Chris Rock nails it.

CHRIS ROCK OSCARS
Chris Rock Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

The only thing I was looking forward to in this year’s Oscar broadcast is Chris Rock’s opening monologue. And it’s the only portion of the program I watched, which I suspect is what millions of people did, I hope we didn’t make it into the Nielson ratings as people who ‘watched’ the Oscars, because I can’t tell you a single thing that happened after the opening monologue.

Though not quite at the level of Richard Pryor, Chris Rock’s natural observation skills of people, society, racism, sexism and everything in between can be thought provoking (on top of being lewd and crude). His particular gift at pointing out the absurdities of life and ridiculousness of people added with his special method of delivery is always entertaining and funny. While Ricky Gervais can be unnecessarily rude and cutting, even to a bunch of over-privileged Hollywood brats, some of his jokes cuts too close to home. It’s not the job of the comedian to be sensitive about the subjects of his jokes, but (in my view), there should be a line somewhere, however far past the acceptable mark, it shouldn’t be crossed. Chris Rock, on most occasions can find that line without seeming as if he’s playing it safe.

Chris Rock was announced as the host of the The Academy Awards ceremonies before the Oscar nominations were announced. It was rumored that when the #OscarSoWhite controversy came to light, he threw out all of his preparations and started over, he refused to confirm or deny this but from the content of the opening monologue last night, it’s very obvious this is what he did. It’s a very sanitized version of what his normal comedy routine would be. The only word which can be considered  as remotely inappropriate would be “ass” and it wasn’t bleeped out so it must have been allowed.

He made his points in one, two, three punches. No one of importance was spared. I’d argue Will Smith got the harshest treatment when Chris Rock said “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West’ O.K.?” and proceeded to continue to skewer the Pinkett-Smiths:

Jada is going to boycott the Oscars — Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.

Oh, that’s not an invitation I would turn down.

Chris Rock is pointing out the irony of the Pinkett-Smiths’ boycott, they are arguably one of the most powerful Hollywood couples and Will Smith is one of the most successful actors of his generation with multiple Oscar nominations under his belt and generated hundreds of millions at the box office. Perhaps the #OscarSoWhite outrage should be reserved for minority actors who have not enjoyed his level of success.

Of course the burning question of the night is whether Chris Rock thinks Hollywood is “racist”, to which he had the best response:

Is Hollywood racist? Is Hollywood racist?

You know, that’s a…you gotta go at that at the right way.

Is it burning-cross racist? No.

Is it fetch-me-some-lemonade racist? No. No, no, no.

[…But]

You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to.

Hollywood is sorority racist.

It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”

This type of “sorority” or what I refer to as country club racism is not confined to Hollywood. It’s become the new mainstream racism. Slights – real or perceived, microaggressions so small that only the most fine tuned of sensibilities can detect it. Blink and you miss it. Important projects and opportunities coming up which is not relayed to non-white people ‘accidentally on purpose’ until it’s too late. Emails and bulletins regarding important meetings and team building conferences didn’t get sent out by ‘mistake’, but somehow all the white people knew about it: “Oh you didn’t know? I am sooooo sorry, I thought you knew” – type of thing. Racism that is impossible to prove and if you point it out, you get accused of stirring the pot and being oversensitive.

Chris Rock also called out the double standard demanded by Hollywood A-listers, specifically the #AskHerMore nonsense, started by Reese Witherspoon where actresses should be asked about more than who made their dress and who their stylist is. This is particularly hypocritical. Hollywood awards season (roughly September – February) every year has become a de facto fifth season for fashion. It’s when fashion designers beg A-list actresses to wear their newest off-the-runway frocks. It’s free advertisement for them and it’s become its own industry. It’s when most of the revenues in the Hollywood styling, hair, makeup, plastic surgery (botox injections and the like) and any other beauty related services are generated. And Reese Witherspoon fully participates in this. She often shows up to award shows in fashion’s latest and greatest looking fabulous, groomed within an inch of her life. If she doesn’t want people to ask about her dress and who she’s wearing, she can maybe show up to award shows in off-the-rack purchases like like Meryl Streep who buys her clothes at Bergdorf’s or Saks the week before, or like Diane Keaton who wears her own unique and whacky style of clothing; she will get polite stares over her shoulder and no one will ask her where she got her dress. Chris Rock had this response:

Everything’s not sexism, everything’s not racism.

They ask the men more because the men are all wearing the same outfits, O.K.? Every guy in there is wearing the exact same thing.

You know, if George Clooney showed up with a lime green tux on, and a swan coming out his ass, somebody would go, “What you wearing, George?”

In the few moments of seriousness, Chris Rock indirectly mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement by saying the In Memoriam section should honor the black people who were shot by police on the way to watch a movie. This comment drew uncomfortable cringes and shifting in seats but he didn’t care. Tonight is not a night to worry about political correctness or white fragility.

And addressing the lack of black presence on Hollywood screens:

What I’m trying to say is, you know, it’s not about boycotting anything. It’s just, we want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors.

That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year and, you know, everybody, all you guys, get great parts all the time.

But what about the black actors?

One can’t argue with that.

I vacillate between he didn’t go far enough and pushing far enough to make everyone just uncomfortable. It seems as if he wanted to respect the solemnity of the protest in the black community and also the occasion itself. He wanted to state his points and get his message across clearly but he didn’t want the audience to get hung up on the punchlines. It’s a very delicate balance.

The full transcript of his opening monologue is here.

Generation X (2016)

 

Source: NatGeo

*These views are my own. I am a fellow Generation X. I see myself as a very average person from very average circumstances, therefore my views reflect that.

During casual channel browsing yesterday, I came across a documentary style program on National Geographic channel called Generation X. I recorded on my DVR for my late night insomnia viewing. People of Generation X are now between the ages of 35 and 55 (those born between 1961 and 1981) and we number in about 65 million, roughly half size of Baby Boomers, and for most of us, the narratives of our lives have been determined. They are determined by our social class, our own choices, family situation and how we reacted to what life threw at us. We are the unfortunate generation of people sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. The Baby Boomers were the largest generation created by capita and everyone is obsessed with Millennials now. Everyone wants to know their spending habits, likes and dislikes and generally what makes a Millennial tick so that mass marketers and corporations can sell to them more things they don’t need with money they don’t have. The sales pitch is so insidious that many don’t even realize that they are being worked over.

Generation X are stereotypically described as loners, slackers, social outcasts (usually by choice), electronic and computer geeks (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) and mistrusting of government, authority and establishment institutions (for their propensity to lie to us). Generation X was also the first generation of people blighted by family breakdown and family dysfunction. As divorce lost its stigma in the 70s and 80s, getting divorced right when the going gets tough in a marriage became the norm. People in the 80s specifically were terribly impulsive as the ‘Me Generation’ mentality took over. Everything was about me first and everyone else later. This idea of having obligations in which you must fulfil even if you don’t want to became an anathema to the ‘Me’ anthem of that time. This created a whole generation of children who grew up in single parent homes, blended families and having siblings who don’t share both parents with you. Perhaps because of this, we became a generation of people feeling alienated and full of pent up angst. When the people you look to for guidance gives zero fucks about what they do and who it affects, their offspring gives zero fucks about them too.

It is also the reason why the sitcom ‘Friends’ was such a big hit, our friends became our families. We chose our own families. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I have seen every single episode of Friends at the time it aired. Every Thursday night, I plonked down on my sofa and watched Friends religiously. The story lines made me laugh and I identified with each character’s dysfunctional family. Chandler’s transgender father who has a Vegas showgirl, Monica’s parents favoring Ross over her – always seeing her as the loud fat girl even though she’s no longer fat but still loud, Rachel’s parents’ divorce was so bitter they can’t be in the same room with each other, Phoebe and her twin sister Regina Filange were given away as babies to foster homes, only Joey had some semblance of a ‘normal’ family in the form of a large squabbling Italian-American family.  I don’t want to shit on our parents too much, they had their own struggles. After the heyday of idealism and activism of the 60s and 70s, when the party was over in Haight-Ashbury and other such places, people dusted off their old suits and went back to work. Many were probably permanently impaired from all that drug use. Many were disillusioned. Starting in the 1970s, industry in America began to collapse. Every recession since the 1970s and its subsequent recovery was less robust than the previous. The disastrous economic policies of ‘Reaganomics’ put a lot of American families in a worse position than before. There was no “morning in America again”. It was all a lie.

This program highlighted several events in the 70s and 80s which pierced our collective consciousness. In the 1960s and 70s, the Cold War was still raging. We were told that the evil empire USSR could at any time drop nukes on us and we’d be all obliterated. The ‘duck and hide’ exercises were especially hilarious considering if a nuclear bomb actually dropped on our cities, no amount of hiding or ducking can get you out of that pickle. One look at the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and one can see. Not much was left after the bombs were dropped. I don’t think cockroaches survived that, but I digress. To be told by your president and Commander-In-Chief that there are countries, empires out there so evil we must fight them is really disconcerting. Every single person who resides in USSR or in the influence of USSR is evil or embodies evil? You see where the cynicism comes from.

[Incidentally, my father got go to the USSR right after Gorbachev’s government collapsed. He went in 1992, when he got back I asked how was Russia? He went during winter so he said the weather was appalling, just like the New England winters he endured as a child, but he got first row seats at the Bolshoi Theater to see Swan Lake for $30 and that was the highlight of his whole trip. He mentioned the famed theater was in need of an overhaul, they were still manually pulling up the curtains but aside from that, it was the best ballet you’ll ever see. I asked him if it was ‘scary’ or how the people were? He said, people are people, the same everywhere. You have nice people, you have complete assholes. Conditions were bleak at the time, breadlines were long but it was due to the government collapsing more than anything. It reminded him too much of the cold New Hampshire winters so it put him off.]

If I can single out events which defined the narrative for Generation X they would be ‘Watergate’, ‘The Iran Contra’, ‘The War on Drugs’ Reagan’s version, fall of Berlin Wall and Kurt Cobain.

Watergate scandal is pretty self-explanatory. President Nixon had his ineffective goons break in to Watergate hotel, where Democrats often hold their conferences to bug the place with wiretaps. The break in failed, two nosy Washington Post reporters went digging and brought down a president. If the public was suspicious that our politicians routinely lies to us, this was the proof and Nixon was caught red handed. Who can forget the “your president is not a crook” lecture? While his henchman Henry Kissinger got away scot free, at least the president was punished for it and Nixon’s legacy is forever tarnished by Watergate.

Not so with ‘The Iran Contra’ affair. No one got punished for this double-dealing event which involved the president as well. The Iran Contra affair was when the US government sold weapons to Iran (our sworn enemy who kidnapped Americans and held them in hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran) just one year after they released all the hostages, in order to fund the Nicaraguan Contras (anti-communist, anti-Sandinista militia group). Since the US isn’t allowed to be directly involved with the affairs of another country, they found this back door way to do it. And in exchange for selling illegal weapons to Iran (Iran was barred from buying weapons on the world market), Iran is to help the US release hostages who are being held in Lebanon during their bloody civil war. And the go-between in all this, the middle-man if you will was Israel. They helped the US collect the money, they were the cash register. Again, Iran is also the sworn enemy of Israel, but when it comes to doing some below the table dirty work like this, they are all in. And I am willing to bet the middle-man charged an ‘inconvenience fee’ for his troubles. The US government in all these cases sets up a fall guy and this time it’s Oliver North, he went to testify in Congress in his uniform and full insignia and medals and said it was a “neat idea”. It was a whole dog and pony show was to exonerate Reagan. In the end Reagan kept his job, he summoned his best second rate acting skills and apologized to the American public and he insisted that he didn’t know about trading US hostages in exchange for selling weapons to Iran. Right. Reagan, in some quarters is still one of the most beloved presidents today. This whole incident reeked from beginning to end and watching back the grainy, non-digital footage of Oliver North’s testimony had me breaking out in guffaws.

In the case of Watergate, the lesson was the cover up was greater than the crime and Nixon was duly punished, regardless of all the forces at work behind the scenes. In the Iran-Contra affair, there was no lesson, just a series of putrefying testimonies by rancid people covering up the president’s involvement.

Nothing elicited more laughs from me than seeing Nancy Reagan in her coiffed hair with pearls the size of a person’s eyeballs saying “Just Say No” to drugs. While the crack cocaine epidemic was raging in the inner cities, while black men were being locked up in huge numbers, their white counterparts who snorted powdered cocaine got slaps on the wrist or no punishment at all, all Nancy Reagan can say is “Just Say No”. Towards the end of the second Reagan presidency, they resembled our elderly grandparents who’s got not one clue how the world has changed. Despite the raging AIDS epidemic, Reagan never uttered the words “AIDS” during his presidency. The Reagans’ had become stale and outdated. Nancy Reagan’s constant pearl clutching like she was some ante-bellum southern belle was especially annoying, you wondered if she carried smelling salts. While they still abided by rules of a WASPy country club, the real rules of society had changed.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is always a touching moment to watch. It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet influence in Europe’s Eastern Bloc. But politics aside, to see Germans of East and West reunited is moving. Many have died trying to scale that wall. It is slightly comical in that the soldiers who’s main duty is to guard that wall with their lives didn’t get the memo that the East Germany government have allowed free passage. It was long overdue.

