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Solidarity in the time of choleric “trade” deals

This is republished from Anti-Capitalist Meetup at Daily Kos.

Epidemics of cholera as well as other serious diseases, including neoliberalism, can take a toll on solidarity. “Trade” deals, and the conduct used in pushing them through to adoption, can be purposely choleric in order to accentuate a breakdown in solidarity. A carefully-orchestrated disinformation and intimidation campaign can provide a loud and pushy disincentive to obtaining and sharing knowledge and growing into a healthier society.

The Gipper is credited with the famous saying “trust, but verify.” However, it is actually an old Russian proverb. The phrase came in handy when scrutinizing the actions of the potentially dastardly Russian Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

With matters of political economics, we have learned over the last hundred years that verification is not always easy because labels sometimes defy reality. Since the fall of the authoritarian state capitalist Soviet Union, which claimed to be real and scientific socialism, apathy has set in about true human choice on matters not having to do with consumer goods. The possibility of a heterodox deeply democratic vision for humanity is laughed at by commenters. They blithely point to North Korea and the supposedly happy riveters south of the border who produce things once made by Americans for the great now debt-driven and trade-imbalanced American marketplace.

Speaking of Russia, its dolls and other trinkets are now made in China too. Ironically, the British Green Quaker documentary filmmaker David Malone aptly says that modern “trade” agreements are like Russian dolls, with lots of other dolls inside that have nothing to do with trade. We are expected to place the doll up on a shelf and not worry what’s inside, even if the shelf is getting repossessed.

Anyway, it’s not really as simple as opening up to see the next doll inside, although it would be nice if we were allowed to at least do that before making the purchase. If the global “we” really wants to understand something that comes with risk, such as a disease, or a series of massive “trade” deals, we must first be able to put the pieces as well as the whole under a microscope, do DNA tests, and have plenty of time to learn what exactly it is we are seeing. Learning the ecological context is also critical.

Sounds like technical questions best left to experts! So, we can sit this one out. Maybe it is we who are dialectical dolls here, expected to live superficially without addressing our interior selves. Why concern one’s pretty little self with such manly and adult details?

More broadly, absolutely do not ponder whether the globalization of hegemonic capitalism is the disease or the cure. That would necessitate openly and closely studying and discussing, without fear of repression, the system that is being imposed, the crises it inevitably causes, the insolvency it constantly courts, the reserve army of unemployed workers, the lack of fair distribution of the winnings that arise from the system, and calmly comparing the available alternatives, including everything from tweaks to overhauls to repeal and replace.

Democracy is this potentially great mass experimental method if the powers that be would allow it to work deeply and openly. If we were allowed to trust but verify we could be engaged citizens. Instead, we are forced to leave democracy to neoliberal politicians, experts, and talking heads, as if they will explain to us what little it is that we need to know after they have made their decisions, which have bound within them unprecedented curtailments to democracy. Continue reading

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Preventable tragedy and indignity to fragile people on a fragile planet

4:16 am CT, 5/13/15. When you get a certain age, the bathroom comes calling in the middle of the night, and it is “a great blessing” that you have the strength to answer it. You think of your father, for months not able to take care of himself, and the discomfort and indignity he somehow endured. But “thank goodness” he is better now.

You are not supposed to look at the computer in the middle of the night because that triggers a daytime response in the brain. You do anyway, and you type out a little diary. And then your computer crashes before you can finish the diary because of some kind of Windows update that has taken over, but you have convinced yourself by serendipitous experience to try not to get upset because you have “faith” that the computer crashing means something is wrong with the approach you were taking for some reason that will become clear. For some reason that “precious” content you lost was meant to be lost. You don’t know why, but it will become clear (or maybe it’s just that redrafting helps). So you switch to the kids’ old computer that barely works anymore and then proceed to “finish” the diary in a somewhat different way.

Then just before you publish for some reason you look at the headlines and see that another tragedy has occurred, this time on the passenger train system you love. Your thoughts go with the families and friends of those who have died and with those who are suffering, and for a while you can’t bear to publish that now rewritten diary. It seems so frivolous. You think of the good times you have had on that train system going to see family. The universal connections are present, even when we sleep, type, or think we are alone in the bubble of our own isolation.

