Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press). See The Chronicles have been posted on the Albion Monitor, Bellaciao, Buzzle, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press and Peace-Earth-Justice. www.jazzmanchronicles.blogspot.com
There is an unspoken law in modern electoral politics: Take care of your adversaries; your friends can take care of themselves.
In today’s political universe, progressives have no place to go but Democrat. So it is for minorities, labor advocates, environmentalists and antiwar protesters. There is no choice in electoral politics but to side with the milquetoast moderates of the Democratic Party.
In this environment of winner-take-all and take it for granted politics, the most populous state in the union is also the most neglected and under-represented. That is why a Democratic White House can get away with policies and programs that disregard the interests of California with a callousness that borders on disdain.
Things have gotten so bad in the golden state that even members of the Milquetoast Party are beginning to raise their voices: Thirty two representatives of the California congressional caucus recently went public with their plea for effective relief from the foreclosure crisis, an ongoing catastrophe that blocks any chance of real recovery from the Great Recession.
“Since 9/11 US foreign policy…has been driven by fear.” - Richard Engel, Foreign Correspondent
“People wanted revenge, and the policymakers seized the opportunity to use U.S. military power.” - Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism
Perhaps the most popular interpretation of how the world changed after September 11, 2001, is the assertion that our policies and our politics have been motivated by fear. Like most popular notions, it carries an element of truth but it should not go unchallenged.
There can be no doubt that our government promoted and played to fear with their color-coded terror alerts. There can be no doubt that our government wanted us to be afraid so that we would not question their wars or their betrayal of human rights and civil liberties. They wanted us to grant them unlimited powers to carry out an imperial foreign policy they had already planned.
I grew up in a town about the size of Joplin, Missouri. I can imagine what it must have been like to be a child in the path of the storm. I can imagine the howling wind and the horror of twisted metal, trees lifted from the ground and buildings demolished, as half your world was wiped away in a matter of minutes.
It must have felt like the end of the world.
I can imagine what is must have been like for thousands across Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia as dozens of killer tornados blazed a path of destruction like General Sherman’s march to the sea.
I can imagine what it must be like for hundreds of thousands still living in the nuclear dead zone of Japan, where the soil is infertile, where the land, the air and the water are contaminated forever.
It must feel like the end of the world.
London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
To all those British intelligencia who attributed the recent riots that rocked the streets of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Gillingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool to hooligans, you’re as wrong as the myriad free enterprise economists who swore we had nothing to fear from a deregulated marketplace. You’re as wrong as the killing of an innocent man. You’re as wrong as holding the poor accountable for the errors of the elite. You’re as wrong as an economy that creates an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nothings.
Prime Minister David Cameron finds fault with everyone but the policies of his ruling party or indeed the increasingly conservative policies of his predecessors in the opposition.
In the prevailing world of British politics, entrenched poverty does not fit into the equation of civil unrest. It has nothing to do with thirteen million impoverished citizens but rather to do with discipline in the schools. It has nothing to do with low wages and rising unemployment but rather to do with excessive tolerance for aberrant behavior. It has nothing to do with the deprivation of ethnic minorities and everything to do with moral depredation.
I like a good conspiracy theory. On a solitary afternoon with nothing but time on my side I have come to believe that John F. Kennedy was killed by an evil alliance of military industrialists and organized crime, that his brother Robert was killed to cover up a cover up, that Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley were secretly working for government agencies, the September 11 was an elaborate scheme to establish a global empire, that a young George W. Bush stole the head of Geronimo for Yale’s Skull & Crossbones, and that global warming is designed to exterminate half the human population.
On an idle afternoon I am capable of believing all this yet I am not for an instant tempted to believe that Osama bin Laden is still alive and that the Obama administration faked his assassination.
Why? There are good conspiracy theories and bad. Good theories build on a series of facts and unresolved mysteries. The Kennedy assassination is the king of all conspiracy theories and will live on as long as Camelot remains a part of the American story. The conspiracy theories surrounding 9-11 are filled with intrigue and destined for a long life.
By comparison the “Osama is Alive” theory is weak. A good theory does not collapse upon a moment’s reflection.
They came from modest lineage and rose through the ranks of electoral politics in Illinois. They courted their enemies, made compromise their master and worked diligently to bring together disparate parties against a common foe. They both alienated their own base constituencies, sometimes to the point of exasperation. The first would be credited by history with the emancipation of slaves in America. The second would become the first black president.
One hundred and fifty years later we no longer question the greatness of Abraham Lincoln but there was a time when he faced vehement criticism not unlike what Obama is facing today. Lincoln was a Kentucky man at heart and though he opposed slavery in words and thought he was reluctant to take action against his former slave-owning friends. As the war pressed on with brutal consequences, he was considered timid and overwhelmed by the influence of others, including Secretary of State William Seward. He was said to negotiate by conceding all from the first and backtracking.
The truth was he was confronted with historical circumstance that required a delicate balance of ideals and values against pragmatic politics and the strategic management of a protracted civil war. While his opposition to slavery was well known, Lincoln could not afford to alienate either the former Whigs or Democrats within his own Republican Party or the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee who maintained their loyalty to the union despite slavery within their realms.