Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Mayday: Workers of all Countries Unite

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

May 1st, Mayday,  is International Workers' Day. When I first came to the United States from Britain in the early seventies, most American workers I spoke to thought May Day was a Soviet or Russian holiday. But Mayday is as American as apple pie as they say. It is a workers' holiday officially celebrated throughout the world but not here.

Mayday has its roots in the history of the American working class movement. During the latter half of the 19th century there was an ongoing struggle for the eight hour day and fewer work hours in general. Craft Unionism, where workers organized around their individual trades, was the dominant form of organization and the brutality of the employers was widespread.

At a meeting of the Central Labor Union of New York City on May 18th 1882, P.J. McGuire, a socialist and founder and General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, introduced a resolution for a day of festivities and parades in New York commemorating Labor and it proposed the first Monday in September. The first national organization that supported a day of celebration in honor of Labor was the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions at its convention in Chicago in 1884 and it was these developments that led to Labor Day.

“To capitalists, bankers and their hirelings”
the Federation announced. As workers, “..drudge and toil your away your lives for a bare existence, these idlers and non-producers live in luxury and debauchery, squandering with a lavish hand that which belongs to you ---that which your labor produces..” (Sound familiar?)

“They have tried to deny us the right to organize---a right guaranteed by the constitution of this government. Therefore we call on you to show that we defy them; that you will organize; that you have organized; that the day of your deliverance is approaching. To do this we ask you to join the our ranks in celebrating the day.”

The Federation went on to proclaim: “The Trades and Labor Assembly proclaims labor’s annual holiday the first Monday of September. Leave your benches, leave your shops….”

The first national observance took place in September 1885 and the US Congress adopted Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as an official holiday on June 28th 1894. The bill was introduced by a member of the Typographical Union.

Alongside these developments, every Labor demonstration at the time, including the Labor Day celebrations, had the eight hour day as a dominant theme, “Eight Hours to Constitute a Days Work” was a prominent slogan and at the same Federation’s 1884 convention where a national Labor Day was proclaimed, another resolution was passed that stated:

“Resolved by the Federation of Organized Trades Labor Unions of the United States and Canada that eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1st 1886, and that we recommend to labor organizations throughout this district that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

So May Day began and has always been associated with the struggle for the eight-hour day and the movement around this struggle that arose in the 1880’s culminating in May 1st 1886.

Some bosses had conceded and some city councils gave public sector workers the eight-hour day. But like today when we sign a contract, the minute the ink is dry they are trying to violate it. In addition, the bosses would often reduce pay by 20% to compensate for the lost time so they actually lost nothing at all.

It became clear, as it is today, that workers cannot rely on legislation, capitalist politicians or their parties to defend our economic and material interests. All the social legislation that came out of the great upsurge of the 1930’s the occupations and the CIO and the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s from sick leave to title 7 were already rights taken in the streets through mass action; they were simply forced to legitimize them on paper and then write history to show that legislation and “responsible” political lobbying is what produces results.

If they wanted the eight-hour day, “The way to get it” Carpenter’s leader P.J. McGuire said, was “….by organization. In 1868, the United States passed an Eight-Hour Law, and that law has been enforced just twice. If you want and Eight-Hour law, make it yourself.” McGuire added, “We want an enactment by the working men themselves that on a given day, eight hours should constitute a day’s work, and they ought to enforce it themselves.” **

So it was the Carpenter’s that introduced the resolution stating May 1st 1986 as the first day for the establishment of eight hours as the legal workday. Another proposal stated that votes be taken in all Labor organizations for a “universal strike” for an eight-hour workday on May 1st. A writer for the well known Labor journal John Swinton’s paper who was covering the convention, wrote:

“It is useless to wait for legislation……A united demand for a shorter working day, backed by thorough organization, would prove vastly more effective than the enactment of a thousand laws depending for enforcement upon the pleasure of aspiring politicians or sycophantic department officials.”

“To accede the point that capitalists have the right to eight hours of our labor is more than a compromise, it is a virtual concession that the wages system is right” the anarchist journal wrote.

But the working class took up the idea seriously and revolutionaries of all types joined the movement and played a crucial role in the success of May day, especially in Chicago which was a hotbed of radical activity. Agitation for the eight-hour day was everywhere and rallies and protests, parades and gatherings took place throughout the country prior to Mayday. By mid April, 250,000 industrial workers were involved and in the face of the movement and to head it off, many bosses made concessions on hours.

They responded with the stick and the carrot as they always do and always will. In the mass media that they owned then as now, their propaganda said that society would collapse, the country would go broke, the money is not there. The eight-hour day was “communism, lurid and rampant” . they claimed it would encourage “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness.” (they think we are like them you see) They wrote that it would bring “lower wages, poverty and degradation for American workers.”

