Tag Archives: Ana Turck

Big government? Damn right. The biggest! Just fix it.

So the mantra from the right these days is that government is too big, and we must shrink it, not to make it more efficient, but so it can get out of the way of business.In the age of the highest corporate profits in human history that rhetoric is obscene. Fundamentally, that is an anti-American, anti-Constituional idea. Let’s set aside the argument that government exists because it has the power to do things individuals simply can’t do, like build a road, fight a war, enforce health and safety codes, maintain a justice system and get toilets to flush safely from coast to coast.

This nation is being duped into buying the perverse and dangerous idea that corporations are virtuous and wise, while government is corrupt, inept and out of control. Are they saying they’d happily trade corporate control for the United States government? Have they never seen a corporation go bankrupt? Go out of business? End pensions? Break the law?

Name me a single corporation that has existed as long as the US government? Name me a single one that acts as a democracy? Name one that voluntarily protects the interests of individual workers rights without those rules being imposed by government. Name one. That corporation doesn’t exist.

Without government, corporations would pollute the environment, abuse employees, and even murder labor activists http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/26/international/26COLO.html?searchpv=day04&pagewanted=print . They would be free to pay employees the lowest possible or barely survivable wages with no benefits in dangerous environments. Get hurt on the job due to their negligence and you’re history, and so is your family’s future.

The problem with government is that the Democrats and especially the Republicans have allowed and facilitated the corporate stranglehold on government,  a crime promoted and repackaged in the pseudo-Press suppositories of FOX, CNN, MSNBC and talk radio, all of which are owned by significant corporations with huge interest in the outcome of this quiet coup.

The people can take it back, but they have to get smart, get organized, and defend a government large enough to defend a Constitution that was written for people not corporations.

What you really what, whether you realize now or later, is a government big enough not to get bullied by terrorists, rogue nations, competing nations, and least of all self-interested corporations. But it has to be a government humble enough to protect the homeless guy on the corner from being run off because he fell on hard times, or the millions of families faced with foreclosure

The Bush tax cuts for the rich (still in effect) have failed to generate the jobs Republicans and the rich promised would happen if those tax cuts continued. The government should be big enough to conclude a war and recognize the rights of minorities and the wrongly accused.

Big government? Damn right. The biggest! just fix it.

Breaking News: Michelle Bachman to show nipple on Bloomberg debate

Taking a page from the Nancy Grace “wardrobe failure” on Dancing with the Stars, sources close to GOP Presidential candidate Michelle Bachman says she is determined to have a strategic nipple slip. Bachman hopes that showing “a little somethin’, somethin'” will rejuvinate her waning presidential bid. Bachman is almost dead last in the polls.

The source revealed that Bachman has been working out the plan all day during debate prep. As the questions and answers are all rehearsed before hand, it is hinted that Bachman will reveal her stuff during  a question regarding the viability of the International Monetary Fund and Third World debt relief, which she knows nothing about.

Two staffers have already stormed out of Bachman’s campaign quarters, one of them complaining, “If I see another nipple I’m giving up sex forever!” Adding, “I’ll have nightmares from this, for sure. Maybe I’ll need therapy.”

Clearly upset by this Newt Gingrich complained in passing, “I swear, if even a dust bunny falls out of that blouse it will definitely be a full moon on stage tonight; hairy dippled and full!”

That’s what we’re talking about!

 From my office on the 17th floor of the Willis Tower I heard a marching band, a freakin’ marching band. Rushing to the window I watched the parade of kids in green and orange uniforms turning the corner onto Jackson. What is more American than a marching band? I laughed, literally laughed and believed-really believed for the first time that we the people might actually win this thing. By grace and god and the stalwart determination of the protesters it is possible to reign in corporations that have ransacked, bullied and raped the government, the people and the world. Wow, a marching band!

Thousands turned out for Monday's rally. Here teachers join the protest in downtown Chicago.

If that wasn’t enough, other citizen activists arrived by kayak down the Chicago river. Teachers and educators caravan-ed, gathering by the hundreds at the La Salle street location for their part in what amounted to a peaceful five-pronged invasion of Chicago’s Loop. Hundreds of Postal Workers formed up at Adams and Monroe.

