Friday, October 31, 2008

In Massachusetts Vote NO on Question 1- No Repeal Of The State Income Tax


In Massachusetts Vote NO on Question 1- Repealing of the State Income Tax

For President- Republican John McCain-No. Democrat Barack Obama- No. Green Party Cynthia McKinney-No. Independent-Ralph Nader-No. And so on down through the offices to the local county commissioners and such. Come Election Day in Massachusetts on November 4, 2008 it would seem that there is no reason to go to the polls. Right? Not true. As usually is the case here there are some interesting ballot questions to select from. None, from a socialist perspective (hell, from a democratic perspective even) as important as the No vote on Proposition 8 (the gay marriage amendment) in California but important smaller issues nevertheless.

Vote No on Question 1- This the perennial repeal the state income tax proposition that the “no tax”- types try to get passed every few years. Usually this is spear-headed by know-nothings and those who just do not want to pay taxes under any circumstances. Who does? Normally, this question of how the bourgeois state finances itself is of minor interest to socialists but there is another issue at stake. Until working people take state power in their own interests some form of taxation is going to be needed to provide basic services. Hell, in the beginning stages of socialist transformation there may be taxes, depending on the economic superstructure that we inherit from the capitalists.

The argument lurking underneath this one is that if there is no state income tax then the inevitable taxes that will replace that lost revenue will be based on local real property valuations. That means that public services like local education, public works and health care such as they are will be dependent on the wildly varying property tax bases of the various towns. In short, the poor and minorities will get even less public services that at present. And the richer towns? Well, you can already guess about their heartrending problems. We have a side on this one today. Vote it down with both hands!!!

Vote Yes on Question 2- This is a proposition that would decriminalize marijuana possession and use for the recreational smoker, in effect, by making a first offense a civil rather than a criminal one for certain non- drug pusher amounts. There is a system of fines, etc. in place of criminal penalties. Nevertheless the proposition is basically supportable. As socialists we are committed to the decriminalization of all drug use and this proposition is in line with that goal, a basic social right to be left alone to one’s own devises when there are victimless situations involved.

Vote Yes on Question 3- This is a proposition that would ban dog races (essentially greyhound racing) where wagering was involved (subject to state regulation, in other words). The writer of this blog has spend some time betting on various sporting propositions, lately, mainly on college football games (See My revolving weekly Now For The Real Question Of The Day- Who Will Win The National College Football Championship? for current selections.) so I am personally somewhat agnostic on this one, except my “significant other” is very strongly in favor of this one. I will defer to her on this. I would rather watch horses race any day. From my limited knowledge on this subject, the trainers do not do right by these beautiful animals either during their racing careers or seeing that they are provided for after that time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Hoodoo Lady- Memphis Minnie


Hoodoo Lady, Memphis Minnie, 1933-37, Sony, 1991

One of the interesting facts about the development of the blues is that in the early days the recorded music and the bulk of the live performances were done by women, at least they were the most popular exponents of the genre. That time, the early 1920's to the 1930's, was the classic age of women blues performers. Of course, when one thinks about that period the name that comes up is the legendary Bessie Smith. Beyond that, maybe some know Ethel Waters. And beyond that-a blank.

Yet the blues singer under review, Memphis Minnie, probably had as a productive career as either of the above-mentioned names. And here is the kicker. If you were to ask today's leading women blues singers like Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, Tracey Nelson or Maria Muldaur about influences they will, naturally, give the obligatory Bessie response, but perhaps more surprisingly will also praise Ms. Minnie to the skies.

This compilation, while not technically the best, will explain the why of the above paragraph. Minnie worked with many back up players over the years, some good some bad, but her style and her energy carried most of the production. She was the mistress of the double entendre so popular in old time blues- you know phrases like `put a little sugar in my bowl'. The best of the bunch here are the title song Hoodoo Lady, Ice Man and Butcher Man but the real deal here is that this is an album you acquire a taste for-and then do not want to turn the damn thing off. That, for me, is high praise indeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

*Saucy and Sexy- The Wicked Old World of James M. Cain- "The Institute"-Sex and Power in Washington

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for American novelist James M. Cain

Sex and Power in Washington

The Institute, James M. Cain, Mason/Charter, New York, 1976

The last time I have had a chance to mention the work of James M. Cain, author of the classic noir works The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity a couple of novels that take place in the 1930-40’s in sunny California, was a later work Mignon set in the Louisiana of the American Civil War days. As usual when I get ‘high’ on an author I like to run through most of his or her work to see where he or she is going with it. Thus, this review of a lesser work, a much lesser work by Cain is something of an obligation. As is familiar to anyone who runs through an author’s lifetime of writing efforts not all such endeavors are equal. The Institute written late in Cain’s literary career shows a man who has run out of steam in his literary efforts.

Why is that so here? Well, the premise that Cain is working under is well-worn. Power, sex and philanthropy or some such combination in the corridors of Washington and its environs has been done to death both before and after this 1976 effort. In his earlier work, the classic stuff, Cain distinguished himself by writing novels that verged on being ‘potboilers’ but when the dust settled they were little gems of literary insight into how the human psyche operated when it got its ‘wanting habits on' as Bessie Smith once sang in an old blues tunes. Not so here as the plot is predictable concerning the powerful showing off their wealth by endowing an institute of learning and several off-hand rather surreal romances, the twists lead nowhere and in the end it turns into a sappy melodrama as all is forgiven and the main characters (who survive) the brainy Dr. Palmer and beautiful Mrs. Garrett, lovers and newly-hatched parents ride off into the sunset. Give me those chiselin’ dames and handy ne’er-do-well guys from the old days anytime. Sorry, James.