But there was no stopping the movement. Foner points out that workers were smoking eight-hour tobacco, buying eight-hour shoes and sang eight-hour songs:

We mean to make things over;
we’re tired of toil for nought
We sure don't have this today
But bare enough to live on; never
an hour for thought.
We want to feel the sunshine; we
Want to smell the flowers;
We’re sure that God has willed it,
And we mean to have eight hours.
We’re summoning our forces from
Shipyard shop and mill:
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

On May Day 1886 some 350,000 workers in more than 11,000 workplaces went on strike for the eight-hour day. 40,000 went out in Chicago. These are impressive figures for the time and the conditions and the limited Union organization. 45,000 workers were granted the eight-hour day without striking. The city of Chicago was paralyzed and the meatpacking workers, some of the most abused in the city won the eight-hour day with no reduction in pay, a huge victory. May Day 1886 was also a great organizing tool and thousands of workers joined Labor organizations. The same happened during the great strike upsurge that led to the CIO as millions joined Unions.

The bosses won much of this back but there were permanent gains made as hours were lessened in many industries. But May Day terrified the bosses and they responded with extreme violence attacking gatherings continuously. Then on May 3rd at the McCormick Harvester factory where workers, members of the Knights of Labor were locked out for striking for the eight-hour day, scabs, escorted by hundreds of cops were brought in. As the workers demonstrated against the strikebreaking, the cops shot in to the crowd and killed four strikers. The following day, a meeting was called in Haymarket Square to protest the brutal killings and indiscriminate violence by the police. It was a peaceful rally until the end of the day when it was almost over. A couple of hundred cops waded in to the crowd to force them to disperse despite it being a legal gathering and attended by the mayor who had left earlier.

A bomb was thrown at the cops killing a bunch of them and the cops responded by shooting in to the crowd killing a number of workers and wounding hundreds. In the aftermath of the bombing, hundreds of workers were arrested, tortured and beaten. The cops eventually chose the prominent anarchist workers’ leaders to put on trial. These were among the most successful organizers and were hated by the employers and the cops. They were accused of murder even thought they weren’t at the rally because the “unknown” bomb thrower must have been influenced by their speeches.

Haymarket Martyrs
The accused were found guilty in a rigged trial and sentenced to hang. Protests and support poured in from around the world which did force them to commute some sentences but four of the workers’ leaders, including Albert Parsons, were executed.

Throughout the struggle for Labor rights, and the eight-hour day culminating in May Day, the tendency is for workers to overcome the barriers that the bosses use to divide and weaken us. “Every worker who toiled for a living would be welcome. No distinction of color will be made; race prejudice will be ignored; religious differences will be set aside; but all men will be on an equality provided he earns his daily bread” proclaimed the New York Central Labor Union in its appeal to all Labor bodies to support Labor day. It is a reflection of the times that the mention of women is not as prominent which reflects the terrible legacy of sexism but we learn through struggle.

The reason May Day is ignored by the officials, legislators of laws, and the Democratic and Republican parties, is that it was an independent movement of the working class in this country. As McGuire said, we have to take independent action if we want something. The same applies today. The leaders of the organized working class today are also terrified of independent working class action, either direct action like strikes, or political action like a mass workers party as they support capitalism, they have the same world view as the boss. Labor Day is a legislated day that they were forced to approve and they even hide that history but it is the "official" and safe holiday where we eat and drink and support the Democrats.

What a combination of the present day heads of organized Labor and the Democratic politicians did after the Seattle events of 1999,  and in  Wisconsin some years ago is divert a potential independent mass movement of workers in to a struggle for legislation through reliance on one of the two parties of Wall Street and the bankers. This same coalition is trying to direct the campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage in the same direction. Bernie Sanders has tapped in to the anger at the austerity agenda of the bosses and has directed it in to that graveyard of social movements, the Democratic party. But they won't all follow. These tactics PJ McGuire learned not to do 150 years ago.

May Day is a uniquely American creation. May Day began as our day but we share it with the rest of the workers of the world because we are not simply “one” with workers in our own country, we are “one” with workers of all countries. The history of US Labor is a rich and militant one. We have faced incredible violence and survived it. Despite the history of racism and sexism that the bosses introduce in to every institution and pore of society in order to divide us, we have come this far.

On May 2006, some of the most oppressed and abused sections of the US working class, a couple of million immigrant workers reminded us of the importance of this holiday to our class. We thank them for it.

Have a happy Mayday and join one of the events planned throughout the country

* St Paul Globe Democrat, 8-16-1855 Quoted in P Foner, History of the Labor movement of the United States Vol.2 p97
** ibid p 99
*** ibid P99

Google, Wikileaks and the global reach of the Internet Kings.

