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On Revolution and Revulsion

The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

     “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.

G. K. Chesterton

Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.

Abbie Hoffman

     “A revolution is interesting insofar as it avoids like the plague the plague it promised to heal

Daniel Berrigan

There has been a lot of serious minded discussion lately here and no doubt in other blogs and casual conversation about whether we have gone to far and lost far too much. There are always going to be two “R” words among leftist/progressive/ crusty independent thinkers. Do we push for reform or revolution? Can we fix our broken democracy with good ideas, the right people, and the support of a wary populace or do we need to break the system and make up a new one?

I don’t know which camp I fall into. It isn’t a matter of indecisiveness or faith or belief. I can tell the revolutionary types that I don’t “do” committees and that I think it is the height of middle class elitism to presume to tell the working classes to follow my lead or trust that my education confers a special knowledge about what “we” need. I can tell the reform types that the most interesting ideas are generally diluted by the ruling classes and molded to maintain their position in the super structure of power.

Nor am I trying to present the face of caution against any turbulent changes. Often however, the very people who call for or long for revolution make the assumption that they in fact will be an integral part or even have a leadership role when the dawning of the new day pops up. But often when new rules emerge the people we assumed were natural leaders turn out to be unsuitable and those we never considered noteworthy peel off a new layer of identity and surprise us. Nor can we control things that are unleashed or predict where the wave will lead. Nor should we underestimate the depth of reactionary forces, insurgency and counter insurgencies can blur the moral lines make the gray zones more vast. Show trials make great TV but crappy justice.

I hope I am there if change melts the cages, opens minds, and births the sort of creative forces necessary to create hope but I am not assuming what my role will be or if I even deserve or merit one and neither should any among us. I only hope some of the people I admire will be recognized as those who can make a contribution.

Let the Market Decide…

One of the thing that puzzles me about McCain’s mantra of free market choices, another version of “Let the market decide”… is frankly that he seems very confused.

He is talking as if the market hasn’t been deciding anything as if we just don’t have enough free market choices…

The market has been deciding quite a bit…

The market has decided that it is perfectly acceptable to have millions of uninsured Americans. The market has decided that it is acceptable that some folks who do have access to health insurance either can’t afford it because their wages are too low or the deductibles are too high. The market thinks it is just grand that Americans probably die because they can’t afford treatment and  prevention seek it too late as a result. See people are just deciding to die.

The market has decided that it is just fine and dandy to allow massive increases in educational costs. The market has decided that it is fine for poor kids with no other options to join up in the fight on two war fronts. The market has decided that these kids should die to make gigantic profits for private contractors who deliver sub-standard services and goods. The market has decided it is not a problem for returning vets to have no other alternative but an underfunded VA service.

The market has decided that bailing out corporations instead of working Americans who pay the taxes is the best alternative.

The market has been deciding life and death issues for an awfully long time.

We all know when the MSM actually notes a trend it is probably deeply pervasive and much larger.

Note this CNN story about the growth of tent cities. My question: how many others are there that just haven’t gotten big enough to warrant attention?

From Seattle to Athens, Georgia, homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation

Why Isn’t The American Worker More Pissed Off ?

The title of this essay is a bit rhetorical in nature. I think we can all come up with some structural and ideological reasons why the American worker is not just blindingly angry. An article over at Alternet summarizes two recent books that tell us familiar stories about how American workers are being abused in the work place and treated like cattle. The bottom line: many of us are getting fucked in the eye with a sharp stick. What I find intriguing is the way that these familiar issues are not being discussed as a part of regular political discourse. It certainly speaks to the way McCain easily embodies the radical right and Obama is afraid to embody the radical anything.

I would argue that working people in America aren’t angry enough because they have no vehicle. There are low rates of unionization and most people are very much aware of how easily they can be replaced. People have a bunker mentality they are living on hope that some how economic realism will pass them buy. How ironic that we are taught to believe that we control our own destinies and our coping mechanism is simply avoidance.

Poor people are not necessarily jobless people. The right likes to ramble on about welfare bums and and entitlements in order to get people to express contempt for one another. The right really only wants to unify Americans over cultural issues, the last thing they want to do make those same angry supporters think about their economic situation.

