showed up at the next meeting of SDS, and formally joined it.  That was the beginning of my campus political career, advancing to marches, sit-ins, campus strikes, teach-ins, marches on Washington, and all.  That's where I met some lifelong friends, including Don Meinshausen and Dr. Seti, and a lot of my old pals who still hang around on Facebook (Hi, Cathy!  Hi, Walt!). It's where I was introduced to Star Trek.  And of course it's where I started singing in earnest, and writing my own folksongs, where I found and bought Monster and learned my 12-string guitar technique.

Also, during freshman year, for lack of anyone else, I fell madly in love with Tom Hayden.  I was much too shy to mention it to him then, and after he left U. of M. there was no opportunity -- until years later, during the Chicago 7 trial, which is a story in itself.  By then, of course, he was already involved with Jane Fonda, so that went nowhere.  Soon enough, I met some nice boys in the folkmusic club and fell in love with each of them in turn, and moved on. No, I never met Tom Hayden again, but I remembered him fondly whenever I came across his name in the news.  I remember laughing for a good five minutes when I saw that he'd been elected to the California state legislature, just imagining all the feathers he could rumple there.  Apparently he did just that for the rest of his life, always ironclad-faithful to those kindly Liberal ideals that he wrote in the "Port Huron Statement".  I always respected him for that, even though I long ago discarded modern Liberalism and moved into ideological Anarchism.  I was amused, and pleased I admit, to see that those old SDS ideals eventually became the political standard for half of the country. 

He was always such a fixture in the background of my life that it simply never occurred to me that he wouldn't live forever.  Yes, it was a shock to learn that he was gone. I wonder who will take up the task of propounding those old Port Huron ideals now.

Farewell, old friend -- along with so many others.  I'll raise a glass to a life well spent, honest, and true.

--Leslie <;)))><          

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What's Putin Up To?

Since Putin's antics may impact our own upcoming elections, it's a good idea to take a good look at him.

First, he's an old KGB man, and of course he dreams of the Good Old Days of the Soviet empire -- when Russia was a major power in the world, when everyone feared that it might conquer the world or start World War III, when Russia had respect.  Of course he wants to see that back.  No wonder he's interested in Trump's campaign;  Putin wants to Make Russia Great Again.

But he's also a realist, and no fool, or he wouldn't have lasted this long.  He also knows very well that back in those Good Old Days the power of the USSR was largely a facade.  The Soviet economy was always lurching just one step ahead of disaster, couldn't adequately feed its own people, and often had to buy food from its declared enemies.  Factory production was never what the official statements claimed, between 15% and 50% of its products -- including its military hardware -- just plain didn't work, and everybody lied outright about how well the economy was doing.  The Russian black market provided more and better goods and services than the official system.  Despite desperate brags and propaganda from all government news outlets, the people -- including the military -- saw the reality around them and knew damned well how bad the economy was.  Given its performance in everything from the 1939 Winter War with Finland to the attempted invasion of Afghanistan, it was clear that the Soviet military could not fight a serious war anywhere, even on its own borders.  As various Soviet defectors confirmed, most of the Soviet government's visible actions were "Showoffsky". Finally the economy took that fatal stumble, and the disaster caught up with it.  Gorbachev's actions in dismantling the old system were only a sensible reaction to the reality that everybody in Russia knew.

And Russia's economy is still godawfully bad, as Putin certainly knows.  About 50% of it is run by the no-longer-so-Black Market, and by barter.  At any given moment, as much as 40% of its military personnel are moonlighting at other jobs.  Nobody, including its own people, trusts its currency -- or uses it, if there's any choice.  And, as always, its food supply is shaky. 

This is one of the reasons why Putin sent the best available troops he had to go re-conquer the Ukraine, which has always been the chief grain-bowl of Russia.  Another reason was, as has been the aim of Russian foreign policy for the last four centuries, to get a year-round ice-free seaport -- namely, in the Crimea.  Now Russia's ships, including warships, can reach any land on the shores of the Black Sea.  Whether they can get any further is a moot point, since the Black Sea is landlocked, and the only way out of it is through the straits of the Dardanelles -- which is held (firmly) by Turkey, which has not been friendly to Russia for nearly a thousand years. 