Joined by Standup Chicago, the Teachers Union, Postal Workers, and an array of social justice and activist organizations, Occupy Chicago marched on the Art Institute along Michigan Avenue where the Mortgage Banker’s Association was holding their Annual Convention, which given their responsibility in the current crisis might have been more appropriately held in a funeral home.

Students are the anchor to the movement, allowing for a constant occupation day and night as Occupy Chicago enters its 3rd week

Joining the Teachers and Standup Chicago in a square below the Chicago Board of Trade, I found the air electric, charged by outrage at the plunder of the nation by a relative few, but also by an amazing turn out that would later culminate in a group of between 4 and 6,000.  But there was a spirit of community and neighborliness in the crowd, and a sense that we were all in this effort together, from the homeless activists, to middle class families, retired people, students, professors and blue-collar workers. There were the employed, the under employed and unemployed citizens, all bound by a common faith that together they could change the course of the nation and that together they would help those suffering the most from corporate and Wall Street greed and corruption.

So much for the criticism of a corporate media intent on demeaning and discouraging the movement. Enough of the obtuse pretense that these protesters do not have a message. They may have  different ways of coming to that message, and many to be sure may not be media savvy when mocked or condescended to by right-wing hosts or reporters, but their individual voices rose up this night in a deafening chorus.

But the movement’s message goes far beyond words. In action and practice it is a fundamental assertion of what the Constitution promises, but cannot guarantee without the active participation of citizens, which lies at the core of the argument. Despite the supreme court’s ruling that Corporations are a person, the difference is that they cannot be a citizen-a difference this movment is defending and asserting.

Each night, and in all the cities and towns of this nation, the Occupy movement meets in a citizen’s congress to discuss and strategize. In Chicago, a nightly meeting is held in the park at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue. This is the practical example of President Obama’s  platform of Change.

“We are” said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, on WCPT this morning, “being the change we want to see.”

Occupy Chicago: Who really owns the streets?

On Saturday, beneath a pristine blue sky the protesters, railing against disproportional corporate power and greed, gathered at the end of La Sallestreet in downtown Chicago, just as they have now for more than three weeks.

Reality hardly coincides with media charcterization of the protesters

With the Chicago effort, which is active now in every major city nation wide, there have been no arrests. But police are slowly and steadily tightening that noose around the peaceful multi-cultural cross-section of the other 99%. An incident Saturday clearly shows where the City and police stand with regard to the protests.

The streets along La Salle and Jackson are lined with metal barricades, corralling protesters onto the sidewalk. Wooden barricades surround one end of the Federal Reserve Bank, further restrictions to prevent these citizen activists from even touching the building.  Within that narrow corridor protesters are cautioned about disrupting or impeding passersby(How far we’ve fallen from Jefferson’s whole “blood of tyrants” thing that the Tea Party constantly referenced). All in all it serves to ultimately restrict the number of people who can gather and protest. The implicit threat of imminent arrest- and at times overt warnings- for leaving the corrals or lingering too long in the street are seen in the cordon of police present at the protests. Now the police are stopping and ticketing drivers who honk their horn in solidarity-clearly an infringement of their First Ammendment rights to free speech.

The protest isn’t banned, yet, that would be unconstitutional,  but the powers now owned by corporations and big money will do their best to strangle it through the strategic use of local statutes. The police are not there to facilitate the asserted freedom of the protesters, but rather as a potential heavy hand to the corporatists. Here’s a prime example.

Police pressure is steadily mounting to inhibit the rights of the protesters

It was just after 3pm Saturday when nearly a dozen young men in black tie tuxedos strode down the middle of La Salle Street, fully ignored by police, who had to do everything but cover their eyes not to see what was happening. This group went directly to the largest and loudest cluster of citizen activists to loudly and obnoxiously mock, harass and berate them. Still, there was absolutely no reaction from the police. Even when the men turned and walked down the middle of the street-again where protesters are prohibited from going, the police did nothing.

These 1%ers harrassed and berated peaceful protesters without police reaction. Police now ticket drivers who honk in solidarity with protesters

Sadly it is obvious that the City and police do not act in the service of the law, but in the interests of the corporations and the power elite. It underscores the crucial need to win over the police, the military, fire men and women and any working class group that is part of the 99%-whether they realize they are part or not. They must be reminded that their paychecks, pensions and benefits come from the people, and are not merely incentives from the corporatists, as if the police and government were their hired mercenaries or servants.

