Tag: class

Yes We Can, now try and make us

The disparity between the super rich and everyone else grows by the day, despite public bailouts, despite the economic clusterfuck I am calling “The Great Oppression”

Our rights are still under attack.

War crimes are going un-punished.

The opposition on the right is increasingly racist, insane and growing towards violence.

and not a single Democrat seems to have the stones to call this what it is.

Class warfare.

Government doesn’t provide services to rich people

I’m morphing into a radicalized commie by the minute anymore.  The mentality of our public officials regarding their responsibilities to society shows a utterly staggering disregard for the lower classes.  The editor of the SF Bay Guardian, Tim Redmond, is equally incredulous at the world view of our ruling elites in the barking-mad basket case that is California:

The absolute most stunning statement of how messed up the state of California is emerged last week from the state director of finance, explaining why the proposed budget cuts fall so heavily on services for the poor. Let me quote directly from The New York Times:

“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.

“You have to cut where the money is,” he added.

Um … government doesn’t provide services to rich people? What about, say, the roads they drive on, and the airports they fly in and out of? What about the vast sums the state spends putting out fires that threaten wealthy enclaves in Southern California? What about the public education system, which trains workers for businesses? What about the entire criminal justice system, which exists to a significant extent to prevent poor people from taking rich people’s money?

Do you think Sergey Brin and Larry Page would have become Google billionaires if the Internet – developed and paid for by the government – didn’t exist?

(Emphasis supplied)

No country for old racist white men

     On his recent trip to Aushwitz, Newt Gingrich made a spectacular failure of his staged attempt at empathy as he wandered the halls of racial holocaust and worried only about his own wealth and status.

    Using the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to begin an email that attacks our nations first African American President and our first Latin American supreme court nominee is an insult to every American.

    Claiming that appointing a proud minority to a seat of power will undo everything we fought for in the civil war makes me question if Newt knows why we fought the civil war, as well as which side he would prefer fighting for.

    Without noticing it, the GOP has exposed themselves as the party of hatred, fear and lies. Within their own words you can see that the GOP has a Galtian Superiority complex. If there is a Godwin rule for racism it would have given up by now. The GOP is quickly becoming the new Confederate party.

    It is like going to a funeral and hitting on the widow. Going to Aushwitz and disparaging a racial minority on the grounds of reverse racism is like an ex-Nazi soldier going to a temple to blame all the Jews on the decline of the Third Reich. Seriously, the only thing Newt could do to make this look worse would be to steal Jewish owned artwork before he left Germany.

    When faced with the living embodiment of evil Newt could only think of himself. Normal people who are confronted with the face of human evil and the depth of heartless human depravity are often shocked. I guess a leading Republican spokesperson gets kind of used to that sort of thing these days.

    As Newt Gingrich gazed upon the Nazi torture chambers his thought turned towards his own dilema, which seems to be how he can make women, minorities and other social groups easier targets for racist pale skinned bigots and elitist plutocrats.

    When American politicians visit Aushwitz it should be as an exercise in empathy, to do otherwise is to turn such a visit into a photo op. In my mind, no greater insult could be made to the millions of European Jews who were systematically kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler. While posing to take a picture of the roots of evil, Newt Gingrich and the GOP has made themselves out as a group that ether tolerates hatred and evil, or endorses it.

    Torture. Aushwitz.

    I think most sane and decent human beings could agree to being opposed to both.

    Unfortunately, the modern Confederate party of Conservative America is neither decent or sane.

   In my book, any public figure that can write off empathy for the majority of their non millionaire and non Corporate constituents has totally disqualified themselves from any ability to effectively serve the public.

    This is where the GOP stands today. they refuse to serve the public at all. They are totally enthralled to the service of their lords, the private sector and the wealthy individuals, Corporations and Special Interest groups that own their corrupt political party.

    Those who can justify torture can justify anything.

