October 3, 2012 archive

On This Day In History October 3

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 3 is the 276th day of the year (277th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 89 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, Woody Guthrie, godfather of the 1950s folk revival movement, dies.

In 1963, Bob Dylan was asked by the authors of a forthcoming book on Woody Guthrie to contribute a 25-word comment summarizing his thoughts on the man who had probably been his greatest formative influence. Dylan responded instead with a 194-line poem called “Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” which took as its theme the eternal human search for hope. “And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin’?” Dylan asks in the poem, before proceeding to a kind of answer:

You can either go to the church of your choice

Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital

You’ll find God in the church of your choice

You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) is best known as an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar. His best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land”, which is regularly sung in American schools. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress. Such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton have acknowledged their debt to Guthrie as an influence.

Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned traditional folk and blues songs. Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression, earning him the nickname the “Dust Bowl Troubadour”. Throughout his life Guthrie was associated with United States communist groups, though he was never an actual member of any.

Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children, including American folk musician Arlo Guthrie. He is the grandfather of musician Sarah Lee Guthrie. Guthrie died from complications of Huntington’s disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder. During his later years, in spite of his illness, Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.

Folk revival and Guthrie’s death

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new generation of young people were inspired by folk singers including Guthrie. These “folk revivalists” became more politically aware in their music than those of the previous generation. The American Folk Revival was beginning to take place, focused on the issues of the day, such as the civil rights movement and free speech movement. Pockets of folk singers were forming around the country in places such as Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. One of Guthrie’s visitors at Greystone Park was the 19-year-old Bob Dylan, who idolized Guthrie. Dylan wrote of Guthrie’s repertoire: “The songs themselves were really beyond category. They had the infinite sweep of humanity in them.” After learning of Guthrie’s whereabouts, Bob Dylan regularly visited him. Guthrie died of complications of Huntington’s disease on October 3, 1967. By the time of his death, his work had been discovered by a new audience, introduced to them in part through Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, his ex-wife Marjorie and other new members of the folk revival, and his son Arlo.

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What Banging on Pots Has Wrought for Québec

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The 2012 Quebec student protests in the Canadian Provence of Québec has won big. The nightly demonstrations in the streets that began in February over tuition hikes, won the support of the general population, fought an unjust law that criminalized protests, did not back down. They ousted the government of Premier Jean Charest, replacing him with progressive Pauline Marois. This is what they have accomplished for the citizens of Québec and Canada:

Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois’ government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.

After rescinding the Charest government’s special bill that criminalized student demonstrations, they abolished the tuition increase that universities had already begun charging (many students have received a rebate). The Parti Québecois also eliminated a highly regressive two hundred dollar per person health tax and have moved to shut down a controversial nuclear power plant. In another decision prioritizing the environment and people’s health, they placed a long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracking and eliminated subsidies for asbestos mining, which prompted the federal Conservative government to announce it would no longer block the Rotterdam Convention from listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic product. [..]

(T)he PQ appears to be reevaluating the $3 billion Turcot Interchange highway expansion that the Montréal city council has criticized and the Plan Nord resource extraction initiative, which has been criticized by environmental, socialist and indigenous groups. [..]

To pay for abolishing the health tax and tuition freeze the government announced a tax increase for those making over $130,000 and another higher tax bracket for those making over $250,000. Additionally, the government announced that it will increase certain corporate taxes and reduce capital gains tax exemptions, which allow those who make their money from investing to pay lower tax rates than those who make their money from working. [..]

For those in Québec, recent gains should inspire further mobilizations. For those outside, the PQ’s reforms are a reminder that determined grassroots movements can create a political climate in which governments place environmental concerns and social rights over the interests of corporations and the wealthy.

Here are some lessons that can be learned from the Québec students:

1. Vote

Voting doesn’t need to mean choosing between two candidates who don’t represent their views, but backing someone who participates in their struggle, like frequent Occupy arrestee and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.

2. Expose Injustice

American protesters must showcase the police brutality and unlawful arrests intended to discourage demonstrations to prove how the rights Americans take for granted are actively being taken away, hopefully enlivening them to take action and build support

3. Popular Movements Require a Populace

Find ways to encourage people out of their homes and places of work and into the streets so that their numbers cannot be ignored.

