Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Scariest People Award

The Scariest People AwardTONIGHT IS HALLOWEEN. A blog I visit frequently, in celebration of Halloween, offered its list of "scary people," enumerating them, not necessarily in order of who is scariest, but because that's the simplest way to make a list.

Some on the list did not surprise.

Some I didn't know--and that's probably a good thing--since over the last several months, after watching Barack Obama ascend to the office of president, I've come to know many "scary people," and why they're considered scary, and, frankly, my "scary-folk list" is all full up.

Not to be outdone, I picked up on the theme, and countered with my own, now to be an annual observance on Halloween, Scariest People Award. Read on:

For me, The Scariest People Award goes to those folk on the Right (with their failed policies, policies that they'd like to resurrect, if they take over the House and Senate), those folk on the Left who might sit out the election coming up in a couple of days, because of an "enthusiasm gap" (Whatever in Hades that mean!), and those Supreme Court Justices who recently finished off our democracy, of the people, by the people, for the people, for now, by giving to corporations free-speech rights to spend as much money as they wish to impact legislation, and to seat politicians of their choosing.

What the people of this nation will witness, if we're to take Republicans and John Boehner at their word, is a Republican 'no compromise policy,' a kind of "Republican Revenge," if you will, against the liberal policies, and liberal legislation which Republicans steadfastly resisted, using every obstructionist tactic in their playbook, especially the use of the filibuster in unprecedented numbers.

I say pick your poison: Do you wish to die slowly, by supporting the Left and receive a few palliatives, from time to time, to fix our broken, political and economic system, with the hope that, with time, we can change course, or die quickly, by sitting out the next election, and doing nothing, thereby allowing Republicans and Tea Party folk to call the shots--to repeal health-care reform by not financing it, to reduce the minimum wage, standing at $7.25, to God only knows what, to privatize Social Security, to repeal what little was done to rein in Wall Street abuses, and to embroil this nation in another war?

It's strangely emblematic that Halloween and the next election are only days apart.

The grim, unsmiling, faces that the Republicans have been wearing for the last two years, like so many Halloween masks of Horror Movie characters--Freddie Krueger, Jason, and Pumpkinhead--will appear angelic by comparison, if Republicans carry out their threats to punish the American people, liberals in particular, for having the gall to insist that BP set aside billions to cover losses to Gulf Coast residents, for extending unemployment insurance for those out of work, and for forcing health insurers to actually insure people.

Such liberal policies from the Left, that actually put people first, and corporations last, cannot stand. It's un-American.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking of Africa, And Looking Right at You....

Recently, a blogger managed, successfully, to entice me to another blog with this description of the blogger's post:

"Have you ever read a post that moves your spirit? That seems to engulf your soul from all directions, like a jazz composition… jazzuloo. You listen to it over and over again, mesmerized by the notes, nuances and lyrics… not exactly sure that you are actually hearing what you are hearing, but knowing that you are hearing something unique, real… from the heart."

With a pitch like that, it's nearly impossible not to bite. And I wasn't disappointed: The post was precisely as the blogger had recounted, prose set to music--that is, until I came to the following jarring lines:

"When you speak of Africa, do not look at me, I do not want their stereotype to splatter on my being. I am not the martyr of their corruptions and own shortcomings. I have my country and my culture to look after."

I'm not here to chastise, or to castigate my black brother. He spoke his mind. He spoke from his heart. He conveyed his truth. And that's a good thing. Yet, there are other truths, truths that are held just as passionately as his. And that, too, is a good thing.

Over the years, John Donne, in one of his "meditations," has spoken my truth for me, and I'd like to share it with you once again. I'm sure that I have, at least on one occasion during the months that I've posted here, shared this, my truth, with you:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Like Donne, I, too, "am involved in mankind." It matters not from whence they hail, be it Africa, still troubled by its colonial past, and European oppression, or China with its billions of souls, or Iraq with its fallen thousands, a number which, incidentally, Wikileaks, only days ago, updated for the world community--correcting and revising the official count of war dead, using leaked military documents as its source:

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size.

The writer of the blog described an amalgam of races, and cultures, to which he belonged, the whole of which, he suggests, is now greater than the sum of the parts:

Africa has always remained a standstill from the time it was the cradle of humanity, a kingdom of spears, a colony and independent. My ancestors [those of the Black or African Diaspora] moved and shake the world. They went from the cradle of humanity, chased out with spears, broke the chains of slavery and gained liberty. Do you have another name for freedom?

And with one final thrust, one final act of divestment, and repudiation, one final act of defiance, the blogger threw off the yoke that is Africa, and aligned himself fully and completely with the diasporic black people around the world:

"Africa calls 'come back, come back to mama Africa. Give to mama Africa'.
I don’t understand their languages. My tongue moves to English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and few others which my culture created. I am not going back; I don’t want to be Africa’s house Negro. I will not give either. I will not give back the sweat and flesh of my ancestors. I am European, from the West Indies, and quite happy about my diversity!"

