Poetic Justice

By: Antipanglossian Monday May 20, 2013 2:48 pm

The Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay (1889-1948), was a leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance. All of his poems are well worth reading, but today I’d like to highlight one that has helped to calm my mind in recent days.

You see, some anti-union thugs have taken the trouble to try and dissuade me, and some friends of mine,  from our activism– through some calculated acts of violence and vandalism.  The whole ugly situation is far too distressing to discuss here on the public internets.

Yet, thankfully, this morning I was reminded of this Claude McKay poem by a dear friend, and it made me feel much better.  The poem is entitled: If We Must Die

  If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursed lot.

If we must die, O let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!


[http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/if-we-must-die/ ]

Let us take courage from the words of brother Claude McKay. There is no need to whimper in the corner, oppressed by fear. Now is the moment to rise up, fight back, and resist without compromise, no matter what the personal cost.

Know Justice, Know Peace. No Justice, No Peace. No War but Class War…

My oh my!! Major McJobs Momentum in Milwaukee

By: Antipanglossian Wednesday May 15, 2013 5:29 pm




I heard the good word from brother Matt earlier today:

Today, fast food and retail workers in Milwaukee went on strike. They’re fighting for a living wage, $15 an hour, and for the right to form a union without retaliation. This move comes on the back of other walkouts in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit and highlights the plight of low-wage workers across the nation.    [http://wisconsinjobsnow.org/2013/05/15/milwaukee-workers-strike/

The excellent discussion, generated by Ohio Barbarian’s recent post on earlier fastfood worker walkout,s inspired me to share this good news with the FDL community today.  Working with older established unions like the I.B.E.W., U.A.W., and the Teamsters, I’ve long felt that new energy, new ideas, and new blood were desperately required to revive workers’ interest in banding together to promote their interests.

What’s happening today, from Walmart to Wendy’s,  is potentially as important as what happened in earlier generations in the mills and mines across this country. Workers don’t need any politician’s approval to organize collectively to improve their lot.  My brothers and sisters who work in service jobs have begun to awaken to their own power.

This is a genuine grassroots movement, evolving rapidly and organically. In Chicago, this new movement has even led to a resurgence of  the I.W.W., the beloved “wobblies” who were met with such violent opposition a century ago by the bad old robber barons.

The union makes us strong! In fact, there’s absolutely no reason why the millions of unemployed Americans shouldn’t follow the lead of our brave brothers and sisters in postindustrial Rhode Island, who are organizing themselves int “unemployed councils,” and putting the heat on local government to do something about their plight.

Know Justice, Know Peace. No Justice, No Peace. Solidarity to Milwaukee from NYC!!



Nothing New Under the Tuscan Sun: Political Corruption in the Age of Machiavelli

By: Antipanglossian Sunday April 14, 2013 5:24 pm

Lorenzo de Medici

Today in Wisconsin, the Koch brothers stand exposed as manipulators of Governor Scott Walker, and the Republican state government. This is scandalous and disturbing, because it is the worst sort of political corruption. In Washington, D.C. the criminal Wall St. banksters have pretty much captured the entire government, and the regulatory agencies meant to curb their predations.

Yet, sadly, corruption in politics is nothing new. Ancient Roman elections during the late Republic were rigged to favor a handful of powerful families. “New men”, like Cicero, who managed to achieve wealth and prominence, still required the support of more powerful patrons.

In the fifteenth century Republic of Florence an attempt was made to limit the potential for abuse by filling most of the magistracies by sortition rather than election. Names of citizens were drawn from different bags for lesser and higher offices. This somewhat random process was supposed to ensure that people could do their civic duty without fear or favor, not having made any promises to win their elections.

Of course, no method of selecting officials is incorruptible. The Medici family, and its supporters  in fifteenth century Florence, learned how to game the system. During a year in which the Medici faction dominated the highest council, they created a quasi-official group of “bag-holders” that were given the honor of maintaining the integrity of the bags. These “bag-holders” were not paid any government salary or given any authority beyond the selection of government officials. For half a century these “bag-holders” did what the Medici faction required. For many of the lesser magistracies, no tampering was needed. Men from small-time merchant or artisan families were thrilled at the chance to help regulate the scales at the fish market. They didn’t make waves. For more important posts, the “bag-holders” would rig the bags so that opposition leaders could not control a particular council. So, for example, the pro-Medici folks might dominate a council 11 to 9. They would be careful to give their most prominent opponents a chance to express their opposition, without being able to make meaningful policy changes. This charade was finally ended by the expulsion of Piero de’ Medici from Florence in 1494, and the restoration of a more genuinely republican government. By 1512, however, the Medici were back with a vengeance, and ultimately established themselves as the hereditary ruling family of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, marrying into the highest royal houses of Europe. Of course, like all good plutocrats the Medici weren’t content to become mere royalty. Three different Medici popes (Leo X, Clement VI, and Leo XI) helped to further the family fortunes in heaven and earth.