Kurt Cobain and through his band Nirvana unwittingly became the voice of Generation X. Cobain, like many Gen Xs’ came from a broken family. His father remarried, his new stepmother had children from a prior marriage as well, his father had another child with his new wife and he hated it. He got lost in the shuffle and was ignored (though not intentionally), he begun to act out and found his outlet in music. In the movie ‘Montage of Heck’, Kurt Cobain’s parents were interviewed, and they were your typical working class baby boomers, and especially his father, he was very clueless about what plagued his son, in fact, he’s still very clueless. His mother tried helping her son when he was young but his behavior got so bad that she gave up custody of him to his father. She didn’t want to deal with a wayward child. When his father and stepmother didn’t want to deal with him, he would couch surf with any relative who’ll have him. Kurt Cobain died without ever reconciling with his father, he reconciled with his mother and she had intermittent custody of his daughter Frances Bean Cobain after his death when his widow Courtney Love didn’t have all her marbles with her.

Lots of other trends and movements happened between 1961 and 1981, I enjoyed watching The Sex Pistols crashing the Queen’s 25 year jubilee on the river Thames, blaring out their own version of ‘God Save the Queen.’ It reignited that rebel spirit in me which had lay dormant, I remembered how nice it is to give zero-fucks about anyone or anything. The first two episodes of this program is a mash-up of the “best of” reels, they covered political events, social events and pop culture.

Generation X symbolized many ‘lasts’. We are the last people to experience any sort of job security, a job with health benefits and 401K. We are the last generation to attend college at a reasonable cost (especially the older Gen Xs) and our degree was worth something. We are the only generation who still remember what it was like to have a 56K modem, where Internet access at home was a luxury and the PC computer, we straddled the arc of being disconnected all the time to being connected all of the time. If you are a thirty-something Gen X, you still remember your childhood as living in the real world (as opposed to online), where you begun to type your school essays on a bulky PC unit and laser jet printer was a luxury. You still checked books out from the library to do research, Google search wasn’t in wide use yet and everything was not at your fingertips. I got my first flip cell phone when I was 20 years old, an impossibly ancient age by today’s standards.

This generation of loners and social outcasts made a way from no way. One can argue Gen X grew up during a time of unprecedented wealth and technological advancement but material wealth is no replacement for stable relationships with parents. The generational wars are in full force. Baby boomer (our parents) look at us with disdain and the feeling is probably mutual, our grandparents (The Silent Generation) while loving and kind do not understand us or our problems. After all, we didn’t have to live through the Depression like they did, which to them, was the major crisis of their lives. Many Gen Xs such as myself (and many of my peers) forged close bonds with our grandparents because they actually gave a shit about what’s happening to us even if they didn’t understand us. They know that children need to grow up in stable households and safe environments and nothing can take the place of familial affection. The financial planner Ed Slott said half jokingly, the reason why grandparents leave legacies to their grandchildren instead of their children is because there’s a conspiracy between them and their grandkids: they both hate the generation in the middle.

My heart bleeds for the Millennials, who are like my younger brothers and sisters. They are entering the workforce in a most uncertain time. There are no more safety nets, no more buffer between the sheltered life at home and the cruel world. Millennials don’t suffer the sort of alienation their older counterparts did because of smartphones. They can trick themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of friends. Feeling lonely and alienated is part and parcel of growing up in any generation, some are more pronounced than others and to overcome that feeling of alienation is part of  character building and strength one will need to navigate this world. Also, to feel alienated and lonely isn’t that bad, in fact, I think it’s good. To always fit in everywhere all the time means you just go with the trend, with the sole purpose of trying to fit in, without deliberating if fitting in all the time is a good thing. A sense of belonging and validation is one of the most basic needs of human existence but it must be with the right glove. As for Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that the world will get better because we are all connected and we can share our ideas easily, it’s all crock. Silicon Valley cannot save the world from its ills, technology can help but it’s still the people.

Finally, “fuck Andy Rooney”, you know nothing about Kurt Cobain or what he meant to people, so get off your moral high horse and stick to talking about what you know about – boring white people stuff.

A lot of people would like to have the years left that he threw away,” Rooney said. “What’s all this nonsense about how terrible life is?” he asked, adding rhetorically to a young woman who had wept at the suicide, “I’d love to relieve the pain you’re going through by switching my age for yours.” In addition, he asked “What would all these young people be doing if they had real problems like a Depression, World War II or Vietnam?” and commented that “If applied the same brain to his music that he applied to his drug-infested life, it’s reasonable to think that his music may not have made much sense either.”

 

This is a 6 episode series about Generation X on National Geographic Channel. Check local listings for air time.

The anger is real: how Hillary Clinton betrayed her supporters by taking money from Walmart. 

Alice Walton – A mug shot from her DUI arrest, who is a major Clinton donor

It has just been made widely known that Alice Walton, one of the richest women in America and one of the heirs of the Walmart family fortune donated $353,400 to the Hillary Clinton campaign. The contribution was made in December of last year and it was quietly disclosed last month and it’s now been made known to the wider public.
Hillary Clinton served on the Walmart board of directors between 1986 and 1992, at the same time as John Tate, an executive vice-president who was also a board of director. Tate was notorious for his anti-union policies against Walmart’s workers, who went on record to say:

“Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off the productive labor of people who work for a living.”

He served four of the six years with Hillary Clinton, she was largely silent about Walmart’s efforts to destroy the organization efforts of the Walmart’s workers, who are some of the most abused and underpaid in corporate America. This is a woman who calls herself a champion of women and working people yet stood by silently for six years while Walmart abused its workers. Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, who rakes in billions in profits by selling substandard products made from slave labor in the third & developing world, will not give their millions of retail workers a fixed predictable schedule, health benefits which don’t leave them starving after pre-tax deductions and a living wage so that their workers don’t have to depend  on food stamps, food pantries and the generosity of others just to eat. 

At a 1990 stockholder’s meeting, Hillary Clinton said – “I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else.” 

Since the time she’s served on the board of directors, she’s sought to distance herself from Walmart. She’s consistently downplayed the time she served on the board of Walmart, not mentioned in her autobiography and even went so far as to return donation funds from them in 2005. Clinton insists she is against any corporations who discourage labor organization. She has obviously changed her her mind about her association with the Walton family. 

To demonstrate what a betrayal it is to working people women and children (Walmart employs a lot of low-wage earning women, many of whom have children), here’s a list of the “best of” reel of the worst labor practices by Walmart. 

Anti-Union practices: Walmart is notorious for its anti-labor organization practices. Any workers or store who seek to unionize are first intimidated by the big bosses from hicktown, Arkansas who fly in via private jet to explain to workers why unionizing is bad, and the reason is, ‘you will leave us no choice but to close the store’. They also show a video showing its anti-union stance to all of its new hires, ‘explaining’ to them the virtues of remaining unorganized – flexible schedule and self-determination without the interference of bad union bosses. While it is legal for companies to relay to their employees their stance about union organization, it is not legal to intimidate or in anyway discourage by force any efforts at organization, this would include – threatening layoffs, store closures, hour reductions and denial of promotions. 

It’s claims that their stance is consistent with all other “discount retailers” is false.Walmart is not like any other discount retailer. Walmart is not the Dollar General Store chains or the 99C Store chains who actually sell discarded items from other retail stores at a discount price of $1. Walmart sells a full range of products, from groceries, pre-packaged foods, electronics, flat screen televisions, video game consoles, clothing and other household items. And it is able to sell them for cheaper than its competitors because they suppress the wages of their retail workers, all 1.3 million of them. 

Walmart, as much as possible, keep a majority of their workers on a part-time basis so that they do not have to give them health benefits and 401K. Many workers who need full time work and overtime to supplement their income are consistently denied, all to save a few bucks so they can continue to sell at prices lower than other retailers: 

There is enough wealth to spread around in America. Last year Walmart made $16 billion in profits — so there is no excuse for not giving associates, like me, a living wage; for not giving associates who want it, 40 hours a week, and overtime whenever needed, and full-time benefits. Walmart doesn’t seem to understand or doesn’t care to understand that while it is profiting from the current “low-wage” business model, the company can still profit and improve the current situation of its workers if the company would implement a business model suited more to the needs of the individual rather than the profits of the company. Until this change takes place, workers like me will continue to struggle. The struggle is very real. Trust me, I know. I work at Walmart. – Jamaad Reed 

Walmart also consistently engages in wage theft by way of training workers for their new promotions but that promotion never comes. 

There was a point in time when I was training to become the customer service manager as well. However, after close to six months of “training” — often doing this job all by myself — I wasn’t offered the position yet I was still scheduled to work as the customer service supervisor, and I wasn’t compensated for the work I did. – Jamaad Reed 

Besides low pay, wage theft, unreliable working hours, Walmart also has a history of discriminating against women. Women make up the majority of Walmart’s employees, 815,000 in total (47% of its sales workforce). Women were consistently denied raises and promotions. One affidavit after another says a woman who’s worked at one store for 9 years without a promotion, or a woman who was employee of the month twice in one year didn’t receive a raise nor promotion, Duke v. Walmart was filed as a class action lawsuit in 2001. It made its way through district courts, appeals courts, federal courts and finally the Supreme Court in 2011. The Supreme Court decided 5-4 that this suit could not be a class action lawsuit because there is no way to prove that Walmart as a whole company had a consistent policy of gender discrimination, even if every single allegation provided in the affidavits were proven true, they still could not prove that Walmart, the corporate entity had a deliberate policy to discriminate against women. The women were free to file smaller independent lawsuits against their former employer but a class action suit was out of the question. Justice Scalia (the jurist with the brilliant mind) led the majority followed by Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy. Walmart had an outright victory, they know that these low wage earning women do not have the means to file an expensive lawsuit against them. 

Perhaps most disgraceful of all is the pay at Walmart is so low that many of the workers, most of whom are women with children need public assistance and food pantries to feed their families. Food insecurity is a huge problem with Walmart workers. Workers have had to empty their pockets and put their single dollar bills and loose change together to buy lunch to share, which by the way employees do not enjoy an employee discount. Employees get discounts on grocery items but not deli food items or pre-packaged food items. In a store in Oklahoma City in 2014, Walmart organized a food drive for their employees during the holidays as most do not have enough leftover to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for their families. If this isn’t the ultimate irony I don’t know what is. Walmart sells food and groceries, the leftovers are probably thrown away or if they are feeling charitable, donated to local soup kitchens or food pantries, which by some point their sales associates may need visit to feed their families. So instead of just giving leftover food and groceries to their associates from the store directly, they create an extra hurdle. 

In 2015, Walmart gave a raise to about 500,000 of their employees. Their wage floor is no longer the federal minimum wage, their hourly wages start at $9 per hour and by February of 2016, it would go up to $10 per hour. Even at $10 per hour, and assuming the associate is lucky enough to work 40 hours a week, that is still only $19,200 per year and yet the CEO acts like he’s doing everybody a big favor. Despite the floor wage increase, Walmart still did not guarantee all its associates full time employee privileges should they want to, some stores have decreased the hours of employees after the wage increase was instituted. 

Back to Hillary Clinton, she just accepted a hefty donation from the family who invented the ‘low wage’ business model. The founder of Walmart Sam Walton died in 1992 leaving his wife and heirs billionaires. It is estimated the widow of Sam Walton and his four children each are worth around $20-30 billion each. They are not involved in the day -to-day running of the company. They sit back and collect their dividends, the family still own about 40% of Walmart stocks. 

If voters have the niggling feeling that Hillary Clinton treats her supporters with contempt, this proves it. She is fully aware that young voters are abandoning her in droves in favor of Bernie Sanders, but she made a shrewd calculation against Sander’s un-electability and will continue her business as usual to get where she needs to go, and that is to accept big donations from Wall Street, rotten and corrupt corporations like Walmart and rub in our noses. 

My support for Hillary Clinton ended some time ago, I did so with a heavy heart and disappointment but my decision was right. She has sold out over and over again. I am by no means a political idealist where I expect clean records for political candidates. I was accepting of the fact that she is the establishment, that she shifted from political activism to being a career politician – one can’t be in politics for 40 years and not be tainted by it. Now she’s not even a feminist who cares about the lives of women and children. She cares about herself and the 1%. She doesn’t deserve our support and words like “even if they (the youth) don’t support me, I support them” (paraphrase) is further proof of her condescension. 

#NotWithHer, #NotHillary, #FeelTheBern 

Dear Donald Trump Voters

Dear Donald Trump Voters:

If Trump keeps winning primaries at the rate he is going, he could very well be your next presidential candidate. This thought is scary but not for reasons that are often repeated by Trump-haters and the media.

Yes, he is a fascist, racist, misogynist and a bully but that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is that he is lying to you and you are believing his lies, lock, stock and barrel.

That wall he talks about building along the border with Mexico and have the Mexican government pay for it? Unless he overturns NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), a fortified border where no Mexican can get through is near impossible. Also, Mexicans are not the only people that uses the southern border freely. Many Americans also use the southern border to vacation in Mexico, get medical treatment which are not offered in the US or medical treatment which are offered in the US but are cheaper in Mexico. Many Americans use the southern border to flee crime and personal responsibilities like child support and alimony and all sorts of other illegal reasons. You don’t hear the Mexican government kicking up a shit storm about that. He then says he’ll force the Mexican government to pay for it, so we don’t have to spend the billions to build a useless wall. Based on what authority can he can “force” another sovereign nation to erect a wall? He didn’t clarify, except that he’ll make it happen.

