Friday, January 25, 2008

*Free Leonard Peltier Now!

Click on title to link to Leonard Peltier Defense Committee web site for updates on this long and sordid case against a central leader of the Native American struggles (and ours as well). Free Leonard Peltier!!!

I proudly add a link to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. I would hope his case needs no motivation at this point. You can read the story at the website, in any case. I do have one very important question that I asked last year when good old boy "Scooter" Libby was getting his pardon from George Bush. Where is Leonard Peltier's pardon? Appparently Leonard Peltier cannot count himself among the favored tribe of Muffys, Buffys, Scooters, Hobeys and that ilk that the President feels free to release at a whim. That, my friends, is a very different tribe indeed. The class war goes on. Enough said.

Renegade Eye Is In The House

Readers of this blog will note that I have only recently begun to put links to other blogs and causes on this site. Part of this stemmed from a certain technological backwardness that I readily confess to. I pick up as much techie stuff as I need. A great help in the techie department has been Renegade Eye who I have just put a link to on this site.

If you want to read hard current socialist critiques, meshed in with a whole range of interesting cultural highlights not usually associated with dreary socialist propagandists like myself, then Renegade Eye is a place to look. For the ‘culturati’ among you this will be a treat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

*Free The Cuban Five-Ahora!-In Defense Of The Cuban Revolution

Click on title to link to the National Committee To Free The Cuban Five web site for updates on this important international case.


I have been somewhat remiss of late in talking up the case of the Cuban Five. I have put a link to the website of the National Committee for the Defense of the Cuban Five here for now. I will be dealing with their case more later, especially as their cases rework their way through the federal court system. Free the Five! This is one very important way to defend the Cuban Revolution. Defend those who acted to defend the Cuban Revolution.

Tudor Love and Politics

DVD Review

Elizabeth I, HBO Productions, 2006

Sometimes it is funny to think about how you learn things as a kid and they stick with you until you go to reexamine them later. That seems especially true about history. Sometimes it is covered with so much banality and rot that it is hard to get the story straight. Old Queen Bess fell into that category. If one compares a film version from the 1950’s of how she was perceived and this production, except for the names of the parties, it might as well be two different people. And this is only film. What the hell is the real her-story then?

In the schoolboy histories of my youth Henry VIII’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, old Bess of blessed memory, who reigned in England during the turbulent last half of the 16th century, had the sobriquet of the Virgin Queen. Of course we were kids then and did know any better about the real ways of royal politics and intricacies of adult romance so that label kind of stuck.

The film under review goes a long way to visually shifting that image as Helen Mirren as the first Elizabeth presents us with a full-blooded and somewhat coquettish Emmy-winning performance. But, wait a minute, didn’t Mirren just play the modern Elizabeth and get an Oscar for it. Yes. I believe that I am right. Frankly, old Bess is a hell of a lot more interesting as she seeks romance (with the likes of the Earl of Leicester and later the youthful Earl of Sussex) and the enhancement of the royal prerogative in a long and apparently personally unhappy reign. Off Mirren’s performance here though I am glad that Cromwell and the boys in the next century did not have such a ruthless adversary in Charles I. The success of the Commonwealth might have been a much nearer thing.

The story line here centrally revolves around Elizabeth’s struggle (like her father’s) to enhance the royal power, as is to be expected, but also, as is the norm in dynastic politics, to insure the line of succession. Hovering all through this saga is the question of when or whether Bess will product an heir. In the end we know that she did not and James VI of Scotland (as James I) came on board. However, along the way Bess insured by her policies that England would remain a Protestant country (despite the intrigues of Mary, Queen of Scots and others), that England would become an important naval and mercantile power and that, for a time, the centralizing role of the crown would keep the feuding nobility at bay. Not bad for an old ‘Virgin’ Queen.