In the interview below, Afshin Rattansi talks to Julian Assange about Google, and its relationship with the US government,  Eric Schmidt's book and the attacks on Wikileaks as well as other issues.

The sound is low on this video so use headphones or watch it in a quiet area.

Richard Mellor

I posted a review of Julian Assange's book, When Google Met Wikileaks on April 11th.  The book is a detailed account of a meeting Assange had with Google CEO Eric Schmidt at Schmidt's request I believe. I am almost finished it and it is an important book to read for those of us who are committed to changing society.

Those of us that started this blog took a strong defense of Julian Assange after the accusations of rape surfaced around the time of the Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning incarceration, torture and eventual imprisonment for releasing sensitive US military information and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, the publishing organization Assange founded.

Among the most damaging was the video Collateral Damage which can be seen on You Tube. We did not and do not treat accusations of rape lightly but given the circumstances and timing  of the accusations amid calls for Assange's imprisonment and even death by some US politicians, we opposed handing him over to any bourgeois institution and instead for an independent investigation  by women's groups, representatives from trusted independent worker/activist and community organizations, and rank and file trade union groups.  We had stressed that socialists and the left must mobilize to defend Assange, Manning and others like them for revealing government information and the phony diplomacy of the representatives of global imperialism. Assange has never been charged.

I had become interested in Assange's book when reading about Obama's visit to Cuba in the Wall Street Journal and commenting on it myself. Eric Schmidt had been in Cuba a couple of years prior to the Obama visit and with his administration's blessing.  A Cuban academic had commented that in this visit, It wasn’t Google’s technical wing that came, it was the political wing, which is an extension of the US State Department.”  Anyone that follows international relations and particularly the US role in the world, understands this to be true. In that sense it's not that much different to representatives of Chinese state controlled firms visiting nations.

In the same Wall Street Journal article I first read about Assange's meeting with the Google CEO and three other individuals, one of them a man named Jared Cohen who Assange describes in his book as Google's “director of regime change.”.

Schmidt and Cohen, a former US government official, had been traveling the world doing research for a book they were writing and which has since been published called The New Digital Age with the sub heading, Reshaping the Future of People Nations and Business. Assange himself reviewed the book and his review is included in When Google Met Wikileaks which also includes the transcript of the meeting.

It is imperative that socialist, anti-capitalists and any social activists recognize that people like Schmidt represent a new age bourgeois based on the technology that has arisen over the past 40 years or so and which has developed even more rapidly in the past two decades. These individuals have accumulated massive wealth in a short period of time and, not unlike their predecessors Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and others, believe they, as Masters of the Universe, are on a mission to create a world like the one they inhabit and that US capitalism represents. Their global reach however, is far greater than that of their predecessors.

It is not simply in to the private lives of human beings, but their global influence, their ability to control information. As Assange points out, Google's image is viewed 6 billion times a day throughout the globe. Carnegie could not imagine having such influence and ability to reach so many people from one end of the planet to the other. Google and the US state apparatus are bonded together, joined at the hip, and Assange is on the mark with regard to his description of Cohen. 

Assange says of Schmidt in the introduction to his book, "For Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets."  The not so backward Chinese say of Google, "in the Internet age, Google uses its monopoly of Internet information searches to sell American values and assist America in building its hegemony.”  If there's any institution the Chinese despise more than Google it is Wikileaks and Assange as its founder.

I am almost finished When Google Met Wikileaks and am about a third through The Wikileaks Files which is also important reading especially as accusations and information given here is backed up by official diplomatic cables between the parties. It talks a lot of US foreign policy, it's relationship with dictators and its puppet regimes beginning with Latin America and Haiti and the doctrine of "Liberal Internationalism" and its accompanying violence. And it is not that we don't suspect this stuff, or with some of us accept it, but what Manning and Wikileaks have done is make it a social fact. This has a significant affect on mass consciousness which is why state forces have responded so aggressively exiling Snowden, hounding Assange and imprisoning Manning for 35 years.

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." Colonel Nathan Sassaman. *

* The Wikileaks Files p 74 Quoted from War and Occupation in Iraq 2007

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prison Population, Prescription Drugs. USA. A sick society.

Sean O'Torain. 

Think about this. The USA has 5% of the world's population. Well actually slightly less than 5%. But it has 25% of the world's prison population. This is staggering. No other country comes close to the US in the proportion of its population it locks up. So much for the land of the free. Of course there is big money to be made in the prison industrial complex. This is why so many people are locked up.