Others are suffering in an acute way, right now, you now know. So many tragedies. For others the suffering is “merely” chronic, with life filled with unnecessary cruelty and insults to injury. That serendipity theory is often contradicted as bad things happen to good people. Prosperity gospel is a false god. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We somehow must hallow the ground and each other despite the suffering of human existence. The earth is amazing. Life is beautiful. We can only try through our mundane lives to give as much love as possible in the time we have. We cannot prevent every tragedy, much less every indignity, but let us resolve ourselves not to accept the preventable tragedies and indignities of our brothers and sisters as fate from which we can go to the bathroom and wash our hands.

Here is the diary I wrote, which states “my” political philosophy in a nutshell. Nothing is original (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”), but still it seems so egotistical to raise an audacious voice of challenging hope, particularly on a day like today. Please forgive me if the timing is wrong. Too much tragedy and too much indignity, and the challenges of prevention seem so insurmountable because of greed and fear.

But is there ever a just time to ignore suffering and the preventable conditions that cause it? It seems embarassing and hopeless on a day like today to be wildly ambitious about protecting fragile humanity on a fragile planet, and may I not be acting imprudently, insensitively, or out of ego. But when will we stop listening to the liars and skeptics who say it is foolhardy to implement anything other than the cruel budget-cutting, climate-destroying, suffering-ignoring prescription of neoliberalism? Their profit-grabbing lies and skepticism are anything but new. We can do this. Continue reading

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You don’t have to be an anarchist to value libertarian socialism

This is republished from the Anarchism & Libertarian Socialism group at Daily Kos.

I hate to write a diary about freeing the caged mountain lion in us all that begins by saying “I am not” some things, but this one needs to start that way. Before you exit, stage left, please note:

I am not an “anarchist” or, to use the more socially acceptable term, “libertarian socialist,” although I do value much about libertarian socialism. In addition, I am not a “Marxist,” at least in the eyes of most Marxists, although I do value much about Marxism. I mention these things at the outset because Americans are taught to dread both, and because, having learned about what happened to Orwell when he got to Spain, I do not want you to think that you are being asked by me to take sides in a historical rivalry between what Wikipedia calls “similar political philosophies which emerged in the nineteenth century.”

I dread neither philosophy and study both as I see fit. I am saddened by dreadful history, but I dread more these days that many “white” workers in the U.S. who may not have very much else in the way of personal property do proudly sport at least one item with “don’t tread on me” on it and, as a companion piece, at least one deadly weapon, do dread President Obama as a “Marxist” because of his skin tone and his trying to kill off Granma, and might assume anarchism is in evidence in a commercial television show that celebrates deadly weapons and other things that sell.

I especially cherish the deeply democratic international Marxist modernizers Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci, who, like many wonderful anarchist writers, have much to say about the culture in which workers are unwittingly caged. I am a democrat who, for pragmatic purposes, also is a Democrat, because I care about all of the workers and needy of the world. While the Democratic Party can sometimes be made to be slightly uncomfortable with being the instrument of the powerful, the Republican Party cares only about profit and, as a distraction where divisive religion won’t do the trick, making sure those deadly weapons are clung to with cold affection.

As a democrat, I think of myself as “multi-tendency,” a term typically associated with certain tolerant political organizations, not individuals, but which describes how I feel socialism needs to be and by extension those who call themselves socialists–flexible, forgiving, in solidarity with each other, open-minded, and not boxed into definitions, arguments, and undeniable serious grievances of the past. I have a personal bias in this “liberal” and tolerant left direction. I am descended from poor pro-revolutionary Cuban American cigar workers who were reading both Marx and anarchist writers and in mutual aid societies long before there was radio, but that is another story I have told many times and will not detail again in this piece.

I realize that tolerance is still a difficult proposition for some on the left. Since my 20s, when I first secretly read The Communist Manifesto, I was always bewildered and intuitively repelled by the use of so much time, energy, and paper in a political tract to criticize other socialists. And when I learned about the oppression and murder of anarchists and other leftist non-conformists by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, the latter which Eric Arthur Blair personally documented for all history, I was nauseous, outraged, and mournful about the loss of life as well as the loss to socialism and humanity. I am not trying to suppress knowledge of the bad from the past, but I am trying to move forward as a united left with those who profess to be anti-totalitarian and deeply democratic.