The truth is the fate and history of the United States and Mexico’s are inextricably linked. Through centuries of colonialism, wars, land theft, plunder, cultural and human genocide of the indigenous populations in North and Central America, no borders tight enough or walls high enough could separate our mutual fates and interests. Mexico is doubly unlucky, they were first colonized by the Spaniards and then the Americans. Many indigenous languages written and spoken have been obliterated by Spanish colonial rule, and to add insult to injury, the Catholic Church just elevated Father Junipero Serra to sainthood. Father Junipero Serra was one of the people responsible for wiping out Mexican and North American indigenous cultures (and people). Father Serra’s main contribution to Catholicism is bringing Catholicism by force to North America, not so much for his benevolent acts. On the Catholic Church’s list of useless saints, Father Serra would rank close the top, after the saints that never existed in the first place.

Trump’s promise of detaining and then deporting every single illegal alien in this country if not an outright lie then it’s a fanciful tale. First of all, not all illegal aliens in this country are Hispanic, they are white (European), Asian and African. An illegal alien is not only someone who came to this country illegally without a visa, but also someone who overstays their visa. To deport over 11 million people will require the due process which our immigration courts are not equipped to handle, never mind the $400-600 billion price tag. It will cost more to deport them than to let them live here in the shadows or create a path to citizenship. As president, there aren’t enough executive orders he can write to deport this many people. I won’t even get into his lies about how people from Mexico bring their problems with them. Study after study has shown immigrants do not commit more crime than legal citizens and residents. Mexicans and other low-skilled immigrant laborers do not ‘steal’ jobs from white people. Mexicans do not use or abuse the welfare system more than other people. The majority of recipients of food stamps are white people, followed by black people and then Hispanics and Asians.

FOOD STAMP CHART

One last thing about Mexicans and jobs, it is very likely that a lot of the maid service staff and construction workers who work for Trump’s ghastly and vulgar hotels are staffed by illegal immigrants. So, on top of being a xenophobe and racist, he’s also a hypocrite.

Not satisfied with singling out Mexicans for scorn, after the Paris attacks in November in 2015, he moved on to Muslims. He called for banning all Muslims entering this country, even war refugees, and all Muslims currently traveling on US passports be denied re-entry to their country of citizenship (and birth for some). First of all, he cannot ban a US citizen from returning to the US, regardless of their religion, that’s unconstitutional. Secondly, a passport doesn’t state your religion or ethnicity, only your country of birth. Also, having a Muslim sounding name doesn’t mean one is Muslim. A Muslim can be called Stephen Jones.

Middle and working class white America is suffering. And the pain is real. There seems to be no end to that pain. Industrial jobs are gone. Good paying skilled jobs are gone. They’ve either gone overseas where there’s no union to deal with or the jobs have been replaced by computers and robots. But the Mexicans didn’t cause this. The Mexicans didn’t steal your good paying factory jobs. The corporation owners relocated to Mexico and Asia to get away from paying you a decent wage. It is the the likes of Donald Trump and his ilk which caused you to lose your job and your standard of living. It’s Wall Street playing with people’s money that ran the economy into the ground. The same Wall Street who is good friends with Donald Trump.

Muslims and ISIS are not dangerous to the immediate safety of the US. It’s the gun wielding psychopaths who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot up a school, shopping mall, movie theater or any public place that poses the most immediate personal danger. It is people like Dylann Roof and his ilk who is dangerous to Americans. Trigger happy and racist police officers are dangerous to Americans, especially black and hispanic Americans. The same police that Donald Trump shows full support to, who he sings praises about, who he will use to turn on you, should you get out of hand.

Donald Trump is only telling you what you want to hear. He is pandering to your basest instinct, your id. He is saying all of the things you wish you can say out loud and get away with it. He’s acting like that inappropriate uncle during Christmas or Thanksgiving who tells racist and sexist jokes and everyone has a good laugh.  He also has a serious case of the savior syndrome. He wants to save white America from going to hell. He’s going to save you all by kicking out all the Mexicans, by keeping out the Muslims and controlling how China does business with the rest of the world. He has no concrete ways of doing these things besides saying he’ll do them. Donald Trump has tapped into the collective fear and anxiety of your precious country being taken over by non-white people. The election of President Obama threw middle white America into an existential crisis, some believed the End was near. On the one hand, you wanted to see progress and improvement in racial equality, but having a black president was one progress too much. You associate your decline in standard of living with President Obama, but Obama didn’t cause the recession. Obama didn’t send men and women in uniform into war in the Middle East and bleeding trillions of dollars overseas when that same money should have been used to improve lives in America (he did continue the wars and that’s disappointing). Obama didn’t cause the housing bubble or the final collapse of the automobile-making industry. All of this was done by white people, a white person you probably elected, George ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Kicking out all the Mexicans, building a fence on the southern border and banning Muslims from entering the United States won’t improve your lot in life. Even if Donald Trump personally employs you in his organizations wouldn’t improve your lot in life either. He’s just like every CEO out there, seeking to cut the cost of labor to maximize his own profits. Donald Trump is tapping into your insecurities and worst fears and then he says he’ll fix it. He is using you to get into the highest office in the United States, not because he’s some patriot or has a desire to be in public service. Becoming president of the United States of America is just another notch on his belt, so that he can order new stationery that reads “Donald J. Trump, President of the United States”. He has no real desire to help anyone or help America. He isn’t interested in “Making America Great Again”, he’s interested in making himself great. And you are all indulging him, you are letting him make a mug out of you.

The former leader of the KKK David Duke came out in support and endorsement of Donald Trump, saying all white people who don’t support Trump is “treason to your heritage”. Trump has rejected his endorsement, but the fact that KKK is using Trump for their recruiting campaign is concerning. Does conservative white America want to stoop this low? Do you want to associate the conservative movement with the Klan?

The field of Republican candidates is less than inspiring, I am not here to tell you who to vote for. If I am honest, Hillary Clinton is less than inspiring herself and while Bernie Sanders has a lot of good ideas, but he fact that he identifies as a “social democrat” will scare off a lot of people as most people don’t know the difference between a social democrat and a socialist (Google can answer this but I digress). I am only here to say Donald Trump is not your answer. Voting for him will only worsen your lot in life, not improve it.

A Contemporary Account of the China Opium Curse

Imagine two empires, the first is in the prime of its place in the history of the world. It controls or governs roughly one-quarter of the world. As a result of this control it made itself wealthy and resource rich by plundering, enslaving and committing genocide to one-quarter of the world. And all of that wealth was repatriated back to its headquarters, a series of cold, rainy, windy and resource barren islands just south of the arctic circle. The second country was once a great empire but due to corruption, mismanagement and general incompetence, it is now on its last legs. As a result of malfeasance, hunger, famine, disease and broken down infrastructure plagues this country. There are rumblings of discontent from the peasants in the countryside and the central government is preoccupied with putting down these rebellions and maintaining control as opposed to finding ways to cure the aforementioned problems. These two empires are the British Empire and the Qing Dynasty of “Middle Kingdom” also known as China.

These two empires trade with each other, except the trade is imbalanced. The British Empire desires everything China offers, teas, silks, porcelains, spices and the like. China isn’t really interested in what Westerners have to offer and have imposed strict import tariffs on Western goods. As a result a large trade deficit favoring China ensued, keeping the British Empire running is expensive, and it’s the goal of the British for all of its dominions and colonies to be self-sustaining and at the rate it’s going with China, there is a large trade deficit. So, the British had to think of a product to flood the Chinese markets to address this deficit. They thought of the perfect product. A drug, only the most addictive of all known drugs in the world: Opium. Not tobacco, not cocaine, not marijuana or hallucinogenic mushrooms, Opium. Opium is the modern day drug heroin in its raw plant form. The opium poppies were planted and cultivated in India, near the fertile valleys of the Ganges River, are an exceptional crop we are told. So exceptional that the Indians nor the English want to use it to excess, they use opium for medicinal uses only but the excess, they decided to ship it off to China to the yellow men. They decided to flood this exceptional product to a country that is in turmoil, a country that is routinely facing hunger, famine and disease, a country where a majority of the people are illiterate and have never been outside of the province in which they were born. These people are being told that opium is good for them, it cures pain – all kinds of pain, makes you feel happy and balanced and a hit of that stuff will make your problems go away. And to cap it all off, this product is legal. You can walk into any shop and buy it. You can go into any den and get the equipment to smoke it for a small fee. You don’t have to stand in dingy alleys with people of questionable character and risk getting killed to procure this stuff. No, it’s all perfectly legal, encouraged even and can be bought in broad daylight with no sense of shame or guilt attached to it.

When the Chinese realized that opium is extremely addictive and soul destroying, the Qing imperial court made the product illegal and told the British to tip this dreck into the ocean and to never bring it to the shores of China again. The British instead of complying and apologizing, said “no”, not only do you have to take this stuff,  if you destroy it, you have to pay for it too:

The Chinese government, in turn, which had already outlawed the drug, and which had grown increasingly frustrated over the British government’s failure to crack down on smuggling, eventually sent an official named Lin Zexu to Canton – a city in the south of China where most European merchants were confined – to deal with the problem. Lin Zexu is still a hero in China and Charles Elliot, his British antagonist, still a villain. After Zexu had persuaded Elliot to surrender over 1000 tons of opium into his custody, and had it publicly destroyed on the beaches at Humen near the present day city of Dongguan, he realized that the wily British colonial administrator had pulled a fast one. While Elliot had appeared to agree to most of Zexu’s demands, he had actually transferred ownership of the opium to the British crown before confiscating it from British traders. This obligated the government of Lord Palmerston and Lord Melbourne to reimburse the merchants for the cost of the drug, an obligation that almost guaranteed war.

In the end, two Opium Wars (1839 and  1856) were fought and lost by the Chinese. The Qing were in decline and corruption and incompetence were rampant. This was a war they didn’t anticipate and they were simply outgunned in every way by the superior British forces. For the British, the spoils of war were control of Hong Kong port, one of the most important trading ports in the world, plus four other entry ports, and they tore up the Canton Agreement which restricted the flow of foreign goods into China. This means post second Opium War, the drug kingpin, also known as the British empire, their lackeys —  firms such as Jardine, Matheson & Co., and other small time drug peddlers in China were free to flood the Chinese market with high grade opium without impunity. If a significant amount of people were addicted to opium prior to 1839 (The First Opium War), after 1856, it is estimated that 150 million of China’s 400 million people became addicted to opium. There was no official record and statistic keeping in China during that time but anecdotally, it is safe to say one-third of all Chinese people, across all strata of society became addicted to opium. Needless to say, the poverty stricken peasants suffered the most and lost the most. Prior to their opium addictions, while they were very poor and at times starving, they at least had their dignity and pride in themselves, their families and the land they worked on, now they have nothing. Reduced to begging for pennies in a hole at the side of the road to buy more opium to feed their addictions. The rich and people with higher status in society at least could hide behind a wall of respectability and feed their addictions that way.


 

In 1907, the American journalist Samuel Merwin was sent to China to do a series of investigative reporting on the opium crisis in China. There are many books written about the opium wars and the opium trade at large but there are not many accurate contemporary accounts of the opium crisis as it was happening. Merwin was sent there mostly to make sure ‘The Yellow Peril’ didn’t make its way to America. The British Empire, on top of scheming and killing its way to getting a whole nation addicted to this odious drug, to ameliorate their responsibility in this crime, they created a narrative saying the yellow man’s physical constitution is the reason why they are addicted. This became a propaganda for the British Empire. It’s not just that we flooded the Chinese markets with opium at a turbulent time in their history and got one-third of its people addicted, but they are just physically incapable of stopping themselves from smoking this drug. The British people and Indian people use opium too, medicinally, but there’s no such crisis in India or the United Kingdom, therefore, the problem must reside with the yellow men. A series of novels and essays were written about the ‘The Yellow Peril’, depicting China as a nation of insatiable drug addicts and people with questionable moral character. This was the propaganda they were spreading throughout the world. The United States at that time employed a large number of Chinese workers, they wanted to make sure the Yellow Peril didn’t migrate to America with them.

Several parts of Merwin’s reporting was problematic and expressed racist views of early 20th century, believing the “yellow man” to be inferior to that of the white man, but he didn’t have the benefit of hindsight and the chance to ‘revise’ the more unsavory bits. He also didn’t have the luxury of saying “it’s complicated” and the crisis had a lot of moving parts than just blaming the British for forcing opium through China to address the “balance-sheet” deficit. Merwin personally toured the most affected areas. He saw homes which were broken apart and the parts sold to feed their opium addictions. He saw people blighted by both hunger and addiction, emaciated bodies lying in the street. He saw grown men and women wasting their lives way in opium dens. Former soldiers, scholars, merchants, responsible members of society reduced themselves to scavenging addicts. It’s really not that complicated. The British Empire has systematically, through force, drugged a nation to address the their trade deficit. Not only that, after they got these people addicted, they proceeded to spread lies to the world saying it was their own constitutions which got them addicted. It’s not the drug, it’s the yellow man’s weak constitution and morals, adding insult to injury. Right off the bat, Merwin dispels this myth:

In the minds of most of us, I think, there has been a vague notion that the Chinese have always smoked opium, that opium is in some peculiar way a necessity to the Chinese constitution. Even among those who know the extraordinary history of this morbidly fascinating vegetable product, who know that the India-grown British drug was pushed and smuggled and bayoneted into China during a century of desperate protest and even armed resistance from these yellow people, it has been a popular argument to assert that the Chinese have only themselves to blame for the “demand” that made the trade possible. Of this “demand,” and of how it was worked up by Christian traders, we shall speak at some length in later chapters. “Educational methods” in the extending of trade can hardly be said to have originated with the modern trust. The curious fact is that the Chinese didn’t use opium and didn’t want opium.