[The above picture is of Lorenzo "il Magnifico' de' Medici-- it was his princely attitude, while ostensibly just another citizen, that led to the uprising that pushed the Medici out of Florence in 1494, just two years after his death.]

From Chicago to New York to Brussels to Cyprus: The neo-liberal game is the same

By: Antipanglossian Saturday April 13, 2013 11:28 am

I was moved by this excellent post about the Troika’s plan for Cyprus by danps here on today’s FDL  http://my.firedoglake.com/danps/2013/04/13/troikas-plan-for-cyprus-destroy-the-village-in-order-to-save-it/       to share a wonderfully pithy assessment– of how our neo-liberal, hyper-financialized world order currently operates. C.H. Smith puts it all together like this:

Understood in this manner, it is clear there is no real difference between the monetary policies of the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve: each seeks to preserve and protect the “too big to fail” banks which are integral to the Neoliberal State-cartel partnership.

Both are attempting to rectify an intrinsically unstable private-capital/State arrangement–profits are private but losses are public–by shoving the costs of the bad debt and rising  interest rates onto the backs of the core-country taxpayers (now indentured serfs).  The profits from the euro arbitrage and Neocolonial exploitation were private,  but the costs are being borne by the taxpaying public of both core and periphery.

The Power Elites are attempting to set the serfs of the periphery against the serfs of the Core, and this is necessary to keep both sets of serfs from realizing they are equally indentured to the Core’s pathological Financial Elite-State partnership.


Yet we “wage serfs” are not dumb enough to be divided and conquered forever! A day of reckoning will come, and on that day the greedheads will learn that their gates, security cameras, even predator drones, stand as mere wisps of straw against the mighty, fiery wind of the enraged masses!!

Know Justice, Know Peace. No Justice, No Peace. No War But Class War

Rebels R Us

By: Antipanglossian Wednesday April 10, 2013 1:26 pm

One of our greatest cultural losses in recent years was the death of Howard Zinn, people’s historian and speaker of truth.  His contributions to the discipline of history alone will ensure that his memory shines brightly for generations.  Yet for me his greatest gift to our republic was always his uncompromising position as an open, direct pain-in-the ass to the powers that be.

“A truly free University would not celebrate obedience, for obedience is what has enabled governments to send young men by the millions to die in war. It would celebrate resistance and disobedience, because the world, so full of policemen, so racked with injustice and violence, needs rebels badly.”                                                    (Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader, New York: 1997, p.566)



There is no future in persuading self-centered elites to share a few more crumbs with us from their table, groaning with the weight of their ill-gotten plunder.  They will ignore most of us, and attempt to co-opt or repress those of us who begin to raise awareness of injustice, and encourage ordinary people to claim the power that they should rightfully wield in a democracy.

The iron fist, of raw brutality to the workers , the elderly, and the poor has started to show– through the few remaining threads of the velvet glove of out “safety net.”  This is truly a scary moment. It is a scary time for many of us, who thought that some few of our elites might actually have the wisdom and compassion necessary to mitigate the ever-present harshness of the capitalist world-system.  Or at least a better instinct for self-preservation than Marie Antoinette showed in 1789!

Mitch McConnell, Dick Durbin, it doesn’t matter. They belong to two separate parties but they both follow the orders of Goldman Sachs.  Was gay marriage not divisive enough to distract and divert the masses? Then it’s clearly time to start hyperventilating about gun-control.

It’s time to step out of the matrix, brothers and sisters.  Floating along in a stream of passivity, while our Galtian overlords openly mock us as rubes, picking what little remains out of our pockets—this is getting us nowhere.

Don’t mourn, organize!  Low-paid workers in fast-food and retail in NYC and Chicago have begun to do just that. The Chicago Teachers Union went out on strike, endured a vicious smear campaign, and came out the other side with greater support from parents than ever before.

This May Day in Gotham City many thousands of occupiers, students, union and non-union workers, immigrants and allies will flood the streets and parks to celebrate resistance to the powers that be.  Will you be doing the same where you live?  Wouldn’t it be great if the celebration of Mat Day by the 99% became so powerful that the elites were shook out of their smug satisfaction with their criminal “success?” See you in the streets!!

