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The Virtues of Tearing Down Statues Depends on Where They are Standing

Remembering history's good; celebrating it, not so much

 

I was a Fulbright professor of journalism in 1991, posted for a year in the Graduate School of Journalism at China's prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai.

Over the year I made many friends among the faculty and especially among my graduate students, many of whom had been democracy activists, either in Beijing or in Shanghai, during the events of the Tiananmen occupation and eventual crushing of that movement. during 1989, two years before my arrival.

At the time I was in China, there were very few statues of Mao Zedong, the celebrated leader of the victorious Chinese Communist revolution. Because of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and earlier anti-rightist campaigns he had orchestrated, his reputation had understandably and deservedly suffered badly.

As a result, while Mao statues had been ubiquitous all over China only a decade earlier, by the time I arrived (20 years after having graduated with a degree in Chinese language and plans to go to China to witness and write about the "glories" of the Cultural Revolution), I found in Shanghai only two remaining statues of the Chairman -- one inside the entrance gate to Tongji University, a technical school, and one inside the front gate of Fudan University.

The Tongji statue featured a younger Mao posed in a romantic stance waiving to his people. The Fudan statue had a more forbidding stance, quite tall, representing the chairman in his formal Mao suit, feet together, and arms clasped behind his back, looking sternly down at the viewer. The statue had been designed to look even bigger and more imposing than it was by the enlargement of the feet and the bottom of the legs (much like an R Crumb cartoon), with the body shrinking to a much too small head at the top to give the illusion of height.
 Do we need to see their statues every day in the public square?Mao Zedong and Robert E Lee: Do we need to see their statues every day in the public square?
 

I asked a friend, a Fudan professor who had lived through the anti-rightist campaign of the '50s as well as the Cultural Revolution, why those two statues had been left standing, while all the others seemed to have been eliminated in Shanghai and most of China.

He smiled wanly and said, using a very Chinese turn of phrase, "They left the statues so we would never forget...and so that we would never forget."

Justice Department's Dreamhost Subpoena Ramps Up the Police State!

Visiting a website could make you a subpoena target

 

If the U.S. Department of Justice prevails in a case against web-hosting provider Dreamhost, you can become the subject of a criminal investigation by visiting a website.

You don't have to re-read that. The problem is not with your eyes; it's with your government. If the courts uphold this Justice Department action, the erosion of your privacy rights on the Internet, a process that began with the Patriot Act and picked up full-steam under the Obama administration, will have been completed under President Donald Trump.

A major pillar of a police state will now be in place.

You visit. You are a target.You visit. You are a target.

The sorry saga starts last January when the Justice Department began investigating people who had been organizing protests at Trump's inauguration. In this unsavory combination of the federal government's increasingly intrusive actions and Trump's megamania, Justice lawyers presented Dreamhost with a search warrant on a website -- Disruptj20.org -- which was being used to organize those actions.

Discovering Racism and then Discovering It Anew

Charlottesville awakening

 

I grew up in Storrs, Connecticut, a faculty brat in a university town where minority people were few and far between. There were a few black kids in our high school — the children of people employed at UConn. There were also working-class Puerto Ricans in the area — American citizens but who knew that back then? — who had fled north from the economically devastated US colony of Puerto Rico to work in a big textile mill in nearby Willimantic.

Storrs was a liberal community. The civil rights movement and later the early anti-Vietnam War movement both had early and active support there, our school teachers were for the most part liberals who went beyond the core curriculum to teach us to question things, and (within limits) to pursue our ‘60s-era interest in alternative life-styles and politics.

But I did get a sense for what real racism was about, despite living in such an island of liberalism.

My mother was a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, and her parents still lived down there, just outside of town in a huge log cabin on a pond. Grandpa, a decorated mustard-gassed veteran of World War I, and a super-patriot, was a no-nonsense coach and headed the physical education program for the segregated Greensboro School District.

A generous-hearted woman who left home to serve as a Navy WAVE during World War II, my mother ended up posted at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for most of the war. After meeting and marrying my Dad, and moving to Storrs, where the University of Connecticut had hired Dad as an electrical engineering professor, she become quite liberal in her views, including on race. (Though one vestige of her upbringing — a conviction that mixed-race marriages would never work out — never left her. “Think of the children!” she would say when I'd argue with her, as if it were obvious.)