Samuel Merwin. Drugging a Nation: The Story of China and the Opium Curse (Kindle Locations 123-129).

[…]

It was not easy getting opium, the commodity, into the currents of trade. There was an obstacle. The Chinese were not an opium-consuming race. They did not use opium, they did not want opium, they steadily resisted the inroads of opium. But the rulers of the company were far-seeing men. Tempt misery long enough and it will take to opium.

Samuel Merwin. Drugging a Nation: The Story of China and the Opium Curse (Kindle Locations 268-270).

Merwin places the blame strictly in the hands of the British. He doesn’t introduce ambiguity into this claim. And for good measure, this atrocity was perpetrated by “Christians”.

Merwin wrote a series of articles published in Success Magazine. He interviewed hundreds of people, including Chinese and British officials and consulted hundreds of documents before he produced these reports. With the usual prejudices and biases of a white man in 1908 aside, I’d argue this is one of the more comprehensive and accurate contemporary accounts of the opium crisis in China.

Merwin starts out by saying he didn’t believe that England had a “diabolical purpose to seduce and destroy a wonderful old empire on the other side of the world”, the “ruin” resulted as a byproduct of trade, “it was a triumph of the balance sheet over common humanity”. This point is driven home over and over again by Merwin. Every time he meets with a British official regarding the trade and import of opium, the end conclusion is, the British must mind their balance sheet before all else. To give some perspective, the opium trade at one point paid for one-quarter of the cost running the British raj.

As his reporting went on and the more people he spoke to, he realized that while the British didn’t have explicit intent to blight a whole race with drug addiction, they did reveal themselves to have designs on occupying China besides its seaports and gain access to their resources and drugging them into oblivion was the way to go about it. By 1908, even as inland China has begun to reduce the use of opium and reduce their land dedicated to planting opium, the British still flagrantly flouted their agreement to reduce shipment, citing the same reason again, they needed the money.

Of the two evils, debauching China or gravely impairing the finances of India, there has been reason to believe it would prefer debauching China.

Merwin further noting, referring to the British, “It is more difficult to be a Christian when far from home.”

While Merwin arrived in China with preconceived biases about opium use amongst Chinese, by the time he left, he was thoroughly convinced that this was an evil which was perpetrated on them by the British Empire, for no other reason but to balance their trade deficit. It was easy to put it out of their minds because China was far away enough from India and England and China’s contact with the rest of the world was limited to non-existent that the British can basically invent any narrative or propaganda to explain why they needed to import tons and tons of opium to China.

Merwin’s reporting incites outrage after outrage and it brings to light just the arrogance of the British Empire and their ways. While he didn’t come out in full support of the Chinese, his racism and sense of superiority prevented him from doing so, he thoroughly skewered the British for this crisis and placed the blame at their front door.


The renewed interest in a long forgotten war in the far east during the 19th century is not a coincidence. This was the first real war on drugs where actual gunfire was exchanged. Battlelines were drawn and casualties resulted. In one of Merwin’s reports where he worries about the “chickens coming home to roost”, which loosely implies the opium will follow wherever the Chinese go, is especially ironic. The chickens did come home to roost, in the affluent West. There is an opioid epidemic in New England right now which can rival the crisis in China in the 19th century. Working class men and women between the ages of 45-55 are dying from opioid poisoning at alarming rates. The youth of New England are drugging themselves to death before their lives have even begun. If one believes in karmic retribution, one can see this as the Universe’s way of the chickens coming home to roost, 150 years after the initial event.

For one to fully appreciate the scale of this outrage and atrocity, let us for a moment imagine if the United States sealed all the borders with Mexico so no drugs can enter the US. But Mexico is not happy about that and they retaliated by sending their army to invade the border for the sole purpose of allowing their drugs to get through. They were not provoked by the US, no fire was exchanged but they are invading because they are angry they can’t get their dope to the US. For the purpose of this analogy, let’s presume the US lost the war, our borders are forced open, and not only forced open, the US must cede control of our borders, ports and other modes of entry to the Mexican government, whereby they can flood the United States with whatever drugs they want, without impunity, without consequence. This is what happened to China in the 1850s.

This book can be downloaded for free in its entirety on The Gutenberg Project: Drugging a Nation: The Story of China and the Opium Curse by Samuel Merwin

The book is a compilation of all of the articles Samuel Merwin wrote about his investigation and travels to China. You can bypass all the excruciating details and historical background which would be present in a full length book about the Opium Wars. This book gives you all the facts without the long winded narratives.

 

The Hypocrisy of Funeral Attendance

SCALIA FUNERAL 2
Funeral procession of Justice Antonin Scalia

President Obama has been criticized for not attending Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral, especially by conservatives. While the Obamas aren’t attending the funeral, they did go pay their respects at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court where Scalia’s body was lying in repose. Much of the criticism is coming from the right, probably still smarting at a bad hand that’s been dealt to them politically. They also know the liberals and progressives are trying hard to hold a somber face together at the demise of Justice Scalia, but are secretly dancing inside. Anyway you slice it, regardless if President Obama can get a new Supreme Court Justice on the bench before his term is over, the gods are smiling on the Democratic Party.

Politics aside, what is the proper etiquette for funeral attendance? Besides close friends and family, whose funeral should one attend and why? Just like weddings, people attend funerals for all sorts of reasons, but not always for the right ones. Many feel compelled to attend a funeral not only to show respect for the deceased but also out of obligation. If the CEO of your company dies and one is within a certain rank in management, one might feel compelled to go even if they hardly knew the CEO or thoroughly disliked him, especially if everyone else who hold you rank and higher are going. Most people just grit their teeth and get on with it. You don’t want to be singled out as the guy who didn’t attend the boss’s funeral.

Specifically in the case of Scalia, Obama being in the more senior position on the food chain so the choice to go or not is entirely up to him. He chose to not go and whatever his reasons are, it is wholly appropriate. Obama didn’t appoint Scalia to the Court, while Obama may have respected Scalia and the position he holds, it is unclear if that respect was reciprocated. While the president appoints Supreme Court justice candidates and the Senate confirms them, the president is not their immediate superior. Supreme Court justices do not report directly to the president of the United States. In fact, it’s best for the president of the United States to not be seen as being too chummy with Supreme Court Justices. So all the uproar about Obama not attending Scalia’s funeral is just that, uproar to score political points from the right, an uproar without any substance.

That the former Justice Scalia was not a very likable person outside of his family and immediate legal circle isn’t lost on people either. Political and media pundits are trying to dance around this point but the fact remains, unless you shared Scalia’s views or you were another fellow jurist and can bounce off legal ideas with him, he was not a likable guy. Compare him with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, also very conservative in his views, also a fellow Catholic, but he is generally likable by most people who know him. Just reading back court transcripts when Scalia is doing the questioning makes one cringe, his tone is often confrontational, at times combative and even condescending (comparing health insurance to “broccoli” comes to mind). The majority of the people who turned out for his funeral today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. probably barely knew the guy as it is the case with funerals of prominent persons. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, all the people lamenting the loss of a great jurist didn’t know the justice well, if at all. They heap praises on him because the justice happens to pander to their political view, which is the right of crazy.

Supreme Court Justices aren’t exactly public figures but they are visible to the public more so than any other judges because there are only 9 of them and their names are attached to the decisions they vote on for posterity. Supreme Court Justices aren’t elected officials, they are appointed officials. They do not hold elected public office but they are civil servants to some degree. Some justices such as Sonia Sotomayor do outreach programs in minority communities but they rarely speak about the decisions or their views on sensitive legal subjects until after they’ve left the bench. We only know of them through the legal decisions they write while they are serving on the nation’s highest court and the occasional public speeches. From those decisions we the public judge their character, their political persuasions and integrity. And it is in this area Justice Scalia failed to impress the public. It’s not that he’s a conservative justice, there were lots of those throughout the history of the court, but that he’s ultra-conservative to the point where his decisions instead of preserving people’s rights, he diminished them or took them away. He derided members of the LGBTQ community by saying :“It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections.” In the Fisher vs. University of Texas case, he argued against affirmative action:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” he said. “One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer.”

The courts trying to slowly dismantle affirmative action is relegating minorities to “lesser schools” and instead of seeing this as a problem, Justice Scalia thinks that’s the way it should be, especially if they can’t keep up fast-track schools. It’s not up to higher learning institutions to accommodate the needs of the students but the other way around. Students of color routinely feel ostracized and marginalized in advanced learning institutions so it is very important that every law created to support students of color needs to be preserved and not taken away.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed 9 states, mostly in the South to change voting laws without advance federal approval. Justice Scalia voted with the majority, Chief Justice Roberts decision stated:

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

This states which had voter identification laws blocked as being unconstitutional can have those laws immediately go into effect. Placing additional voting restrictions (with the false premise of stemming voter fraud) always harms minorities and the underprivileged. Creating additional bureaucracy just for people to go to the polls and vote will deter people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly who are physically impaired or infirm, where getting out of the house requires a lot of planning. It will discourage people who do not have the luxury of taking time off work to sort out ‘voting’ paperwork from going to the polls and these are usually minorities and women. The mere fact that voting restriction (poll tax, literacy tests) was created in the South post Civil War with the single purpose of keeping black people from going to the polls should deter all justices from voting to dilute the Voting Rights Act.

It’s not so much that Justice Scalia leans right politically, many justices do, but that he cannot separate his devout Catholic beliefs combined his purist view of the constitution from permeating his decisions (which are final, there are no more appeals after the Supreme Court rules) and how he views the law is a big problem. His comment about “invent”[ing] new minorities just so they can get special protections is indicative of that. He doesn’t feel that members of the LGBTQ community are deserving of special protection under the law when since the dawn of man this group of individuals have been the most marginalized and unprotected. I won’t even get into his appalling record of allowing women’s right to choose or anything to do with a woman that’s outside of her home.

That a man who lived to be 79 but his views are nearly unchanged from since he was 17 is a sign of stunted self-actualization. Most speak of this as a strength or a personality quirk, but it’s not, it shows a deliberate lack of growth. Even devout Catholics change their views on issues that the church is usually implacable about, regardless if the church changed its views or not. The fact that Scalia had the privilege to walk around his whole entire adult life acting as though he’s still the head boy at a Catholic private school without consequences and this same person got to sit on the bench of one of the most hallowed institutions in the country should concern everyone.

Of course he was brilliant jurist, with a sharp mind for legal matters. His chosen profession would dictate that. He is part of a rare and privileged group of men and four women  who had the final say on important matters which determine the history of our country and the lives of ordinary Americans. The people whom belong to this group, along with interpreting the Constitution (which is very vague and can be open to any sort of interpretation on grey areas) should handle that privilege with care and consideration. And this is where Justice Antonin Scalia has failed in his duty.

As for proper funeral etiquette. I wouldn’t want anyone at my funeral who didn’t like me but feel obligated to attend. Obama is still the president and he can do what he damn well pleases. It’s  not as though Obama skipped the funeral of previous presidents or other major heads of state. To attend the funeral of a man you hardly knew and didn’t like smacks of hypocrisy. Besides, the president has more important business to attend to, like appointing Scalia’s successor.

Redefining Atticus Finch

The death of a literary giant. Rest in peace Harper Lee.

Thoughts From my Kitchen

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was a book that affected me deeply when I read it as a child, though it was an English assignment, it was a book I read with great interest. I read it multiple times during different stages of my childhood and early adulthood and it affected me profoundly each time, I found new meaning each time I reread the book. I wanted a father like Atticus Finch.

‘Go Set a Watchman’ shattered that illusion for the reader. Atticus Finch, was, after all, a product of his time, a racist white man who despised the NAACP and the Supreme Court for infringing on state’s rights and would have preferred a sort of ‘de facto segregation’ of neighborhoods, keeping the centuries old status quo. What’s up for debate is which is more preferable? Atticus’s brand of quiet unspoken racism or the raving, foaming at the mouth, George Wallace style of racism? Who can…

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Remembering Harper Lee

HARPER LEE

I read To Kill A Mockingbird in the fifth grade. It was my first proper ‘grown up’ book. Prior to that I spent all my free time reading Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books. On my more sophisticated days I read Madeleine l’Engle and the Chronicles of Narnia series. There’s nothing wrong with those authors, only to say I rarely ventured out of the children’s genre, which is fair, as I was still just a child. Being an only child stuck in a house full of adults who I had nothing in common with turned me into a bookworm. We had no cable TV and so my only entertainment was to read.