Hal Sparks, Steve Jobs and the loss of Sincerity

This really isn’t about Hal Sparks, the actor/comedian turned activist, and it also isn’t about the late Steve Jobs. But an incident Saturday on the Hal Sparks radio program, carried on a local Progressive station revealed something lost in this country, at least in the media( Link:http://www.ustream.tv./channel/halsparkslive) . And it is as fundamental to a bygone American media as truth and facts and insight.

Hal, began his program Saturday with an homage to Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder. Hardly a minute into the remembrance, Sparks broke into tears, overcome with emotion as he thanked Jobs for the amazing ingenuity which had so deeply affected his life.

Actor, comedian, Progressive activist Hal Sparks

“Sometimes,” he choked back emotion, “we just forget how to say thank you.”

But there was something more in those words and the emotion. It was true, unadulterated, and honest sincerity. I was struck, at first by the emotion and second at the realization that we are in danger of losing the ability to discern true sincerity from manufactured emotion. Here’s what I mean. 

This was a real moment. It was a non-political, non-commercial display, which has become dangerously rare in our culture, especially in the media, in which everything is absolutely for sale. But this wasn’t some vehicle to bolster a political point, or a segway to a commercial for gold because Obama is out to destroy the American Dollar. Sparks didn’t pin wheel the moment into a tirade on some political or social ill. He brought us to a place that had touched him deeply. He said his heartfelt piece and let it go. We went along willingly because it was real, and I have no doubt many in his audience were swept into the moment, just as I was.

We are constantly defrauded by theatrical emotions in the corporate media. News people cry on cue. Politicians manufacture tears for the polls or to position themselves against adversaries. Glenn Beck’s faux-emotions are a means to close a sale for the vapid products he is selling(His whole schtick is to whip up his audience to be in position to buy the crap he hawks). It is meant to guilt  or fool us into a false belief in theatrical sincerity. Indeed, if that becomes the only food available to us, at some point we’ll forget what the real thing is.

There is a cry-on-demand industry, but that insincerity parading as sincerity only serves to cleave us away from the truth and one another. As the media degrades truth and facts, they render our own hearts as the final battlefield. We battle one another on that field, and then turn upon ourselves. It isolates us,  and leaves us alone, separated from our communities and the world.

 We’ve got to cling to those moments when there is no bottom line and no tag line. We’ve got to measure against the purposeful confusion and the avalanche of cynicism of our media and politicians those who reveal something true and vulnerable and selfless of themselves without expecting something in return. Kudos to Sparks for taking a moment just to be human.

Herman Cain’s Marie Antoinette moment: On the street with Occupy Chicago

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded”

Seems Herman Cain just discovered his let them eat cake moment. For most of the nation, the so-called 99%-ers, it was hardly surprising. The cornerstone of the corporatist, right-wing ideology in this country if fully and unabashedly one of , “I got mine, you get yours.” It always has been, and since the Bush administration it has vaulted to a whole new, and obscenely perverse level.

Unlike the Tea Party, the Occupy...Movement is made up of a true cross-section of Americans

“…and (if) you’re not rich, blame yourself.”  Take that garbage men and small shop owners putting in 16-hour days. And to you war veterans coming home to desolate job prospects, down-sized workers, students forced to take out mortgage-sized loans for future low-paying jobs, if you ain’t rich, what’s the matter with you?

Cain’s comments came as the Corporate media could no longer ignore the protests, now spreading to dozens of cities, including Dallas, where hundreds marched today. The protests exponentially dwarf the manufactured manipulation of the Tea Party. Still, the media has drawn a narrative about the protests, as disorganized and unfocused. Interviewing a number of protesters in today’s continuing march in front of Chicago’s Federal Reserve branch, I found quite the opposite, and stark evidence regarding the difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy…Movement.

It should have been readily apparent to anyone that the precisely focused anti-Obama agenda of the Tea party was strategized and crafted well before hand by Republican party operatives desperate to challenge the grass-roots efforts that swept Barack Obama to the White House. That they immediately and unwaveringly were in lock step, and “outraged” over issues they’d conveniently ignored under the Bush administration should have garnered suspicion from an independent media and properly informed public. Instead, the Corporate media did all it could to legitimize the minority Tea Party, while undermining and ignoring the 99%-ers.

