Insight of the day

December 14, 2010

“The Wikileaks saga has exposed the vapid stupidity of the celebrity press corps like nothing since the Great Clinton Panty Raid. One thing is very, very clear — they aren’t journalists and don’t even consider themselves journalists. They are celebrity public relations professionals who just aren’t as bright as the real public relations professionals.”

via Hullabaloo.

Dangerous memories

December 14, 2010

I came across an interesting “diary” blog post at Booman Tribune, one of the sites I read daily, about a memory Rosa Parks recalled of an experience she had at about age 6. It’s on page 2 of her autobiography (Rosa Parks: My Story), so you can deduce the import it had for her.

“One of my earliest memories of childhood is hearing my family talk about the remarkable time that a white man treated me like a regular little girl, not a little black girl. It was right after World War I, around 1919. I was five or six years old. Moses Hudson, the owner of the plantation next to our land in Pine Level, Alabama, came out from the city of Montgomery to visit and stopped by the house. Moses Hudson had his son-in-law with him, a soldier from the North They stopped in to visit my family. We southerners called all northerners Yankees in those days. The Yankee soldier patted me on the head and said I was such a cute little girl. Later that evening my family talked about how the Yankee soldier had treated me like I was just another little girl, not a little black girl. In those days in the South white people didn’t treat little black children the same as little white children. And old Mose Hudson was very uncomfortable about the way the Yankee soldier treated me. Grandfather said he saw old Mose Hudson’s face turn red as a coal of fire. Grandfather laughed and laughed.”

Just in case it’s not clear to the reader what this story has to do with Mrs. Parks’ arrest in December 1955, she explains: “There had been a few times in my life when I had been treated by white people like a regular person, so I knew what that felt like. It was time that other white people started treating me that way.”

I have not yet read this book, so this particular reflection by Ms. Parks is new to me. But I completely understand how something that happens to you at 6 can be one of the most critical moments in your life (go read the diary to understand the point of my title here, “dangerous memories”). Here’s my comment to the post which hopefully explains how I can say I know that for sure:

This story is particularly interesting to me. When I was in the first grade, in 1959 southern Georgia, and just starting to learn to read and write, I went to a friend’s house to play and took up a blackboard to show off my new skills. I tried to write a sentence with the word “air” in it, but I didn’t know how to spell it. The only adult in the house was the black maid of my friend’s family. So I asked her how to spell “air.”

I remember distinctly that she was ironing sheets at the time — white sheets, ironically (all sheets were white and flat back in those prehistoric days) — I remember it because we didn’t iron sheets at my house (but then, we didn’t have a maid).

Anyway, I went up to this woman and asked her, “how do you spell ‘air’?” I didn’t think anything of it, I had asked such questions of all the adults in my life and been given unremarkable but satisfactory answers. But this woman paused and looked at me with a look I can’t describe, I think it must have contained both shame and anger, and said, “I don’t know how.”

Although I had never consciously considered the racist culture around me before, in that look and statement, I was stunned into an awareness of it. I knew without a second’s thought that the reason she didn’t know was that she didn’t know as much reading and writing as I knew halfway through the first grade, and I knew the reason for that was because of the color of her skin.

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, which was not a very good one, but I have always remembered this incident. I’ve been a activist for peace and social justice practically all my adult life, and I see that moment as the start of that process. So I know exactly what Rosa Parks is talking about here. Sometimes it only takes a second for your whole life to be set in motion.

It’s kind of crazy that I clicked over to read this diary at all and found this treasure, because I actually never read the member diaries at Booman Tribune, just the front pagers. Any member can post a diary, and such diaries that are recommended by other site members are listed in the sidebar, and I rarely notice them, much less click the links. But this diary was authored by user “massappeal” and I took a couple of writing classes with the playwright who wrote a play called Mass Appeal that was made into a film starring Jack Lemon (one of my meager claims to fame, LOL). I had kind of schoolgirl crush on him. So I thought, hmmm, could it be …? Probably not (though the Catholic theology thrown casually into the diary suggests a remaining chance), but I got something good out of that click anyway. Life is funny that way.

There are (so far) two other diaries posted by massappeal that also look at some of Rosa Parks’ history from the book.

The angry students of London: Harbingers of things to come?

December 13, 2010

In Britain, the university tuitions have been tripled, due to government austerity budgets and their version of the catfood commission and Obama/McConnell dealmaking deciding who has to pay for the bankers’ crimes (won’t be the bankers, you can bet). Students will be expected to make up the difference, basically introducing the American model of higher education where most opportunities are based on your ability to pay for them.

