Saturday, October 01, 2011

Marching Shoes

Update: More than 700 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge during Wall Street demonstrations. Here's a report from Saturday's demonstrations before this happened.  And a report from after.

"Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes!" as President Obama exhorted several audiences--and not just the Congressional Black Caucus.  It seems that a lot of people are doing just that, and not just in support of the American Jobs Act or the Obama 2012 campaign.

There were relatively small demonstrations around Wall Street that encountered police brutality and have since grown and spread to other cities.  These protests against Wall Street greed and tax policies that favor the superrich at the expense of the middle class (among other issues) are about to get bigger when several big labor unions join them in the coming week.  Michael Moore was part of the protests this week, and together with Lawrence O'Donnell, articulated a lot of what it's about.

Along the same lines, there's a new Rebuild the Dream organization/movement, involving Van Jones, the editor of The Nation magazine and others.  Their goal is to build the progressive analog to the Tea Party, and they're centered around a Contract for the American Dream, which calls for investing in American infrastructure and education, returning to fairer tax rates, end the wars and invest at home, etc.  They will be organizing--and presumably marching--in Washington next week as well.

The 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King spoke was officially called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Jobs and freedom will again be the goals with another March on October 15, involving Rev. Al Sharpton and others, as the dedication of the King memorial postponed by hurricane Irene is scheduled to happen.

Direct action is returning to the environmental movement as well, this time focused on influencing President Obama's decision on whether to permit the tar sands pipeline from Canada to be built on U.S. soil.  Apart from environmental damage and dangers from the pipeline itself, the main objection is to the massive industry about to be created to extract oil from tar sands, which James Hansen, the foremost Climate Crisis expert says will add so much fossil fuel pollution to the atmosphere that the entire future is endangered.

 Exxon has the megabucks to saturate the airwaves (including MSNBC, and all their online clips) with genial lies (like the lie that Climate Crisis pollution is the same with this process as other fossil fuels, while the EPA estimates  "that GHG emissions from Canadian oil sands crude would be approximately 82% greater than the average crude refining the US, on a well-to-time basis.")  Protests are beginning to make the other side visible, though not so far in a big media way --despite the fact that they included civil disobedience leading to the arrest of enviro author Bill McKibben and others from outside the White House.  The next round (at the State Department) resumes this week, with organizing for a larger protest at the White House on November 6.

To all of which I say, it's about time.  A Democratic President needs such visible activity and evidence, even if it advocates beyond what that President is prepared to do.  The March on Washington worked for JFK--he invited its leaders to the White House--and it showed visible support for the Civil Rights legislation he was able then to introduce soon afterwards, which after his assassination became the law of the land.

Friday, September 30, 2011

They're Taking Away My Freedom

They're taking away my freedom.  I'm no longer free to enter a bar in Ohio without fear of being shot by someone carrying a now legally concealed weapon, perhaps because this person doesn't like my political opinions, or my posture, or because his or her animus is aimed at somebody else in the bar but the bullets miss or pass through others (or walls) before hitting me.  This is thanks to the Republican governor and legislature of Ohio.

I am not free to even eat in a restaurant, with or without my grand-niece, in certain states and municipalities without the same fear.

I'm no longer free to enjoy nature in a national park without the possibility of being shot by a legally carried weapon.  This is thanks to the U.S. Congress and President Obama.

In various states and municipalities, I am no longer free to participate in a political event, or a sporting event, or any public event at all, without fear of being shot by someone with a legally carried and/or concealed weapon.

In some states--and if a number of current bills become law in many others-- I would no longer be free to register and vote without undergoing a variety of unrelated and even onerous complications.  And possibly I would not be able to vote at all.  In Florida, I would not be free to participate in registering new voters.

There are laws on the books or bills in legislatures that would take away my freedom--and even more so, a woman's freedom-- to obtain medical care, counselling and reproductive health information.  Or to legally use the most frequently used methods of birth control.  A woman would be forced to bear the child of her rapist, which entails so many other legal and moral quandaries that she (or her spouse) wouldn't have the freedom to do much else but work to pay lawyers.  These are all laws or proposals by GOPer Rabid Right zealots who fill state legislatures and state houses across the country.

Now they're talking about taking away my freedom to believe anything but their brand of Christianity.  They're adamant about taking away rights to people whose sexual orientation they don't like.

My freedoms are being taken away most obviously by those who claim to be against having freedoms taken away.  This country is becoming less free every day, not to mention cynically manipulated and manifestly insane.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dreaming Up the Dreaming Up Daily Quote

Quotations are odd things these days.  They are everywhere on the Internet, hardly ever sourced, and often wrong.  The most famous quotation from the novel It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis ("When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross”) is not in It Can't Happen Here.  (Although it might be in one of the stage play versions.  I'm involved in a 75th anniversary reading of it next month--more on that anon--so I'll check it out.) 