And it is not that I do not feel strongly enough about socialism to have strong opinions. Rather, I feel so strongly about it that I feel that I must view expressions of it critically. First and foremost, I feel that socialism to be deserving of the name must place a great emphasis on “democracy.” To me, rule by the people to be successful requires honesty, openness, and humility, a willingness to embrace and discuss matters of importance holistically, or, as I begin my personal credo, to “accept life’s complexity.” I purposely chose the hopefully opposite of a grandiose dogmatic descriptive, “garden variety,” to describe the kind of democratic socialist I am and to use in the name of my hobby “save the world” website. Continue reading

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Under cover at the “cleanest country music show on earth”

This piece was first published last Sunday at the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group blog at Daily Kos.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

I Walk the Line, by Johnny Cash

DISCLAIMER: It’s with some trepidation, a lot of joy, but mostly my usual reckless devotion to doing my best as a species-being, that, just days after Bernie Sanders’ wonderful historic announcement of his bid for the U.S. presidency as the Democratic Party nominee, I bring to you another shoot-from-the-heart democratic socialist piece. Don’t blame Senator Sanders, my momma, or my papa for my potty mouth or the crap I write. It’s solely my fault and Antonio Gramsci’s. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a wearer of a WWBD bracelet, although I do love the man and certainly don’t want to hurt his campaign, which is the single best hope the collective we we (there I go again with the potty stuff, teehee) have had in a very long time. Some of the stuff I write embarrasses the heck out of me, so I certainly don’t want it to be Mirandized as stuff that can and will be used against my candidate for president. I feel of mixed mind and sometimes even a little bad for some of my style choices–like the heat-seeking but probably unnecessary curse words I have used in my last couple of diaries–but never for my desire to have a better world, with liberty and justice for all. We are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We need to walk the line of affectionate comradeship and not the line drawn for us by the plutocrats.

Friday night I, a gray haired half-Hispanic potty mouthed in-the-closet democratic socialist, was hanging out listening to country music surrounded by polite fundamentalist church-going white haired “white” people forced by Satan and FDR to live un-free lives on the government dole. For this daring assignment I was compensated with good food, good music, and even a little inspiration:

Where once aspiring presidential candidates went to pay respects to Billy Graham, whom they say like Fidel Castro still lives, I suggest that the Democratic candidates may want to go see Billy Dean. He is now a if not the cultural hegemonic force of top tier influence with southern white fundamentalists, as well as an amazing singer, excellent musician, and really nice approachable guy, despite occasionally pimping for his son who works for Remington gun company. You will usually find him in Branson at the Starlite Theatre. I found him near Mossy Head under humbler circumstances.

Continue reading

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A teachable moment from an ass backward international trade negotiation

This piece is being cross-published from the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group at Daily Kos.

Except increasingly for pseudonymous blogging, much of the left in the U.S. long has been intimidated into keeping its heterodox political economic views to itself. Certainly for all the red-baiting on the right, even after Occupy the traditional print and broadcast media long has assumed we were dead or isolated to university campuses. And, sure, like the faux libertarians and Christian right, some of us may also from time to time get sucked up into embarrassing conspiracy theories. Best for the rest of us to hold onto our tongues and our jobs if we still have them. The lack of a parliamentary system also keeps those of us who wish to actually win elections pinned for the most part to the Democratic Party, so we may not even bother remembering what we believe. Or perhaps we inhale deeply a natural herbal product and remember fondly when we were giants who walked the earth like the Nephilim of the Old Testament.

Into the intellectual vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet Union, in the world’s largest “economy” as well as in most of the rest of the world, entered global neoliberal triumphalism, with heavy doses of outright financial chicanery. The William F. Buckley-reading cocky cowboys had been tanned, rested, and ready to reassert imperial rule since at least the Goldwater campaign. Many a neoliberal chest has been proudly beaten about the wonders of bringing democracy to the heathen we have often chosen to bomb or knock off with our American snipers.

Like the drones that are now our most recognized calling cards in much of the world, ironically the trade deals produced by neoliberalism are often synonymous not with democracy but with oppression and sell-outs by the local oligarchy.

Meanwhile, back in the most heavily-armed nation in the world, good ole’ USA, our oligarchy would never do that to us. Supposedly it is in our collective best interest to let the triumphalist grownups make the decisions for the plebes, and many of us not being familiar with this thing called organized labor go along with this.

Then all of sudden, there is something blowing in the wind. Can you hear it? Out there, in the distance, but approaching? TPP, TPP, TPP. Continue reading

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Spare mom-and-pop bowling, and they will come

This piece is republished from the new I ♥ Democratic Socialism blog at Daily Kos.  

Yes, I’m for Obamabowl. In fact, I’m for what fairly can be called socialized bowling and other forms of socialized recreational opportunities for working people.