The third reason was, frankly, Showoffsky: Making Russia (look) Great Again.  This is also why he published those otherwise silly pictures of himself riding shirtless on a white horse, showing off his manly chest, looking macho.  This is why he's also been doing so much harrumphing and rocket-rattling in public lately, even though he surely knows that his military couldn't begin to take on the US, China, or even NATO by itself;  it never could, even back in the old glory days. This is why he sent that Russian warship to sit in the harbor while the US sent its ambassadorial team to Cuba.  This is why he sent a token force of aircraft to strafe an ISIL stronghold, and then did nothing further there.  This is why -- in a remarkably stupid move for an otherwise intelligent man -- he sent planes to bomb Aleppo, weakening the already-losing rebel side in the Syrian civil war.  He's trying to look strong by attacking or threatening opponents who can't, or won't, strike back.  Showoffsky!

We have to wonder how much of this political theater is aimed at the US and NATO, and how much is aimed at China, which is doing considerable Showoffsky itself -- such as building those "ghost cities", that nobody occupies and have no supportive industry, as WPA-style employment projects.  Is this a primarily eastern Battle of the Smokescreens?

In any case, somebody should quietly inform Putin that he'd make much more political hay out of helping the other western nations smash ISIL.  ...That is, if his military is capable of it.

--Leslie <;)))><     


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Selling Out for Power

As election day draws nearer and the campaign follies shift into higher gear, the passion for winning does indeed reveal the character of the major players -- and not just the candidates.  Surely the Democratic National Committee knows that it has the election sewn up, but it's not taking any chances;  it's pushing its loyal mainstream media to keep hunting up and trumpeting Trump's "sins" -- particularly against its most reliable "voting demographics".  This means almost-frantic hunting for any crumb of an example of Racism or Sexism, and let the more serious issues of Trump's shady business dealings, shady political dealings, military and political incompetence, and tax evasions slide.  After all, what's juicier than scandal, racier than racism, or sexier than sexism?

And do I detect a certain bread-and-circuses attitude toward the intellect of the voters?

In fact, Trump is personally a lot less racist than the other Republican serious contenders;  it was his rich daddy who didn't want to rent housing to "niggers" -- thus inspiring Leadbelly's song "Bourgeois Town", plus a few more by Woody Guthrie -- while Donald, despite his thoughtless sayings, has shown himself quite as willing to deal with, and cheerfully exploit, Blacks as anybody else. There just isn't much Ray-Ray-Racist dirt to dig up.  So what does that leave?  Right.

A couple days ago the big "sexism scandal" about Trump was his commenting at a wedding, years ago, that "vagina is expensive" -- and you know that wasn't the word he used.  Oooh, how horrid!  Today MSNBC talking-heads are dithering about a recording, even more years ago, of Trump doing a locker-room brag about leching after some married woman he thought was hot.  Icky-icky awful!  Make him apologize publicly!  In fact, make him withdraw his candidacy!  A serious contender simply can't show women that little Respect!

What amazes me is the fluttery-dithery Sensitivity, characteristic of the most Politically Correct of the current crop of Liberal-Arts campus Special Snowflakes.  I almost expected one of them to complain about "trauma triggering", and whine for a "safe space", but I suppose that well-employed professionals long since graduated may be expected to act a little more like adults.  This is an ironic turnaround from the Liberal media's previous position, which sneered at the Teddibly Sensitive crowd, held that women are naturally strong, and cheered for the women in the military who'd passed the Ranger Test.

Being a fan of the Kick-Ass Chick model myself, I had a good laugh over the whole pious idiocy.  Hey, if Trump had made that "Pussy is expensive" comment to me, I would have laughed and said "Yeah, but
@ssholes cost you more".  As for his locker-room brag, I would have asked for solid evidence that he really did *get* that red-hot married woman, and added a comment about how the girls talk in *their* locker-room.  I learned at an early age that the best way for us girls to get "respect" from the boys is to learn to give as good as we get, not to play the Fragile Flower.  Most practical women these days, at least those who aren't so rich that they can indulge childishness into adulthood, have learned that same lesson, long since.