4. Persistence Is Key

A constant presence was essential in reminding authorities that they were not going anywhere and that their concerns were not to be taken lightly. Protests every six months are nice, but protests every evening show you mean business.

5. Find Common Ground and Align

Two of the largest student organizations in Quebec, CLASSE and FEUQ, employed different tactics and different end goals. At the same time, however, they had a significant amount of overlap in their desires and chose to focus on the similarities to work together and bring about change.

6. Stand By Your Allies

Hoping for compromise, Quebec’s government agreed to hold talks with the more temperate student groups, but would not allow representatives from CLASSE to participate in these discussions. Instead of taking the opportunity to put their own interests first, these student groups walked out on the talks altogether.

7. Reach Out to Unions

When mobilizing a movement, one of the quickest ways to grow your numbers is to connect with large groups of people who are already politically active, namely unions. While the student unions themselves were the most crucial, their networking with labor unions was also important.

8. Pick a Cause

The Canadian students adopted a single cause to rally around, which proved effective in achieving change. [..]

That does not mean abandoning reform on all fronts, but rather dividing to focus on specific issues, while still coming together to support peers’ efforts on days of action.

9. Champion Education Specifically

If you’re looking for one particular cause to rally people behind, education is a great place to start. Not only does offering affordable education to everyone give opportunities to people who would otherwise be impoverished, but it also encourages people to think critically and question the status quo.

10. Do Not Become Complacent with Your Victories

If the government has tried to screw you over before, chances are they’ll do it again. [..]

Sure, the recent election seems promising, but a consistent, diligent presence by the student unions will help to dissuade the government from trying to backtrack a couple of years down the road.

Bang on!

The Bubble Trap

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Republican Bubble Trap

Republicans aren’t the only ones in a bubble, Democrats, too, are “getting high on their own supply.”

What are we cheering for?

by Matt Stoller

Don’t let the conventions distract you from the real lesson of 2012: America is becoming increasingly undemocratic

Ultimately, we’re seeing that both parties are rotten. This rot is rooted in economics. Despite the bitter rhetoric, Obama and Romney are basically in agreement about how the country should be governed. Both Romney and Obama want to see the same core economic trends continue. These are, most significantly, a transition to an energy system based on hydro-fracking of natural gas and oil deposits (and some renewable energy), a large national security state, the sale of public assets to private interests, globalized financial flows, a preservation of the capital structure of the large banks, free rein of white-collar behavior and austerity in public budgets. This policy agenda is a reflection of the quiet coup that IMF chief economist Simon Johnson wrote about in 2010. [..]

Whether Romney wins or Obama wins, both Social Security and Medicare are on the table for deep cuts. Romney is explicit about this, whereas Obama couches this in terms that liberals will not understand. When he talks about popping a blister of partisanship by winning an election, what he means is cutting a deal with the Republicans to restructure these programs. Sen. Dick Durbin has been telling reporters that the Obama administration is going to give the entitlement-gutting Simpson-Bowles budget framework another try if he wins, and close Obama advisers are looking for a grand bargain on taxes and entitlement reform. Obama already tried to raise the Medicare eligibility age and cut Social Security benefits during the debt ceiling negotiations. Meanwhile, corporate titans and Democratic elites like Andy Stern and Steny Hoyer are already gathering to put this framework into place in the post-election environment, regardless of who wins.

As David Dayen at FDL News Desk pointed out, the Democrats have become the Party of Austerity: Still Seeking that Grand Bargain

There’s a fault line between the parties on this – particularly on Medicaid, where there’s a legitimate difference – but overall the fault line is not at all worthy of being called a “great debate.” One side (Republicans) wants to transform safety net programs and would probably get no further than cutting them; the other side (Democrats) wants to cut them and will use its power to force their allies along. Democrats have become the party of austerity, and they see the question as, bizarrely, one of credibility. You don’t earn your stripes in Washington unless you hurt a poor person, I guess. [..]

But Democrats have truly embraced this policy of fiscal austerity. What saved us from this once is the total intransigence on the part of Republicans to accept a good deal and provide the cover in the form of a modest tax increase. If Democrats let the Bush tax cuts expire, however, they can get what they term a modest tax increase through a tax cut bill, and layer on their spending austerity changes, including social insurance. So even if there’s no warp-speed “deal” after the elections, you would have to look out for one shortly thereafter.

We have a vote, but not a voice.  

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