The Molly Maguires – Free Download

MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970, mustache
MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970
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Make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Down the mines no sunlight shines
Those pits they’re black as hell
In modest style they do their time
It’s Paddy’s prison cell
And they curse the day they’ve travelled far
Then drown their tears with a jar

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Backs will break and muscles ache
Down there there’s no time to dream
Of fields and farms, of womans arms
Just dig that bloody seam
Though they drain their bodies underground
Who’ll dare to push them around

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

An old Irish folk song, recorded at 4am.  I love this song both as a song and for its topic.  My favorite version is Luke Kelly singing it with the Dubliners.  There is no point in even trying to match there version, which casts it as a celebratory drinking song, so I did something different with it.  I know where not to tread!

As the media drifts further on into the realm of the ridiculous, as income inequality builds, remember that people actually fought for the rights working people take for granted every day.  Though there is some dispute as to the exact story of the Molly Maguires, their story is not near the only one.

The photo above is Sean Connery and it is from the 1970  The Molly Maguires.  It’s a film I saw as a kid.

The Drug War’s Racist and Anti-Progressive Roots

I’m not the least surprised by this article that talks about the drug wars racist and anti-progressive roots.  I’ve read before about how certain people in the government will use political issues to destroy their opponents.  In Enemies: A History of the FBI journalist Tim Weiner documents how Hoover used his power to destroy the American left when it was possible.  So knowing that, and how absurd the drug war is, it’s no surprise that John Erlichman, who worked for President Nixon, said this:

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Now can you imagine what a President Trump would do to silence his critics?

John Oliver On Donald “Drumpf”

Dear god this is fucking great!  If you haven’t seen this piece on Donald Trump, please take the time to do so, especially if you know anyone that would even consider voting for this mutant.  Oliver, despite operating under the guise of comedy, is actually a better reporter than most of those in our media.  “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” (Oscar Wilde)

Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next’ and The Allegory of the Cave

I wish that Americans could discount whatever bias they may have for Michael Moore and see his new movie, Where to Invade Next.  Moore travels the world to look at ways of life different from the U.S., things that foreign countries do better than us through their governments.  This is an extremely patriotic movie, as Moore not only wants to see America get better, but also makes note that many of the ideas in the film were originally American.  He also makes it clear that the countries have these things because their populations were politically motivated enough to make them happen.

Now I know some cynics will say that these countries have other problems.  Moore does not try to paint other countries as utopias.  He is simply trying to get Americans to take the best ideas from around the world and put them together to benefit our society.  There are alternatives to our current state of affairs, which if you look at our election cycle it is clear that, despite our differences, people feel something needs to change.

I keep thinking of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and they begin to give names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

I have traveled quite extensively and I have seen some of the things presented in the movie with my own eyes.  However, I was unaware of many of the things in the movie, though they jive with what I have seen in the countries I have visited.  I think what Moore is trying to do is to show a world that is not often presented in our terrible celebrity driven corporate media.

If we could get out of our whole right/left paradigm and view Moore’s film as a set of ideas to be discussed I think it would do us a lot of good.  Although our country often disagrees about the cause of our ills, many people of different political persuasions realize there is something deeply strange going on in our culture and in our politics.  How do we create a government that benefits the most amount of people possible?  Due to our media, which thrives on scandal, tragedy, and covering our political discourse like a horse race, ideas on how to fix things, many of which already exist in other parts of the world, are often left behind in the shadows.

Moore’s movie is the work of an optimist.  If people could only see things as they truly are, they would make better decisions on how they govern and want to be governed.  Kurt Vonnegut once called the idea that the American people would do the right thing if given the right leader, “Hunter Thompson’s disease”.  Thompson, despite the dark nature of much of his writing, believed that that was the case.  That is why he actively participated in the public arena.  (Though I don’t think Vonnegut would have written the things he did if he thought there was no hope, even if at times, especially near the end of his life, he viewed our prospects as bleak.)  Are people like Thompson and Moore dreamers?  Are we merely a country that is driven by our tribal allegiances.  Are we too easily manipulated to ever discern right from wrong?  If I’m honest, I have my good days and bad days with that whole deal.  But I still have hope that if more people were presented with information, that enough of them would make the right choice.  (“There are some people you just can’t reach.”)  I think Moore’s film is a fountain of ideas that are worthy of debate.  It’s a great conversation starter.  If we can at least have a debate based on ideas, if we can have that conversation, maybe, just maybe, we can find a path through the darkness.

