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 <;)))><