Politics: September 2008 Archives

a clutch of some of the pink and yellow [g a y] balloons which accompany Sharon Hayes's "Revolutionary Love 1 & 2: I Am Your Worst Fear, I Am Your Best Fantasy", spotted hanging out at the bottom of a dark corner of the hall just outside the room where the sound and video piece is installed

I didn't have time to do a full post on the show tonight, so I decided that I'd put up just one image and make a very strong recommendation that everyone who can do so make her or his way to the Park Avenue Armory tomorrow (actually that's today, Saturday) for the last day of Creative Time's essential contribution to the moment we're all sharing right now, questioning the idea of "Democracy in America".

It's an awesome show, it's not going to be forgotten, and you know you're going to want to have been a part of it - especially after the news that an important and not unrelated show at the Chelsea Museum has been [summarily ?] pulled.

This headline is the title of the exhibition catalog, edited by its curator, Nato Thompson.


And so the last myth of Republican competence has been exploded: I'm referring to the ability to accumulate on paper vast amounts of private wealth. I would have thought the world paroxysm of the 1930s would have been impressive enough, but Americans have no history, just those myths.

Although I once worked in that world, I wasn't really of it, and I knew enough to know what I didn't know. I used to think I'd never be able to say anything smart about the financial world, but the events of the past months, and especially the past few days, have strangely emboldened me, as I hope they have the entire country.

[image of Scott Adams strip via Don Monk]

in the end, invisible even to Republicans

So now we have to nationalize those stars of the capitalist firmament, the monopolistic conglomerates we've been encouraging for decades, because with the tender care of the Government they've finally gotten too big for us to let them fail. What happened to that legendary "Invisible Hand"?

[image from bizid.co]

just put in a parking lot

Remember that glorious central transit hub we were promised? The one they've been dangling in front of all of our eyes for years? Gone. It's been cancelled. It looks like one more case of bait-and-switch. Some people are making a lot of money playing with us, while they play with this wretched site.

On September 10th, the day before this, our latest jingoist holiday, "Patriot Day"*, Mayor Bloomberg decided to drop his own bomb on New York. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, "There Should Be No More Excuses At Ground Zero", he wrote:

. . . the PATH station's design, including the underground hall, is too complicated to build and threatens to delay the memorial and the entire project. It must be scaled back.

The scale of the grand, highly-praised and long-anticipated transit superstation designed by Santiago Calatrava for the World Trade Center site had already been cut back several times, and our Mayor wants it reduced even further - actually, totally eliminated at least as we've known it until now.

One would think that our much-vaunted "subway mayor," who worked so hard (with mixed results) to make several totally inappropriate new corporate-sports stadiums and arenas his personal civic career memorial, might be able to persuade himself that a great transit hub would be the perfect grand projet to leave to a great city on the run. But no, he just wants to fill in that damn hole.

originally called "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims Of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001" and never to be confused with that much more venerable and more upbeat celebration called "Patriots' Day"

[image from answers.com]

For years we've been horrified by what's been coming out of the Republican camp, but now we can take a laugh break.

I found the first of these four videos through the New York magazine blog site while searching Google for results on Levi Johnston/"sex on skates" after reading Maureen Dowd's "Too Much Life?" [print edition title], in the NYTimes this morning. I usually skip her rants, but today I found it somewhat compelling, not least because jumping out of the page was the phrase:

wild soap opera storylines erupting from the Palin family and the Alaskan wilderness [my italics]

The videos are by Sara Benincasa. The one I saw was incredibly cute (and I mean that in the best way), but most important it was a truly hysterical parody, and not the least bit mean. Yes, I know the real story isn't this family, but rather McCain's misjudgment and his cynicism.

Now excuse me while I go off to look at the other three videos.

[image from youtube]

an early image of the "Me Worry?" kid, possibly from the 1920s according to Wikipedia

Going back at least as far as The Yellow Kid, we've always had our Alfred E. Neumans, but we never used to make them emperors.

The upshot of telling a citizenry over and over again for two hundred years that anyone can become president is today's reality that anyone can become president - unless of course they're smart or work hard to deserve the honor and responsibility.

Mournful thoughts about the current occupant of the White House and the two cyphers whom the corporations are about to nominate to succeed him are the occasion for my reflection on this baleful subject.

We now know that Bush clearly wasn't an accident, and McCain and Palin scare me perhaps more - if that's even possible.

[image from wikipedia]


The Minnesota September 1st "March on the RNC and Stop the War" began in St. Paul at 11am local time today (CDT is one hour earlier than New York). Marchers planned to start with a rally at the state capitol, go to the Xcel Center in a "permitted" march and return to the capital, but things are already getting interesting as I write this. For more information see marchonrnc.org.

For continuous updates, go to this page on the Twin Cities Indymedia site or check out the MnIndyLIVE twitter feed.

Should you need more context for this, see my earlier posts from August 28 and August 30, and this Salon.com piece by Glenn Greenwald published just 24 hours ago. It's excerpted here:

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it's not difficult to see why. As the recent "overhaul" of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated -- preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror -- we've essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they've done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our "freedoms" in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic -- but we've decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it's therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

It seems we're now leaving it up to the kids to defend liberties we all used to pretend were ours. I hope that somehow both they and the genuine patriotism which inspires them survives. At the moment they aren't being given much support, or even the recognition which a real media would owe them, the rest of us, and the entire world.

[image from marchonrnc]

National Guardsmen firing into demonstrators during the 1894 Chicago Pullman strike* [contemporary Harpers Weekly drawing]

[six years ago today I did an entry titled "the real meaning of Labor Day". I posted it again last year, and I think it's time to do it again. My brief text was augmented with quotes from the site of Jim Lehrer's PBS show, NewsHour, on a page which had appeared the week before September 11, 2001. Last year I added the image which appears above]

It's not the barbeque, and it's certainly not the traffic. It was born as an attempt to appease the working people of America. [Remember the Pullman strike in history class?] Unfortunately it seems to have worked too well.

The observance of Labor Day began over 100 years ago. Conceived by America's labor unions as a testament to their cause, the legislation sanctioning the holiday was shepherded through Congress amid labor unrest and signed by President Grover Cleveland as a reluctant election-year compromise.
Soon after, when the entire nation became thoroughly frightened by the bugbear of socialism and communism, the movement was de-radicalized. The real Left was gradually marginalized and almost totally eliminated from American culture and society. The workers' movement itself became middle class, before it acquired the material benefits and political power which that adjustment should have delivered. And there it languishes.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."

Almost a century since Gompers spoke those words, though, Labor Day is seen as the last long weekend of summer rather than a day for political organizing. In 1995, less than 15 percent of American workers belonged to unions, down from a high in the 1950's of nearly 50 percent, though nearly all have benefited from the victories of the Labor movement.

Happy Labor Day, but don't forget.

I haven't been able to find a really good compact summary of the strike anywhere on line, although there is this setting of the broader context in a discussion from Howard Zinn. I would definitely welcome any other suggestions. I can however offer information on some of the numbers involved in the physical conflict itself, quoted here from the Kansas Heritage Group:

The total forces of the strikebreakers both government and private were [against 100,000 strikers]: 1,936 federal troops, 4,000 national guardsmen, about 5,000 extra deputy marshals, 250 extra deputy sheriffs, and the 3,000 policemen in Chicago for a total of 14,186 strikebreakers. In addition to these figures there were also twelve people shot and killed, and 71 people who were arrested and sentenced on the federal indictment.
No picnic.

[image from Wikimedia Commons]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from September 2008.

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