    With Michael Steele, Sarah Palin and other spokespeople, the GOP gets to have their one exception to the new rule. In effect, this exception says that you can join the GOP, but only if you cater solely to the wealthy and no one else. Just as the GOP advocates socialism for the rich and free market capitalism and personal responsibility for everyone else, in the eyes of the GOP empathy is only reserved for war criminals and rich white males. Anything else is Un-American, apparently.

    Going forward, we should remind any voter who is not white, male, heterosexual, christian or wealthy enough exactly where the Confederate party stands on matters of empathy, equality and social justice. We should put the right wing talking points of last week in a time capsule, and we should bring that time capsule out in 2010, 2012, 2014 and on with a little not attached that says “The New Confederate Party”

    The thing about having no empathy is that without empathy you can not have guilt or shame.

    This is just one more reason why the GOP is unfit to run (and wreck) America again.

The R is for Racism

     White people are not allowed to bitch about reverse racism. Period.

    Rich people do not get to complain about being oppressed, either.

    And I do not know which stupidity is more insulting to the intellect, Newt Gingrich twittering about reverse racism and his own wealthy white male people’s plight against oppression while he tours the death chambers of (Oy Gavult) Auschwitz, or using a Martin Luther King Jr quote to begin an e-mail that paints a latino woman as an-anti white racist with a superiority complex.

    The reality is that the GOP prefers minorities who know and act as if they were inferior. The empathy/reverse racism meme simply means that the only empathy allowed is for wealthy people and corporations, and the only racism allowed by the GOP is their own.

    The Republican party has been reduced to projecting the things that it fears will be used against themselves at their enemies. The GOP has failed on every level. They have no ideas and they aren’t even trying to find new ones. Instead, the repackage the same shit we have been force fed for the last 40 years.

    That is until recently, when the GOP and the Corporate Oligarch started taking pages from 1859 Virginia.

    Elitist, fascist and Un-American have been thrown around lately, and even then it is hard to swallow, but this whole Racism meme over Sonia Sotomayor takes the cake.

    The battle plan is divide and conquer. This is class war, after all.    


Wafer Thin

I recently watched a documentary on HBO about an at risk school struggling to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind.

Hard Times at Douglas High and I noted on the boards at HBO there was a lot of “this is depressing” commentary or some general lashing out against poor people. A few teachers weighed in to echo similar experiences.

One of the dominant themes of addressing poverty in this country is to focus in on “what is wrong” with poor Americans rather than what it is structurally, culturally, and economically wrong with our country that consistently produces an under class. Now I am not arguing that we can climate poverty by tinkering with social programs although I think we can reduce it. First we have to examine our attitudes toward poverty, our disdain and fear.

A common meme is that the poor make “bad decisions” and that can account for their status but what is missing from that approach is the admission that the middle class and wealthy make bad decisions as well. When middle class and wealthy people make bad decisions they frequently have a broad safety net that cushions the impact composed of either access to funds or family and friends who are willing to “invest” in their problem to correct it. When a middle class kid gets involved in drugs or violence we are also far more likely to forgive them or ascribe it to some outside “bad influence” but when a kid from a bad section of Memphis gets involved in the same activity we dismiss them as “gang bangers” who can’t be helped or we assume they are already “bad kids”. We expect poor kids to behave badly and it simply emphasizes our already ingrained opinions and we still have some capacity to be vaguely shocked or disturbed when a middle class or wealthy kids act out in anti-social behavior. We assume poor people in general already have a capacity for inappropriate behavior because we have already decided “what is wrong with them”. It never occurs to us that poor people have jobs, raise their kids with some wisdom or decency and have the same dreams for them as the middle class do for their kids. We assume they want or aspire to less and feel perfectly comfortable seeing them assigned less as a result.

Indeed in the current political campaign there is much discussion about what can be done to help the middle class primarily as an impulse to prevent them from becoming poor or rebellious but little about how to create structures to help poor people either join the middle class or have a decent manageable life as poor people because of course being poor itself is something to be ashamed of.

Low Class Gains in Higher Education

A new economics study by Joseph Altonji, Prashant Bharadwaj, and Fabian Lange demonstrates that:

The earnings premium for skilled labour has increased dramatically in recent decades. Yet, as this column shows, Americans are not acquiring significantly greater skills in response to this change. The resulting gap will increase US income inequality in the coming decades.