I remember back in the ‘50s, when I was probably about 8 or 9 years of age, that we drove down to Greensboro to visit my grandparents. It was before the days of the interstate highway system, and in the heyday of that ubiquitous roadside rest stop, Howard Johnsons, a favorite of all travel-weary kids because of the many flavors of ice cream they sold.
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When we had crossed over into Virginia, and came upon one of those orange-roofed icons, dad stopped the car and we all piled into the cool lobby. I headed for the men’s room, but was caught up short by the sight of two fountains along the wall, with signs saying “whites” and “coloreds.” I asked my dad what that meant, and he explained to his wide-eyed son.

The idea of people with different skin color having to drink from different water fountains seemed bizarre to me, and I remember going to the colored fountain, more out of curiosity than rebelliousness, because I wanted to see if the water was different. (I don’t know what I expected: colored water?) My mother got upset — I suspect because from her upbringing she was used to such things and probably worried that it might create a scene.

Then I went to find the men’s room and was this time confronted by four, instead of two doors. That really floored me. Even at that young age, I knew that shit and piss were unpleasant smelling and dirty whether they emanated from white or “colored” bodies. I like to think I went into the “colored men’s” restroom, but I can’t remember what I actually did.

I left that Hojo’s with my mind jolted. Now I was noticing lots of black people as we drove along deeper into Dixie, and it was obvious that they were poor, living in usually unpainted shacks and mostly walking, while the whites we saw were driving nice cars and living in nicer houses, where one didn’t notice any black people.

This Is Not Fake News: President Trump Is A Bigot!

Whitewashing Racism Again

Bench on porch at the White House of Donald Trump? No. Apartheid-era artifact in Cape Town, South Africa. LBWPhotoBench on porch at the White House of Donald Trump? No. Apartheid-era artifact in Cape Town, South Africa. LBWPhoto
 
U.S. President Donald Trump is a bigot – ’bigley’ – to use a word that he’s used frequently!

Trump is a bigot as defined as someone who doesn’t tolerate people of different races or religions!

But as despicable as Trump’s bigotry is, it is not the big problem driving America’s problem of deep-seated racism.

Trump’s bigotry is rightly being bashed in the wake of the President’s failure to quickly and forcefully condemn the Nazi-praising white nationalists responsible for the riotous violence that erupted recently in Charlottesville, Va, violence that produced one death and many injuries.

Those proudly prejudiced white supremacists that descended on Charlottesville for odious domestic terrorism proclaimed themselves as fervent supporters of businessman-turned-president Trump.

“Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country,” stated a report issued earlier this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors hate groups in America.

In the weeks after Trump’s November 2016 election the SPLC documented 1,094 hate incidents. “The hate was clearly tied directly to Trump’s victory,” stated a December 2016 SPLC report.

Remember, Trump is the guy who installed a leading advocate of white nationalism (Steve Bannon) as his chief strategist in the White House.

Sobering 2018 National Climate Change Report is Leaked to the NY Times

Government climate scientists take action

 

Embattled climate scientists working in 13 various US government agencies threw down the gauntlet before the Trump administration by releasing, to the New York Times, an over 600-page report on climate change in the US, the work of several years intended to comply with a Congressional requirement for such a report every four years.

The scientists involved in releasing the leaked document — the fifth draft of the 2018 report — told the Times they were releasing the document early in draft form for fear that the Trump Administration and Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, climate change denier Scott Pruitt, would attempt to deep-six, or at least drastically revise their work and conclusions.

Their fears are understandable. Trump has called climate change a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy designed to harm the US, and Pruitt, while recently at least acknowledging that the global climate is getting hotter, claims that it is both impossible to know to what extent human activity is to blame, and that the trend going forward is impossible to predict.

The latest report, however, debunks all of those ignorant assertions by the country’s current leadership, warning that the warming trend both globally and in the US is undeniable, and dire.
Blue Marble (NASA photo)Blue Marble (NASA photo)

According to the document, which is dated June 28 and titled “US Global Change Research Program: Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR):
 

“Since the last National Climate Assessment was published (in 2014), 2014 became the warmest year on record globally, 2015 surpassed 2014 by a wide margin; and 2016 surpassed 2015. Sixteen of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record for the globe.”
 

The report goes on to state that “many lines” of scientific evidence “demonstrate that it is extremely likely” (meaning 95-100% certain) “that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” They explain that “There are no convincing alternative explanations supported by the extent of the observational evidence. Solar output changes and internal natural variability can only contribute marginally to the observed changes in climate over the last century, and we find no convincing evidence for natural cycles in the observational record that could explain the observed changes in climate.”