Being poor doesn’t necessarily mean being unemployed, as Greenhouse points out in The Big Squeeze, “The annual pay for Wal-Mart’s full-time hourly employees averaged $19,100 in 2007 — some $1,500 below the poverty line for a family of four

Companies are also often using two tiered wage systems, a clever way to create resentment among workers. In some instances this occurs within the context of unionized entities

Caterpillar, the heavy machinery manufacturer, is a case in point. Greenhouse tells the story of lower-tier workers at a Caterpillar plant outside Peoria, Ill., where workers are represented by the United Auto Workers

Under the two-tier contract at Caterpillar, the most Arnold can ever earn is $14.90 an hour or $31,000 per year — so little, he says, that some of his coworkers are living at home with their parents. “Some,” he said, “are even on food stamps.”

A 52-year-old who works alongside Arnold, doing the exact same work, earns $19.03 an hour, or just under $40,000 a year, because employees who started before Arnold began in 1999 are on a higher wage scale. “I don’t like it,” Arnold said. “I wish I was at least able to get to the pay scale that the guys who are right next to me are making.”

One can understand why even workers aren’t certain unions will look after their interests in scenarios like this. Because in this scenario, they aren’t.

Vegas Bound

I am going to Las Vegas at the end of the month for a conference and I have never been.

Now if any of you happen to live in the area, I would be thrilled to meet up. The truth is I am going with a very boring guy and his wife, they are young and in their 20’s and probably won’t want to hang out with me anyway.

Here I am going to one of the entertainment capitals of the US and I am going to be alone. Sniff!

But since I have never been, I am looking for advice on what I can do during the evening, what the good restaurants are and any sights I should see. The first day I get there I will have most of that day and night to play tourist. Naturally I will bring ye old camera to take pictures.

Any help y’all could give in helping me have a decent time while solo would be muchly appreciated. I am staying at the Las Vegas Hilton which I am told is off the main drag so advice on how to get around and how far I will be from the cool part of town would also be helpful.

Are You Experienced?

I recently participated in the overly burdened multi-stage process that my place of employment uses for hiring. We were looking for a new manager for one of our Hem-Onc units, we have a relatively democratic atmosphere. Case in point, while doing rounds last night in the middle of total chaos the new fellow introduces himself to me and says so you’re my Leukemia expert and I said,” No that would be you.” He laughed and sad ,”Well X informs me you’re going to keep me from making mistakes while I am new.”  Because, well, he is right. I will. I supervise the RNs but I also have to shepherd the new docs who know far more than me. I have plenty of experience doing this: dealing with people far smarter than I. If somebody asked me to put a one liner on my resume that would be it: I can recognize when somebody is smarter than me and in my workplace I am surrounded by them. It happens in a research institution.

We had five candidates and the one I favored is very young, inexperienced and male, still a big minority in nursing. My belief was that if we did not hire him another institution was going to snap him up and apparently for once in my career I was on the same side as the big dogs who decided to he was the right choice.

His big negative was a lack of experience. And we are already talking about experience in this charmingly obtuse political season. Who has it. Who doesn’t. What kind of “experience” do we want?

Think about how many big steps in life we take with no experience. The first time you get married, have your first child, drive a car, go on a date. Think about all the incredibly bad advice you got from those so called “experienced” people. Sure I am guilty of playing the middled aged “experience” card myself when I doll out my advice and I am just as often wrong.

The only relevant experience for being president is being president. Of course it ends up that I am defending the choice of Palin by saying this and actually her lack of experience doesn’t bother me: it is the crazy packaged as middle America that irks me. That is the genius of American cultural hegemony. It is so broad and vague that almost anybody can be made to seem just like you and I when they aren’t.

We are taking a chance on a new manager at my workplace. I don’t know what change he is bringing but I just coherent enough to know change is coming and I can either rely on my old patterns of thinking and risk becoming professionally irrelevant or learn to surf in the new ocean. People often say that change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily better but nor is it necessarily worse.

What good is experience if it is just used to enforce an existing and decaying order? What good are leadership skills it they are merely a repetition of worn out tunes? Most leadership skills are acquired when one becomes one anyway. Of course I have had plenty of leadership training at my work place but it happened long after I took my position and after I basically asked for it.

Experience in politics, at work, and in life is only a useful tool if one actually decides to learn from it, to admit mistakes and formulate new approaches.