Still, the DMC/Media axis is willing to do a complete about-face on their previous ideals, just in hope of getting a few more anti-Trump votes.  Talk about selling out!  And for what?  Just to scare a few more votes away from a candidate whom they know isn't going to win anyway?  This reminds me of the most recent Bush, who lied from habit even when the truth would have served him better.   The Big Two parties are looking more and more ethically indistinguishable.

A plague on both their houses!  Vote Libertarian.

--Leslie <;)))>< 


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Not Exact Repetition

I've noticed that history doesn't repeat exactly, and that if cycles repeat closely enough in time for people to see them completely, they can make noticeable change.

For example, the killing-protest-riot cycle in Charlotte, NC reveals a serious upgrade from the last cycle in Ferguson, MO -- and I don't think it was just because of the plethora of cameras.

There are three stories about the original killing, and all of them claim the support of video evidence:  1) the victim had a gun and was waving it near the police;  2)  the victim had no gun but a book, and the police couldn't tell the difference or didn't care;  3) --and this is the odd one-- the victim had a gun but wasn't brandishing it, and he had a perfect right to carry a gun, North Carolina being an "open carry" state.  The first argument, of course, is what the police are claiming.  Naturally, the second argument is what the local Blacks are claiming.  The third argument is being made by both Black community leaders and sympathetic Whites, which is a real first.

Another difference:  again, Black protesters marched in the streets during the day, while cops in riot-gear watched quietly.  Again they finished at sundown, whereupon a split appeared in the ranks;  more than half of the original protesters left, most of them heading for church to pray and plan, while the bunch that was left formed a screen of bodies to block the cops' sight, made a point of taunting and provoking the police -- which they called "standing up" for their rights -- while behind them others smashed car and shop windows and grabbed whatever they could.  But this time, the next morning, the Black protest leaders denounced that second group as "provocateurs" and repudiated the lot of them.  This is a brilliant -- and long overdue -- move.  It's probably the reason why the Charlotte confrontation hasn't escalated since, and there's serious negotiation going on between the community leaders and the police.

It would also be extremely useful to find out just who those "provocateurs" were/are, and who's behind them.  I'd bet on very covert money from certain Arab interests -- which is ironic, seeing how various Arab rulers have exploited Blacks since at least the days of ancient Egypt. 

A couple of suggestions I could give to the Charlotte PD, not to mention a lot of others:

A)  Hire more Black cops, and assign them specifically to patrol Black neighborhoods.  It will surprise and dismay a lot of people when the number of police-brutality incidents doesn't fall off, "racism" can no longer be used as an excuse for police misbehavior, and Black-on-Black crime becomes a serious national scandal.

B)  Put every cop in reliable body-cameras, with audio included and internal timers, that transmit as well as record, and that can't be turned off by the wearer -- along with car-cams.  And, given another bone of contention, the recordings therefrom will be legally public records on demand, within not more than 24 hours of any incident recorded thereon.  And, of course, altering the recordings will be a serious felony.

C)  Surprise: police must be subject to random drug-tests -- often -- which are designed to pick up traces of steroids and the more obscure stimulants.  Cop drug-use is one of the best-kept dirty secrets in the country, and is at least as big a factor in the current problem as racism or police militarization.

If the Charlotte PD is willing to adapt all of these reforms, I think the more intelligent folk in the Black community will be also willing to ask for police help in tracking down the origins of those "provocateurs".

--Leslie <;)))><    

Monday, September 12, 2016

Watching History Replay

Today being the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, there are memorial documentaries all over TV.  There are also a few appeals on the Internet for personal reminiscences: where were you, and what were you doing when it happened, and how did it affect your life afterward?  So, here's my account -- with added thoughts.