 

Thoughts On the Election

I wanted to write about the election in some fashion, but it’s fucking depressing, so I have delayed.  I’m not saying it is without hope.  In Bernie Sanders I believe there is a candidate that is addressing the main problem in America, that our economic system has completely corrupted our ability as a country to deal with the very real problems we face.  A system that values money above all else, and that is what our system truly values, has lead to obscene income inequality, environmental degradation, a mainstream culture that is largely meaningless, and more.  My hope comes from the fact that not only is Sanders bringing this issue to a larger audience, but that he is dong as well as he is so far.  At the beginning of the election I didn’t have much hope that a democratic socialist could go almost head to head with the Clinton machine.

That being said the rest of the election feels like the WWE is organizing it in a banana republic.  Send in the clowns.  Imagine if you were from another country looking in.  The most powerful country in the world, the country with the strongest military, was considering putting either a reality TV star or Ted Cruz at the head of one of its two political parties.  I don’t even know what to call Ted Cruz.  Words escape me.  I can’t tell if he is a charlatan of the worst kind, or a dangerous true believer.  There is something reptilian about him.  He makes George W. Bush look like FDR.  (Never ever say things can’t get worse.  The world will install a trapdoor in the abyss if you boldly declare you have hit rock bottom.)

In the middle of all of this you have Clinton.  I don’t know what to make of her either, but for a different reason.  Her husband was a corporate Democrat.  If you think otherwise go read about his presidency.  What does she believe in?  Does she share her husband’s values?  (There is no guarantee either way.)  How could someone that has been in the public eye this long still mystify me as to what her true political beliefs are?  In one sense I understand it.  She was attacked so vehemently from the outset, when she was First Lady, that it’s not hard to imagine that she would have to develop an impenetrable exterior to deal with it.  But armor can not only protect, but conceal.  I think she would be pretty centrist, but there are a few key issues, in terms of what kind of centrist, that could make all the difference.  (There is a potential for Clinton to be a great president.  She is definitely smart and capable.  I think she understands the machinations of the political system enough to get things done.  However, without knowing what she believes, I feel like choosing her over Sanders would be casting a vote into the void, just hoping for the best.)  Don’t get me wrong, I’d vote for her over this bunch of Republicans, as it would be a vote against total insanity.  But what does it say about our country that we might end up having to choose between middle-of-the-road and batshit crazy?

…………………..

On another note, I can’t help but feel that many on the right and left are angry about the same things, even if they can’t agree on the cause.  A lot of people are feeling the uncertainty that our economic system has caused.  But I also think both sides feel the meaninglessness that is inherent in our culture.  Those on the right might call it immoral, but I would just say meaningless, though what has created it is a certain kind of greedy immorality.  The main operating value is money.  Whatever makes money wins.  This is how we end up with so many things that just end up representing the lowest common denominator.   Although there are of course things that the right and left will never agree upon, I do believe that if both sides could recognize the meaninglessness of a lot of our culture, and the fact that greed has created it, there could be positive changes that would satisfy members of both groups.  But maybe I’m just dreaming?

Hannah Arendt and Anti-Semitism

One of my favorite political writers, aside from George Orwell, is Hannah Arendt.  Right now I am reading her book The Origins of Totalitarianism.  I have read a great deal about Nazi Germany, World War II, and world politics between the World Wars.  However, despite this, I have never completely understood how so many were captivated by such vehement anti-semitism.  A conversation with a friend made me realize that as much as I had read, I only had some vague notion of how such an ideology could be so popular.  The first part of this book attempts to explain how this modern form of anti-semitism arose.  Arendt, an assimilated German Jew, was able to escape Nazi Germany and eventually make her way to America.  Arendt’s work is challenging, not because of the language, but because of the complexity of the ideas apparent in it. I don’t feel that I am at a point that I can do a great job summing up her ideas.  The subject matter, as are most large scale issues in the world, is complex, dealing with history and political theory, not only of those that eventually became anti-semetic, but also of Jewish history, and the politics of power, that would take a writer far greater than I to do a short summery of it.  Really the best way to understand it is to read her book, which I think is really worth it.  In examining this subject, it has not only made me think about anti-semitism, but the complexity of politics and history in general.  Human beings love simple stories and often myths.  But the truth of the world often is only obscured by our wish for simplicity.  She had one of the great minds of the 20th Century.  She was not only able to balance many different ideas and disciplines at once, but was relentless in her pursuit of the truth.  The pressure to tell a simpler story must have been immense.  If you view her in her time period, a Jew during one of the most horrific events in all of history, and woman, who did much of her most important work in America before the Feminist movement, she only seems more fearless.

