Friday, May 27, 2011

Note to Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for the comment.  I sent it to your mother and she's says you're grounded for being a naughty boy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Note To Malek

Thank you for your comments.  Please leave your contact information for me at the comments section.  The information won't be published since I moderate this site. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Night They Drove 'Ole Dixie Down

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April 16, 2011. Click Arrow for Podcast
___________________________________________________ This week is the 150 year anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  If you think "The Recent Unpleasantness" WASN'T about slavery (it was!) you aren't the only one. After you listen to the podcast you should check out Keith Olberman's take on it.

When I was a kid there was one black kid in my whole school.  As I remember it his parents were northerners.  He came home with me on at least one occasion and I remember that it got back to my mom (who of course already knew) that I was hanging with this guy after school.  This was about 1968 or 69.  Brown v Board of Ed was passed in 1954 so this was about a dozen years later and our town had successfully resisted implementing integration up to that point.  The next two years saw bussing begin to be used to integrate the schools.  White folks weren’t happy but I was lucky enough to have parents who weren’t racist and who actually did their part to help integration work.  We, as a family, were intimately involved in what were called “Charettes”.  It’s a French word that we were told meant a “sit down” a “discussion” a “meeting of the minds”.  These “Charettes” were held at schools all over town and were a place where the adults (black and white – there weren’t any Hispanics to speak of in Durham at the time) could hash out the mechanics of integration as well as talk about their fears about the process. 
It was during this time that I remember first hearing that the Civil War had not been about slavery at all.  The son of the local leader of the Klan explained that it was about “states rights” .  The right of the states to leave the union if they wanted to.  We had studied the Civil War in history class.  It seemed strange to me even then that someone would argue that the war had nothing to do with slavery.  I remember feeling like I’d been hit in the gut the first time I fully realized what slavery was.  I thought about a slave, Jim from Huck Finn is who I pictured. I thought of him being whipped and sold down the river far away from his family.  I thought about how he must hate the people who whipped him, who branded him, who made him work hour from sun up to sun down.  If he tried to run away and was caught he was flogged until his back was bloody and often had an ear or a finger cut off as punishment.  This is what slavery was and even as a kid I knew it.  So, when someone told me that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery I found it hard to believe.  I mean, here were all these black folks who were clearly not happy about being slaves so how could it be that the war wasn’t at least partly about slavery.  But no, the white folks I knew, most of them, insisted not only was the war NOT about slavery but it WAS about how Southerners were being victimized by Yankees.  This really sounded fishy to my ten year old mind.  The slaves weren’t rising up, they were in fact, not that unhappy about being slaves.  But the white southerners were up in arms about the price they were getting for cotton?  It just didn’t smell right but there wasn’t much I could say – at least not without getting a good smack down. These kids, the sons of the white rednecks, were pretty aggressive and I was put in my place more than once just for being a skinny kid who didn’t really play sports. 

As I got older I heard the same argument over and over again.  Every few years there would be a flap about some state flying the Confederate battle flag and refusing to take it down.  Or there’d be a black guy killed by a bunch of drunken rednecks but it always turned out that the black guy somehow deserved to be killed and the rednecks were just protecting themselves or their girlfriends.  Black folks, I was told, were poor because they were lazy.  That too seemed a strange thing to say because everytime I saw black folks they were working pretty hard, sweating in the sun, driving trucks, mowing lawns, sweeping floors and cleaning toilets.  It never set right with me to say they were lazy when I could see, with my own eyes, how hard they worked and at jobs that I knew didn’t pay very well.  Then, as the years went by and I learned more about slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, and the struggle for civil rights, I realized that it was all just one big lie.  But I had grown up in a country where these were the stories we told ourselves in order not to have to look at the true history of racism and slavery and exploitation.  We are still telling those same stories today.  The folks who are celebrating the beginning of the Civil War in Charleston, the ones who dress up in Confederate uniforms, they don’t go to civil rights marches on the weekends they aren’t reenacting the lost grandeur of the Confederacy.  No, they know enough nowadays not to flaunt their revisionist history.  I wouldn’t accuse most of them of being outright racists.  However, they ARE in league with the true racists to the extent that they create the context in which the more virulent forms can take root.  Public school integration never worked because it was never really tried.  Look at what is happening today over in Wake County. 

