Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

martes, octubre 30, 2012

Metta After Sandy

Breezy Point, Queens

May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings have equanimity. May all beings be free from hatred. May all beings have the bliss that is beyond suffering. May all beings be well. May all beings be safe. May all beings have refuge. May all beings realize their enlightenment.

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domingo, octubre 21, 2012

George McGovern, RIP

The New York Times brings the sad news:

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90. Multimedia

His death was announced in a statement by the family. He had been moved to hospice care in recent days after being treated for several health problems in the last year. He had a home in Mitchell, S.D., where he had spent his formative years.

“We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, successful and productive life advocating for the hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace,” the family statement said.

To the liberal Democratic faithful, Mr. McGovern remained a standard-bearer well into his old age, writing and lecturing even as his name was routinely invoked by conservatives as synonymous with what they considered the failures of liberal politics.

He never retreated from those ideals, however, insisting on a strong, “progressive” federal government to protect the vulnerable and expand economic opportunity while asserting that history would prove him correct in his opposing not only what he called “the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam” but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two wonderful analyses: The Atlantic and Slate.

I remember voting for McGovern. In the line at the polls that day I saw only two votes for him; the rest in the long line seemed to be voting for Nixon. No matter. Sometimes history proves that the person who lost the election was right on policy. So it was with McGovern. He was right on Vietnam. He was right on Iraq. He was right on dozens of issues between those two. His obituaries in the Traditional Medial will focus on how badly he lost the 1972 election. They will focus again on he horse race. What they won't mention is how many thousands of lives could have been saved if McGovern's policies had been enacted.

He will be missed.

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sábado, octubre 20, 2012

Why Walruses?

Funny you should ask. Although your Bloguero is officially on hiatus, he has been posting walrus photos and videos on Facebook. And he will continue until the election has been decided.

Why is that? inquiring minds might ask. It might just be that your Bloguero is fascinated by Walruses, and particular the baby walrus in New York City. But that's not all there is to it. No, it's not.

Your Bloguero offers The Walrus And The Carpenter as a partial, but probably too metaphorical explanation. Surely you remember Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass." No problem if you can't summon up the details. This is, after all, the Internet and Wiki always refreshes your memory (or creates a new one for you):

The Walrus and the Carpenter are the eponymous characters in the poem, which is recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice. Walking upon a beach one night when both sun and moon are visible, the Walrus and Carpenter come upon an offshore bed of oysters, four of whom they invite to join them. To the disapproval of the eldest oyster, many more follow them. After walking along the beach (a point is made of the fact that the oysters are all neatly shod despite having no feet), the two main characters are revealed to be predatory and eat all of the oysters. After hearing the poem, the good-natured Alice attempts to determine which of the two leading characters might be the more sympathetic, but is thwarted by the twins' further interpretation.

Ralph Nader, of course, seized on tweedledum/dee in 2009, saying,

"Our two parties are basically one corporate party wearing two heads and different makeup," Nader said. "There is a difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but not that much."

Oh was he ever right about that. Yet, there are important differences between the candidates on a whole host of issues. Your Bloguero accepts the received wisdom that returning the White House to those who destroyed the economy and created Iraq would be a mistake. At the same time, your Bloguero has no illusions about how very far to the right the Obama White House has migrated. And your Bloguero is saddened, when he's not angered by that. Where, he asks, is the single payer? The closing of Gitmo? The repeal of NDAA? On and on your Bloguero goes. It is ok to tune him out before he starts ranting about this.

In 2012's election race, your Bloguero feels he should draw your attention to and quote this part of the poem:

"I like the Walrus best," said Alice, "because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters."

"He ate more than the Carpenter, though," said Tweedledee. "You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn't count how many he took: contrariwise."

"That was mean!" Alice said indignantly. "Then I like the Carpenter best—if he didn't eat so many as the Walrus."

"But he ate as many as he could get," said Tweedledum.

This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, "Well! They were both very unpleasant characters—"

Both very unpleasant characters. Indeed.

This is not to say that your Bloguero will not vote. He will. Definitely. He always does. He always votes against the callous, the out of touch, the plutocrat, the oligarch, the racist, the moralist, the sentamentalist. Whatever you've got. But he has few, if any illusions that this voting against someone for more than 10 elections leads to good governance. It doesn't. Where, your Bloguero wants to know, is the candidate who embodies your Bloguero's idealistic views? Will there ever be one for him to vote for?

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domingo, octubre 14, 2012

Interrupting My Silence For Irony, Then Resuming My Hiatus

I knew this would happen, I just knew it, that something unanticipated would make me post here. Ok. I'm going to post it, and then resume blog and FB silence.

A long, long time ago, back in 2006, an eon in Internet time, there was a blog that was devoted to dead blogs. It was called The Best Dead Blogs. It had links to blogs that had died, that had stopped having posts, ones that were cool. Or interesting. Only one thing, though. The Best Dead Blogs blog has itself been dead since 2006.