Stephanie and Marni, a list of grievances bound by a single thread

By contrast, today’s protest, which has grown larger and louder each day, reflects individual perspectives bound by a common theme. Near the steps of the Fed I found Marni  and Stephanie, both professionals downsized from their jobs and nearing retirement with limited prospects in the current market to make up critical financial ground before retirement. Both are among the under-employed, bumped from professional careers and working part-time jobs to survive. Marni is in graduate school. They are smart, educated, well-informed and had a laundry list of economic issues, all of which illuminate the perversity and outright mockery of working people in Herman Cain’s statement.

They pointed to the absolute waste in this country, starting with the tax code and including the grossly bloated defense budget, jobs, health insurance and more. Indeed, to a media all too eager to discredit the movement, such a laundry list could be characterized as unfocused. But all of those issues are related. They are all bound by the common thread of corporate and individual greed that has imperiled the nation for the power and privilege of a few.  And that is the message of this peaceful but stalwart movement. They demand an end to greed, corporate governance and the growing gap between rich and poor that threatens to turn us into a feudal nation.

Protests growing louder and larger each day

The protesters are not animated by fear of change, or immigrants or even other points of view as those in the Tea Party are. They are a chorus or individuals, joining in the truest spirit of “from many one.” The suffering in this nation is now epidemic, and these groups protesting across the nation, in Canada and Mexico have said enough is enough. In this rich nation, wealth and success can well be a virtue, but excess in the face of devastating suffering in intolerable. If you want a clear message about the purpose of the protests let it be that, Mr. Cain.

Truth and Lies: Musings from the bike trail

Its forty-seven miles by bicycle from the Wisconsin border to my doorstep on the North side of Chicago. There’s a stunning bike path for a good stretch, more or less from the Great Lakes naval Air Station almost to Winnetka. It was a brisk Autumn day today. The leaves were just changing and a steady wind was coming off Lake Michigan, The wind and cool temperatures no doubt conspired to chase off the summer and fair-weather riders, leaving only hardcore adventurists.

On the trail near Fort Sheridan in Northern Illinois

That near solitude, the smell of wet leaves from the previous day’s rain and a mottled sky with patches of rich blue between fat grayish-white clouds lent itself perfectly to odd musings. Passing through North Chicago, a struggling town just outside the Naval Air Station, where unemployment is as problematic as the crime level, a town like so many others around the nation, in which the “American Dream” is fast becoming at best an illusion and at worst a hypocrisy, I had a thought.

It had to do with the truths and lies we tell ourselves, that the media fills the culture with and which our leaders recite almost mechanically and certainly in an obligatory reflex. The difficulty is in separating truth from lies and fact from fiction. That task, and responsibility as an American citizen and voter, becomes harder every day, more so as agenda driven information and propaganda makes it more difficult than ever to tell the difference. And that is very much by design.

This culture uses words like lies and facts and truth with careless disregard. But the truth is, lies and truths have something in common. They both rely upon facts. Both include and exclude facts to define their character. But while facts are bricks, a pile of bricks does not make a house. A set of facts may create some truth, but they may also reinforce a lie. By purposeful omission, or rearrangement facts become a lie. Indeed, a truth may also be a lie, as in a partial truth, or say, FOX News; the News part becoming at the very least a supreme exaggeration.

What each of us is seeking(or seeking to obscure) are ultimate truths. That is truths that are well beyond mere facts, and absolutely not a lie.For example, there is an ultimate truth to whether or not God exists. For now, that ultimate truth is unknowable and untestable. since facts alone fail us here, we bridge that immense gap with faith-the polar opposite of fact.

It may be said that faith is the  acceptance in at least one possibility of an ultimate truth. But faith is not a fact, and faith alone is a choice. Reason dictates that our faith is potentially the belief in a falsehood. One who has faith has a responsibility to understand that alternate faiths are then equally valid.

In the end could it be that there may be no real truth, but only lies and shades of the truth, and faith? So where does that leave us? If truths and ultimate truths fail us, what is left?