But this post is not about the profit driven prison industrial complex. It is about something else which is also profit driven. That is the giant ruthless drug pushing companies which are poisoning the population in the interests of it making bigger and bigger profits. They liked to be referred to as Big Pharma. makes them sound sort of cuddly. Yesterday I heard another statistic which is close to as bad as the numbers of people locked up. Again remember the USA has less than 5% of the world's population. With this tiny proportion of the world's population the USA consumes over 80% of the world's opioid drugs. One in three of these are for anti anxiety. The rest are mainly pain killers. We hear from the right wing nuts and the capitalist politicians about the land of the free and the pursuit of happiness. US capitalism is not doing so well on either of these fronts. It is not so free and it is not providing so much happiness. US capitalism is a sick society.

Extract From My Inaugural Speech to The Senate

Extract From My Inaugural Speech to The Senate

after Juvenal

I will stand up for the fleas
just trying to make an honest living
in the toupees of white men
who like to surprise their mistresses
by leaping out of wardrobes.

We need to start thinking outside
the small parallelogram; realise
large parts of this country are a vast
hair-transplant waiting to happen
the moment the necessary funds become available,
or not available, as the case may be.
We are cycling our high nellies
into uncharted territory right now;
wherever we’re going,
we’re not there yet.

At times like this we think
in particular of those who haven’t
been forgotten but should be;
those who’ve sacrificed
nothing, and when the hour comes
will do so again. Speaking
as the mother of an elderly child,
what we’re all crying out for
right now are more
underwater hospitals.

While these are being built, I promise
to introduce legislation to put
mustard on all your sandwiches,
whether you want it there or not.
The party opposite have used
my longstanding support for the right
of limousine drivers to knock old ladies
down at roundabouts, to accuse me
of being in favour of everything.

Let the record show, I’m against
type two diabetes in most circumstances
and think every sexual relationship,
right down to the humble sweaty handshake,
should be equality proofed by a government inspector
before being allowed to proceed.

These are the issues I’ll be both talking about
and not talking about. Who at the end,
and perhaps also the beginning
of the day, will make your children’s future
that bit more catastrophic?

Posterity, mark my every syllable,
will hold festivals
where members of the public will gather
at their own considerable expense
to aggressively forget what I said here today.
And what I didn’t say.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Private industry's waste cleaned up by the taxpayer.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

One aspect that’s left out when it comes to the so-called vibrancy and efficiency of capitalist mode of production is the cost of cleaning up the mess created by private industry.  Apart from the human health conditions directly associated with the workplace, the cost of cleaning up the environment after one capitalist venture or another lives and then dies as capital accumulation wanes, is staggering. This cost is born by the workers and the middle class as a public expense.  The entire capitalist system is propped up by public assistance in one way or another.

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) * between 1986 and 2008, the Department of Defense (DOD), in other words, the taxpayer, spent $30 billion ”…. across all environmental cleanup and restoration activities at its installations.”.  We all know that private defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman do very well from their government contracts.  Who owns them, who actually pockets the billions in profits accumulated over the years is another matter not so easy to determine.
The DOD In its fiscal year 2014 Agency Financial Report DOD reported “$58.6
billion in total environmental liabilities”, It appears the costly job of spreading peace around the world has some serious environmental costs as well.

This report went on to say:
“For example, officials at USDA’s Forest Service estimated that there were from 27,000 to 39,000 abandoned mines on its land approximately 20 percent of which may pose some level of risk to human health or the environment. GAO also reported that Interior had an inventory of 4,722 sites with confirmed or likely contamination. However, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management had identified over 30,000 abandoned mines that were not yet assessed for contamination, and this inventory was not complete. DOD reported to Congress in June 2014 that it had 38,804 sites in its inventory of sites with contamination. DOE reported that it has 16 sites in 11 states with contamination.”

One such site, one of many in the area, is in St Louis County Missouri where the US Army Corps of Engineers is removing “weapons related waste” from many sites where factories worked on atomic weapons. One site where contamination levels are “…hundreds of times above federal safety guidelines.”  is not being cleaned up because the federal government has deemed the site “….inaccessible and not a threat” according to the Wall Street Journal. The ACOE is saying that the waste is safely contained.

But a private group of environmentalists and researchers is challenging the federal government’s position. They say that what is referred to as a “radioactive hot spot” is not secure and “anchored in place” as an Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson claims but that it is leaking, entering a nearby creek and from there flowing downstream in to residents’ yards.

There is no doubt in my opinion, that the incredible level of cancers and other diseases we are battling are connected to the environment. Even the stress of living in a social system that treats everything, including the human body as a commodity is a major cause of illness.  For those in the third world, or developing countries as they are called although they never develop, it is a given that lack of food, medical care, social infrastructure and a lack of public health in general is why diseases we cured long ago kill by the thousands. They die as victims of capitalism.