It has been twenty years since academics and opinion leaders started kabuki bemoaning the fact that more and more Americans were bowling alone. Meanwhile, both in dilapidated downtowns and out in the dusty and rusty parts of the so-called “real America” which politicians supposedly care so much about, mom-and-pop bowling centers (even those in the former leading and now bankrupt AMF chain, which put the pinboys out of work) are closing down.

Poor folk who can’t pay the light bill have a hard time paying for entertainment with discretionary funds that aren’t there. If you can’t get a driver’s license because of your court costs, it is hard to get down to the bowling alley and pay the lane costs and bowl alone much less to join a league with cool shirts and buy a modern bowling ball of your own:

Reactive resin is the coverstock formulation that fundamentally changed bowling. Compared to the urethane coverstocks they replaced, reactive resin covers produce significantly more friction with the lane surface, resulting in very big back end motions, increased entry angle into the pocket, and improved pin carry.

With the exception of a small number of urethane balls that are now available, almost all mid-range to high performance bowling balls on the market today have reactive resin coverstocks. While each and every reactive resin coverstock is unique, manufacturers typically classify their covers into one of three groups: reactive solid, reactive pearl, or reactive hybrid.

The modified and more optimistic theory that post-9/11 we were still bowling alone but perhaps uniting in new happy days ways such as Facebook is giving way to a more full recognition by Robert Putnam, and the masses, that economic inequality is at the root of the social capital problem.

Are we supposed to just stand there in our gym socks with holes in them, cook meth, and watch the sport of the Egyptians die? Continue reading

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So I just formed this Daily Kos group called “I ♥ Democratic Socialism”

because I do. (Here is the group link.)

Here is the logo, from a famous book———————>

Here is the profile:

In “Why I Write” (1946), George Orwell wrote a sentence that inspires this group: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” Democracy and socialism belong together, and neither democracy nor socialism is deserving of its name without incorporating the other. This group discusses and agitates for both, together. Without democracy, what was often labeled “socialism” was actually state capitalism and easily led to totalitarianism. But neoliberal triumphalism is not justified. Without socialism, what is often labeled “democracy” is legalized bribery and shallow electioneering easily controlled by the powerful few who can manipulate politicians and the people through divide and rule. Because it does not subject the economy to democratic control, such a society is not actually democratic. Rule by the people, to be meaningful, must not leave out the material conditions that affect the lives of the people and the sustainability of the beautiful planet upon which we will always depend. In other words, democracy must be deep and reach the economy or it will be more fiction than reality. Ostensible “democratic” self-rule with actual rule by either powerful state or powerful market capitalists is not consistent with equality, freedom, justice, human welfare, and both enjoying and preserving our planet for the future. Without justice there is not going to be peace, and human lives and massive amounts of resources will be wasted on war and the military industrial complexes of nation states. Achieving global justice and peace will not be easy, but it will not come without democratic socialism.

Here is the link for the referenced lovely Orwell essay, which changed my dark little life, filling me with radical impulses, rays of light, beacons of hope, etc., with lines such as these:

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.

I am a little fat man myself, but I will not ride such horses and forgive Mr. Blair for that last line because I know his heart was pure. Please take my hands. We all need company to cook up the peaceful democratic revolution, more specifically, several billion, f/k/a, the masses. Continue reading

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Weird Al, creative democracy, and our gyro wheels of objective conditions

This diary was first published at Anti-Capitalist Meetup a week ago on Easter Sunday.

Freestyle dance with me if you will on what is for many the close of a sacred day. Let us let our hair down, if the shoe fits, so to speak, and embrace what Rosa Luxemburg called “a positive and creative spirit.”


Wherein I Channel My Best (Socialist) Carl Sandburg For the Oddly Lincolnesque Weird Al

Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic was born in 1959 two days before yours truly (by my calculation, we were both spawned, albeit separately, the month the victorious Fidel cruised into Havana). Since many of us first heard his goofy music we have felt validated in our own awkward creativity sometimes called weirdness. Continue reading

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Camaraderie, reading, and “a queer socialist poet”

This piece was first published for the Anti-Capitalist Meetup group at Daily Kos on March 1, 2015. I am finally getting around to republishing it at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com.