The media is more and more under the control of corporations. More and more it plays a game between satiating its consumer audience, while steering the nation and government towards corporate governance and control. The Occupy Wall street protests, now catching on in cities around the nation are illustrative here. When they began two weeks ago, I had to look to news organizations outside the country for information. There was not a single story in MSNBC-owned by GE, a major weapons contractor, or FOX-News Corp and CNN-owned by Time Warner, who contributed the maximum allowable amount to George Bush in 2005.

The media, with so-called Liberal bias like MSNBC and Right-wing bias like FOX, dominate and steer the discourse  on topics of grave national interest through carefully channelled and scripted arguments, and in very much the same direction.

Take the Iraq invasion. In the weeks and months leading up there was ample evidence that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Evidence was forged, critics of the invasion were pilloried and discredited for daring to point out that even the most credible reports had come from highly unreliable and even corrupt sources. Chris Matthews, castigated by the Right, and held up on the Left for his insight never once debated before the invasion what should have been obvious questions to the rest of us. He finally did, several years, many thousands of lives and a trillion Dollars later. The media’s truth was a self-serving truth, but it revealed a truth beyond even ultimate truth.

The trail

It contributed to and created real human pain and suffering. Human pain might well prove the profoundest truth, and the only truth impervious to lies, distortions, facts and faith. For each of us, our own pain becomes the ultimate truth. At the end of all lies is human pain, which arises from the individual as a wall. Where your pain meets the pain of another becomes, in the absence of real truth, the point of negotiation. From each person’s perspective the other’s pain is hardly equal to their own, but there is ultimate equality in their opposing pain. It was, after all the true basis for the civil rights movement, and indeed all assertions of minorities for their rights. It is even at the heart of those sadly mislead and exploited folks that believe the Tea Party isn’t merely a populist front for predatory corporate greed.

So, at the end of all truth,  when truths are distorted or framed artfully to be just this side of a lie we are left to negotiate one another’s pain. It transcends media and propaganda and politics. It becomes the point in which each of us draws a line in the sand and forces us to face other human beings as equals. I think Jesus said it best…do onto others… 

And, oh, by the way. Just in case you were wondering, with a couple scenic detours, the ride from Wisconsin back to the city takes about 3 hours. Lots of time to chase errant thoughts.

Brushes with a Balkan warlord

By spring of 1994 I was back in the Balkans, my second trip to the war in Bosnia. Each time I went purposely to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade to challenge the Western media’s alleged bias against the Serbs. To be sure, and that was my assessment even then, the Serbian government, with both tacit and explicit support of the majority of Serbs, bore the lion’s share of responsibility for the violence and atrocities in the embattled former-Yugoslav republics. Not completely, but they controlled the vast majority of Yugoslav arms and had perpetrated the vast majority of the brutality against Croat and Bosniak former countrymen. Were there justifications? Sure.

But justifications are excuses and not at all consistent with morality and human rights. As a nation, the Serbs were wrong. A great many Serbs I met, however, did not support nor subscribe to their government and the nationalist fervor blinding Serbia’s national soul.

Arkan and his so-called Tigers

Few during the conflict embodied the genocide in Croatia and Bosnia like the Serbian warlord, Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic. I was well acquainted with his resume as an assassin for the pre-war Yugoslav government, and then a bank robber wanted by Interpol. When the war in Croatia began, Arkan’s militia, the so-called, “Tigers,” grown from Serbian special forces and hardened criminals, distinguished themselves against poorly armed and poorly trained Croats and against villagers and unarmed civilians. An agreement to split war booty with the Belgrade government opened the door for wholesale genocide in Croatia and Bosnia driven by sheer greed. Arkan seemed bigger than life. Belgrade friends were terrified even to whisper his name in public, a strayed from conversation even in private.

It was a warm spring that year in Belgrade. Exploring the city and countryside by day, I would retire to a cafe at the Hotel Slavija, overlooking a bustling park and roundabout,  with food kiosks to one side and the unending theater of an amazing and vibrant city. Catching up in my journal, I’d have a beer or two before returning to my room at the Park Hotel. The war in Bosnia was heating up. A few weeks earlier a Serb shell killed scored is a Sarajevo market. I was anxious about venturing into the war zone again.