I not only read To Kill A Mockingbird, I comprehended and understood it. Every single page of it. I understood the message the author was trying to portray. That book was my first introduction and foray into the post-bellum society and what life was like after slavery for black people. I wasn’t shocked nor was I ignorant of it, but I reveled in the details of the book. On how a hot Alabama summer day smells and feels like, you can almost feel the arid air as you read the book. On how black and white people lead parallel and separate lives whilst living side by side in a small town like Maycomb, exchanging polite nods from across the street. An old Chinese idiom comes to mind, “the waters from the river do not coincide with the water from the well”, you mind your own business and I mind mine and we’ll all get along just fine. Lee painted a picture of an idyllic childhood with her father, her brother, her friend, Boo Radley, her church, Calpurnia their black maid but alongside that idyll is another reality. The stark life under the oppression of the Jim Crow south. How black families, especially black men had to keep their heads down and tip their hat to white men and women to avoid trouble. Any wrong turn or look can cause a black man to be lynched or in the story of the book, be charged with rape.

Harper Lee’s book was my initiation from strictly reading children’s books into serious adult books. When I was able to finish nearly 400 pages of single spaced small type print of a novel, I was ready to tackle the other adult books. Though I had no idea about the biography or the history of Harper Lee when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I had an inkling that she was borrowing from her own life and woven it into fiction. I learned from reading the book that most writers, fiction writers borrow events, people, emotions from their own lives and weave them into the stories they tell. Reading this book was also an early exercise in writing. How to tell a story, how to link the events and details of a story together to which it makes sense. A good writer will know which details are necessary and which are superfluous. It also helped the protagonist of this story is a young girl, around the same age as myself. I also comprehended the adage, to be a good writer is to read prolifically.

When I read a book I like, the next thing I do immediately after is to read a biography about the author. I did this with Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote (a childhood friend of Harper Lee), William Burroughs, the Romantic poets, everyone. Their lives informed their work. I sought to find out everything I could about Harper Lee the woman and to my surprise there’s not much to be found. She lived a life of an affluent gentle-woman, from the proceeds of her phenomenally successful book, which has never been out of print since it was first published in 1961. Because it is required reading in schools, To Kill A Mockingbird still sells over one million copies a year. She won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1962 and in 1963 her book was adapted into a film by the same name, with Gregory Peck starring as Atticus Finch. She was very happy with the outcome of the movie – a rarity for a book author. She gave no interviews after the initial publication and shunned all publicity after. When she was given an award, she graciously thanked the audience whilst collecting her award without elaborating further on her life’s seminal work. Everyone who loves her work tried to get an interview with her, including Oprah Winfrey. She politely declined Oprah too, saying that everything she wanted to say publicly has already been expressed in her book. She was not prone to succumbing to the flattery of others and granting interviews, written or televised.

I am not here to review her work, they speak for itself.  I am simply here pay homage to a woman who inspired me to read more and write, and to always work on my craft, to “throw away” most of what I write, only to start over.

Dear Gloria: The Feminist Candidate I Can Believe In Must Be Unbossed and Unbought by Carol P. Christ

Dear Gloria: The Feminist Candidate I Can Believe In Must Be Unbossed and Unbought by Carol P. Christ

She’s far too polite in my view, but this about sums it up.

“I am supporting Bernie Sanders because of–not in spite of–my feminist principles. I came into the feminist movement through the antiwar, antipoverty, and civil rights movements. My feminism cannot be reduced to the single issue of women’s rights. I believe that feminism can and must be intersectional and inclusive of issues of class and race.”

“Hillary Clinton can claim all she wants that the big money interests that have donated lavishly to her campaign and to the Clinton Foundation will not influence her presidency. This claim just does not have the ring of truth for me. Hillary can speak all she wants about ending poverty and revitalizing the middle class, but can she do that without standing up to Wall Street by refusing to take its money?”

Like Bernie Sanders says, big monied interest groups do not donate because they are feeling generous and do not know what to do with all that extra money.

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2In the past week, founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem, whom I have always greatly admired, stated that young women are supporting Bernie Sanders because his campaign is where the boys are. She has since recanted the comment, but I suspect she still believes that feminists ought to be supporting Hillary. I have written Gloria an open letter.

Dear Gloria,

Like you, I am no longer a young woman. Like you, I am a lifelong feminist activist. But, unlike you, I am not supporting Hillary Clinton. I am supporting Bernie Sanders because of–not in spite of–my feminist principles. I came into the feminist movement through the antiwar, antipoverty, and civil rights movements. My feminism cannot be reduced to the single issue of women’s rights. I believe that feminism can and must be intersectional and inclusive of issues of class and race. For me it must also include an analysis…

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In Memoriam: The Conservative Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia’s body is not yet cold and he’s already been turned into a political pawn. I can’t say I feel sorry about that, I think he might actually enjoy this.

Whilst Democrats and liberals are rejoicing behind closed doors, doing the ‘Chandler jig’ from the sitcom ‘Friends’, Republicans and conservatives are pouring their hearts out on Twitter and other social media and shaming other liberals who have trouble hiding their glee at the death of Scalia.

Along with the tributes for Scalia, Republican leaders also wasted no time stating there should be no new appointment of Scalia’s replacement until a new president is elected. Keep in mind Obama still has another 11 months in office, which is a very long time to keep a seat vacant on the nation’s highest court. The ‘no new appointment’ pledge is a not so subtle way of saying the Republican controlled Senate will not confirm any candidate the president puts forward.

For Democrats and progressives, one can’t but feel God is on their side today. Not that progressives rejoice in the death of another (I hope), but Scalia’s death was unexpected, he was not suffering from any illness that the public was aware of, so it’s fair to say no one wished him a hasty demise. Regardless, here we are, in Obama’s last year in office, he gets another chance to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Even if his appointment doesn’t get confirmed by the time he leaves office, it’s a great opportunity to play political chess, even for the sole pleasure of yanking your opponent’s chain.

This can go a few ways:

1.) To appoint a wildly liberal candidate for the nation’s highest court, knowing full well that it will never pass confirmation, but just seeing the GOP senators filibustering while foaming at the mouth and wildy gesticulating on the hallowed halls of the Senate looking like rabid animals is a great way to get a good laugh and pass your last few months in office.

2.) Obama appoints a moderate candidate to appease moderate Republican senators, which the Republicans will still strongly oppose and filibuster and block the nomination, it will then serve as a tool for the presidential election campaign. It’s a chance to make the Republicans look even more out of touch (if that’s possible) even unstable upstairs to take the job of the president of the United States. The Democratic candidates can also use this event to their own benefit depending on if they agree with Obama’s choice or not.

3.) Obama does nothing, or ‘leaks’ a few names here and there, but ultimately kicks it down the road for the incoming president, whoever it may be. This scenario would suit the Republican playbook too well, it would essentially give them what they want. But Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders can both jump on this issue and start floating around names of who they would appoint and benefit their campaigns.

I am personally not in favor of doing nothing, because it will become another unnecessary talking point in the general election. Instead of focusing on the issues, they will talk about will he or won’t he appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and everyone have to weigh in on their opinion. The option of not giving an opinion regardless of which party you belong to will be near impossible.

About the newly departed Justice Antonin Scalia, he was seen as a stalwart of the Conservative movement in the Court. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan for his conservative views of small government and reverence to the Constitution of the United States. He’s praised for being an exemplary jurist, a brilliant intellect with a strict adherence to the Constitution with the belief that it’s a living document.

I am no legal scholar nor have I recently read the Constitution of the United States cover to cover (I last read it in high school). I can’t speak to the decisions he made with respect to the Constitution. Naturally, he has fierce intellect and a strong passion for the law along with a devotion to constitutional law, any person being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court will need to be an ‘excellent jurist and have a passion for the law’ along with superior intellect. This is not to diminish the talent of Justice Scalia, I am simply saying this is a job requirement for anyone who seeks a place on the Supreme Court. However, anyone who believes that the Constitution is a ‘living document’ when it was written over 250 years ago and the issues which weren’t present 250 years ago, we are to interpret modern day legal quandaries based solely on the words written 250 years ago, not allowing any room to apply the Constitution to modern America (which looks very different from the Founder days) is absurd.

Justice Scalia’s job was to interpret the law, in many of his decisions, especially socially relevant decisions such as gay rights, abortion rights and women’s rights, he still refers to a document that is 250 years old, when slavery was still legal, when women didn’t have the vote and LGBT individuals lived on the margins of society. When he does this, he’s no longer interpreting the law, he’s making new laws based off of old laws. He likes to accuse those that deviate from the Constitution as judicial activists, judicial activism is a concern amongst judges but wasn’t his strict adherence to a document, a document which was written in very vague terms no less, another form of judicial activism, especially when it advances conservative causes and denies people their basic rights? This is the same thing as Christian fundamentalists who take the every word written in the Bible literally and live their lives according to the teachings of Bible, literally. Today we think of those people as being out of touch with reality and many question their judgement. How is Justice Scalia’s purist views of the Constitution not the same? Granted, there’s been many amendments to the constitution, but last amendment ever made to the constitution was made on May 7, 1992, the 27th Amendment, which was has to do with salaries of members of Congress. It was an amendment that was put forth on September 25, 1789, and it was ratified 202 years later.

Like the presidency of the United States, being a Supreme Court Justice, there’s no book to guide you or inform you of your duties.  You take the sum of your experiences, on the bench and off the bench, along with scholastic learning about the law, previous experience prior to joining the bench, along with common sense and you render your best decision based on your application of the Constitution. It’s not a blind and strict adherence to the actual document itself.

Diversification of Bernie Sanders

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was running the risk of being an ‘one issue candidate’, his political rallies are rousing and inspiring. Besides vowing to break up banks who are ‘too big to fail’, enacting a single payer healthcare system, and free public college and university tuition, while are all worthy causes, there was not much else to his platforms. He was at risk of becoming a political ‘one trick pony’. His foreign policy is non-interventionist, seeking to end the role of the US being the world’s policeman and invading Iraq was a mistake. Besides that, there’s not much else to it either. I didn’t watch the early debates because Chris O’Malley bored me and I wrongly assumed all of that was just for show as Hillary Clinton will be the eventual candidate anyways. The nomination was hers to lose (this was before I felt the Bern).

A lot has changed since the Iowa Caucasus and the New Hampshire primary. Clinton barely eked out a win in Iowa and she lost by 20 points to Sanders in New Hampshire. After Sanders’s decisive win in New Hampshire, he raised $5 million dollars from individuals. Hillary Clinton is now on the defensive after a few of her surrogates misspoke. Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright are probably seething at the ungratefulness of the younger generation  of women. The truth is, we (women), don’t like to be told what to do or how to think, or even worse, be told we do certain things to get the attention of boys (which by the way, is fairly easy to get and no need to switch political allegiance to achieve that aim). Not even by the self-appointed high council of feminism, and if there’s a special cold day in hell for us younger feminists for refusing their sage advice (directive), I guess I’ll see a few of them there. I can definitely see a place of the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The last two debates I watched with great interest, especially the direct attacks at Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and big corporations. If the public didn’t know or didn’t know the depth of the ties, we all do now. He’s laid out a successful case on why that’s a big problem, how she’ll  never govern fairly because of it. Like he said in this last debate, Wall Street, big pharma, big insurance companies, fossil fuel companies don’t donate millions of dollars to political campaigns because they are feeling generous and have too much money on their hands (they do, but that’s beside the point), they pay those contributions in hopes of benefitting themselves and he asked Mrs. Clinton to “not insult the intelligence” of the American people. To which, the former Secretary of State has no response to.

The last debate which took place in Milwaukee, each of the candidates fresh off of their wins and losses, was more thorough and measured in their positions. Sanders articulated his foreign policy better, which is less intervention and if intervention is necessary, the United States will no longer take the lead, which by default will make us shoulder the burden. Sanders wants to re-engage NATO, to revamp NATO if you will and make the world part of the peacekeeping and policing duties. Sanders emphasized a more open door immigration policy and bringing 11 million people out of the shadows, especially for unaccompanied minors, Sanders favored granting them asylum. He didn’t speak much about how to secure the borders, and neither did Clinton. It’s an obvious pander for the Hispanic vote.

Sanders campaign and should he win the presidency is to focus on the problems of the United States and retreat from the world. We need to fix our appalling rate of children living in poverty (30%) highest in the industrialized nations. We need to fix our roads, bridges and other infrastructure so tragedies like Flint can be prevented. Sanders wants to de-militarize the police and have police officers be represented in diversity of the community they are serving. Most importantly, he wants to end the mass incarceration which is blighting a generation of black and latino young men.

The priorities of the American public has changed. Gen X, Y and Millennials, especially Gen Y and Millennials no longer care about America as a superpower of the world. We care about America the country with respect to American people and how it takes care of its own first before the president decides and goes to invade a sovereign nation. Sanders has captured this mood, just like Obama did in 2008, unfortunately Obama continued the militaristic policies of the previous administration. Granted, it’s not reasonable to ask any President to immediately withdraw America from the world as a superpower and with it our military presence around the world, but we can decline a leading role in being the police officers of the world and make it a joint effort between all the superpowers.

Hillary Clinton’s claim that “you have to be ready on day one” and implying that she’s the one that’s ready. Well, the presidency of the United States isn’t a job one can prepare for unless one has already been president. And all first term presidents were not ready, they think they are but they are not. And you really don’t need to be ‘ready’, the elections of President Bill Clinton, who was the governor of Arkansas before he became president, and President Obama, who was a first term senator before he became president, prove this point. In fact, they were probably the least ready of all recent presidents, with the exception of Ronald Reagan.