Last Thursday was the latest huge student action in London. There, as here, it’s the youth, the seniors and the most vulnerable who have to sacrifice so the masters of the universe can have their million dollar bonuses. But the students there don’t plan on taking this without a fight. Here’s a 15 year old who skipped class at the first action (in November) and went down to the demonstration and got himself a real education:

(transcript below)

reminds me a bit of this:

Your browser is not able to display this multimedia content.

(transcript below)

If the students respond as I hope they will, this coming decade will be very interesting.

Well, I might be in detention a week and the school might not be very happy but we sure showed something much bigger last Wednesday. K, sorry. You know, this was meant to be the first post-ideological generation, right? This was meant to be the generation that never thought of anything bigger than our Facebook profiles and our TV screens. This was meant to be the generation where the only thing that Saturday night meant was X-Factor.

I think now that claim is quite ridiculous. I think now that claim is quite repulsive. Now we’ve shown that we are an ideological as ever before. Now we’ve shown that solidarity and comradeship and all those things that used to be associated with students are as relevant now as they’ve ever been.

You know, the most incredible thing that happened on Wednesday — I went down, I thought I was gonna go down on lunch break and then get back in time for lessons. Perhaps I should have known they’d put the guy in charge of the G20 in charge. Perhaps I should have been more concerned for my life than whether I was gonna get down for lessons, but, ah, but when tried to get out and I was told it was a sterile? area by police officers standing and not letting anyone out, I thought well that’s why we need a university education. If we don’t get one we end up in police uniforms.

You know, when I was kettled in there I was with thousands and thousands of school students who’d come down with their ties around their heads and their school uniforms and yeah they were cold, who’d come down, who’d never been on a protest before, who’d never joined a political party or been involved in a political movement before, Who didn’t have any economic knowledge or political degree. But they were there because they believed in something. They were there because they believed in something bigger and they were there because they knew that either — you know there weren’t a million choices, there were two choices — either they laid down and took whatever the government threw at them or they stood up and fought back.

And so those school students who’d never been involved in anything before stood up and they fought back.

And when they were in that kettle, being kettled in by police, you know, the word went round as we were sitting huddling round fires sharing out what little food we had and the word went round, people said, we know what they’re up to. We know that they don’t think we’re a danger to the public. I’m fifteen-years old, people there were as young as thirteen. We know they don’t think we’re going to run riot though the streets of London. We know what they’re up to. They think that if they kettle us now we’re not going to come in a demonsration ever again.

Well let the word go out from today, people said, let the word go out about next Tuesday. Let the word go out about next Week, and next month and next year that they can’t stop us demonstrating. They can’t stop us fighting back. And however much they try to imprison us on the streets of London, those are our streets and we will always be there to demonstrate. We will always be there to fight.

People who had always thought that the police were just those people at the other end of the telephone line to help if there was a burglary, people who had always thought that the media were just those friendly newspaper men there to give them that unbalanced picture of the facts, people learned a lot last Wednesday. People learned a lot as they huddled round fires and then emerged from that kettle to see headlines like “Vandals” on the Evening Standard that afternoon. People learnt a lot when a police van was left in the middle of the road so that the police could tow it away and show the whole public that, look what vandals these people are. People learned a lot.

So the message that goes out from last Wednesday is very clear. We are no longer that post-ideological generation. We are no longer that generation that doesn’t care. We are no longer that generation that’s prepared to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fight back. We are now the generation that will stand with everyone who’s fighting back.

The most inspiring thing, I think, was that just after Wednesday, hundreds of people joined a Facebook group, school students joined a Facebook group in solidarity with RMT members on strike. Those are people who previously thought Tubes [ subway ]strike was something annoying because it stopped them getting into school. Now they think they’ve got to link arms and fight back with everyone.

So we want to show solidarity with everyone who’s fighting back. We hope you’ll show solidarity with us and send a strong message to this government that they can’t throw their cuts at us. We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna fight back.

Mario Savio:

We have an autocracy which runs this university. It’s managed. We asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn’t he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received — from a well-meaning liberal — was the following: He said, “Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?” That’s the answer! Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I’ll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw material[s] that don’t mean to have any process upon us, don’t mean to be made into any product, don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Just wondering

December 11, 2010

US Budget deficit chartConsider how our federal legislators voted on starting and sustaining our wars, how they voted for Bush’s tax cuts, and how they voted on recovery measures, then tell me, which of them are are deficit hawks?

Sustainability forum in Edmond disrupted by anti UN attenders

December 7, 2010

At least that’s how is sounds in this article:

Protesters cut short Edmond sustainability forum » Local News » The Edmond Sun.