Leaving aside the health costs to consumers and communities due to the pollution and environmental damage caused by private industry, even those under contract to the state, the costs historically of cleaning up capitalism’s mess must run in to the trillions. One can only imagine the environmental damage that has ensued after years of US bombing in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We are somewhat familiar with the results of US chemical warfare in Vietnam where the Pentagon poured dioxin on the Vietnamese people and their food as well as US troops. There are no holds barred when the issue of creating a market for their commodities is concerned. Vietnamese children are still being born with deformities from US chemical warfare and US veterans are still dying from cancers from it; two of them I knew personally.

When they boast about the efficiency of the market and announce profit gains in their media, they don’t include the cost of cleaning up their so-called free market’s residue as that cost is socialized.  The costs of rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of veterans, both mentally and physically, will not be borne by the war profiteers at Lockheed Martin or the Carlyle group.

How many rich kids were sent to private schools by profiteers who owned these industries? How many vacations in the Alps luxury yachts, and estates were purchased by these private investors as the excrement from their investments pour in to the atmosphere, the soil and the gardens of working class people?

We cannot imagine the hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions in profits that have been made in ventures that have spanned decades or centuries. Land to the capitalist, like everything else, is a commodity. The closer one lives to the land, produces a significant portion of their means of subsistence from the land, the more one respects and cherishes it.

We live in a Democracy we are told but we have no real say in such details like foreign wars, what we produce, when and how much------these decisions belong to the market and the vast majority of us earn our livelihoods from wage labor, not off of the profit of capital.  We will not have community discussions over how to clean up 39,000 abandoned mines or whether they should have been mined in the first place. Even if we did, working class people have no political party through which we can impose our will on society, and we work too long hours. Meanwhile, every four years we elect a representative of these very same profiteers and wonder why things never change for the better. 

Despite the failings of the government agencies, the alternative, leaving such decisions directly in the hands of the private sector, less regulation no matter how weak would be a disaster.  The shifting of federal lands to the states where neo-con right wing politicians can enact their pro-market and anti-social laws aka North Carolina etc. would be a disaster both socially and environmentally.  As I pointed out in a previous post, the state regulators in charge of writing the deep water drilling rules handed the job over to the industry. Yes, the oil industry wrote its own guidelines that led to the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The alternative is not the market or more bureaucracy aimed at protecting business as opposed to  labor/community interests, but control from below. Representatives of the community directly affected by and involved in any issue in conjunction with workers in the community, rank and file members of the unions and other grass root social groups must take these matters up. We have seen so many of these catastrophe’s, Flint, West Texas, Porter Ranch, the BP, Exxon Valdez spills etc. Local single-issue struggles must be linked directly to other struggles nationally. And in the wake of these disasters let’s not forget that the poisoning of Native American communities, including from uranium mining, has been ongoing and has not received the attention it warrants.  These indigenous communities have been the worst hit and are a crucial ally and resource in any efforts to save the land and our natural resources.

Building a direct action national (and international) movement to throw back the offensive of capitalism that threatens not only our immediate welfare but life as we know it, is one way that a genuine independent political party of working people can arise as each struggle can throw up representatives rooted in these campaigns. The success of this movement cannot be assured if it does not recognize that the capitalist mode of production and the social and political structure that arises from it is not sent packing and replaced with an economy that produces for social need, not for profit or private gain.

The wealth of society is collectively produced. It makes sense then that how this wealth is allocated, how it is invested back in to the economy and society for the common good of all should be a collective process.   Capitalism has passed its due date.  The monstrosity of Stalinism that did more to tarnish the name of socialism and its greatest theoreticians has died a long awaited death.

The time for a democratic socialist economy, a federation of democratic socialist states within a global community is ahead of us. But this is not guaranteed, time is not on our side, and capitalism, in its decaying state, is a dangerous animal ridden toward to the edge of the abyss by madmen.

Society cries out for new managers.

* Report of Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy,
Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shakespeare's Timeless Tragedies.

by Roger Silverman

Everyone wants to claim Shakespeare as their own: as a champion of the divine right of kings and of democratic human rights; as a secret Catholic subversive and as a sycophant of the Protestant ascendancy; as a conservative advocate of royal privilege and as a forerunner of the coming parliamentarian uprising; as an upstart plebeian entrepreneur and as a secret aristocratic courtier masquerading under his pseudonym.

I for one would not wish to cannibalise his memory. How much could the son of the Mayor of a provincial English town in the sixteenth century have in common with Marxism? He was not a pamphleteer but an artist with a unique and uncanny ability to penetrate deep into the soul of whatever character crossed his stage. Who else could start with the caricatured racial stereotype of a miserly vengeful Jewish moneylender or a hot-blooded black man manipulated into murdering his wife, and yet enter so utterly and completely into their psyche?