Why do we do this? I can only speak for me, but I do it not only to foment revolution–a worldwide peaceful one of justice in the service of love brought about by direct and indirect action–but also for the camaraderie. NancyWH reminded me of that in a comment she made last Sunday night in a chain under annieli’s latest diary for this group (an amazing educational piece, read by very few at the time, I am sad to say):

Every journey starts with one step (4+ / 0-)

I hear. Now I have two! I will end up having so many tabs open, I’ll get confused. So I have a word document where I stash links, so I can find them again later.

And I am apt to come back early tomorrow, and find people came along and added other suggestions after I went to sleep. It was that comradery that drew me here in the first place.

And that comment got me thinking about “camaraderie.” I volunteered to do this diary a day later because we needed a writer for this week, thinking that I could come up with something, but as usual not knowing what it would be. I do love this unpredictable journey of socialist sharing with comrades, some of whom are now living across one big pond or another from the U.S., and none, to my knowledge, within hundreds of miles of me, a lonely watermelon in a highly un-“red” part of the Deep Red South. To me, it does not really matter what specific anti-capitalist theme I write about or one of my comrades writes about, but it does matter that we are together, sharing our bad ass love for humanity, including for each other.

Of course, Daily Kos writ large has an agenda which should bring some solidarity, and any group blog at Daily Kos has some camaraderie around a profile, and some profiles are more or less expressly aimed at camaraderie. Because of responsibilities, I don’t often get to participate in Saturday night’s WYFP?, but when I do, I am always uplifted by the fact that people bring their problems to each other there and receive encouragement from others. It is quite beautifully real and sometimes brings me to tears.

So camaraderie,

Stuck in my atrophying mental space, based on NancyWH’s comment, was this subject of camaraderie. I have never spent much time thinking about socialist camaraderie per se, but I have known some camaraderie in my day, most of it decidedly un-socialist and un-progressive–a “wide gamut,” everything from little league competition and bench-warming of the “worst” “teammates”; to high school locker room glory days, where one fits in by not only performing on the field or court but also by committing or ignoring bullying of the smallest “teammates”; to goldfish-swallowing beer-guzzling fraternity “good times,” where one fits in by committing or receiving bullying given the more grandiose name of hazing; to beer-guzzling adult softball team after-game carousing and what not–then again, it dawns, maybe I don’t know shit about camaraderie, sure haven’t had much of it that wasn’t involved with competition, cruelty, or both. Continue reading

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Mardis Gras Materialism: Dialectical New Orleans, “Rebel” City for Capitalism’s Causes

I wrote this aesthetically ugly little diary from New Orleans Sunday morning during the last Mardis Gras weekend and first published it that Sunday night for Anti-Capitalist Meetup. After returning to Nowheresville, Deep South, out of the flood plain, I thought I would give it another whirl on the day, “Fat Tuesday,” and added a word about the people of a sad place that is special to me. (I am finally getting around to publishing it at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com a month later.) The republishing at Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Fat Tuesday was dedicated:

to the people of the Ninth Ward, past and yes present. Whether they live in the Ninth Ward still or are scattered to some other southern ghetto, materialism has dictated that they will live very hard lives. After hurricanes, from the Redneck Riviera to Fire Island, the wealthy rebuild, courtesy of federal and state socialized programs. I am all for getting at the root causes of why people live in places like the Ninth Ward to begin with, but the truth is, if “we” as Amurikka are going to redline places in our country and our world vulnerable to hurricanes/Climate Change and not worthy of protecting and rebuilding, political power will dictate that this means where “they” live and not where those with the power live. And where is that Jobs Program that the poor people of New Orleans and all of Amurikka so obviously need? Is our plan to avoid “love thy neighbor” by getting rid of the neighbors who don’t have jobs and nice places to live, out of sight and out of mind? Sorry for the buzz kill, but for me Lent is beginning a day early. I am sorry brothers and sisters, we have let you down and chosen the easy path of spreading the lies of the powerful who look down at you and blame you for being the necessary byproducts of their own system of organized fear and greed.

Krewe of Iris beads

“I can see that we’re going to have a great deal of trouble capturing the conservative rural redneck Calvinist vote.” Reilly, I.J., facetiously summarizing the failure of his address to the inattentive dancing assembled prospective members of the newly formed Peace Party.

Toole, J.K., 1980. A Confederacy of Dunces. Louisiana State University Press.

Dear Communiss Readers:

I had high hopes for this diary. Although I love this beautiful mess of a city, some things about New Orleans make me want to unsheath my scimitar, and I wanted to tell you about them in a scholarly manner. Continue reading