In my view, Hillary Clinton misjudged the mood of her voters and that’s why many of her would be voters are now supporting Sanders. Voters no longer care that she was a former Secretary of State who stared down Middle Eastern dictators or brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Voters want to know what is she going to do to improve the lives of everyday Americans, whose lives and livelihoods have been decimated by the recession. What is she going to do about police brutality, institutionalized racism, income inequality across genders and races, reigning in the excesses and cutting the legs off of Wall Street.

It’s not guaranteed that Bernie Sanders can fix all of the problems of our nation in one term or even two terms, but he has the will and desire to do so. With transformative candidates such as Obama and Sanders, much is expected from them and as a result the disappointment is greater. Theoretically we know one man cannot walk on water or change centuries of an entrenched system, but in our hearts we want them to, we expect them to be miracle workers. Sanders’s sincerity comes across to the voters. Hillary Clinton is only paying lip service. That’s the difference and that is why young voters and women are Feeling The Bern.

 

My Life So Far – By Jane Fonda About Her Mother, Frances Fonda

The biographical details of the lives of celebrities or actors are usually known to everyone before they release their book, who they slept with, what drugs they did, who’s husband or wife they fornicated with. After a while, they all begin to sound the same. With the small incestuous Hollywood social circle, it’s very possible that they’ve all bedded each other at one point or another.

I couldn’t tell you what movies Jane Fonda was in except ‘Barbarella’, an American incarnation of Brigitte Bardot, the ex-wife of Jane Fonda’s then husband, the director of the film, Roger Vadim. I know she won two Oscars but I couldn’t tell you for which movies and why and if she was really any good in them. I can’t say I am a huge fan of Jane Fonda ‘work’ besides her work for victims of sexual abuse. The last movie I saw her in was ‘Monster-In-Law’ where she played, well, what the title of the movie suggests.

I read Jane Fonda’s book for one section only. It’s the section where she talks about her mother, Frances Ford Seymour Fonda. I came upon an excerpt of this chapter where Jane Fonda for the first time talks about her mother in depth for the first time. For a woman who lost her mother at 12 years old, but didn’t begin to grieve her until she was in her mid-forties, her words about her long departed mother are powerful. The image she had of her mother was so different from the actual person because by the time she knew her mother, Frances Ford Seymour Fonda had already suffered decades of mental illness and trauma. Jane Fonda never knew her mother in her prime even though Frances died at only age 42. The effect of reading a sixty year old woman’s tribute to a mother whom she lost at 12 years old, and speaking in a voice of a child while she was already a grandmother, touched me deeply. Jane Fonda was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and was financially well off her whole life and she’s blessed in this regard, but nothing can prepare a young girl from her mother being taken from her. For all of her money and privilege, she needed a mother who was able to guide her.

The relationship between a little girl and her father are often expounded on. It’s the first relationship a girl has with a man, and depending how that relationship (or lack of) goes, it usually determines the kind of man that little girl eventually marries or dates. The mother-daughter relationship is equally complex but in different ways. As daughters, we expect more from our mothers than our fathers. We instinctively expect her to set a good example for us (the same goes for a boy and his father), especially how she encounters hardship and adversities in her life. Does she roll over and let people walk all over her. Does she degrade herself for the affections of a man, does she stand up to men and society at large when her personhood is trampled on. Daughters are far more forgiving of their father’s mistakes than that of their mothers (and as sons are of their mothers). The single most influence a person has on a child is their same sex parent. Despite the loving and more relaxed mother-son and father-daughter relationships, we model our lives and behaviors after our same sex parent. For most of Jane Fonda’s childhood, her mother was absent due to her mental illnesses and the effects of her mental illnesses. She was physically there but her mind was gone, buried under the haze of heavy medications and mental suffering.

Fonda tells the story of her mother Frances in flash black. She first talks about the woman she knew in her childhood until she died on her forty-second birthday by slashing her throat with a razor in a sanitarium. Jane Fonda was born on December 21, 1937, the United States entered World War II in 1941, her father, the actor Henry Fonda chose to enlist in the war even though he was over thirty-five years old and had dependents when World War II broke out. He was not required to do so but chose to anyways. Jane knew at this point that something was very wrong in her parents marriage and her father enlisting was his way of getting away from her mother and the shackles of family life, which by this time included her younger brother, the actor Peter Fonda. Her mother Frances was under no illusion her marriage was rosy either. When her husband was away, Frances Fonda had an affair with a musician, it was a volatile affair and it eventually ended before her husband returned home from the warfront. One of the few advices Jane remembers her mother giving her is “never marry a musician”. She remembered this piece of advice not because it was some unique sage advice but because her mother rarely gave her any advice about anything. When her father returned home, their family life continued and she also noticed her dad ceased to find her mother attractive anymore (Frances Fonda was an exceptionally attractive woman).

After Henry Fonda returned home from the war, the whole family moved to Connecticut because he got the main part on a long running Broadway play Mister Roberts. The family settled into a routine where Henry escaped to New York City during the week and came home on weekends to Connecticut to spend time with his family, an event which Jane describes as forced and unnatural – to say that Henry Fonda was not a natural father would be an understatement:

I suppose it was just that Mother, Peter and I weren’t all that interesting. When he’d visit us I could sense he didn’t really want to be there. But Dad had been an Eagle Scout, and the commitment to doing one’s duty was embedded in his DNA. I wish the Scouts had taught how him to make it seem less like a duty.

During this time, as the Fondas’ marriage disintegrated to the point of no return and so did Frances Fonda’s mental health. If she was not staying in a sanitarium, she was on heavy medication which rendered her catatonic and unable to engage with her children. Something was very wrong in the Fonda household yet no one would talk about “it”, not even her maternal grandmother who lived with them at the time.

One of my most vivid memories of that time was sitting in silence at the dinner table in that spooky house on the hill—Peter, Grandma, Mother, and me. Through the window I could see the gray March landscape. Mother, at the head of the table, was crying silently into her food. It was spinach and Spam. We ate a lot of canned food in those days, as though the war and food rationing were still going on. I used to wonder about this, but now I know that Mother was terrified of running out of money and not receiving anything from Dad in the divorce.

No one said anything about the fact that Mother was crying. Maybe we feared that if one of us put words to what we saw and heard, life would implode into an unfathomable sadness so heavy the air wouldn’t bear it. Not even after we left the table was anything said. Grandma never took us aside to explain what was happening. Perhaps if “it” was not named, “it” would not exist”

This woman is weeping into her dinner and her own mother couldn’t comfort her daughter. Perhaps they were called ‘The Silent Generation’ for a reason.

When Henry Fonda asked for a divorce (he already had his new wife waiting in the wings), he let it be known that he wasn’t in the generous mood to pay for large a alimony and child support. Upon hearing this, Frances Fonda became even more distressed and anxious and wondered how she was going to provide for her children for the rest of her life. Despite all their problems, she also loved her husband and didn’t want a divorce (“If she [Frances Fonda] could love the right way–selflessly, with understanding and no anger–perhaps Dad would come back to her”). She had a full mental breakdown and had to be put into a straightjacket and was hauled off to the sanitarium again. Before she left, one morning, while Jane was on her way out to school, her mother pulled her to one side and told her if anyone asks about the divorce, “tell them you already know”. That was the extent of the conversation about the “divorce”. Her younger brother Peter was not told at all.

It was during this last stay at the sanitarium that Frances Fonda decided that this was it. She pretended to get better so that she would be allow day visits home to see her family. In March of 1950, she went home to see her children one last time, accompanied by a nurse from the sanitarium. She called for the children to come down to see her, only Peter went to see his mother as he missed her desperately, Jane (probably sensing something was amiss) refused to go see her. Her mother left without saying goodbye to her. Frances also was able to go to her bedroom and sneak a razor into her purse to bring back to the sanitarium. On the day of her forty-second birthday, she slashed her throat with the razor she snuck from home and died at the sanitarium. She left behind six notes in total: one for the nurse (to go get the doctor and not go in the bathroom – how very considerate of Frances), one for her doctor (“Dr. Bennett, you’ve done everything possible for me. I’m sorry, but this is the best way out.”), one for her mother, one for Jane and one for Peter. She had nothing to say to her husband. When Jane heard her mother died (of a heart attack) she was heartbroken but didn’t dare show it for fear of upsetting her father. She also thought it was her fault because she refused to come see her mother when she came home for the last time. It wasn’t until months later, a classmate at her school passed around the tabloid of the day which said Henry Fonda’s wife died of suicide by slashing her own throat in a mental institution did she then find out the truth. As ever the protective big sister, she was more worried about Peter once he found out (he didn’t find out how his mother died until years later). She was devastated but she felt she couldn’t show it. She stuffed that grief down until she was in her forties.

With the exception of her maternal grandmother who stayed behind after France’s death, they were not allowed to talk about their mother with their father. No one is to discuss with Henry Fonda the passing of his wife or even talk about her. The subject was off limits. While Peter cried every night in his room, Jane felt she needed to be the brave one and suck it up. When Christmas of 1950 came, Peter Fonda, a boy of eleven, made presents to give to his mother and cried all Christmas Day.

“Peter had filled an entire wingback chair with presents for Mother and a letter he’d written her. Looking back it is so sad and terribly poignant, an eleven-year-old boy needing to let his mother know he loved and missed her and wanted people to acknowledge her. But, oh God, nothing he could have done could have made that Christmas Day any worse. I was furious with Peter and sided with Dad, who seemed to see Peter’s behavior as a play for sympathy. What a thought!”

No one dared to go give this small boy a hug for fear of angering the almighty and good Henry Fonda. No one even dared mention Frances Fonda. She was here, then she was gone and that was it. Every time I read this passage in her book it makes me cry. How a vulnerable small boy, who needed his mother, who missed his mother and no one could even give him a cuddle. The Fonda children grew up and life went on as though nothing had happened. Henry Fonda married and jilted a few more wives and Jane and Peter Fonda each forged successful careers of their own. For the rest of her life, she never talked about her mother with Henry Fonda again.

For Jane Fonda, her mother’s ghost never left her. Her mother never left her. She tried to forget her and she couldn’t. Growing up, Jane Fonda thought of her mother as a helpless victim, a weakling, unlike the strong Henry Fonda. Her mother couldn’t overcome her troubles. As a child, she distinctly remembers deliberately turning away (physically and emotionally) from her mother as her mother got deeper and deeper into her mental illness. Like animal instinct, as she felt her mother abandon her physically and emotionally, she, in turn, abandoned her mother emotionally as well. When Jane turned forty she decided to reach out to her mother’s surviving friends. She wanted to purge old ghosts and she wanted to know once and for all exactly who Frances Ford Seymour Fonda was. What she learned was astonishing. “She was an icon, always at the center of things, and boy, did she love life!”, said her best friend Laura Clark, an Arden gown model whom Frances befriended by offering her a cup of tea after a long shift of modelling (models in those days stood for hours on their feet modeling dresses for customers). That conversation became a lifelong friendship. Her mother was the life of the party. She was the best friend anyone could have. She was also incredibly ‘resourceful’. If you needed birth control you called Frances, if you needed a good and discreet doctor who performed good abortions you called Frances, nothing shocked her. If you had friend drama and needed advice on how to sort it out where everyone leaves happy, you asked Frances. Frances’s friends also described her as having a “modern outlook on life”, which means she dabbled in affairs prior to and after her marriage to Henry Fonda and didn’t have hang ups about sex and such things. Frances was fun, a good bundle of energy to be around. Frances loved giving parties and loved having company over at her house (Jane Fonda also realized this is where she got this trait from). Frances Fonda was generous, when she became a wealthy widow (when her first husband died), she subsidized her siblings and often helped her friends who needed money and it’s not trifle amounts for groceries or what not, she set them up in apartments, paid deposits etc. Frances Fonda was not the sad pathetic nervous wreck of a woman Jane knew as a child (and she says she got this impression from her father, because that’s what he thought of her), Frances was a woman who owned herself and her pleasures, the life of the party, a fully functioning human being. Her suicide was a devastating blow to her friends and they tried to reach out to Jane Fonda for over 20 years so they could talk to her about her mother, but Jane was having none of it. To identify with her mother, according to the Fonda Creed, was to espouse weakness.