Can Shakespeare really speak to us four hundred years later as he did to his contemporaries? In his comedies, not in my opinion. Humour tends to cater to the secret prejudices peculiar to each generation; and for all their brilliance, these elaborate operettas of cross-dressing, mistaken identity, excruciating puns and multiple marriages seem to me very dated period pieces. Tragedy, however, strikes a chord in every generation, and the relentless cycle of war, death and bereavement in Shakespeare's tragedies has the same timeless devastating impact today as then.

Shakespeare was an actor and the manager of a theatre company. He deployed his talents to fit the material needs of his time. His very quality of empathy left him impervious to the demands of partisan allegiances. He wrote to entertain the crowds, yes, but also to pander to the commands of the royal patrons who sponsored his productions. Macbeth, for instance, thrilled its audiences no less than any Stephen King horror movie, but also shamelessly flattered the new Scottish King James, who was soon to instigate a very real country-wide witch-hunting hysteria. To this end he cast as a virtuous man Macbeth's actual accomplice in regicide, James' ancestor Banquo, and helped to stoke up the mass frenzy of revenge against the bin Laden of his day Guy Fawkes, and his sponsors the Jesuits with their advocacy of equivocation as a tactic under police interrogation.

Wherever they appear in his plays, the common masses are depicted as raucous, fickle and malleable. In Julius Caesar they are swayed within minutes from one extreme to the other by the oratory of Brutus and the manipulative rhetoric of Mark Antony. And yet that same Shakespeare was equally capable of literally stripping King Lear naked and sending him raving into a storm-soaked wilderness, accompanied only by a clown and a blind madman.

School teachers drone on pedantically about these plays as if they were mere regurgitations from the ancient Greeks. The idea that they are all about great heroes brought to ruin with inexorable inevitability by their own fatal flaws completely misses the mark. The agonising dilemmas faced by Lear, Brutus, Hamlet, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet and many more are those arising from the irreconcilable clash between the growing aspirations of the individual and the rigid demands of the existing state.

These plays could not have been written either a century earlier or later; they could only have grown out of the soil of a society only one generation away from civil war. And they encompass all the poetry, passion and intensity of a society on the brink of revolution.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This blog's first sex video.

 Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I thought I would share his rather delightful scene in my back yard.  I was about to water a couple of tomato plants back there when I noticed these goings on so I stopped pulling out the hose in order not to disturb these two.  Not that it would have disturbed them as they were very in to what they were doing, it would have killed them.

When I was young I lived in the countryside for some years. The farmer would give us runts, young piglets or lambs that were unable to compete for teats and would gradually get smaller and eventually die. So me and my mum bottle fed them until they grew in to healthy domestic pets. Annabelle, our pig got so big we had to put her outside the house, Easter and Friday (guess when we got them) our two lambs ate Cadbury's chocolate and would attack the sheepdog if he came near

Sometimes I would have go to a farm two miles away and get Jumbo the boar and walk back with him to service our sows as dad bought a few more pigs and some "hot" ones that. They, "fell off the back of a lorry" as we say in Britain. My dad was quite the guy for finding stuff that fell off the back of lorries. Annabelle would have nothing to do with Jumbo and bit him badly. She died a virgin. My dad unfortunately saw in pigs a few bucks, not pets like the rest of the family, and Annabelle ended her life at the abattoir.  We never forgave him and when the truck came to take her she screamed blue murder, she knew where this was not good. But dad was the boss.

I also used to go get the cows to take up the milking shed for the farmer. It's not a difficult task  because as soon as they saw me they would all walk over, then I'd take them up the road to the shed, about three quarters of a mile.

These experiences were great for me, taught me a lot. And when I moved to the city, especially London, I noticed that young people were not as connected to nature in the same way, it was a shame.

Most workers are not employed in agriculture ,and agriculture, like most industries, is big business. I think only about 2% of the US population work on the land. But for people that live in rural areas where the pace of life is a bit slower, the kids get to interact with nature a little more I think, and see things like sex between animals that often urban kids don't.  Capitalism, industrial production, is not nature friendly. It's hard to pay attention to your kids when you get home after the night shift at the chicken factory or the auto plant, so people often pay no attention to the natural world around them, too tired.

Here we have sex between dragonflies.  That's what's great about the trails, we see so much there. But even in our yards, in urban areas, there is all sorts of activity like this. We have to make the effort to find time to enjoy the natural world as we are products of it and especially make our children aware of it. We also, I  might add, have to find the time to change the system in which we live that will at some point poison the natural world to the extent that humans, like many of the species today, will no longer be able to live in it.

Human beings are not exempt from extinction.