A Disagreement with Ta-Nehisi Coates

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best and brightest writers of his generation, but lately I have had a problem with his approach to politics, especially his criticisms of Bernie Sanders.  I think it was Chuck D that said that when white people face a recession, black people face a depression.  (Paraphrased)  I totally think that is the truth.  There is no doubt that black people face inequality, not only in income, but across the board when it comes to rule of law.  One can simply look at the violence directed towards black people by the police in comparison to white people.  And these things are only touching the surface.  However, I can’t help but feel that Coates addresses everything through a one issue lens, while also misunderstanding the realities of presidential politics.  I want the same end goals as Coates does, but I feel that his approach is misguided.

America made progress on a whole host of issues from Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, through the Civil Rights and other movements of the 60’s,  until the rise of Ronald Reagan.  Since Reagan the working and middle class of this country have have seen tremendous setbacks.  There is no doubt that these setbacks have affected blacks and other minorities worse than whites.  One of the truths of American power, since the Civil War, that has been more or less effective at different time periods, has been to divide and conquer.  Lower class whites and blacks, which in reality have much in common, have been pitted against each other.  (Often all too easily I’m afraid.)

Aside from rare achievements like Obamacare, which many of us on the left think didn’t go far enough, true progressive goals have been sidelined.  This is due to the Republicans ability to siphon off white working class voters.  But this is also due to the fragmented nature of the left, where each group has their pet issue, instead of uniting for the greater common good.  In a capitalist society, money is power.  Unions have been destroyed.  Healthcare still doesn’t reach enough people.  Education has been robbed of the kind of value that allows people to think critically, not only making people less intelligent politically, but preventing the kind of fluid intelligence that allows people to change jobs with changing times.  The right and left argue over culture matters.  The left is guilty of this for sure.  Instead of addressing issues that will lead to a fairer system, inequality is attacked in a series of patchwork attempts, always leaving some other hole for problems to arise.

Politics is also largely a realm of the realistic.  One can only harness energy and attention for so long.  How do you do the most good with limited energy?  What topics does one tackle first?  A president must not only try to balance the wishes of many groups simultaneously, but is also constricted through very real laws that balance the power of government between different branches.  That is how the presidency has been since the founding of our country.  The founding fathers did not create a dictatorship.

It is true that there is a need for certain kinds of extremists and dreamers in the political realm.  You need people that push the envelope, that hold those in power accountable.  I am by no means saying that these people don’t have their place.  But when this becomes the norm, I think you will see that a political party stands a very slim chance of getting anything done that will last.  There have to be those that understand the reality of law, how to get laws actually passed, etc.  As a musician, I am a dreamer.  But as a History and eventually an American Studies Major, I also know that there needs to be those in power than understand the mechanisms of government.

One of my favorite writers is George Orwell.  Orwell was a democratic socialist that was also highly critical of the utopian left.  He understood that if you wanted to raise the living of the working class, you had to get them on your side.  Orwell understood the plight of miners in Northern England, even if intellectually and culturally he was quite different.  He understood why these people had certain religious and cultural beliefs.  A certain kind of culture and education influences the way one thinks.  Attacking something someone holds dear, if it is not related to the matter at hand, especially if in all other ways they would be open to an important political goal, is foolish.  In politics, you have to be willing to meet people where they are at.

I believe that overall Sanders and Coates want the same end goal.  They both want to live in a fairer country where there is more opportunity for all people, where everyone is treated equally under the rule of law.  But Coates as been critical of Sanders for not taking up one of his explicit political causes.  If he was attacking a sitting political power I would deem what he is doing as noble and necessary to the political process.

However, in an election cycle, especially when the opposing choices are so horrendous, I can’t help but think of what he is doing is foolish.  Sanders largely shares the same goals, even if he views getting there differently.  Why, when critiquing someone, would you pick Sanders?  Coates explains this, but I just can’t agree with him.  (And anyone that thinks all politicians are the same needs to merely think how recent historical events would have played out if Gore would have won instead of Bush.  At least Bill Maher is honest enough to admit he should have not voted for Nader.  And if you don’t believe voting matters, that politicians are the same, there are probably thousands of dead Iraqis that would say differently, if only they could.)