To find out all the pieces of the puzzle, Jane Fonda requested to see her mother’s medical records from the last sanitarium she stay and subsequently died at. When she got the brown envelope in the mail she was shaking. She opened it and there it was, in her mother’s type hand, 8 single spaced pages, with her written corrections and additions on the margins, the details of Frances Fonda’s life poured out. She learned her mother was sexually abused when she was eight years old until she was a teen by a piano tuner who came to tune the family’s piano. France’s father was an alcoholic and probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and as a result lost his job in Manhattan and they had to move to rural Canada bordering with New York state. France’s father was also physically abusive to the children and her mother being many years younger than her father and had a large number of children with to look after with no help. Frances also had a younger sister who was born with severe epilepsy and in order to keep her safe, France’s mother trained the little girl to hang on to her mother’s dress at all times. In short, her parents did not have the resources financial or otherwise to look after their large brood of children. Frances was very resentful that her father had all these children but couldn’t adequately support or educate them. When her father died from alcoholism, a relative rescued them from penury and brought them back to Manhattan, Frances was able to go to secretary school and learn a trade. She told a friend that she is going to become a secretary to a Wall Street millionaire and then marry him. That’s exactly what she did, she married for the first time at 20 years old to a much older man, she had a daughter by him also called Frances (nicknamed ‘Pan’) and three years after the birth of Pan, he died; leaving her a wealthy widow. She met Henry Fonda a few years after the death of her first husband and they married and had Jane and Peter Fonda. Since her early twenties she began to suffer from bouts of severe depression and anxiety. She was later diagnosed as being bi-polar after the birth of her third child Peter. Psychiatric treatment was crude and medieval in the 1930s and 40s and she was often subjected electroshock treatment, ice baths and confined to a foam padded room. The medications she was given were basically tranquilizers which rendered her catatonic and not able to function. The self-hatred which stemmed from the sexual abuse she suffered as a child caused her to obsessively get plastic surgery to ‘fix’ herself, even though she was an exceptionally beautiful woman with golden blond hair, slanting blue eyes and peachy skin – she needed no surgery. She was the center of attraction everywhere she went, both in looks and personality. But her self-hatred was such that she used multiple plastic surgery procedures and was promiscuous which resulted in many abortions (prior to her re-marriage to Henry Fonda) to mutilate her body. Behind the beautiful woman was a broken girl suffering from trauma, from untreated, unacknowledged sexual abuse.  Jane Fonda does not reveal if her grandmother knew if her mother was sexually abused as a child. The assumption is no one knew but her doctors.

After Jane Fonda was done reading her mother’s medical files, she began sobbing, deep guttural sobs that came from the depth of her soul. She sobbed for days, she couldn’t get out of bed. She imagined her mother as a frightened little girl to a frightened woman and no one was there to protect her. She finally understood her mother and the troubles of her mother. Even though she was a privileged wealthy white woman, she could not be protected from the worst evil of society. Frances fought her battles in her own way, by being a good friend, tried to be a good mother and tried to create a financially secure household for her children as she believed she was sexually abused because the Seymours were dependent on the largess of relatives and friends and it opened them up to predators. It’s worthy to note, despite her fears of being broke, when she died in 1950, she had over $600,000 to her name which was split evenly between her three children. Like many people who cannot provide the emotional stability and unconditional love in life, she made sure their futures were secure.

Her book ‘My Life So Far’ was dedicated to her Mother, the beautiful and vivacious woman she never knew in her full prime in life. To honor her mother’s life and suffering, Jane Fonda is heavily involved in rape prevention and treatment of rape and sexual assault. On Jane Fonda’s website she pays tribute to her mother:

My mother was sexually abused as a young girl, long before people knew the life-long damage it causes or that there are ways to heal the wounds–the worst of which are not what happens physically but what is done to the identity, the emotions, the brain of the victim, particularly if the person is not believed, not understood, not heard.

[…]

I want to tell anyone reading this blog who is a victim of trauma, including veterans of combat, that to seek treatment is the brave thing to do. As Dr Judith Herman says, accepting help is an act of profound courage. It shows strength not weakness, initiative, not passivity. “Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.”

I wish my mother could have told and been believed.

As for the husbands she married, no, she never married any musicians. She married Roger Vadim first, a womanizer and inveterate gambler who gambled away her whole inheritance, the one left to her by her mother. She then married a leftist political activist Tom Hayden, who was against capitalism and everything America was about in the 1960s, but he had no problem putting Jane to work making cheesy workout videos and taking all her hard earned money to fund himself (at times girlfriends on the side) and his political causes. She lastly married Ted Turner, the former CEO of CNN, a considerable upgrade in the money department from the previous two husbands, but he was a philanderer and a misogynist and she left him as well. Surprisingly, she was able to maintain excellent relationships with all three of her ex-husbands, they all say wonderful things about her (and she about them). She showed up to Roger Vadim’s funeral linking arms with all of his ex-wives and paramours and that is a chip off of Frances’s old block, the ability to navigate complicated personalities and situations and everyone coming out a winner.

The Old Heart of San Francisco

The Old Heart of San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. This is a wonderful tribute to the old, pre-gentrified San Francisco. San Francisco is like its own country unto California, perched atop the hills peering out of the Bay, where everyone tries to coexist in this exorbitantly expensive city. It can be the most beautiful place on earth and the most downtrodden. There’s nothing like taking a hike up to the Presidio every morning to see ships passing by in the fog. It is a small city but contains the best pizza, chowder soup, seafood, Chinese food, curries and everything. It’s a city that tries to be kind to its inhabitants despite the sky high rents, everyone coexisting in this beautiful city the best they can.

american-alchemist

The fog in San Francisco is named Karl.  Karl has his own Twitter account and LinkedIn profile.  He’s famous here, shrouding the iconic Golden Gate ‘til it’s lost in the clouds, causing the sky to glow in the evenings.  City lights trapped in the haze.

Even during mid summer, fog blowing in from the marine layer in the Pacific cools the city to an average 65 degrees during the day.  It’s never too hot and never too cold, with lows in January around 45 and highs in August around 70.  A friend living in San Francisco described the weather as “Should I take a hoodie today?  Hmmmm, I dunno.  And it’s like that every. day.”  

The west coast is comprised of transients.  East-coasters and midwesterners who wake up one morning, look at a map and say “today’s the day”.  This can be said of Washington and Oregon as…

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The political bogeyman.

An often used strategy in politics to gain support which would then later translate into votes is to invent a bogeyman, a scapegoat or a fall guy. The thing to which all of society’s problems and ills originate from. That thing usually has no voice, no political power and no way to defend itself.

From the stock market crash of 1929 to about the 1970s it was the Red Scare. The Red Scare ebbed and flowed depending on world events. During World War II, the world’s common enemy was fascism and Japanese imperialism, so for a while the Red Scare abated, but it came back in full force in the 1950s with the establishment of the House of Un-American Committee with Sen. Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon at its helm, anyone who owns a copy of Karl Marx’s writings is a potential communist. Interestingly, when fascism was raging in Europe, it wasn’t really a concern in the United States until Hitler began the invasion of his neighbors. While Japanese immigrants were rounded up and interned at detention camps, no one was really worried about German immigrants having Nazi sympathies. In the end, neither Japanese nor German immigrants posed a political or ideological threat to America.

When the Berlin Wall came down followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the dull fangs of communism was finally revealed and most realized, rather anti-climatically, it was no threat, certainly not one hyped by the government propagandist during the Cold War. From post-World War II to the 1980s, presidential politics consisted of red-baiting and who was tougher against communism. Any utterance of leniency towards a communist regime could spell the end of a political campaign. Communism was a bogeyman and used to achieve political aims.

Today, the bogeymen of Donald Trump are the Mexicans and Muslims. For Ted Cruz, it’s the liberals of America, the federal government, where they’ll come take your guns. But none of these things are the bogeymen. Mexicans, Muslims, liberals and the federal government seizing the guns of citizens are the least of our problems. These are just red herrings, scapegoats for what’s really wrong with our society.

Our problems are wealth concentration at the top, shaky economic recovery and lack of sustainable economic growth. There is a wealth and achievement divide between whites and minorities. Police brutality against blacks and minorities is a stain on our society. The way which black and minorities versus how whites are policed is a disgrace. The pervasive racial inequality across every sector of society will bring this country down before any Mexicans or Muslims.

The mass incarceration of black and brown people is cutting the legs off of a whole generation of young men and their families. Many of these men have children. Every day they spend in jail is one day less they spend with their children and providing for them. Each they get sent to prison, their employment prospects and employability dwindles. Each day they spend in prison is one less opportunity to be in work training or school to better their employment opportunities. Being in prison hardens people, makes the kindest people cynical and bitter. Especially what is awaiting for them outside of prison gates is more hardship. If the government wanted to waste vast sums of tax dollars in criminal justice, they shouldn’t have wasted it on the war on drugs.

If they wanted to wage a war on criminal justice, they should have waged a war against corporate thieves, people and companies who brought down our financial system and economy. Bug their offices, send Confidential Informants after them, turn their right hand men and women into snitches and snitch on their bosses. It shouldn’t be too hard, all law enforcement needs to do is show the secretary or assistant how much their boss is making compared to what they are making and it should do the job. They should have waged a war on keeping rapists and pedophiles locked up longer. They should have waged a war on prosecuting sex offenders and rapists. Instead of sending police officers who barely has the vocabulary and emotional sensibility to string three legible sentences together to examine a rape victim after an assault, maybe send along with a forensic team accompanied with a rape counselor to put the victim at ease, and it would help too if they were women and not men. Many victims say they feel like they are raped all over again after the police is done with questioning them by the manner and tone in which they question rape victims. Many rape victims ask for female police officers to question and examine them and are denied. The rape victim has to prove to the officers that she has been raped. Police departments are staffed with semi-literate orangutans to investigate complicated crimes which involve emotional maturity, empathy and basic information processing, but all cops know how to do today is draw their guns and shoot.

In my view, the single biggest step forward for feminism is to demand and legislate equal pay for men and women doing the same work. A lot of problems for women can be traced back to lack of strong safety net when things go badly at home. Women often find themselves in bad situations usually because of finances, discriminatory policies against women with children, especially when children get ill. Society has failed to recognize that women who work do double duty. When a man works and brings home the bacon, he has the luxury of not having to worry about anything else. Not his children’s runny noses, emergency room visits or nursing them back to health when they catch the flu. This is still the domain of women, and if she works, her employers punish her for having to provide childcare. Divorced women with children and single mothers are often left with the burden of bringing up their children alone. Compounding events of financial distress, divorce, illness or loss of job can send women reeling into poverty and barring some miracle, she’ll most likely stay there. Many women have to make choices, to stay with an abusive partner or leave him and possibly lose custody of her children because she can’t raise them on her income alone or live in poverty with her children. These aren’t choices. If women had access to affordable childcare and equal pay for equal work, it would go a long way. For many working families, women who could be working to supplement the family income can’t because of the exorbitant cost of quality childcare. Anything she makes will just go directly to childcare. So she has to make do with her husband’s meagre income while her own potential wastes away. Economic equality is feminism. Economic equality is also the gateway to racial equality.

If there is one thing which blights this country is poverty and its far reaching tentacles. Entrenched, lateral, multi-generational poverty that has gripped America’s working classes. Pre-2008 recession, if people fell on hard times, they can count on their parents or grandparents to bail them out for the short term until they got back on their feet. Now with cuts to the social safety net, many older people no longer have the savings to help their own children. Three generations have had to move in together because of unaffordable housing and living expenses. Poverty has many layers and many consequences. Poverty contributes to crime, poor health, poor education, poor future employment prospects. While poverty doesn’t directly cause crime, domestic abuse or addiction, it exacerbates an already volatile situation. Poverty is a vortex in which if you fall in, it’s very hard to climb out of. One cannot fault middle-class people from hanging on with their fingernails because after you’ve fallen into poverty, it’s near impossible to climb out. 

The underclass is created because society and government at large has turned a blind eye to their suffering. Like the people of Flint, Michigan, they’ve been written off just like you write off a bad loan or bad business deal. They are left in crumbling neighborhoods to rot – metaphorically, but the governor of Michigan has done one step better, he’s poisoned his own people by supplying cess-filled drinking water to them. He has, with the flip of a switch, fed the people of Flint their own poison.

The only candidate that addresses these issues is Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton has focused her candidacy on foreign policy, which many Americans don’t have an appetite for. Foreign policy isn’t something the voting constituent can control or even approve. We elect candidates hoping they’ll do the right thing in the foreign policy department. Bernie Sanders is against free trade, because like all intelligent people, nothing is ‘free’ in life. Someone pays for the ‘free’ part in free trade and its usually the working class and the poor and they often comprise of women and children. With the markets in China opening up in the late 1970s, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the emerging markets of South America, globalization was bound to happen. To deny that or to attempt to stop it would be naive and foolish. The world’s factories and workers pre-1970s were in the United States, Western Europe and the U.K. because all the other markets were closed to the world. All of these closed markets would eventually open one day, it’s only a matter of time. But trade agreements like NAFTA and other free-trade deals have accelerated the pace of globalization which harmed American and European skilled and unskilled workers. For the jobs that were lost to free trade, not enough effort has been made to replacing them. This is the failure of government policy making. Free trades have plunged formerly middle class people into poverty in the first world but didn’t lift that many people out of poverty in the third world either. The free trade agreements largely benefited multi-national, big corporations. It didn’t even benefit medium to small sized companies.

Most women and feminists know today you don’t need a woman president to promote feminist causes. In fact, based on many of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy decisions while she was Secretary of State, a lot the policies she espoused are blatantly anti-women and children. By raising the minimum wage to commensurate with standard of living increases and inflation, having real universal healthcare (single payer system), adequate sick-pay, adequate family-leave pay for women or men who need to look after sick family members, make contraception widely available and access to abortion facilities, a fair taxation system, an adequate safety net will directly benefit many women and by extension her family. When women are paid the same as men for doing the same work, she will more likely speak up about the inequalities at work. When a woman’s job isn’t jeopardized for speaking up, she will speak up.

These are the real problems of America. Not the federal government usurping the rights of citizens, not illegal immigrants, not Muslims, not homegrown terrorists or ISIS.  All of these are just bogeymen to distract us from our real problems, which are far more tangible.

 

My Hillary journey…has ended.