It was early morning here in Arizona, and I was asleep in bed with one of my lovers when his housemate slammed the door open, ran in, and yelled: "Wake up!  Wake up!  Arab terrorists have crashed a jetliner into the World Trade Center!" -- and then ran out again, back to the TV news.

We woke up fast, took all that in, and the first words out of my mouth were: "This means war."

As we crawled out of bed and felt around for anything to wear, my lover asked why I had said that, and I explained.  History is my hobby, and I'd been noticing for a long time the parallels -- and differences -- between the political/economic situation today and in the years just before World War Two.  We'd had an economic "recession" for years that left large numbers of people unemployed or underemployed, much like the Depression.  We'd seen the rise of a passionate fascist movement overseas, using Jews and the western nations for scapegoats, often using the exact same propaganda -- which it spread with great volume and efficiency, through large numbers of agents and immigrants, around the world.  We'd seen the other countries of the world squabbling with each other, accepting easy bribes and easy excuses to ignore their danger, as the fascist regimes began flexing their muscle with scattered but growing attacks, demands, takeovers of minor countries and outright war with others who were our allies, until finally the fascists were ready to attack us directly.

9/11 was the replay version of Pearl Harbor.

As we watched the news for the next several hours, I saw the differences between then and now.   For one thing, the current fascist enemy is decentralized, not the product of or contained by any one country (or two, or three) and its official government, but spread unevenly across several countries and semi-independent of their governments.  This new fascism is rooted in fundamentalist religion rather than racism or nationalism, and uses laws enforcing religious tolerance to cover and excuse its actions, a religious tolerance which of course it does not extend to any other religions in territories which it controls.  It also has the advantage of controlling territory which contains a valuable resource, which it uses to bribe other countries' governments into complacency or compliance.  

The attacks on the WTC were intended to cripple our economy, the one on the Pentagon was meant to destroy our military command-center, and Flight 93 had pretty obviously been aimed at either the Capitol building or the White House and meant to paralyze our government.  All of them had failed in different ways;  Flight 93 was brought down by heroic passengers,  the Pentagon was much more fortified than the attackers had expected, and the WTC was not the control center of our economy.  Our economy is much more decentralized than the fascists had expected, and that expectation reveals something about them and their societies.  This attack had succeeded in arousing fury and determination without doing any damage to the US's ability to wage war.

If the US had declared war then against the heart of the enemy, instead of just a minor satellite, the whole regime would be gone by now.  Instead, the US and its allies took up a limited, vague, inconclusive war which allowed the fascist regime time to regroup, refine its tactics, gain more territory and spread hundreds of thousands of its agents into the countries which could otherwise oppose it.  This means that the "allies" have lost the advantage they had 15 years ago.  The real war, when it comes, will be as bad as WWII.

--Leslie <;)))><     


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Election Follow-Up

Well, here's the report on the local (very local) election here in Buckeye, at least what I saw of it.  First, the local guy from the county election board drove by at 0-dark-30 and picked me up, and drove me and a couple of other volunteers to the nearby high-school gym, where we set up in the front hall.  There was a line of rickety little collapsible tables, shrouded with cardboard privacy screens and supplied with pens, two of them set low to accommodate any voter who rolled in on a wheelchair.  There were locked boxes for taking in the mail-in ballots that other voters might walk in by themselves, and about half the voters did just that little thing.  There were several ballots laid out on the long gym-tables: Republican (with red tabs), Democrat (blue tabs), Libertarian (purple), and Green (green, of course), plus ballots -- and separate tabulating machines -- for folks who lived in the city proper and those living (like me) out in the county.  Finally, there were ballots for voters who had registered "independent" or "no preference", but who could vote in the primary elections for every party except the Libertarians, who have "closed" primaries in this state -- to keep anxious Republicans from sneaking into Libertarian primary elections and taking them over. 