The Patriotism Puzzle


Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw

The nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which. Mark Twain

Patriotism is a arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles

George Jean Nathan

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

Bertrand Russell

Just saying you’re patriotic is like saying you have a big cock. If you have to say it, chances are it’s probably not true. Bill Maher

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or says it.Malcolm X

Patriotism is the religion of Hell. James Cabell

I have always had an uneasy relationship with patriotism. As it happens I grew up in a country where the expression of was rather muted. Canadian patriotism has often been infused with a tinge of smugness: hey we aren’t American, as if that was something that conferred moral righteousness.Yay. We aren’t a British colony any more! Indeed much of the debate over Canadian nationalism has been a discussion of what Canadians aren’t. Sharing a continent with the United States can create a sort of defensive resentment that can sound petulant.

Then I moved to the United States. And I started to wonder: Does God bless America mean fuck everybody else? Is America only a “great” country if we are “number one”? Why does a country have to be smothered in greatness to be a decent one? Is patriotism like a gravy that has to be dumped on something to either cover the rancid taste or to enhance the ingredients?

I suppose my ongoing internal reverberations about patriotism have been stimulated by watching the horrific coverage of the Olympics and the realization that much of the election will be dotted by accusations and counter accusations about who is the greater patriot.

Hilarity was abundant during Olympic coverage when I noted that half the time the networks chose to focus exclusively on American who did not even medal which would have been just fine if they had showed the medal performances. Then there was the “cold war” tone when China and the US squared off in events. Do the networks think Americans are so insecure they cannot stand to watch something Americans don’t win?

Are Americans so insecure they cannot watch a sporting event in which Americans don’t win?


Introvert or Extrovert

The Director of my leadership group wants to fix us. We aren’t exactly broken as a group just flawed. To that end she has been sending us to extra training courses and among them was some based in the Myers-Briggs approach which subjects one to a series of questions and then based on that four dominant patterns emerge that help explain a broadly based personality. The idea is that if you understand the foundations of another’s dominant influences on personality you might have less conflict and communicate more precisely and communicate in a way that is tailored to maximize success.

Or not. But I am saving money for a retirement that will never happen and my annual review is coming up so like the rest of the herd I ambled along. Twenty years from now if we have a health care system all of the nurses taking care of you will be shuffling along on walkers. The questions consisted of things like,”I like when people are friendly to me” and “I enjoy being invited to parties.”

I ended up being an INTP.


Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them. Theoretical and abstract, interested more in ideas than in social interaction. Quiet, contained, flexible, and adaptable. Have unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest. Skeptical, sometimes critical, always analytical

I scored directly in the middle on the Extroversion/Introversion spectrum but with some additional exercises and probing from the trainer we decided that while I have a job the requires extroversion and I can hang with the extroverts, I spend a lot of time living in my head and being around large groups of people doesn’t interest me. The one person in my leadership group who really fucking annoys me is an extreme extrovert who cannot shut up. We tangled that day because he made a racist comment and the whole group rolled their eyes when I called him on it. They were annoyed that he said it and annoyed that I was compelled to comment and concerned a discussion would cut into break time. Social revolutions should be formulated in short manageable bursts so nobody misses their break or favorite reality show.

Wafer Thin

I recently watched a documentary on HBO about an at risk school struggling to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind.

Hard Times at Douglas High and I noted on the boards at HBO there was a lot of “this is depressing” commentary or some general lashing out against poor people. A few teachers weighed in to echo similar experiences.

One of the dominant themes of addressing poverty in this country is to focus in on “what is wrong” with poor Americans rather than what it is structurally, culturally, and economically wrong with our country that consistently produces an under class. Now I am not arguing that we can climate poverty by tinkering with social programs although I think we can reduce it. First we have to examine our attitudes toward poverty, our disdain and fear.

A common meme is that the poor make “bad decisions” and that can account for their status but what is missing from that approach is the admission that the middle class and wealthy make bad decisions as well. When middle class and wealthy people make bad decisions they frequently have a broad safety net that cushions the impact composed of either access to funds or family and friends who are willing to “invest” in their problem to correct it. When a middle class kid gets involved in drugs or violence we are also far more likely to forgive them or ascribe it to some outside “bad influence” but when a kid from a bad section of Memphis gets involved in the same activity we dismiss them as “gang bangers” who can’t be helped or we assume they are already “bad kids”. We expect poor kids to behave badly and it simply emphasizes our already ingrained opinions and we still have some capacity to be vaguely shocked or disturbed when a middle class or wealthy kids act out in anti-social behavior. We assume poor people in general already have a capacity for inappropriate behavior because we have already decided “what is wrong with them”. It never occurs to us that poor people have jobs, raise their kids with some wisdom or decency and have the same dreams for them as the middle class do for their kids. We assume they want or aspire to less and feel perfectly comfortable seeing them assigned less as a result.