The study goes on to demonstrate that despite the increased premium value of developing labor skills through higher education, the population in general has not sought these skills in relative proportion.  In other words, we aren’t seeing many gains in people improving their financial prospects by investing in their own education.

Economist Brad DeLong says that the study’s authors don’t know why this is happening (which is a fair complaint), but goes on to suggest that

This raises the possibility that the only easy way to reduce market inequality is to greatly increase the supply of the skilled and educated in the long run by making higher education free

This seems unlikely to be effective to me on two levels.  First of all, an economist ought to understand (and DeLong does) that there is no such thing as “free”; someone will have to pay for higher education to be free to its consumers.  Indeed, as he points out, “which is a very dubious policy on the inequality front, because it starts with a honking huge transfer from the average taxpayer today to the relatively rich well-educated of tomorrow.”

But the more important rebuttal to his point (more effective than his own) is that brought up by Tyler Cowen: that the skills required to succeed at even a low level in college are poorly taught to the population at large.

One of my close friends is completing her first year as a public school teacher in New York City (her third year as a professional teacher).  Her class is a fourth grade class at a public school in Grand Concourse in the Bronx.  She has 28 students, only one of which reads at a fourth grade level.  For a wide variety of reasons, despite her significant efforts, it is unlikely that more than a couple of her students will be at a fifth grade level when the school year ends this month.  And no, this is not the most remedial class of fourth graders her school has.

It seems to me that DeLong obscures the real problem, that of students being unprepared and unlikely to succeed in higher education, with that of students being unable to afford higher education.  Many, if not most, college and graduate students debt finance their education; a rational choice considering the economic benefits that education will offer them.  However, rational actors will not pay for a premium education if they consider themselves unlikely to succeed at it and therefore unlikely to reap the future economic benefit.

I read this study as evidence of the continued failure of our primary and secondary education systems, not as a study of the failure of our society to make higher education affordable or making the information about the benefits of higher education widely available.  What say you?

Pelosi Speaks Out On Tibet; Class Conflict A Cause of Protest

Speaking in Dharamsala, seat of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Ms Pelosi said: “We call upon the international community to have an independent outside investigation on accusations made by the Chinese government that His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] was the instigator of violence in Tibet.”

She added: “The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world.

“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China and the Chinese in Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak out on human rights.”

link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asi…

Memories, Class Anxiety, and Shuffling Toward Oblivion

I think my own notions of class might be a bit too quaint. I think about my grandparents. Granddad with a grade eight education, worked at a steel mill when things like that actually existed in North America. Grandma worked part time on the weekends at a dry cleaners operating one of those giant presses. They owned a small home. They took modest vacations camping all across Canada and the United States. They believed in “saving for a rainy day”. My grandpa, like most men in his neighborhood could build and fix things. My uncle Floyd was a printing press operator who made a bit of extra money on the side fixing cars in his neighborhood. My mother went to nursing school at age seventeen because girls became teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Although she later went to university as an adult, it never occurred to my grandparents to send her even though she had straight As. There was a rather well off side of the family and the women from that part became teachers. It was considered respectable to do that.

Then I think of my own early childhood. We were probably considered middle class because my mother was in a union and while they did go on strike, she was never laid off. My grandparetns had to consider layoffs in their houshold budget. My parents separated and my mother got a job as a nursing instructor. She made exactly enough money to qualify for a mortgage and borrowed the down payment off my grandparents. Despite the fact that my mother was an is skillful at handling money, it generally ran low at the end of the month and we ate vegetarian. Most of the men on my street worked in factories, I lived in a GM town and working there was a commonly expressed aspiration. When I was eighteen one of my childhood friends got on with GM and we thought she had won the lottery. She did to.