This is a serious concern, since Republicans in the state legislature have pulled various tricks trying to throw the LP off the ballot.  Most recently, they passed a law requiring LP candidates to collect 20 times as many signatures to be put on the official ballot, while reducing the number of signatures for Republican candidates.  The LP replied by sending out two different mailings to its registered members, revealing the trick, listing its own candidates, and telling voters to write them in.  This is pretty clear evidence that the Big Two parties -- particularly the GOP -- are worried about the growth of third parties, especially the Libertarians.

So there we were by the dawn's early light, most of us retired folks with free time for this, laying out ballots and checking the machines, referring constantly to the elections manual (we had about four copies between the ten of us), and setting up the coffee machine and snacks for the staff.  As the juniormost of the lot, I got the job of observing the voters as they put their ballots into the county-residents machnines -- and afterward handing them their "I Voted" stickers.  It was a wonderfully simple job, except for the fact that I'd somehow put my back out of line while running for the transport car, and the plastic chairs we had were godawfully painful.  My job had the label of "elections clerk", which sounds a lot more impressive than it really was.  There were also "elections judges" who checked the voters' registrations, and a roaming "elections inspector" who wandered between our polling-spot and two others in town, checking to see how we were getting along.  Some of the older voters, who'd done this countless times, knew all the older staff and had thought to bring cookies.  The whole scene had a jolly party atmosphere, where we gossiped and munched snacks and talked about anything except -- by common consent -- politics.

'Twas all great fun, except for my sore back, and I promised that when I did this next time I'd bring a back-brace, my own seat-cushion, and a good book for the long slow stretches between waves of voters.  Predictably, we got the waves during lunch-hour and just after quitting-time.

Having been following the story of the Diebolt vote-tabulating machines and how easy they are to hack, I took care to note the name of the machine where I was assigned: "Sequoia Voting Systems -- Optech Insight".  I haven't been able to link that name to any of the incarnations of Diebolt, and would be grateful for any information on it.

Not that I think any election hacker would have had much to work on with that machines.  I kept watch on the ballot counter, and the total number of county-resident ballots that were put into that machine were... 7.  Yep.  7 votes.  There were a whole 42 ballots put into the city machines, another dozen mail-in ballots handed in, and of course nobody knew how many mail-in ballots had been actually mailed in beforehand.  Hey, this is a small town!  The county elections guy promised that we'll get "the really big" numbers in November, but seeing what the total population of the Old Town district is, not to mention the popularity of those mail-in ballots, I somehow don't think anybody will be standing in long lines.     

Monday, August 22, 2016

Don't Laugh!

Is there anybody out there who doesn't know that I'm a lifelong ideological Anarchist?  Okay, so try hard not to giggle when you hear what I'll be doing next week on election day. 

I'm going to be a local poll-watcher.  No kidding.

Why?  Well, the simplest answer is: money.  I lost a lot of trees this past summer, and the county pays $140 for a day of poll-watching, and every little bit helps. 

More to the point, though, I'd like to see the elections business from the inside, for once.  This is a small town, the polling-place is the local high school, and the process should be pretty simple.  The gang of us will have to show up the previous day, after school, for a three-hour training course -- and I'll definitely take notes.  I particularly want to get a good look at the tabulating machines.  If I see the word "Dieboldt" anywhere, you can bet that I'll raise a stink.

If the ballots will be counted by hand, I'll keep an even closer watch.  Back in Chicago I saw plenty of ingenious ways to disqualify ballots, and I'll be looking for them. 

Most especially, I want to see how many 3rd-party votes show up.  The number of voters registered Libertarian, and Green, in Arizona is one of the better-kept political secrets in the state.  It'll be fun to see the local media try to ignore the actual poll results, especially this year, when everybody is so disgusted with the Big Two.  The mainstream-media have been squawking merrily about Democrats refusing to endorse Hillary and Republicans refusing to endorse Trump;  what will they do when double-digit percentages of voters refuse to endorse either of them?  *Snicker*  Anyone who thinks that Arizona is a "red state" doesn't live here.

The only thing that could be more fun on election day would be poll-watching down in the border counties, where I could see how the Navajo votes goes.

--Leslie <;)))><