This time I was travelling with a heavy Kevlar police vest, considered contraband in Serbia and Bosnian Serb territory, just as my cameras and film were as a foreigner. For a couple of weeks prior to the trip I’d taken the advice of a cop friend back in Chicago. To acclimate to the weight and heat I started jogging in the vest. To acclimate myself to fear, I jogged through the Cabrini Green house project, then won of the worst crime-ridden neighborhoods in the country.. I was well acquainted with gangs and knew gang members. It all seemed good preparation for the Balkans.

One evening at the cafe in Belgrade several armed bodyguards in track suits appeared, carefully casing the place as they scowl and circulated through the tables. A moment later Arkan arrived, with some over-made debutante on his arm and yet another weasle-y looking bodyguard, in the ubiquitous track suit that was about a size and a half too big. They decided on a nearby table, the previous patrons scurrying away to another table.

I was stunned. Here was a man rendered bigger than life. painted as a legend in Serbia, and a monster elsewhere, his face plastered across city walls as part of a parliamentary bid, I expected, well, something more. Instead, I found a man exceedingly average in every respect. He wore a big cross around his neck, which he’d famously bragged once about how he was a great Christian. I think he believed it. I recall a vacuous nature to the man when our eyes met briefly. Morality was obviously an unnatural concept to him. Self-serving pragmatism was his singular motivation. I couldn’t help  a smile at the thought that his bodyguards, one of whom I recognized from war images, appeared so little and inconsequential.

Ron Haviv's photo of Arkan's men murdering Muslim civilians in Bosnia, 1992

Placed in any tough neighborhood back home, these men would be eaten alive and spit out without any more consideration. They weren’t a militia. They were a gang, and Raznatovic their pallid sovereign. The reputation came in the unblinking brutality of their actions; heavily armed thieves and bullies and thugs. There wasn’t the slightest remorse when I learned in January 2000 he’d been assassinated, shot in the eye, likely to keep him from testifying against President Milosevic. He might have stood trial for the thousands he butchered, but then again fate and justice rarely write the world we wish to see, but only the world that is.

I want a Black friend, but one just like me.

I was on the train last night. It was crowded with rush hour commuters, and it was standing room only. Luckily I’d found the last seat on the top row of the train car. As I neared my stop, standing on the steps was a well-dressed African-American gentleman. He was slender and bookish looking, with round eye glasses. More than that he was reading a David Baldacci mystery novel. He nodded smartly, slipping a bookmark into the novel, gathering up an expensive leather shoulder bag and moving over so I could slip past.

I thanked him, of course, offering a friendly, “hope I didn’t interrupt the good part.”

“Not at all,” he replied, without a single “yo,” or “fahshizzle,” or without flashing a single gang sign. His voice was so smooth, as if he’d been properly raised in a decent White neighborhood, like say, Kenilworth or Lake Forest, or some other affluent place. He seemed perfect. And if I wanted to deflect any potential accusations of being racist or bigoted in any way, this was the sort of Black I’d want to prove it.

See, I have these other Black friends, but at the end of the day they are way more black than white. For example, I like Blues music, but they actually relate to the blues. I love jazz, but they get jazz. Don’t get me started on soul food. They’re great and all, and I love them dearly, but what I want is a Black friend that I can relate to with the least amount of effort.

Part of the problem with my Black friends is that they carry all this baggage about “racial profiling,” stereotyping them into one group or class, assuming that all of them grew up in the ghetto, aspire to welfare, hide a criminal background or take public transportation in hopes there will be an accident that they can profit from. They get all high and mighty when I don’t get why its bad to call them the “N” word, but I’m still a cracker. They’re touchy about slavery, and in no humor to hear the high numbers of incarcerated Blacks as a reason they are followed in department stores. The older ones still have this chip on their shoulder about segregation, being shot at and spit on by snarling and deranged whites for wanting to attend a better school, sit at a lunch counter or use a toilet. Racism happened 30 years ago. I mean, the Jews got over the Holocaust. The Rwandans are over their Genocide, and the South Africans over Apartheid, right?  When was the last time Christians ever brought up Roman atrocities 2000 years ago? Easter doesn’t count, because that involves bunnies and colored eggs.