We have yet, in this country, to have a true reckoning about our shared history.  Telling the truth about the causes of the Civil War sounds, to me, as about as good a place as any to begin. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Imperialism and Egypt’s “democratic transition”

Alex Lantier - 

The talks taking place between the Egyptian regime of President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the National Association for Change of Mohamed ElBaradei are a treacherous exercise in political duplicity. Their purpose is to confuse and suppress the revolutionary movement against the Mubarak regime, stabilize bourgeois rule in Egypt, and preserve the country as a reliable instrument of the interests of US imperialism throughout North Africa and the Middle East.The Obama administration’s support for these talks, brokered by Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman under the cynical label of a “democratic transition,” is as reactionary as it is predictable. Once again, Washington’s rhetorical tributes to democracy are being exposed as hypocritical lies. The real aims of the Obama administration were revealed in the open declaration of former Ambassador Frank Wisner—who had been sent to Cairo to meet with Mubarak—that the dictator was playing a critical role. All the efforts of the administration are concentrated on orchestrating a fraudulent “transition” that will safeguard US interests in Egypt.

The reactionary character of these US plans is exposed by the man who has been chosen by Mubarak and Washington to preside over the “transition” —Vice President Omar Suleiman. This is a man who is implicated and has personally participated in the worst crimes of the Mubarak regime. He has, literally, blood on his hands.
The CIA’s point man for outsourcing torture to Egypt, Suleiman personally beat Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen falsely accused of terrorism in Pakistan and shipped to Egypt to be tortured. Habib was cleared of all charges and released in 2005.
Suleiman also helped the US manufacture false evidence to justify its illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Before that war, he oversaw the transfer of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi from US to Egyptian custody; once in Egypt, al-Libi was tortured until he agreed to say that Iraq was giving chemical and biological weapons to Al Qaeda. This false testimony made its way into US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 report to the UN, calling for war.
The political myths of the “war on terror”—the claim that the key feature of the Middle East was the struggle between the values of “democratic” Western governments and Islamists like the Brotherhood—stand exposed by these negotiations. In fact, the main conflict is between the entire ruling class and the working masses, who have emerged as the main revolutionary force.
Originally, the reason given for US backing for dictatorships and monarchies throughout the Middle East was that authoritarian rule was a necessary evil in the struggle to limit Islamist influence. Now, Washington is treating the Islamists as a necessary evil in its struggle to maintain what it sees as a more fundamental objective: the maintenance of an authoritarian regime upon which Washington can rely.
The class reasons underlying this policy were laid out in a New York Times article that held up Turkey as a “map for Egypt.” The Times wanted the Mubarak regime to emulate the Turkish military’s support for the “dynamic private sector” created by the Islamist AKP government’s “opening” and deregulation policies. These policies have turned Turkey into a major cheap-labor export economy. The Times also cited Turkey’s quiet but good relations with Israel, a token of Turkey’s essential acceptance of US imperialism’s dominance in the Middle East.
With reports showing that half of Egyptian workers survive on wages of $2 or less per day, global investors doubtless hope to make fortunes from further “opening” Egypt, as long as the military regime and its yellow unions can suppress the working class. That is, Egypt is to be maintained as a reliable ally of the US military, a well-policed source of cheap labor, and a bastion of political reaction.
This underscores the semi-colonial character of US relations with Egypt, a country that is under the thumb of global imperialism.
Amidst all the political maneuvering and posturing, the concerns and interests of the Egyptian working class, peasantry and youth count for nothing. Not a single one of the social and political concerns that fueled the mass protests will be addressed. The protestors sought fundamental social changes: the dismantling of the police state, the ending of the dominance of major landowners in the countryside, and the raising of wages and living standards. The social forces with an interest in such change—the workers, the oppressed rural masses of Egypt, and the youth—will get nothing from these negotiations, except a cruel betrayal. The torturers will remain in power, protecting the strategic interests of US imperialism, the investments of international capital, and the wealth of the Egyptian ruling class.
The International Committee of the Fourth International states unequivocally: The interests of the Egyptian working class and the oppressed masses can be achieved only through the struggle for power on the basis of a socialist program. There is no other path to genuine democracy. Thus, there is a critical need to build independent organs of popular representation and to overcome the vacuum of political leadership—to pose an alternative to the Egyptian bourgeois state machine and the negotiations of Suleiman.