In a perfect world there would possibly be a greater variety among the candidates.  But politics is again partially dealing with the realities of a situation.  These are the candidates that we have.  Sanders might not be checking off every box for Coates, but doesn’t he run the risk of helping to elect someone that is either completely part of the status quo, with Hillary, or someone that is actually opposed to Coates brand of politics?  This is an election cycle where certain candidates are outright demonizing minorities.  Well this might be election year B.S, I can’t help but feel that there is a dark undercurrent in the right that will actually see the light if one of the Republicans is elected.

I view income inequality and climate change as the two biggest issues of our day.  With climate change, if that isn’t addressed, all other issues may be worthless, as we might all end up sharing a world that isn’t worth living in.  There is also a clock on that issue.  We only have so long to get it right.  The Democrats are much better on that issue than the Republicans.  It is also worth saying that the poorest people in the world will be affected the most by climate change, many of them minorities.

Income inequality affects people from all races, even if it is disproportionately affecting minorities.  How long can we live in a world where 65 people hold more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion, before there is a revolution that doesn’t not happen through the comparatively peaceful channels of politics?  Sanders is the best candidate on this issue.  Again, I’m not saying his platform would go far enough in addressing all wrongs, but I think it is the platform that would do the most good for the most people.

These is not saying that there are not other issues that this country needs to address by any means.  But a candidate that can make a difference on these issues can do good for a great amount of people, including minorities.  In a year when so many things are on the line, should not those of us that share common goals, do our best to put away our differences for the time being?  I have my own personal checkbox of things I would like to see changed, but I know what is first and foremost of importance.  I’m not even arguing that Coates should not be adding to the dialog, saying certain proposals don’t go far enough.  But I find his particular criticism of the candidate closest to him to be troubling.  I just can’t help but feel Coates is doing some harm right now, along with some good, when it comes to the political future of this country.

 

 

George Orwell: Why I Write

George Orwell: Why I Write

A friend is reading a collection of George Orwell essays I recommended called Facing Unpleasant Facts.  Because I wanted to be able to talk about the book intelligently, but it had been some time since reading it, I decided on the van ride home today to reread a couple of his best essays, including Why I Write.  You can read the same essay at the above link.

Orwell was probably better than any writer, in the English language, at getting across big ideas in clear direct language.  In this essay Orwell not only provides a window into his motivation for writing, but the motivation for writers as a whole. He also makes the case for writing as truth telling.

Another reason I love Orwell is that he was very realistic about how to achieve political goals.  He is often misunderstood, due to readers’ selectiveness, as his writing is crystal clear.  Orwell considered himself a democratic socialist, but he often criticized the left for their approach to achieving their goals, especially in the language that they used.  I can’t help but feel that Orwell is greatly missed in these tumultuous times.  Luckily his writings are still here, still powerful, pointing the way.

 

No We Won’t Be Safer if We All Go Buy Guns

No, We Won’t Be Safer if We All Go Buy Guns

The above article breaks down statistically why society is not safer with more guns, as some on the extreme right have proposed.  From the article:

Analysis by the Violence Policy Center has found that at least 29 mass shootings since 2007 were carried out by perpetrators with concealed carry permits. That’s more than three times the number of concealed permit holders who prevented mass shootings through their swift action. And it’s not as though those heroes (and they are heroes) are truly stemming the tide of non-sensical gun deaths in the U.S.: A Washington Post analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found that, for every “justifiable” gun homicide in 2012, there were 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and at least two accidental gun deaths. Similarly, a 2014 study from the University of California–San Francisco found that people who owned a gun were three times as likely to kill themselves as non-firearm owners; by comparison, the annual per capita risk of death during a home invasion is 0.0000002 percent. Hell, even toddlers kill more people than terrorists. Guns are used far more often for killing than for self-defense, despite the fact that some 63 percent of Americans think guns make them feel safer.

I don’t even believe the majority of gun owners want guns to be easier to obtain.  I know that several of my gun owning friends in Texas are troubled by the state’s new open carry law.  But there is a vocal minority and a powerful industry that wants reality to be ignored.  That minority are the ones that not only endanger us, but also have lead people like me, who used to be an agnostic on guns, to want to see more restrictions placed on them.  If you can’t police yourself, mom and dad need to take away your toys.  I don’t even like to waste the time writing about guns, as there are so many issues of greater importance.  But the extreme right gives one no choice.  They are forcing this issue, creating the very enemies to their issues that they imagined to be there, before they opened their mouths.