Know Justice, Know Peace No Justice, No Peace. No War but Class War

Thoughts from the summer of 2010

By: Antipanglossian Tuesday April 9, 2013 12:33 pm

My friend Lisa has persuaded me to share here at FDL this personal diary  I wrote on an anonymous blog I’ve had awhile, reflecting on the memory of her late ex-husband John. So here, without further ado, it is:

I started out this evening fired up to spew out another rant about the insufferable greed and selfishness of a certain kind of right-wing sociopath. The absurd comment, that provoked my indignation, was meant to be an indictment of government efforts to help the poor and middle class. Such programs were nothing more than “taking from the successful to subsidize the unsuccessful.” O.K. This anonymous critic obviously doesn’t see sharing as an inherent good. He also equates material riches with success.

Yet maybe this commonplace equation between “success” and wealth is just as problematic as the greed and lack of compassion. In 21st century America we almost always look for having money as evidence of success. Our image of a successful lawyer, doctor, academic, musician, banker, athlete, painter, engineer, salesperson, builder, computer designer– all include money. Of course this is a relative thing. No academic, no matter how well-published and respected, would ever expect to be paid the kind of money that is given to a star quarterback in the NFL. Occupations that are consistently low-paid are just not linked with the word “successful.” To describe someone as a successful bathroom attendant would be interpreted as mean sarcasm.

Is this tendency to define success in material terms justified? It would be foolish to deny that comfort, variety of experience, and other benefits are linked to money. There may be, nonetheless, ways in which we can succeed that don’t involve financial success. Here I think looking at some real-life examples could be instructive.

My friend John passed away last summer, just a few months after a cancer diagnosis. I had known him for many years, having met him during my first summer in Rhode Island. He took a number of jobs, ranging from bouncer at a nightclub, to maintenance person at a commercial office building. His personality was so agreeable that he was liked instantly by almost everyone he met. Only his charm could have landed him the bouncer job, as he was a slender man of average height who could never appear physically menacing to anyone over twelve years old. Yet, while John was reliable and hard-working, he was not blessed with the chance to settle into a good job that lasted for more than a few years. After his divorce, John suffered a couple of longish spells of unemployment. This forced him to move back in with his mother and caused other hardships. John never knew financial success in the nearly five decades of his life.

Was John a successful man? I think he was. He had a gift for making people laugh and feel special in his company. He found tremendous enjoyment in fishing, and listening to music. He found pleasure in helping people fix their cars. When he heard something amusing on the radio or T.V. he wanted to share it with all his friends. He was always careful not to bring others down with his own troubles. His appreciation for the smallest gestures of friendship was genuine and powerful. Buying him a sandwich made you feel like you had helped to make the world a better place. John succeeded in bringing people up to a better level. I noticed that folks tended to refrain from malicious gossip in John’s presence. Not because he was ever stern or judgemental. His positive attitude was infectious.

While John was a source of happiness to others, and a man who found happiness himself, not everyone enjoys that disposition. Vincent Van Gogh was a clearly troubled man who suffered many physical ailments. He produced a great quantity of timeless art during the last few years of his short life. No one wanted to buy any of it. Now his work is considered priceless. To own one of his paintings would signify great financial success. Was he a success or failure? He didn’t succeed in realizing his immediate goals. He didn’t succeed in vanquishing mental and physical illness. He lived, he struggled, he expressed his genius. In his own eyes his life was not enough of a success to continue. But we can’t call him a failed human being.
I think we throw terms like success and failure around without due consideration of all the factors surrounding any human life. I know someone with severe mental challenges. For him to stand on the right side of the street, and get on the right bus at the right time is a major triumph. I know someone else who is a gifted scholar. For her to write a book review that wasn’t insightful and well-argued would be a disappointment. The value of kids is not perfectly captured by their report cards. The value of adults is not measured only by their paycheck.

The ACLU in Ohio confirms we’re back to Dickensian misery

By: Antipanglossian Friday April 5, 2013 3:00 pm

I had thought to share some information with fellow members of the FDL community about a report released by the ACLU to the media. Apparently I am not to do so. So, if you’d like to read an article which referenced the ACLU report, please refer to the link below.

If you’d like an example of an uptight, humorless control freak in full “put the ignorant scumbags in their place” mode, without even a hint of human compassion, for someone who made an innocent mistake in not reading some fine print, read comments #2 & #4 below. Thanks for your time!

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/aclu-ohio-courts-illegally-jailing-debtors-article-1.1308805#ixzz2PczToNWd