Indeed in the current political campaign there is much discussion about what can be done to help the middle class primarily as an impulse to prevent them from becoming poor or rebellious but little about how to create structures to help poor people either join the middle class or have a decent manageable life as poor people because of course being poor itself is something to be ashamed of.

Mister .. Can I have my official terrorist detector badge?

Found this interesting blurb over at the Progressive, the article is a few weeks old so my apologies if somebody has done a diary on the topic.

It concerns the drafting/appointment of certain personnel to assist in the

detection of terrorists in our midst. It makes me wonder if we are all facing a future of being dragged in from of a special house committee to deny that we are terrorists and to give lists of names.

According to the article….

And the latest one to come to my attention is the dispatching of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and utility workers as so-called “terrorism liaison officers,” according to a report by Bruce Finley in the Denver Post.

Their mission is as follows…..

They are entrusted with hunting for “suspicious activity,” and then they report their findings, which end up in secret government databases.

What constitutes “suspicious activity,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But a draft Justice Department memo on the subject says that such things as “taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value” or “making notes” could constitute suspicious activity, Finley wrote.

The states where this is going on include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

So. I am about to do y’all a favor. As it happens, I undercovercalico, live in Tennessee and one of my hobbies is taking pictures. I wouldn’t say that I am a photographer because that would imply a level of skill.

And you’re going to need evidence of my activities so I might as well just give it up now…

Dazed and Confused

Not long after I arrived in Texas, somebody asked me where I was from and when I replied “Canada” they asked me what state that was in. The story got good play among the other Canadians who had arrived as new nurses in the remote Texas town because it reinforced the stereotype held by some Canadians about the level of intellect in America.

Canadians tend to be overly smug about it while being conveniently ignorant about some of their own history.

Southerners of course are still obsessed by the “War of Northern Aggression” and I work with a few people who like to dabble in “reenactment” scenarios. I am assuming they think if they do it over enough maybe the outcome will change. Odd all of them are white. Go figure. I never quite understood the urge to reenact major battles.

You won’t find many Canadians eager to play out Dieppe all over again.

Mumblings and Ramblings

Once thing I always wondered about the expression “going to hell in a hand basket” is well wouldn’t the basket burn up and if the ride is long wouldn’t you want a bigger one?

Saying the left is organized is a bit like saying “anybody can be president in America”, the game is rigged but we like to pretend it isn’t. In darker moments, I think the right will always be deluded dancing to a frantic tune and the left will be too busy having a food fight to notice that the roof caved in, the levees broke, and the oxygen in the air disappeared and middle America will be demanding that the “end times” be made into a reality show with really good looking participants. The organized right isn’t really interested in educating and teaching one another which is why they can march like humanoid tin soldiers to the most ridiculous tunes and make it seem and after thought.

On the left people actually want to try and understand one another from an individual and group identity point of view which is why they sputter into verbal cage fighting at times.

Good people will disagree and good people will act like jerks to one another because while we might all admire Gandhi and other peaceful mentors: we aren’t. What is that old cliché: it is easier to ask forgiveness that permission. The problem is we end up assuming others will forgive us when we should have asked for permission and suddenly everybody has a scorecard, a list, a legitimate list, whereas on the right if you inadvertently fuck over or hurt somebody you used to like God is going to take care of it in the end so why worry?

And if we are all going to hell in a hand basket despite noble efforts we might want to think about we we go there with, the next door neighbor who invokes a slur to explain how he got a good deal on a car, or somebody who decided to stumble like a happy drunk after a dream everybody said was silly and unattainable?

Disturbing Tale of a Noncombat Death

I found this story over at Editor and Publisher and it highlights some of the disconnect between families who sacrifice their children and loved ones in Iraq and in this case, the Army. In one sense, it does not matter whether a loved one dies as a result of friendly fire, accident, illness, or in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, because in the end somebody who is cherished is lost. But families deserve the truth even when it is painful

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