A Bomb A Day Keeps Bush In Play



A couple of recently published developments should have all anti-warriors shaking in their boots-and shaking their fists in rage. First, in the year 2007, along with the increase of American troops on the ground-the ‘surge’- came a dramatic increase in the amount of American aerial bombing in Iraq (and needless to say in Afghanistan, as well). I do not know how reliable the figures are but in the article I read a comparison has been made with 2006. In 2006 there were about four bombing runs a week. In 2007 about four per day. Even if the numbers are somewhat shaky, as is always the case with war numbers, this was a dramatic increase by anyone’s account. Of course, what this means in human terms is that more villages were destroyed, more buildings destroyed, more civilian casualties. You know that ugly little term-collateral damage. And along with this more recruits to the insurgents. As for Afghanistan where there are, by most military estimates, not nearly enough troops American/NATO bombings and the consequent civilian casualties are an acknowledged fact of life. (See below).

The second, and perhaps in the long haul the more decisive, recent development concerns the attempts by the Bush Administration and its toadies in Iraq to sign a “treaty” that is not a treaty to keep an American military presence in Iraq until the cows come home. The reason for the quotes around the word treaty above is that a treaty needs to be ratified by the Senate. As usual the Bushies are trying to do an end around to avoid that unpleasant reality. More on this as it develops over the next few weeks. In the meantime- Immediate Withdrawal of U.S./Allied Troops and Their Mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Added January 28, 2008

Apparently the Bush Administration, at least in their appearances before various Congressional committees, is playing this Iraq "treaty" that is not treaty as another garden variety agreement that America has with about 100 other nations where there are military or other such types of bases. Of course those agreements, aside from the fact that there are 100 or so of them and thus a strong argument for the imperialist nature of the American state, concern leasing arrangements and the like. Or what to do when American soldiers go wild in their locales on a Saturday night.

This "treaty" with Iraq is of a whole different order no only calling for what amount to a permanent American presence there but commits American troops to the defense of the central government in the case of civil war. Christ, I thought I was being merely rhetorical when I was yelling for the past couple of years that our grandchildren will be fighting in Iraq if we do not stop these madmen (and women). With these scenarios that may very well come to pass.

Below is a repost of commentary from Spring 2007 dealing with the Afghanistan portion of this bombing issue.

With the recent flurry of activity by Congress in Washington over the Iraq and Afghanistan war budgets and the ‘surge’ strategy in Iraq Afghanistan has fallen below the newspaper fold. That is a mistake. In one of the ironies of history Afghanistan was the pivotal start of the whole ‘war of civilizations’ going back to the fight by the Soviet Union in the 1980’s that was fought, at least partially, to bring Afghanistan into the 20th century (or maybe even the 19th). If the Soviet Union had waged more than a half-hearted fight then world history might have looked significantly difference today. The Islamic fundamentalist forces, notably those committed to Bin Laden and an Al Qaeda strategy, got their first taste of blood there. And they liked it.

The current political situation in that benighted country is that the Karzai government’s writ does not extend outside of Kabul and that the U.S./NATO presence there is the only thing propping up that government. And that is the rub. There has been a recent spate of articles on the fighting in Afghanistan centered on the allied forces indiscriminate bombing of various outlining villages and the killing of innocent civilians. While not now a matter of widespread public knowledge the American strategy in Afghanistan is essentially the same as in Iraq.

In order to defeat the Taliban (and other) insurgencies those allied forces have relied on the old tried and true imperialist method of bringing overwhelming military force and then letting “God” separate out the innocent from the guilty. Of course, this nice little strategy has its blowback effect as previously disinterested Afghans have now begun, on their own, to fight against the imperialist presence. One village that was bombed by the United States during the past week did just that. One can expect more to come.

American imperialism, for public consumption, will bring out the candy bars and soap to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the local populace but when the deal goes down the bomb is the persuader of choice. So much for all those vaunted pacification programs. In justification for the aerial bombing policy one of the Allied ground commanders stated that without the use of such power hundreds of thousands of additional ground troops would be necessary. Nobody in the political and military establishment in Washington, or anywhere else, wants to, at this point, get into that hornet’s nest. The long and the short of it is that while we keep the fight against the war in Iraq on the front burner we had better bring the demand for immediate withdrawal in Afghanistan up to the front as well. In fact, United States Hands Off The World!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Working Class Buries One Of Its Own


This space is usually devoted to ‘high’ politics and the personal is usually limited to some experience of mine that has a direct political point. Sometimes, however, a story is so compelling and makes the point in such a poignant manner that no political palaver is necessary. Let me tell the tale. But first, as always, let us have a little historical context for this commentary.