Alex Lantier - WSWS

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Durham-in-Wonderland Supports This Blog : Thanks KC!

 (Since I wrote this post I found out that Professor Johnson wrote a book called "Until Proven Innocent" about the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case)

KC Johnson, of the Durham-in-Wonderland blog is responsible for much of the admittedly meager readership of this blog.  I have to thank him for reading what I have to say and taking my words seriously enough to comment on them on his blog.  

I'm honored that a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center at Brooklyn College would care what I have to say.  I don't want to appear too falsely modest but I don't think I'm really important enough to warrant all this attention.
One point that I feel I need to correct:  About eight or ten years ago I was the President of the Durham People's Alliance.  I enjoyed my work with them until the elections cycle when the Political Committee chose to endorse the exact same candidates as the Republican leaning Friends of Durham PAC.  That's when I split with them because they weren't nearly the radical leftists they pretend to be.

Also, for the readership of Durham-in-Wonderland, I encourage you to read Democracy Durham for yourselves whenever you see it referenced by Prof. Johnson.  The good professor and I have very different views of things and a reading of the original will often give you a quite different understanding than what you will get from simply reading Prof. Johnson's interpretation.

Anyway, thanks again for spreading the news about Democracy Durham.  

Blog On!

Steven Matherly

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Attention All Crystal & Nifong Haters!

I was re-reading some of my posts because, well to be honest, I just like the sound of my own voice and my own words even if they are just in my head.

While I was reveling in what a sound foundation I got in expository writing something just jumped out at me.In the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case all you Crystal/Nifong haters were (and still are) frothing at the mouth about the injustices supposedly visited on those Lacrosse guys.  How's this for irony then; we are on the same side of the issue this time.  Here Crystal got the short end of the stick in her trial.  The justice system failed her. She may have eaked out a victory on the first degree arson charge but it was hard fought and her attorney, Mani Dexter, deserves our thanks for her hard work.  The cops lied on the stand in this case.  I'm not just saying that - you can read the transcript of the trial and you will see that one cop said one thing and another directly contradicted the first cop.  One of them was lying!  My money is on "Officer" Tyler as the liar. Judge Jones never met a cop he didn't think was just peachy keen and squeaky clean.  Every time he had a chance he ruled in favor of the prosecution and the police.  He even said "the police are not going to be put on trial".  Why not, if they say something happened then the defense should be able to attack the truth/non-truth of what they said.  

Here's the fun part!  This is what you guys have been saying about Nifong.  You say he lied!  You say he ruined the Lacrosse players by using the power of his office to twist the facts. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?  Howdy, friend!

I just know I'm going to get a flood of emails congratulating Crystal (and her supporters) on her semi-win in this case.  

I can't wait!

Steven MatherlyMOUS




Next Time It Could Be You

Dear Faithful Readers:

Many of you read this blog to feed your hate of Crystal, poor folks, black folks, and the threat you feel they are to your world.  This post is dedicated to you.

This trial has been illustrative of a great many things that are wrong with our justice system.  It is one thing to say that the courts favor the wealthy and discriminate against the poor and it is quite another to see an example of it unfold before your eyes.

I know you won't believe this but I'm going to say it anyway.  I have a great deal of respect for our judicial system.  I have seen it work.  I know that there are honest, dedicated, and generally underpaid, people who toil in the offices and courtrooms across this nation that don't get the recognition and respect they deserve. Unfortunately, there is an institutional bias in our judicial system that turns the work of these people into a force for inequality and oppression.  That bias is for the police and against the accused.