Since the Civil Rights movement I’ve learned that being with my “own” kind is racist at worst and divisive at best. I’ve learned. I’ve learned to be very careful about how I talk to and what I say about Blacks. I’ve learned to never say what I’m actually thinking, but to find a less offensive way of revealing the obvious. So, since according to a lot of White folks I know, racism has been eliminated (Hello, we hired a Black guy in the White House!)  and we are living in a “post racial” period, I am perfectly willing to overlook the color of a person’s skin. In that regard, is it so much to ask that they are just like me?

Poverty in America: More puppetry of the Poor

Julius Caesar called it “divide and conquer,” and he deployed the strategy as effectively against domestic and political adversaries as he did against so-called barbarian tribes as he expanded and consolidated the boundaries of Rome. It worked well enough for a while, right up until the moment his adversaries murdered him in the Senate.

Pro-labor rallies in Madison this year were unifying events

Divide and conquer was the favored tactic by wealthy businessmen and companies against the labor movement in the early part of the 20th Century. In this country blacks and newly arrived immigrants were brought to the gates of companies, often with their families and in camps, where they served as examples to employees who sought to organize against abusive or unsafe working conditions.  In post-World War One Yugoslavia, Italian refugees or poor Bosnian peasants were camped at the gates, the message that these squatters would gladly take the jobs from anyone attempting to Unionize.

For the better part of a century the Unions prevailed. They fought for and set humane working conditions, such as meal breaks, safer working conditions, reasonable working hours, fair living wages, quality of life advantages for their families and themselves and, after a lifetime of work, the right of a dignified retirement and old age.

Unions fought for and won benefits that resonated throughout the industrial world, lifting millions more from poverty through labor laws extending far beyond the Union ranks. Unions literally created the middle class in this country and in Western  Germany after the Second World War. At the height of Unions in the United States the output of the nation skyrocketed, but as Corporations exercised greater and greater influence over government an interesting thing occurred. Assaults upon organized labor increased. Not because GDP suffered. It continued its rapid and unprecedented rise. But because business was so powerful in the government that it could now move to eradicate Unions altogether. In the last 20 years Republican efforts, financed and organized by big business masters have steadily degraded the influence of Unions, to the obvious and apparent detriment to the middle class. 

Through media consolidation, big business has taken control of the national dialogue and narrative. By infiltrating the FCC they have degraded the level of discourse, skewing it fully to one side of the argument. Accurate, unfiltered and unbiased information has become more difficult to access. Despite the internet, media consolidations to a smaller and smaller number of media and corporate giants has made accurate information more difficult to come by.  Media giants like FOX news, with agenda driven programming are unabashed in demonizing Unions and the poor alike. They play on the fears of the middle class, who at the end of the day, are their true target for subversion.

Immigrants and the poor have become those modern-day squatters once encamped as implicit and explicit threats to middle class workers against asserting their rights through organization. But is the problem of immigration any different today than it was during the last great wave of immigration in 1910?

Union thug or communist?

The numbers are staggering, at first glance. in 2010 there were 35.2 million legal and illegal immigrants to the United States, nearly triple the 13.5 million reaching our shores in 1910. However, comparing the populations shows a much different picture, and reveals the dangerous anti-American agenda of these media conglomerates. There were 92 million Americans in 1910, and 310 million now, meaning the immigration wave of 1910, in todays terms would be more than 42 million, or much higher than the actual 35 million today.

And America not only survived the 1910 wave, but it prospered. Many of those immigrants were the first to organize and fight(and sometimes die) for better working conditions, and better lives through Unionization. They arrived in a nation still largely agricultural with a Gross domestic Product of $33.4 million annually, and built a nation with a GDP of $14.7 trillion-that’s trillion today. Indeed, by the onset of World War One, as Unions began to gain a foothold  the GDP double in only a few short years. Within 10 years GDP had tripled.

The numbers are clear. All that has really changed is the assault on the Unions in part by using immigrants and the poor to threaten and terrorize the disappearing middle class. And it has worked, when working people turn and accuse Union members who have given them much that is taken for granted. Overheard during the pro-Union protests in Madison Wisconsin earlier this year, a man struggling in a low-paying job without healthcare asked why Unions should have those benefits when he had none.  Divide and conquer.  It worked for Caesar, but only for a time.

Protesters in the Madison Statehouse. Fewer than 300 Tea Party members counterprotested. The people spoke.

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