Since 2008, when she ran against our current president, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I was ‘with her.’ I was crushed when she eventually lost the nomination to Barack Obama. The toughest losses are close ones and this loss was bruising. The campaign was long and grueling and when it was all over, she had to settle for second place with an award for valiant effort. I ached for her. The ‘would have, could have, should haves’ in her head must be torturous. I supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 not just because she was a woman, though it was a factor. I felt like she was on my side when it came to important issues. I am a very average middle-class woman making an average income. I am now thirty-seven, I was twenty-nine, almost thirty when Hillary Clinton first ran for president. Issues like equal pay for equal work, federally mandated Paid-Family-Leave, Universal Health Coverage and affordable childcare for families were important to me. Though she cast a disastrous vote with President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, she was contrite enough and I believed her when she said she will wind down operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Hillary on the campaign trail of 2008 is a very different Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail today. The Hillary of 2008 was more humble and she sought to earn our votes. It wasn’t a given. She didn’t act as though she would be handed the nomination because she was a former First Lady and two term New York Senator. She asked and at times begged for every one of our votes. Today she demands our votes. And it’s distasteful. With her tenure as Secretary of State during Obama’s first term under belt, she got even more arrogant. It’s not the anti-feminist view of self-assured and confident woman being called arrogant, no, she became arrogant in the original meaning of being arrogant. Arrogant in the belief that she deserved our votes without having to earn them all over again. Her tenure as Secretary of State, with the exception of the embassy attacks in Benghazi, it was largely considered a success. She executed Obama’s agenda faithfully and made America more palatable to the world again. She was a tireless trooper and logged an estimated 1 million miles for President Obama. When she stepped down at the end of her first term to go prepare to be a grandmother, everyone felt it was well deserved. Her political enemies were no doubt relieved, but I am sure most of them knew it wasn’t the last we’d see of her.

Hillary Clinton and by extension ‘The Clintons’ are not ‘men of the people’. They are a political juggernaut, a political powerhouse. In fact, they were never not these things, even from their humble Arkansas days. The Clintons were and still are a political force. They are not ordinary folks who got elected to office to serve other ordinary folks (unlike Bernie Sanders). Hillary Clinton never pretended to be just another ordinary woman, though she says differently now, she is the Establishment. This fact alone turns off many but I was fine with it. I am still fine with it. I am pragmatic and elections are often about choosing the lesser devil.

Since she was our First Lady, I admired her grit, her determination in the face of adversity. There is no other woman in modern history who was attacked from all sides from everyone and about everything. She was criticized for denigrating housewives for  wanting to ‘fulfil her profession’ and that she could have ‘stayed home and baked cookies’ but chose not to. Before Obamacare there was HillaryCare – it failed to get out of committee but it got enough attention and if she can put a plan together just as First Lady, which isn’t an official government position, just imagine what more she can do as president? When her husband cheated on her multiple times throughout their marriage, where it would cause many women to dig a hole and never come out, she soldiered on her way. She stood by his side even if only to protect her family’s interest and Chelsea’s interest. Like all smart women, she left the plate smashing behind closed doors and dealt with their enemies as a united front. She was criticized for not divorcing him further cementing the impression that she is a ruthless, calculating political animal and the only possible reason she’d remain with a love cheat of a husband like that is only for political reasons. When she doesn’t show emotion she is called a calculating bitch, almost like a modern day Lady Macbeth. When she does, like at the 2008 New Hampshire primary, you guess it, she was accused of using her feminine wiles by shedding a few tears to gain sympathy (she’d just lost the Iowa Caucuses). The woman can’t go out and get a burrito without anyone having an opinion about that. Even when she is speaking today, the criticism is she sounds rehearsed, not genuine and doesn’t come from the heart. When did this woman ever wear her heart on her sleeve? Is that a requirement in which I am not aware of to run for president? Are male presidential candidates required to wear his heart on his sleeve? Lastly, she is criticized for her appalling lack of fashion sense, something she readily admits to and pokes fun at herself too (especially those old headband days).

When I sense that she is being attacked on the grounds of sexism (and misogyny) and not just about the issues, my feminist hackles are raised. It is the oldest trick in the book left to attack powerful women or women seeking positions of power and that is to make her look unfeminine or too feminine depending on when it suits. Her range of acceptable behavior has just been narrowed. Everything about her is under attack, along with the issues. As a feminist, I am strongly against singling women out for behaviors men routinely get away with or with behaviors which are considered natural to men, such as ambition, aggression and determination. It doesn’t mean I believe women seeking high office and positions of power should get a free pass but the gross double standard is there and I am against it. Women know it when we see it, there is no point explaining it away.

My support for Hillary Clinton today is wavering to the point of being withdrawn completely. She is now my backup candidate, meaning if Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, I may consider voting for Hillary Clinton just so I won’t vote Republican. Depending on how everything pans out, I may even cast my vote with a third party candidate if Bernie Sanders fails to win the nomination. Let me explain why.

Hillary Clinton has lost touch with her core supporters and her core political values, especially on issues of social justice. Since the financial crash of 2008, which wiped trillions from the net worth of working and middle-class Americans, instead of distancing herself and castigating the bankers and institutions who caused this crash, she continues to be friendly with them and accepts political contributions in the form of speech fees. The Clintons have always been well off but in recent years, as more and more Americans fell out of the middle class or are barely hanging on by their fingernails, the wealth of the Clintons multiplied many times over. Chelsea Clinton, who is close to me in age, lives in a $10 million Manhattan penthouse paid for by her parents. Despite Chelsea’s elite education, she’s never had to hustle to get a job. Even people of Chelsea’s social class with similar education have to at one time or another put together a resume and go out there and get job interviews in hopes of landing a job. Chelsea didn’t have to do that. Working for the Clinton Foundation isn’t a job she earned, she was handed the job by her parents, mostly to avoid conflict of interest when her mother runs for president. And if the most recent Vanity Fair report is to be believed, she’s ruffling a lot of feathers and her performance thus far has gotten mixed reviews. Even more ludicrous was her MSNBC ‘special correspondent’ position where NBC paid her $600,000 to do special reporting. She has no experience in nor did she study journalism, it is unclear exactly what stories she filed for MSNBC, though the network had high praise for her work. Many suspect this is NBC’s way getting in the good graces of Hillary Clinton in the event she runs for president and NBC will be granted first interviews.

All of this would have flown under the radar had candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont not come out of the woodwork and remind everyone what the Clintons and their ilk are about. They are neoliberal elites who are in bed with the 1% and the people who brought down this economy. The young people, mainly Millennials are saddled with student debt, poor job prospects, poor housing prospects and an uncertain economic future. What’s inconvenient for Hillary Clinton this time around (the Iraq Vote issue of 2008) is the fact that during Bill Clinton’s administration, under pressure from Republican majority in the House of Representatives led by Newt Gingrich, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) was passed. This undermined the safety net put in place by the New Deal of the 1930s and during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration’s War on Poverty. This law was enacted during an economic boom where the effects weren’t keenly felt yet. The dot-com bust of the early 2000s rebounded much faster than the 2008 Great Recession. Though PRWORA was enacted during her husband’s administration and she was not involved with it but she showed support for it. As a result of this welfare reform bill, the safety net that was once there had many large holes in it where many Americans who didn’t qualify for the most stringent set of poverty guidelines fell through. As usual with poverty, the hardest hit are usually women, especially single mother households and minorities. Minorities also suffered the biggest losses in The Great Recession of 2008 as well. Bill Clinton also passed an aggressive criminal justice bill (a bill which he regrets today) which saw the rise of mass incarcerations, especially among blacks and latinos.

The recession may be over in technical terms, but the effects of the recession are still strongly felt. Labor participation rate is only 62.4%, which means roughly 4 out of 10 adults who should be working aren’t because they’ve dropped out of the labor force. They’ve stopped looking for work. The 4.9% unemployment rate doesn’t look so good against the labor participation rate. The 4.9% unemployment rate includes people who are underemployed or employed in dead end low wage jobs where their skills are not fully utilized. Growth is weak, good jobs with benefits are few and you have college graduates fighting for jobs with non-college graduates over menial work. How is this a real recovery? Job prospects for high school graduates or less is non-existent.

In the backdrop of all this, the fall out of a diminished safety net which was caused by the Bill Clinton administration comes Hillary Clinton demanding we go with her. Especially women, what kind of feminists are we if don’t go with the ultimate feminist figure of modern times? Her supporters on social media and other places are shilling for her so hard I hope they don’t get a coronary before this is all over. And I hope they make it on Hillary Clinton’s Christmas card list. What right does Hillary Clinton supporters have telling how women should vote and if we Feel the Bern we are self-hating because, apparently, Bernie Sanders has male supporters who are anti-feminist and misogynistic? So, we are comparing candidates now by who supports them? So if Hillary Clinton had supporters in the KKK does that make all her other supporters sympathize with the KKK too? All of a sudden, neoliberal feminists are ordering all other feminists to subscribe to their brand of feminism and serve at the altar of Hillary Clinton. And if we don’t, we are betraying feminism itself.

There was always a chasm, an unspoken wall which divide the older generation of feminists and say younger feminists, and by that I mean age 45 or younger. The older rank and file feminists like Gloria Steinem and her colleagues feel that we younger women are insufficiently thankful to them for their fight for equality. They make that judgement based on the decisions we make in our lives. There are women who choose to drop out of the workforce to care for her children until they reach school age. There are women who cut back on career opportunities after weighing between family and career and they choose family. A lot of times it’s not her choice, it’s what the circumstances dictate but there are times where it is. God forbid a woman is happy or choose to be a housewife while her children are young. There are some women such as Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo who outrightly rejects the label of feminism for herself. She sees herself as sort of a careerist. I don’t agree with that notion but she’s free to label herself as she sees fit. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton doesn’t represent the experiences of most women. She does not represent me or my views or the views of many of my peers. She no longer relates to her supporters in the same way. She is a neoliberal elite who has lost touch with the common man and she aims to preach from her altar on what’s best for us. Her many years of experience in government doesn’t automatically qualify her for the Democratic nomination or the presidency. In fact, Obama’s presidency proves that experience does not matter when running for the top job. In his first presidential campaign, John McCain routinely accused Obama of having no experience outside the halls of the Senate, and it didn’t matter, he was elected anyway.

Hillary Clinton has an impressive list of achievements, that cannot be denied. But she no longer represents the average working person. Her ties are too entrenched in the establishment, The Clinton Foundation has its hands in too many pies and there’s no way to separate Hillary the woman from all of that. The likelihood of her raising taxes on or punishing the people that gave her $350,000 for a speech lasting less than half an hour are nil.

It’s unclear how Bernie Sanders quest for the nomination will end. There is a fear and it’s a possibility that even if Sanders wins the nomination, he will lose the general election, just as George McGovern had years before. It doesn’t much matter right now to the youth of this country. Bernie Sanders speaks their truth, he knows their truth. Throughout many years of Sanders being in government he hasn’t lost touch with real people.

As for Gloria Steinem’s reason on why young women are Feeling the Bern (“because that’s where the boys are”), you are better than this Ms. Steinem. I am a great admirer of Steinem and her work. Her work informed my feminist consciousness, I became a feminist partly because of Steinem. But comments like these from her (and those of her generation) is why some younger women think older women are bitter and angry. So, yes, given a choice between hanging out with my angry harridan of a mother or “boys”, the answer is obvious. But this is beside the point. Young women are with Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders understands our concerns.

I find myself saddened that I’ve reached this conclusion about Hillary Clinton and her candidacy. I can no longer support a candidate who chooses to be friendly with the people and organizations that destroyed our economy, of which many people may never recover from.

 

Reading Mein Kampf (1925)

A fellow blogger actually read and reviewed Mein Kampf. The review is excellent. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read about Mein Kampf. It’s one of the most reviled and equally discussed books yet I know not one person who’s read it cover to cover. Myself included. And I’ve no desire to read even out of curiosity, and I am a very curious person.
Stanley Rogouski has read this book. It’s God-awful in every way. It’s devoid of artistry or even any attempt of artistry just like the author himself (Hitler, not Stanley).
For all of Hitler’s boasting of the Aryan race and Aryan values, he was sorely lacking in all that he exalted. He was neither blond, nor tall, nor thin nor good looking. Hitler looked like an oversized ommpa loompa. But all that is beside the point, the Aryan race was a boogeyman created to serve the Nazi aim.
For everyone who is curious just what the hell is in Mein Kampf, read this and you’ll never need to pick up the book. Stanley has summarized the whole Nazi creed in this essay, where Hitler needed 525 pages, Stanley just needs a few thousand words.

Writers Without Money

marxism-death

Is there any other nation so completely identified with one man as Germany with Adolf Hitler? We don’t necessarily think of Napoleon when we think of a Frenchman or Mussolini when we think of an Italian. Winston Churchill, a bombastic liberal imperialist and wildly overrated military leader, has gone done in history mainly because of his opposition to the Nazis. That American historians regularly conduct poll about who was the “greatest president” is proof that there is no one representative American head of state. When we imagine the typical German, on the other hand, we don’t conjure up Luther or Goethe, Beethoven, Mozart, Karl Marx, or Frederick the Great. Adolf Hitler has taken the entire history of a great nation, and swallowed it whole.

The American misconception that Hitler was “Austrian not German” points to some of the reasons why. Unlike the British or the French, the Germans do not…

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