And his words were seductive: The many who commented there were enchanted by his words. For, in his words, they found their own truths validated. His words were so many Sirens beckoning their hearts and souls toward the rocks of an unshakeable certainty.

Yet, as I read, all I could hear were the words of John Donne, speaking eloquently of the interconnectedness of life, and of the oneness of humankind. Almost daily, it's becoming clearer that we humans are connected at the three levels that comprise our humanity--at the level of the body (We now know that it's highly probable that "all humans alive today are descended from a single African man"; at the level of the mind (A book asked once, "What do all people have in common?" The answer: "They're all conscious at the same time"; and at the level of the soul (We're emotional beings: All things being equal, we can all feel happiness, and sadness, love and fear equally.)

If I were to expand upon John Dunne's words, and apply them to nation states and to the people of the world, I'd say this:

"No nation is an island, entire of itself; every nation is a piece of the continent, a part of the world. If a nation be washed away by the sea, the world is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any nation's demise diminishes us all, because, whether we like it or not, we're involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Friday, October 8, 2010

U.S. [S]Chamber of Commerce

Flags Of The WorldIf the reports are correct, then we're seeing President Obama's prediction come true, as well as the predictions of a number of other Washington insiders, who warned--giving First Amendment, free-speech rights to corporations will engender a strain on our democracy never before seen in this country, as corporate and foreign money is used to influence policies and elect candidates who can contribute, in some fashion, to their bottomline.

When Obama sounded the alarm during one of his addresses to the American people, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito visibly shook his head--a serious breach of decorum. Alito had to know the can of worms that he and the court had opened. Yet, his shake of the head was a clear indication that he was deeply perturbed to have it brought to his attention in a forum that didn't allow him a rebuttal. If Alito could have looked ahead to the following article in the Christian Science Monitor, would he have ruled differently?

The focus of particular attention this week is the US Chamber of Commerce, a powerhouse in campaign financing with funds directed largely to the coffers of Republican candidates.

Liberal groups say the Chamber – which has budgeted $75 million to support its favorite candidates this year, almost exclusively Republicans – is using foreign money as part of its huge campaign war chest, which would be illegal. Chamber officials deny the charge.

But it's hard to know for sure, because under federal law the Chamber doesn't have to detail the sources of its campaign spending.

At the time of the Supreme Court decision, I wrote about this under the title, Whose Country Is It, Anyway?, and scolded Jonathan Turley, noted U.S. Constitution scholar, for praising the decision, seeing it as a victory for free speech. With this recent revelation, I wonder if Turley still believes that free speech was served as a result of the Supreme Court decision to extend a First Amendment right to corporations, effectively paving the way for an eventual corpocracy, if steps aren't taken by Congress to bring a halt to this corporate take over of our most precious freedom--to practice our democracy without undue influence either from within or without our country.

Embattled Democratic candidates, the target of Chamber-funded campaign ads, are crying foul, some pointing to the need to revisit last January’s US Supreme Court 5-to-4 decision in the Citizens United case, which makes it easier for corporations and labor unions to influence elections through campaign advertising.

Why must there be this supposed natural-enemy battle line drawn between labor and management? One of the reasons: Management has never been reluctant to put profits ahead of workers, treating them more as disposables than assets. Now that these multinational corporations have the workforce of countries like China, India, and others, from which to draw their labor, outsourcing of production is becoming more and more commonplace. So it follows that these multinational corporations, as well as government-backed foreign corporations, will do whatever is necessary to influence outcomes favorable to them.

And if that means backing "free-market" forces within our country with money--which is mostly synonymous with Republicans, their more likely targets--so be it. We have Tea Party Goers chafing at the idea of socialism, but backing a "free market" ideology which is nothing more than an "outsourcing" of American jobs. How long will it take them to recognize the real enemy to our democracy, our economy, and the continued growth of our middle class?

What we're seeing is an assault upon our democratic process--Supreme Court decisions that favor corporations, and government entities (think the recent eminent domain ruling), lobbyists paying out record sums of moneys to buy off legislators, and now, insult upon insult, foreign money pouring into our elections--so much so that what we now have is not an actual democracy, but a democracy in name only.

Multinational corporations will fly the flag of any country that will give them the most bang for their buck, whether it's China's cheap labor practices--demanding from some of its workforce 35-hour shifts at 31 cents an hour to make an American corporation's products to be sold back to us--or India's cheap labor practices.

Not only can't American workers compete in this global marketplace, they're virtually at a disadvantage--one of the reasons why we're hearing such terms as "economic patriotism" being thrown about these days. Unions, and out-of-work Americans, are often seen as the problem, with the results that they're viciously attacked from some quarters. What these workers need, instead, is more time to retool, or, in some cases, extended unemployment insurance.

The irony: I'm told that many American jobs aren't being filled, because too many Americans don't have the requisite skills, training, or education to fill them. And these aren't a handful of jobs, but millions of them--enough to put quite a dent in our unemployment numbers.