The men on my street generally worked in factories although there was a teacher, a few firemen, and a cop. If you raised to much hell, Art, the cop might talk to your parents. His boys, one of whom was my age, were expected to be nice to the young kids and even the girls and include them in games. They might have resented it but they reluctantly included me street hockey, helped me learn how to skate at the local arena, and beat the shit out of a boy from another neighborhood when my nose got bloodied. When I took power skating, a big guy from out of the neighborhood who knew Art’s boys, took up for me when the guys in my class accidental knocked me over about a hundred times. He skated over and asked what the problem was. Naturally, I said there was none. He was sixteen, I was ten, I had no freaking clue who he was. The next week he was there at the rink, teen aged boys hung out there even when they weren’t playing hockey. He showed me how to tie my skates a different way to compensate for my weak ankles and introduced himself. Nobody knocked me on my ass at power skating although they still told me I couldn’t skate worth shit.

It wasn’t all nostalgic tribalistic bonding. Until other couples got divorced on our street, my mom and I were outsiders. The women considered her a threat, the men thought she was uppity. I routinely got into fights at school because I “did not have a dad” and spent an inordinate amount of time at the principals office. I was small, I lost most of the fights. My clothes weren’t stylish and my mother could not volunteer as a parent chaperon on school field trips. There was a limited amount of social tolerance for anybody who was perceived to be different. If you were different you were expected not to draw attention to yourself and inhale a certain amount of harassment or exclusion at recess. Teachers did not intervene unless blood was spilled. My school went from K to 8, it was big by the standards of those days:700 kids by the time I left. Older kids used drugs there on the weekends and dropped the occasional needle. A chapter of a well known motorcycle gang had a house within walking distance of my street. Everybody knew where it was. Nobody got very nosy. My mother’s best friend was from India. When she and her husband came to visit, people in my neighborhood stood in the driveway and stared.

My mother went to graduate school secretly because you got a 500 dollar bonus at the community college. She was worried she would be seen as too ambitious by her boss and get assigned extra work so she did not tell anybody. She just wanted the money.

The United States was considered rather exotic. They were hip.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired

No, those are not my words. This is not one of those essays where I declare my vast and eternal disenchantment with Blogtopia, the net roots, America, western civilization, the Democratic party, or french fries that aren’t crispy. When I need a break, I will take one. Until then, I need to engage in the tremulous task of saving my brain from impending calcification and trying to look for sources of inspiration.

No, those words were spoken by Fannie Lou Hamer, a brilliant, compassionate, and straight talking Black woman from Mississippi who was a grass roots civil rights activist and anti-poverty worker. She was born poor and she died that way. Americans all seem to want their political/historical struggles to have a happy ending, a conclusive convergence of harmony, perhaps so they can hang on to their myths.

A few other things Mrs.Hamer said:

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.

There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.

With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it: I say with the handful, for the handful, by the handful, cause that’s what really happens.

If the white man gives you anything-just remember when he gets ready he will take it back. We have to take it for ourselves.


Here is a selection of biographical material about her if anybody is still intrigued after my inevitably inadequate introduction to her. Fascinating people just cannot be presented fairly in an essay.

Naturally there is no irony in the fact that Fannie Lou Hamer’s name was specifically attached along with Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King to the Voting Rights Reauthorization Bill thus recognized and canonized but was so poor right before she died that she could not afford a post mastectomy prosthesis that she had to stuff socks in her clothing. When she died she and her husband had no money friends had to raise money for the funeral. She chose to stay in Mississippi and continue as an anti-poverty crusader rather capitalize financially through being recognized. It seems we love agitators most when they are gone and we merely tolerate them or seek to mold them when they are with us. We wish to harness the raw power of those who step beyond the the accepted battle lines in order to push our won agenda and then they are often discarded. Many Black women played crucial roles in the civil rights movement. Lynne Olson, an author who looks at the significant role women played in that era notes that Rosa Parks was often depicted as being very deferential when she was actually a careful planner who had put much thought and effort into her actions. And further once the Montgomery bus boycott was initiated, and Martin Luther King was involved, Parks was not allowed to speak at the first mass meeting.She asked to speak, and one of the ministers there said he thought she had done enough. It was time for the men to drive the movement apparently.

Load more