The grim picture looking out to 2100, which it must be noted is easily within the lifetime of children living today:

Writing in No-Man's-Land

Me and The New York Times

 
The attitude of the great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots
        -Walt Whitman
 
To comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable
        -Traditional adage of journalistic purpose
 
These days, adjusting to Donald J. Trump as “leader of the free world,” I find myself defending The New York Times almost on a daily basis. I tend to do this online on left-leaning lists I wade into and respond to. I just turned 70 and am becoming a rather dialogic-oriented person in my golden years. I've worked as a dirty-fingernail reporter on several newspapers. I’ve written non-fiction and fiction, a distinction that more and more blurs in my mind, as it is blurred in places like Eastern Europe; in Bosnia, for example, the terms simply do not exist. I’ve worked as a self-taught photographer. For over three years, from Philadelphia, I’ve co-hosted a chat radio show out of northeastern Kansas. My dialogic role on the show, called Radio Free Kansas, is to talk about the stories in that day’s liberal northeastern rag, The New York Times.

Charlie, The Times and the beginnings of this essay on the Times Sports sectionCharlie, The Times and the beginnings of this essay on the Times Sports section

The incredible explosion (there is no other word for it) of computer technology and social media has left me in the dust, willfully. I carry a flip cellphone with a cracked face; I don’t use EZ-Pass (I’m afraid they may be tracking me!) or GPS devices (I really love maps!), and I rarely use Facebook or any other social media. I know I’m a human derelict of the past hanging on until the light goes out. I’m too often told I’m wrong by a bureaucratic computer that says something other than what I know is true. Sometimes, I feel like a white haired, stringy-bearded ancient left by the trail wrapped in a blanket as my tribe moves on to the next happy hunting ground. Nowadays, when they leave you alone by the trail to die they leave you with an i-phone: “Here. Keep in touch on Twitter.”

Whoa! It's Really Crazy Here in America!

Thoughts on returning from a short, eventful trip to the UK

 

Back in Philadelphia, USA -- Just got back from an event-filled two-plus weeks in the UK and I though I should share a few thoughts and impressions.

We visited briefly in Edinburgh, Scotland, London, Exeter and Oxford, the ancient university town where our daughter Ariel was graduating with a DPhil in Education — the primary purpose of our visit.

The first thing that struck me coming strait from the States was the scarcity of clearly overweight people. Sure you see a few, but not the huge number of really dangerously overweight people one sees everyday in the US, where bad food products are shamelessly pushed like addictive drugs. Perusing the supermarkets in Britain, it’s clear why this is so: the shelves aren’t bulging with oversized boxes of sugared cereal, potato chips, corn chips and other amalgams of starch, sugars and fats of all types, or aisles full of sweets.

Restaurant meals also offer normal sized portions, not huge quantities of foot that beckon guests to eat until they can’t stand up easily as in all too many US establishments.

The second thing I noticed — even outside of London — was a wide array of newspapers, ranging from junk like the Sun and the Daily Mail to serious journals of the center right like the Financial Times and the Times to left-leaning papers like the Guardian and the Independent. And people actually read the things.

Back in Philadelphia, the two options are the Inquirer and the Daily News, both desiccated shadows of their former selves and owned by the same publisher. If you’re lucky, and are near Center City, you might also find on newsstands a few copies of the NY Times and maybe even a Wall Street Journal, but don’t count on it.

The political scene, meanwhile, bears some small, superficial resemblance to the US at the moment, with a dysfunctional conservative government in power, and a leftist “resistance” in the wings, but that’s where all similarity ends.

US media claims that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a British 'Bernie Sanders' are misleading. Corbyn's a real leftist with a program and plan to win powerUS media claims that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a British 'Bernie Sanders' are misleading. Corbyn's a real leftist with a program and plan to win power
 

In the US, the “resistance” is largely an illusion--really a kind of Democratic Party "rebranding" project. On the one hand you have the Democratic Party establishment, led these days by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a bought-and-paid lackey of the Wall Street banking industry, whose claim to fame is so far keeping his Senate colleagues in line voting as a bloc against every attempt by Senate Republicans to undo Obamacare. On the other hand, there’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont who had the Democratic nomination stolen from him by the unprincipled machinations of that Democratic Party establishment during last year’s primary campaign. Sanders, recall, as many had predicted, folded up his battle tent at the end of that manipulated primary contest and meekly endorsed the corrupt winner, Hillary Clinton. Since then he has been talking up his “political revolution,” but has yet to even lay out an alternative “single-payer” Medicare-for-All plan to counter Republicans and Trump and their schemes to steal what little health coverage poorer Americans have now, much less demand that Congressional Democrats stop fudging and commit to health care as a right, and to enacting a Canadian-style system that covers everyone.