But I love quotations--the ones that are like poems, or very good jokes, or that sum something up with terse eloquence.  Especially a new insight, or expressed so eloquently that it becomes new.  They nourish.

For some years now I've been seeing a quotation floating around--it's from a letter that Martha Graham wrote to Agnes De Mille, the two legendary American dance pioneers of the 20th century.  But I didn't see it first as a quotation, not exactly.  I was reading Agnes De Mille's autobiography one night in bed in my first Pittsburgh apartment (on the South Side).  It was a used paperback I found on a bookstore crawl.  I remember I felt cold and the print was fading as I started falling asleep, but I was coming to the end of a chapter, and indeed to the end of the first volume in this two-volume paperback.  And that's where I saw it.  It exploded me wide awake with a rush I still remember.

I soon copied it out and quoted it, eventually in my newspaper column in the In Pittsburgh weekly.  I even had it up on the wall, at home at first and then in my office at the editorial firm where I worked for a couple of years.  I didn't start seeing it quoted until long after that, though I doubt that I was the source of it.  But you never know--quotes went viral long before the Internet. Anyway, here it is:

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Choice

President Obama quoted from a fundraiser on Sunday:

"Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republicans but are puzzled by what's happened to that party. I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change. It's true. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay.

"That's not reflective of who we are. This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country. 2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election."

One place this was quoted was in the War Room column in Salon, which has an interesting--and not unfamiliar--take on current politics and their effect on 2012 electoral politics.

The Fox thing is a bit interesting, though.  Roger Ailes joined the chorus begging Christ Christie to run against the anti-Christ,  but a panel of Foxists pooh poohed the possibility.  This may be a case when money goes begging for something to buy--i.e. big money GOPers who don't dig Newt Romney and see a great chance for an electable GOPer, but can't buy one because Christ Christie isn't into being crucified first.

 The thing is, Romney is only moderate by comparison.  He's still a Rabid Right thug--he just doesn't seem very sincere about it.  But even though Cowboy Rick is fading, and Foxists seem to have abandoned him, the South may rise again.  I don't know if Melissa is right about white progressives (and I'm not saying she's wrong), but there's no doubt that it's true of white Rabid Right GOPers.  They don't want to just win an election against the black President.  They want to conquer him with one of their own.  Even the Floridians who turned against Cowboy Rick make that point--they evidently did so because he's too liberal on brown immigrants. They are Christians who just ain't into forgiveness, at any level.  That they expressed their racism by picking a black GOPer to support--the anti-Obama?--just makes it all the weirder.

Several of the white progressive shows did run soundbites of President Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner, especially one sentence very near the end  in which he exhorted them to "take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes."  Lawrence O'Donnell in particular made fun of this.  As often happens with these things, it built on itself, and to their credit, a few reporters said it was unfair to extract this one sentence as evidence of weird or diminished rhetoric (though they did have the quixotic participation of Maxine Waters, who sounded like she wasn't there or wasn't listening), and indeed, having listened to the whole speech and especially the last five minutes, it's clear how unfair it was. He had acknowledged the continuing problems, but talked of substantial accomplishments in addressing them over the past two years.  His repeated refrain of "press on" was a riff on something he had just quoted. (I wouldn't be surprised if the "take off your bedroom slippers" turns out to be a quote, or a riff on one.)  And before he counselled the audience to stop complaining and get to work, he said " I don't have time to feel sorry for myself" or complain.  He said again what neither black nor white fans want to hear, that change is often slow, is often one step forward and two back, and two steps forward and one back. He reminded the audience that though he talked of hope and change, he never said change would be fast.  "I never promised easy."    

By the way, if you missed Lawrence O'Donnell's Last Word about the police riot against protestors on Wall Street--and his assertion that police violence occurs against citizens every day, and is never punished--then here's your second chance. (Although you may have to listen to some nice liar for Exxon first.)  It's pretty amazing, unless I was just having a 60s flashback... And here we are again, back at race.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“He saw the humorous aspect of everything, which is the real test of the tragic sense.”

Henry Miller

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Cowboy Rick's poor showing in the Florida straw poll may be the first signal that he's going back to Texas.  But like everything else GOPer, that little event is bogus.  It shows the control of the Rabid Right big mouths, on line and on air.  But what could cost Cowboy Rick with the so-called what's-left-of- GOPer establishment (meaning big money not necessarily from the Kochheads) is the Justice Department stepping up and accusing Texas of deliberately designing their redistricting to disenfranchise minorities.  As Josh Marshall was right to emphasize, the key charge is "with the intention of."  Very serious legally, and toxic for the electioneers among the GOPer elite, who insist that their racism be all effect and dog whistle, with the occasional out there racist remark that gets an immediate "apology" (wink wink).  Overt and illegal racism doesn't sit well with independents apparently.  

And now for something completely different: if smart phones are so smart, why don't they come when you call them?