Once you have been accused and brought before a judge you have an uphill battle to prove your innocence.  The idea that one is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty is the only thing that keeps our system from mirroring the most corrupt and abusive systems worldwide.  Even a wealthy person has to struggle to prove his/her innocence albeit with more resources at their disposal than most.  The presumption of innocence is outweighed by the belief that you must have done something wrong or the police wouldn't have arrested you.

The police have a hard, thankless, dangerous job and are often poorly remunerated.  A great many cops supplement their salaries as private security guards for stores, restaurants, and bars.  This brings their salaries up to a reasonable level but it puts a great strain on them.  

Poverty has been criminalized in this country for at least two major reasons both of which are related to each other.  One is that the rich need poor folks to make them richer (class relations) and the other is our history of slavery and race based oppression.  The two dovetail because the descendants of former slaves have been systematically denied access to education and jobs that would have improved their social and economic standing.  They are, therefore, overrepresented in the ranks of the poor.  So, you have poverty with pigmentation with a great many melanin deprived folks as well.  

Vagrancy laws were once common.  If you were living on the streets without means of support you were blamed for your poverty and could be incarcerated for having no means of support.  That direct an assault on the poor became embarrassing after a while.   Vagrancy per se is no longer criminal but everything one must do to survive on the streets is illegal.  What were called "hobo camps" or "jungle camps" in the 1930's are routinely torn down by authorities supposedly for the inhabitants own good.  Begging, often called panhandling, is severely restricted in nearly all cities and towns.  

Those are just the most obvious forms of criminalized behavior by the poor.  From there we move up to overcrowding in housing.  When too many people stuff themselves into one house because it is the only way to make ends meet by sharing housing expenses.  Again, in the name of safety for the poor they are thrown out of their shelters.  Then there are all the laws about vehicle safety (tail lights out) etc that the police can and do use to stop and interrogate the poor. These stops often lead to other charges such as driving w/o a license, w/o an inspection sticker,  w/o proper insurance, etc.  

Although these laws may have some benefit to society as a whole they are onerous the those who can't afford all the fees that go into modern life.  The reason that they can't afford them is because of the low wage structure in this country that pays minimum wage or less for many jobs.  

So, it becomes a slippery slope.  You lose your good paying job so you take a low wage job (or two) at McDonald's or Walmart but you have to have a car to get to work, take the kids to school, get to the free health clinic, etc.  But the insurance is too much so you drive without it.  Your tail light is out so you get stopped and you are sited for not having insurance.  Your license is revoked so you drive without a license because the kids still need to get to school and you still have to get to work.  You get stopped again for some petty reason and now you're in real trouble.  

The above scenario assumes that you had and lost a good job.  What about the folks who never had a good job.  What about folks who's parents never had a good job.  Think of the accumulation of poverty the way you think of the accumulation of wealth.  A poor man passes on to his kids a poor education because the schools in his area are poor.  Those kids (with some exceptions) then are unable to get good jobs and their kids continue in poverty.  

There are those of you who will say that there has been fifty years of a "War On Poverty" and that the folks who are poor simply haven't taken advantage of Welfare, Food Stamps, etc.  Well, yes they have, in fact that is what has kept the top from blowing off the whole situation until now.  Those programs provide meager, subsistence rationing for a great many folks but without proper schools and jobs they are simply a very leaky band aid at best.  

A great many poor folks carry on life in the public square (on the street).  Police can see you when you are on the street.  The police aren't going to take the effort to do the investigative work it takes to find the big dealers, the importers, the financiers of drug operations.  They are going to go after the folks they see right in front of them as they cruise the poor neighborhoods.  So, while crimes are being committed in all neighborhoods it is the poor areas that are under surveillance and that's where the cops are going to catch you for a drug related crime.
So, you have a perfect combination of circumstances for the rise of what has become known as the Prison Industrial Complex. Our prisons are about punishment - not rehabilitation.  And they are filled with people who, upon release, have no hope of participating in "normal" society.  Their past prevents them from getting nearly any kind of work so they eake out a living on the margins of society and, more often than not, end up in prison again. 

(More To Come)

Steven Matherly