Gaza: A hot potato

After Israel's massacre in Gaza
 Reprinted from Challenge Magazine

by Yacov Ben Efrat

This week retired major-general Amos Gilad, director of the political-security division at the Defense Ministry, released a stern warning against the danger of a new war flaring up between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. According to Gilad, "The political leadership [in Gaza] is supposed to call the shots, but Mohammed al-Deif (commander of Hamas' military wing) couldn't care less and does as he wishes." In other words, despite the illogicality of a war this summer, someone in Gaza could be crazy enough to start one.

A few days later, an "all-clear siren" was sounded by the head of the IDFs Southern Command. In a meeting with leaders of Israeli communities near the Gaza border, he said that the chance of conflagration was very low and that Hamas is still deterred as a result of last summer's Operation Protective Edge. Not two days later, a “Red Alert” made the headlines. This was after censorship was lifted on the discovery of a Gaza attack-tunnel that stretched 30 meters into Israeli territory. Hamas may have been deterred, said the alarmists, but it continues to re-arm. Its Nukhba ("elite") Brigade is poised to attack through the tunnels and take control of nearby Israeli communities.

In one week, the Gaza pendulum swung from calm to apprehension, from deterrence to war. Hamas' actions show the organization to be schizophrenic, vacillating between rapprochement and muscle-flexing. To understand Hamas' motives, one first must first try to understand the situation in Gaza, which can be described in one word – catastrophic.

First, formally speaking there is no government in Gaza. Two years ago, after Hamas's funding sources dried up, its political leader Ismail Haniyeh resigned as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in order to make way for a national unity government between Hamas and Fatah. Over Israeli objections, a unity government was formed in Ramallah, and it was ready to assume responsibility for Gaza. This never happened, and Hamas remains the de facto power in Gaza. Officially, then, Gaza is an orphan. Hamas, which maintains control there by force of arms, is preoccupied mainly with its own survival.

Almost two million Palestinians live in Gaza, in what amounts to an open-air prison, and no one is willing to spread a protective wing over them. Three entities – Israel, Egypt, and the PA – are imposing a blockade on the Strip. The result is awful by any measure: electric outages are common; water is undrinkable; the destruction left in the wake of Protective Edge remains, with 20,000 families still homeless; unemployment has reached 40%; young people lack the resources needed to marry; and most important – Gaza remains sealed. To add insult to injury, heavy taxes are levied on Gazans to finance Hamas.

On the other hand, although the PA refuses to pay the salaries of 40,000 Hamas officials in Gaza, it does pay the wages of former PA civil servants there who were replaced by Hamas after the coup in 2007 and have sat idle ever since. One need not be an expert to understand that the Strip is on the verge of explosion. The growing number of suicides among its young attests to the gravity of the situation.

In this tragic scenario, there is more than one scoundrel. Obviously the main protagonist is Israel, but it is not alone. Helping are her allies – the PA in Ramallah, and the al-Sissi dictatorship in Egypt. In the rush to harm Gaza, these partners compete with the Netanyahu government and at times even exceed it. The enmity between Gaza and Ramallah is greater than that between Gaza and Jerusalem. The regime of General al-Sissi sees Hamas as a cruel adversary threatening its very existence, because of Hamas' close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, declared a terrorist group by al-Sissi in 2013.

Hamas feels painted into a corner and is taking a range of steps to extricate itself, from digging attack-tunnels to attempting dialogue and reconciliation. In the latter, however, it has encountered a wall. Attempts at reconciliation with Egypt and the PA ended in deadlock. President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to the PA's “sacred” security coordination with Israel. The PA pursues Hamas members to the bitter end (and, when possible, even hands them over to the Shin Bet, Israel's security agency). The situation with Egypt isn't much better. The Egyptian army has destroyed the smuggling tunnels, which were the lifeline connecting the Gaza Strip to Sinai, and it has evicted 10,000 Rafah residents in order to establish a buffer zone on Rafah's Egyptian side.

Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, Hamas was riding high. President-elect Mohamed Morsi had become the first Egyptian president to represent the Muslim Brotherhood. His victory gave Hamas the green light to initiate war with Israel. Hamas felt that the conflict would end with a convenient arrangement that would open the Rafah crossing and grant Gazans access to the world. However, since the military coup of June 2013 in Egypt, Hamas has lost its benefactor and the blockade on Gaza has tightened.

In mid-March of this year, with encouragement from Saudi Arabia, Hamas approached the Egyptian leadership for the purpose of thawing relations. Although the Egyptians agreed to meet, the conferences were held on the level of security, not diplomacy. Moreover, the Egyptians placed humiliating conditions on Hamas before agreeing to muzzle their widespread incitement against it. The Hamas leadership agreed to divorce itself from its mother party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and to remove portraits of Turkish President Erdogan and the emir of Qatar from Gaza streets, for al-Sissi considers them enemies. Unfortunately, until now these gestures have not yielded fruit. The Rafah crossing has remained closed. Suddenly, when the Egyptians agreed to open it, they made the proviso that Hamas must turn over its control to the PA, something Hamas is loath to do.