The irony of this has overwhelmed my defenses against posting. It may overwhelm you, too. Or not. And now, without further commentary, I am back to my hiatus and my silence.

If you're monitoring me to see whether I can really stay away, can really keep from posting, please forgive me this entirely explainable lapse.

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lunes, octubre 08, 2012


I was thinking that I'd just walk away, and stop posting for a while, and that I'd come back in November, after the election, and see whether I felt like posting some more. I could just go. Quietly. Disappear myself. Self deport. I leave aside any speculation as to whether my not writing would be noticed.

Then I thought that might be rude. I mean: I've been here since August, 2005.I've written 1,365 essays. There have been more than 100,000 page views. In other words, I've been sitting in that chair in the corner of the collective living room for a while. Sometimes I left my beer bottles on the floor, sometimes I had flowers and poetry for others. So maybe the right thing to do is to say something before I get out of the chair and just up and leave. Something like this:

Well, I'm going to go off and have an adventure or two, and do some different things for a while, and so I probably won't be seen around here for a month or so. Maybe longer. I'm fine. There's nothing wrong. Everything is good. It's just that it's time for a new adventure. Or two. In the material world. So, while I'm gone, it's ok for somebody else to sit in my chair. To take it over, make it your own. It's comfortable. And when you sit in this corner, it's ok to be erratic, and even cranky sometimes. It's ok to talk about yourself in the third person. Just try to be entertaining, ok? That's it. Well, I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead.

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domingo, octubre 07, 2012

Not Columbus Day, Short Form


What your Bloguero has been saying over and over and over again.

Actually, your Bloguero is astonished at how little understanding there is of the Original People. And what happened to them after 1492.

What your Bloguero has remembered today is the panoply of half baked rationalizations that seek to justify the conquest and the extermination of the Original People. There needs to be some education about this. Meanwhile, do NOT tell your Bloguero how history is full of conquests, that's what people do, and anyway the Original People died not so much by the sword, but because of disease, which was inadvertent (small pox blankets anyone?) Please do NOT.

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Not Columbus Day: Baracoa, The Beginning

Note: This essay was originally posted at NION in 2008. That site no longer exists. And it was reprised and updated in 2011 at The Dream Antillles. It was expanded to form a central part of my 2011 novella, "Tulum".

Once again, your Bloguero notes that it is Columbus Day Weekend. Your Bloguero often takes ten days off at this time. Why? Funny you should ask. Your Bloguero has two short answers: it's his Birthday. Your Bloguero was born exactly 399 years after the christening of Cervantes in 1547. Also, your Bloguero cannot abide the celebration of Columbus Day, which he sees as the beginning of the subjugation of this hemisphere. The last is best expressed in this 2008 post:

Across the Caribbean from desde Desdemona is Baracoa, a small town inaccessible by land from before 1500 (when Columbus first landed there in 1492) until the 1960's. In 1512 Baracoa was the first Spanish settlement in Cuba. It's like Macondo. The lush forest of the Sierra Maestre and El Yunque, the tallest peak in Cuba, tower over the town. The town is nestled against the warm ocean. North of town is Maguana, a beautiful, white beach, shared by tourists and occasional foraging pigs.

Join me in Baracoa. We can celebrate Not Columbus Day together.

In the church in Baracoa is a part of one of the original crosses that Columbus planted in Cuba when he first landed there. It's not under guard. To see it, you knock on the back door of the church. Nobody there? Go across the street, as Bardo did, to find someone in the Parrocio to let you in. Bardo goes and asks to see El Cruz. The woman behind a counter says ok, let us find the key. She takes Bardo across the street, opens the back door, enters the silent, dark church, and in the nave there it is, in a glass case with no security at all, El Cruz de la Parra . The cross's 500-year old wood (it's been carbon dated) is held up by a metal holder (which is from much later on).

In many ways this is the most important relic, and maybe the most important marker in the history of the Western Hemisphere. It represents the beginning, the zero mile marker on the highway from then to now. If Columbus, instead of planting a cross and taking on the conquest and/or conversion of indigenous people, had said, "This place is really great so let's hang out here and enjoy it with the locals," the last 500 years would have been significantly, inconceivably different. And maybe, Bardo reminds us, a whole lot better. Bardo cannot believe what he's looking at. He makes a small donation to the church, and wanders off into the heat of the day. The woman closes up the church. Nobody else is waiting to see the cross.

If the Cruz were in New York or Madrid, it would have laser Mission Impossible security, armed guards, and lots of publicity around it. Lines of buses of tourists. Souvenir shops. Air conditioning. T-shirt sales. But there's none of that in Baracoa. Just the cross and the empty church in the middle of Baracoa.

Bardo buys a bottle of Habana Club rum ($3.25), sits on the roof of the Casa Particular where he's staying, and wonders if Macondo could be any more beautiful. He decides Baracoa is perfect and beautiful. He loves the way the mountainous jungle cascades to the town at the edge of the ocean. Columbus, he thinks, was right about one thing: Baracoa is one of the most beautiful places Bardo has ever seen. About everything else, he decides, he's with Alejo Carpentier, Columbus was dead wrong.

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sábado, octubre 06, 2012

Fannie Lou Hamer Day

Today's the birthday of Fannie Lou Hamer. She was one brave woman. And I hope we can continue to remember her and her contributions to struggle for equality and an end to racism in the United States.

On August 23, 1962, Rev. James Bevel, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in Ruleville, Mississippi and followed it with an appeal to those assembled to register to vote. Black people who registered to vote in the South faced serious hardships at that time due to institutionalized racism, including harassment, the loss of their jobs, physical beatings, and lynchings; nonetheless, Hamer was the first volunteer. She later said,

"I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a little scared - but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember."

Ruleville, MS, is east of Cleveland, Mississippi, in Sunflower County. It was a very scary, dangerous place in 1962. It was still scary when I visited there in the early '70's. It was scary enough that I haven't been back in decades.

And then there's this:

In the summer of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, or "Freedom Democrats" for short, was organized with the purpose of challenging Mississippi's all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention of that year as not representative of all Mississippians. Hamer was elected Vice-Chair.

The Freedom Democrats efforts drew national attention to the plight of African-Americans in Mississippi, and represented a challenge to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for reelection; their success would mean that other Southern delegations, who were already leaning toward Republican challenger Barry Goldwater, would publicly break from the convention's decision to nominate Johnson — meaning in turn that he would almost certainly lose those states' electoral votes in the election. Hamer, singing her signature hymns, drew a great deal of attention from the media, enraging Johnson, who referred to her in speaking to his advisors as "that illiterate woman".

Hamer was invited, along with the rest of the MFDP officers, to address the Convention's Credentials Committee. She recounted the problems she had encountered in registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near tears, concluded:

"All of this is on account we want to register [sic], to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings - in America?"

In Washington, D.C., President Johnson called an emergency press conference in an effort to divert press coverage away from Hamer's testimony; but many television networks ran the speech unedited on their late news programs. The Credentials Committee received thousands of calls and letters in support of the Freedom Democrats.

Johnson then dispatched several trusted Democratic Party operatives to attempt to negotiate with the Freedom Democrats, including Senator Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the Vice-Presidential nomination), Walter Mondale, and Walter Reuther, as well as J. Edgar Hoover. They suggested a compromise which would give the MFDP two non-voting seats in exchange for other concessions, and secured the endorsement of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But when Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position on the ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian beliefs, sharply rebuked him:

"Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for you."

Future negotiations were conducted without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such that the Convention would select the two delegates to be seated, for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP rejected the compromise, but had changed the debate to the point that the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded equality of representation from their states' delegations in 1968. [edit]

And then there's this video by 7th Grade Students:

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jueves, octubre 04, 2012

Big Bird And The Safety Net

Apparently, it's nothing personal at all. Willard actually likes Big Bird, or so he says, but ut oh, the aging Avian Television Star learned he might be out of a job during last night's boring, ill managed, stupefying debate. That's not how pink slips are traditionally delivered to aging employees. You might even expect better form from a guy who likes to fire people. And has experience at it. Lots of experience. But anyway, so it is, in a country without enough decent jobs and towering, long term, probably structural unemployment, that BB might soon be out of a job, allegedly to create other jobs. Jobs for others. Talk about redistribution. BB is just another aging teacher about to be excessed.

Let's face it. Other than the job he now holds, BB is probably not employable. It's unlikely he can get another job in TV. And that means, after his unemployment benefits run out, as they surely will, he'll be forced to move in with Oscar the Grouch, who apparently has landed in what passes for the safety net in this neighborhood, a garbage can.

No wonder OTG is grouchy. That's not much of a safety net he's got there in the first place. And to learn in such a strange way that BB, his colleague, was going, eventually, to have to share it with him is quite disturbing. Quite something to make one grouchy. OTG thought he'd hear in this debate about the domestic issues: energy, the environment, guns, LGBTQ rights, immigration, reproductive health, the environment, campaign finance, the drug war, and voting rights. But no. None of that, thanks in part to Jim Lehrer's idiotic questioning ("What are the differences between you?") and his complete loss of control. No. Instead OTG got to hear about Simpson-Bowles, whatever that might be, and the repeated bogus claims about $716 billion being taken from Medicare and that his colleague was going to try to move into his garbage can.

And to top it all off, Bert and Ernie were on the phone this morning to find out what the candidates thought about their civil rights.

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