Dali’s mustache revisited

New poem:

 

Who cares if Dali’s exhumed mustache is intact?
Who cares if a cat can say his master’s name?
 
Who cares if the Congressman
Thinks that NASA has a secret reason to go to Mars?
 
Who cares if there are nettles growing among the raspberries?
And that my friend is probably right,
 
That the stars are actually the tears of God
Reflecting the light of our souls.
 
My back hurt all night, and it still hurts
Even though my wife rubbed it with Tiger Balm.
 
That’s all that matters.
 
And when your back hurts all night,
I promise not to remind you
Of Dali’s mustache
And the sorrows of God.
 
 

--Gary Lindorff

Sy Hersh, Exposer of My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Strikes Again, Exposing US Lies About Alleged Assad Sarin Gas 'Attack'

What if you write a critically important story and nobody will print it?

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese women, children and old people by US troops, the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal in Iraq, and many other critically important stories, has now obliterated the US government's (and the US media's) claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military killed nearly 100 people with a Sarin nerve gas bombing in April, an incident which prompted President Trump to order a Tomahawk cruise missile attack on a Syrian Air Force base.

Hersh's My Lai expose was initially published by the Dispatch News Service, and was eventually run by 33 US newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times (which employed him in its Washington bureau during the Watergate Scandal era, from 1972-75). His later Abu Ghraib expose ran in the New Yorker magazine, as did several other important investigative pieces about the origins of the Iraq war, and about a US covert bombing campaign in Iran.

But this latest piece, arguably his potentially most explosive -- because it shows a President Trump risking triggering a World War III with Russia based upon his own rash decision, over the objections and to the dismay of his own military and intelligence advisers -- couldn't find a mainstream publisher in the US or the UK. Instead, he had to run it in a German newspaper, Die Welt.

Trump's 'War Room' discussing plans to bomb a Syrian airfield because of a fake Sarin gas attack story in AprilTrump's 'War Room' discussing plans to bomb a Syrian airfield because of a fake Sarin gas attack story in April
 

Fortunately, Die Welt, one of Germany's major daily newspapers, realized the importance of what Hersh was exposing, and has made the article, as well as a side-bar -- the transcript of a conversation between an American soldier and intelligence service person in Syria, available online -- in English. Here they are:

Trump's Red Line and We've got a fucking problem!

We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change

The Democratic Party is beyond hope

 

The failure of Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff to capture the vacant House seat left in a suburban Atlanta district by the Trump nomination of Republican Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services shows the disastrous state of the Democratic Party.

So beholden is that party to corporate interests that it cannot put up or support any candidate who is willing to challenge its neoliberal paradigm. The 30-year-old Ossoff tried to win by appealing to the so called “moderate middle” of voters, offering vague promises of economic growth and challenges to President Trump’s policies — for example his attack on the Obama administration’s so-called Affordable Care Act. It was a stupid campaign approach, especially for a special election, when voter turnouts are typically very low and voter enthusiasm is the key. No matter: despite polls showing overwhelming American support for a Canadian-style single-payer “Medicare for All” health care system, Ossoff did not call for such a change. Nor did he mention at all the need to slash US military spending — the single biggest reason, because it lays claim to some 54% of all federal tax dollars each year, why the US is approaching Third World status by most measures such as life-expectancy, infant mortality, infrastructure, education, etc.

The question now for progressives is: What is to be done?

With the Democratic Party in the hands of Neoliberals and third parties kept off ballots, progressives need a mass movement straWith the Democratic Party in the hands of Neoliberals and third parties kept off ballots, progressives need a mass movement stra
 

Clearly to be a viable and genuine opposition party to the ruling Republicans, the Democratic Party would have to be thoroughly deconstructed and rebuilt. The millionaire-packed Democratic National Committee leadership — the lobbyists, the elected officials and the well-heeled donors — would have to be tossed out entirely, and replaced by genuine progressives, labor activists, environmentalists, representatives of various minority groups and (gasp!) socialists. It would need a platform that was unequivocal and unflinching in its call for expanded and more generous Social Security benefits, for a well funded Medicare for All program, for a new National Labor Relations Act that routinizes the forming of labor unions and that safeguards, through severe penalties on recalcitrant employers, the right to bargain for contracts. It would have to stand foursquare for an emergency mobilization against climate change, and it would have to renounce the debunked neoliberal approach of coddling the rich and tossing crumbs to the poor, by standing for much higher taxes on the former and well-funded programs to help the latter. And finally, it would have to call for dramatic cuts in the military (not defense!) budget, and an end to US imperialism and militarism abroad.

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut