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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.

New War Memorial in London Ends Historic Omission of Heroic Contributions

Blackout erased

London contains many of the thousands of memorials located across the United Kingdom commemorating the sacrifices of millions of military personnel during the bloody struggles of World War I and World War II.

There is even a ‘Animals In War’ memorial in London’s famed Hyde Park recognizing the contributions to those wars from dogs, donkeys, elephants, pigeons, glow worms and others animals.

However, not one of these memorials to the world wars – estimated at over 70,000 across Britain by the Imperial War Museum – is specifically dedicated to the contributions of the thousands from the Caribbean and Africa who helped secure victories of England in those two horrific 20th Century conflicts.

That omission of a formal recognition honoring the sacrifices of persons from Africa and the Caribbean in World Wars I and II ended on Thursday, June 22, 2017 with the dedication of a special monument: the African Caribbean Memorial.

This two and one-half ton sculpture fashioned from Scottish Whinstone sits outside the Black Cultural Achieve in the Brixton section of South London. The dedication ceremony for the African and Caribbean Memorial came on Windrush Day – the annual celebration for the onset of large-scale immigration to Britain from the Caribbean that began in 1948 when immigrants came to help London/England rebuild after WWII.

The idea for the African Caribbean Memorial (along with the long work to raise funds for the monument’s creation and siting) came from the Nubian Jak Community Trust, a British organization that has erected over thirty plaques around London and in other parts of England recognizing various contributions of persons of African descent.

Guns and Religion in a Small Town on Memorial Day

An anti-war vet in Trumpland

      When the legend becomes fact, print the legend
                  - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I attended a "Salute to Veterans" this past Memorial Day in Waldoboro, Maine, organized by the town’s Historical Society at the headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and co-sponsored by the American Legion. For someone with my antiwar resume, albeit a veteran of a Vietnam combat unit, stepping over the threshold of a VFW Post can feel like crossing into hostile territory. I might exhibit a similar compunction about taking fermentation at certain blue color taverns in the Rust Belt, despite the fact that many of the regulars would pretty much look like me, white seniors with European roots – except maybe they voted for Trump and I didn’t. It’s not just politics; it’s a class thing. I spent my first eleven years in a working class subdivision while my dad, employed at a defense plant, “broke through the line” into management. We moved up and I went to college, then left my hometown in the dust.

The POW/MIA guest setting; and attendees at the Memorial Day event (Photos: Michael Uhl)The POW/MIA guest setting; and attendees at the Memorial Day event (Photos: Michael Uhl)

Most of those I sat among that afternoon in Waldoboro probably hadn’t been to college – an opportunity with far reaching class consequences - but they’d remained rooted in their communities. Being there, it was as if I’d been whisked back to some mothballed version of where I’d grown up in the fifties. All the musty forms and rituals were intact. The interior of the hall was a shrine to soldierly service. All manner of war and military memorabilia displayed on walls and tables. Mannequins outfitted full fig in uniforms of various epochs. Two rows of chairs faced the stars and stripes and the flags of all the services that stood tall across the front of the room. Stage-set on the left flank was an empty table with a single place setting and chair, the ubiquitous homage of the mainstream veteran service organizations to the MIAs.

One elderly lady saddled in beside me and sparkled brightly, “don’t worry, I won’t bite you.” Was she in the Ladies Auxiliary linked to one of the co-sponsors, I asked? She nodded yes without comment. The chair of the local Historical Society stepped to the podium, asked the body to stand, then summoned the Color Guard, having carried two flags to the rear, to proceed forward and return the standards to their stanchions. Two of the more senior men, costumed with bits and pieces of their old uniforms – both wore sergeant’s stripes – fairly dragged the heavy poles up the aisle. “It weighs a ton,” one of them grumbled under his breath, but loud enough to make his audience, including me, smile and nod in sympathy.

We, the birds in the field

A bird flies up from the tall grass when I enter the field.
Somewhere deep in that wild place
Is a nest, I wanted to say “concealed” for the hidden rhyme
But the image is the important thing:

Me, barefoot. Bird, flying up.
Even if I were a predator
I would not be able to find her nest.
But I don’t need to find its exact location

Any more than I need to worry about rhyming.
This is a poem about a bird’s desperation
As the tractor mows closer and closer.
The farmer and I have agreed

To save one. Go around.
That is how I mow the stone circle

Socialist Labour Party Candidate Jeremy Corbyn Closes 20% Poll Gap to Deny Tories a Parliament Majority

Historic upset in UK snap election

 

The British Labour Party and its party leader Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win Thursday’s snap election called last April 18 by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, yet it was it nonetheless a historic victory for Corbyn, the British left and for the concept of socialist revolution in a democratic society.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a socialist, anti-war message, has upended British politicsLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a socialist, anti-war message, has upended British politics
 

From the time Corbyn, a long-time hard-left anti-militarism back-bencher and protege of the late Tony Benn, was elevated to the leadership position of the Labour Party back in September 2015, he has (like Bernie Sanders in the US last year) had to combat a concerted effort to unseat him by the Labour Party establishment. Only last year, 172 elected Labour Party members of Parliament (that was out of a total of 232) cast a vote of no confidence that forced Corbyn into a party leadership election which he resoundingly won with over 60% of the votes of dues-paying party members.

When May, back in April, at a time when polls showed her trouncing Labour by a 20-25% margin, called a snap election for June 8 (after earlier promising that she would not do such a thing), the Labour establishment figured it would turn out a disaster and finish off Corbyn as party leader. Seven leading Labour MP’s announced that they weren’t going to run for re-election on a ticket headed by Corbyn, with several even saying publicly that they preferred May to Corbyn. Virtually the entire British news media, from the BBC on down, piled on, deriding Corbyn as a ‘70s relic out of touch with British voters.

At first, amid all that Corbyn bashing, it did seem as though the contest would be a historic wipe-out for the Labour party, which was already on its knees following an embarrassing performance in the 2015 electoral outing which left Conservatives with a 330-vote majority (just 4 more than needed to form a government), and Labor, at 232 seats, looking like it might be down for good. But then Corbyn, who during the 2017 campaign came out with a truly socialist manifesto calling for improved funding for the gutted and struggling National Health System, an end to tuition for college and university, a major campaign of building more public housing, better funding for public education, and, most importantly, an end to reflexive British support for America’s endless and ever expanding global War on Terror, something started to happen. Suddenly his poll numbers turned around dramatically, and as the days until June 8 voting ticked off, the margin between Labour and the Tories kept dwindling. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s popularity kept rising, eventually passing Prime Minister May’s numbers in some polls.

Even two brutal terror attacks, in Manchester and then in London, failed to significantly dent Corbyn’s charge — in large part because instead of reflexively hunkering down and supporting more draconian security policies as US politicians of both parties do each time some terror attack happens or some alleged terror plot is “disrupted,” he declared that the attacks proved that “the war on terror has been a failure.” Corbyn also took the offense and denounced his opponent May who, as home secretary of the Conservatives before becoming prime minister had overseen the defunding of 22,000 ordinary police officer positions — furloughing roughly a fifth of the country’s police force. “You can’t keep people safe on the cheap,” Corbyn declared on the stump to loud cheering.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May Neck-and-Neck in Final Stretch of UK Election

Standing against 'War on Terror' and austerity proves popular

 

This article was written for Salon Magazine
 

A funny thing is happening on the way to the June 8 snap election in the United Kingdom. Despite two vicious terror attacks apparently inspired by ISIS — the Manchester Arena bombing that killed at least 22 people, many of them children, and another on the iconic London Bridge that killed seven and left 22 critically injured — polls suggest that British voters aren’t fleeing in panic to the current Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. In fact, contrary to all expectations, they continue to swing toward May’s hard-left Labour Party opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, with the latest poll showing the two parties neck-and-neck.

May launched her campaign on on April 18. With polls showing her party anywhere from 15 to 20 points up on Corbyn and Labour at the time, and the favorability gap between her and Corbyn even wider, she hoped for a blowout victory that would boost the Tories’ position in Parliament to a record level. But since then she and the Conservatives have been watching their support crumble as Corbyn’s has grown. Now many British news organizations are talking about a Tory “collapse.”

It’s now being suggested, even in the right-leaning media, that when the votes are counted Thursday evening, Britain could face an unexpected and murky situation...

Some polls have British PM Theresa May tied with Labour challenger Jeremy Corbyn in tomorrow's snap electionSome polls have British PM Theresa May tied with Labour challenger Jeremy Corbyn in tomorrow's snap election
 

For the rest of this article, which appears in today's Salon magazine, please click here or on the image above.

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