Since the Egyptians do not want to help Hamas, the Gazan hot potato has landed, once again, in the lap of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel's security establishment understands that the situation is intolerable and that creative solutions must be found. For example, it is considering a proposal to build a floating port off the Gaza coast to provide an outlet for the mounting pressure. The natural partner for this project would be Turkey but, since the Mavi Marmara affair (the boat MV Mavi Marmara attempted to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in 2010 and nine activists were killed), Turkey has repeatedly demanded the lifting of the Gaza blockade as a condition for renewing diplomatic relations with Israel. The port venture might have succeeded, nonetheless, were it not for the opposition of Egypt and the PA. Both shudder at the thought that Hamas could receive even informal recognition of its sovereignty over Gaza. In light of the diplomatic entanglements and conflicts between Turkey, Egypt, the PA, and Israel, Gaza remains without a port and continues to sink. An explosion is unavoidable.

The Israeli government is still deciding what it wants: Israel is not interested in toppling Hamas, for it fears a takeover in Gaza by the Islamic State (ISIS), which is currently operating next door in the Sinai Peninsula. Israel does not want a politically strengthened Hamas because that would severely harm the PA's already shaky hold on the West Bank. Israel does not want another war like last summer's because it understands that 100,000 refugees and another 20,000 destroyed houses will trigger a humanitarian disaster. Israel knows that if such a thing happens, the world will hold it responsible.

As for the verbal zigzag between Amos Gilad's declaration on the possibility of war and the words of reassurance coming from the head of the IDF's Southern Command, both are right. At this moment, Hamas does not feel ready for another bloody war with Israel. However, if the present situation leads to a popular uprising against its rule in Gaza, Hamas would not hesitate to shift the pressure over to Israel by means of tunnels and rockets. The Netanyahu government is sitting on a powder keg. Israel talks about deterrence, about war, about technological “surprises,” but it is not facing the truth. The truth is that there is no solution in sight, either military or political. But Israel will go on playing for time until Gaza explodes in its face.

Translated from the Hebrew by Robert Goldman

Roni Ben Efrat
Tel: 972-3-5373280/71
Mobile: 972-504-330-038
Skype: roni.ben.efrat

The historical lies of the religious right. Jesus would not be pleased.

An interesting article from a year ago. Reprinted from Religiousrightwatch

Alabama Chief Justice: The First Amendment Protects Only Christians

Tbdfjr72rlevhvz3a8s0“Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”
The chief justice was speaking at a Pastor for Life Luncheon, an event in Jackson Miss., sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, according to Raw Story.

This guy's comments are imbecilic. The Pilgrims didn't write the Constitution, their worldview was written out of the Constitution deliberately, excluded as a matter of principle. Our godless Constitution was tantamount to a stated objection to the Pilgrims' theocratic Calvinism.

The spirit of the age of the Constitution is revealed here in there words of Thomas Jefferson from his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

Such examples abound and not just from Jefferson's quill but from others among the Founding Fathers. Chief Justice Moore's ignorance is menacing and worthy of official censure. The reason the world sat up and took note regarding our Constitution was that it was founded on reason, not divine right. It begins "We the people," not "In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit." It was at the time the single most secular document ever created relating to a nation's governance.

Oh, any by the way, Mr. Moore, the Koran doesn't attest that Mohammed created humankind, Buddhists don't believe that Buddha created humankind, and the only scientific explanation that exists for the existence of humankind is the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Moore claims that Americans don't know their history. Bollocks. It's Moore who doesn't. He does what many members of the religious right do when they expound in a sophomoric manner on early American history: conflate the Pilgrims' adventure with the founding of the United States.

The Pilgrims arrived in 1620. The Constitution went into effect 169 years later in 1789. That's nearly seven generations, what 1845 is relative to 2014.

In 1845, James K. Polk was President, slavery flourished, women couldn't vote, state legislatures elected U.S. Senators, the western-most state was Missouri, most people thought the Earth was about 10,000 years old, Neptune had yet to be discovered, kerosene was unknown, and perhaps most importantly, Adolphe Sax was still a year away from patenting the saxophone. In 2014, are things a bit different in terms of not only technology but political principles and ideals, policy and worldview? Yes. One-hundred-sixty-nine years makes a difference. The Pilgrims came ashore in 1620, but by 1789 there was a republic on these shores that did not obviate or subsume but replaced religion-based colonial entities.

It's Moore who needs the history lesson. It's a nation by, of, and for not "the Christians" but "the People."