Not only are they against anything with Democratic cooties, but the scourge of being ruled by an “international agenda.”

Clearly these people do not understand that the US is one of the “national”s in “international, just like they don’t get that the government they hate is all of us acting collectively.

They will cheerlead the decimation of the planet, with death to every living thing on it, as long as we all go down with them thinking they are living some kind of mythic individualistic ideal.

Eureka, I’ve got it! Obama should switch parties

December 6, 2010

So it hit me last night, while watching The Universe on DVD (as I usually do on weekends) — seeing the (really) big picture has a way of calming the mind and inducing sleep — the solution to a number of serious problems, primarily the governance of this nation, its economic viability going forward, the survival of the middle class, and, not unrelated, the health of the progressive movement and, yes, even the Democratic Party.

Barack Obama should become a Republican. Right away. The sooner the better.

I’m serious! It would certainly solve some of his political problems, the most obvious being the objectionist nature of the GOP — they are repeatedly opposing their own policies of the past, for instance the health care reform bill that passed and ‘cap and trade‘ that hasn’t, for the sole reason that they are being picked up and promoted by a Democrat. Plus, through this pattern of behavior, President Obama is losing the Democratic base in droves with his GOP policies and constant appeasement. Even prominent African Americans are now saying he should be primaried.

If Obama simply changed his party affiliation, several magical things would occur:

  • He would instantly stop being a Muslim, a Marxist, a socialist and Hitler, rolled into one. It’s possible he would also stop being black, but I’m not sure about that, I’ll have to check with Colin Powell and Condi Rice.
  • His legitimate birth certificate would be found, probably in a safe deposit box in the downtown branch of BOA in Des Moines.
  • Sarah Palin would finally have a black friend.

But more importantly, the nation could immediately get out of government gridlock and start getting some halfway decent legislation passed, and Democrats could start seriously looking for a candidate that actually believed in their platform to run for president against the current occupant of the WH. Since the half-ass domestic economic policies — not to mention the war on civil liberties and the endless corporatist/imperialist foreign adventures — of President Obama and his GOP friends and colleagues won’t really help the deficit or the joblessness rate, the chances of the Democrats regaining the White House are pretty good.

I’m telling you, it’s the ideal solution to everything that’s wrong with this country.

Bonus result: Sarah Palin will lose the Vice Presidency yet again.

Tom Coburn thinks he is Don Quixote

December 5, 2010

Facebook | Oklahomans for Motor Vehicle Safety.

Our fanatical senator (ok, ONE of our fanatical senators, the younger one), is on one of his high horses, not that he ever gets off that horse. This time he’s blocking legislation that got 99 votes from the rest of the Senate. Yes, our hero is single-handedly holding up a live-saving bill that will require future buses to have seat belts and other safety measures like roof reinforcements.

Of course, as my friend Jean said, buses are only used by poor people, so of course Dr. No does not care. Come to think of it, Don Quixote did not hate the poor like Tom Coburn, so my apologies to Cervantes.

Please, PLEASE call Sen. Coburn on Monday or Tuesday. Let him know that Oklahomans do not appreciate his egotism and ridiculous obstruction on this bill. The phone numbers are at the page linked above.

Update: Tom Coburn does not hate the poor. Like all congressional Republicans, hatred for the poor would require more consideration than he is willing to give them. Again like his colleagues, he just loves the rich SOOOOO much that he is willing to let the poor die unnecessarily at their hands if a greater profit is involved.

Peace Arena regrets the error.

Sisterhood is powerful!

December 5, 2010

That was the rallying cry, back in the day. And by so claiming, and believing, they were powerful. It was an amazing period of history, when women got fed up with being exploited second-class citizens and took to the streets, the factory floors and the voting booths for their own and other womens’ lives and rights.

What happened to that power? Well, that’s another post. This one is about remembering the past when women got significant things done, not just for themselves, their own home or workplace, or their own narrow political constituency (like “feminist” Sarah Palin), but for all women everywhere (for even when their changes were ostensibly on a company, state or national level, the change in consciousness toward women was global). Just recognizing that women were a political class was an incredible revolution that rocked governments to their core.

In today’s Parade magazine I discovered a small clip about an upcoming film about a particular battle in this war for sexual equality, and how it changed everything: Made In Dagenham. To be released in this country on Dec. 17, and who knows when it will get to Oklahoma City, but look for it. Take your daughters (and sons) to see it, so they might be inspired to continue the ongoing struggle for justice and equality for all.