In the 20th century January was traditionally the month to honor fallen working class leaders such as Lenin, Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. That tradition still goes on, however, more in the European working class movement than here. January can and should, however, also be a time to honor other working class people, those down at the base, as well. Over the last year I have posted a couple of such stories (See Hard Times in Babylon and An Uncounted Casualty of War in the May 2007 archives.) Here in its proper place is another about a fallen daughter of the class who died this January.

In An Uncounted Casualty of War (hereafter, Uncounted), written last May, I noted that I had then recently returned to the old working class neighborhood where I grew up. Maybe it is age, maybe it is memory, maybe it is the need at this late date to gain a sense of roots but that return has haunted me ever since. I have gone back a couple of times since then to hear more of what had happened to those in the old neighborhood from a woman who continues to live there and had related the above story to me. This one is about the fate of my childhood friend Kenny's (the subject of the Uncounted commentary) mother Margaret. Read it and weep.

As I mentioned in Uncounted our little family started life in the housing projects, at that time not the notorious hell holes of crime and deprivation that they later became but still a mark of being low, very low, on the social ladder at a time when others were heading to the Valhalla of the newly emerging suburbs. By clawing and scratching my parents saved enough money to buy an extremely modest single-family house. The house was in a neighborhood that was, and is, one of those old working class neighborhoods where the houses are small, cramped and seedy, the leavings of those who have moved on to bigger and better things.

The neighborhood nevertheless reflected the desire of the working poor in the 1950’s, my parents and others, to own their own homes and not be shunted off to decrepit apartments or dilapidated housing projects, the fate of those just below them on the social ladder. That is where I met Kenny and through him his family, including his mother Margaret. She seemed like a nice woman although I never got to know her well.

As I also mentioned in Uncounted in my teens I had lost track of Kenny who as he reached maturity took the death of a friend who died in Vietnam very hard. Harder than one can even imagine. The early details are rather sketchy but they may have involved drug use. The overt manifestations were acts of petty crime and then anti-social acts like pulling fire alarms and walking naked down the street. At some point Kenny was diagnosed as schizophrenic. I make no pretense of having adequate knowledge about the causes of mental illnesses but someone I trust has told me that such a traumatic event as his friend’s death can trigger the condition in young adults. In any case, the institutionalizations inevitably began. And later the halfway houses and all the other forms of control for those who cannot survive on the mean streets of the world on their own. Apparently, with drugs and therapy, there were periods of calm but for over three decades poor Kenny struggled with his inner demons. In the end the demons won and he died a few years ago while in a mental hospital.

Needless to say Kenny’s problems were well beyond his mother and father’s ability to comprehend or control. His father, like mine, had limited education and meager work prospects. In short, there were no private resources for Kenny and he and they were thus consigned to public institutionalization schemes. The shame of this, among other things, led to his father’s early death many, many years ago. His mother, strong Irish Catholic working class woman that she was, shouldered the burden by herself until Kenny’s death. The private and public horrors and humiliations that such care entailed must have taken a toll on her most of us could not stand. Apparently in the end it got to her as well as she let her physical appearance go down, became more reclusive and turned in on herself reverting in conversation to dwelling on happier times as a young married woman in the mid-1940’s.

Kenny’s woes, however, as I recently found out were only part of this sad story. Kenny had two older brothers whom I did not really know well because they were not around. Part of that reason was they were in and out of trouble or one sort or another and were not around the neighborhood much. My neighborhood historian related to me that at some point both sons had dropped out of sight and had not been seen by their mother for over thirty years. They are presumed to be dead or that is the story Margaret told my historian. In any case, since Kenny’s death Margaret’s health, or really her will to live went down hill fairly rapidly. Late last year she was finally placed in a nursing home where she died this month. Only a very few attended her funeral and her memory is probably forgotten by all except my historian friend and myself in this poor commentary.

I am a working class political person. That is the great legacy that my parents left me, intentionally or not. Are there any great political lessons to be learned here? No, but I swear that when we build the new society that this country and this world needs we will not let the Kennys of the world be shunted off to the side. And we will not let the Margarets of the world, our working class mothers, die alone and forgotten. As for Kenny and Margaret may they rest in peace.