US anti-fascist Spencer Sunshine: “I nearly died in Charlottesville”

August 16, 2017 at 3:16 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, campaigning, posted by JD, Trump, United States)

Image result for charlottesville rally

Above: the killer drives his car into anti-fascists

By Spencer Sunshine

My account of being at the counter-protests in Charlottesville, Virginia against the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017.

“Fascist violence is not an anomaly. The movement itself is based on violence—the glorification of violence, the use of violent tactics as organizing tools, and the end goals of ethnic cleansing and genocide. There is no such thing as “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” as alt-right leader Spencer has advocated. It is White supremacy and antisemitism first, with hatred of Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ people, feminists and leftists coming in at a close second.

The fascist Right and their allies united this weekend for what they hoped would be their big breakthrough. Before the march, AltRight.com, run by Spencer, posted, “People will talk about Charlottesville as a turning point. There will be a before Charlottesville and an after Charlottesville. Will you stand up for your history, your race and your way of life?”

For those opposed to fascism and far Right rhetoric and violence, there also needs to be a before and after. Just as fascists threaten so many groups, they provide us—Muslims, Jews, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, feminists and progressives—an opportunity. Our common enemy allows us an opportunity to come together across our differences and work together, not just to oppose and contain their movement, but to do so based on a commitment to a vision of a cosmopolitan future based on respect and equality. I hope we seize this opportunity.”

Read the full story at Colorlines

Permalink Leave a Comment

Charlottesville is a call to action against fascism

August 14, 2017 at 9:02 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, Racism, solidarity, Trump, United States)

from the US SocialistWorker.org website (nothing to do with the UK SWP):

Katherine Nolde, Richard Capron and Scott McLemee round up on-the-spot reports from the deadly confrontation between the far right and anti-racists in a Virginia city.
August 14, 2017

Above: this is what Trump refused to condemn

THE FAR-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12–probably the largest public gathering of the racist “alt-right” ever–was clear evidence of the murderous forces nurtured and emboldened by Donald Trump over the past two years.

And it had deadly consequences: One anti-fascist protester was killed and more than two dozen injured when a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car at high speed into a counterdemonstration led by left organizations, including the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America and Industrial Workers of the World, among others.

Trump issued a weasel-worded condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” that fooled no one–especially not the far right. “He refused to even mention anything to do with us,” one racist website gloated. “When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.”

So the fascists see Trump as one of their own–and for good reason.

But the hate on display in Charlottesville–and promoted by the hatemonger-in-chief–is galvanizing people across the country.

News of the racist car attack was met by a wave of solidarity–within hours, there were vigils and protests in dozens of cities, followed by many more the next day, and plans for still more in the days to come. By the end of the weekend, people had taken a stand in solidarity with Charlottesville in hundreds of towns and cities.

These people who sent a message of defiance were not only repulsed by the hatred of the fascists and horrified by their violence, but they understand the need to confront this menace before it can inflict more suffering and take more lives.

Charlottesville showed the grave threat we face in the form of an emboldened far right. But it is also revealing the potential to mobilize a mass opposition to the hatemongers, whether they strut in the streets or in the Oval Office.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE THOUSANDS mobilizing against the Trump agenda in recent months are making it impossible for the far right to claim it represents more than a small part of the U.S. population.

When the Klan came to Charlottesville last month to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a city park, they attracted around 50 supporters–and were outnumbered 20 times over by antiracists.

Humiliated by this, far-right groups announced another rally for August. The city granted a permit for this past Saturday in Emancipation Park to “Unite the Right” organizers–a last-minute legal attempt to deny the permit was stayed by a judge based on an appeal by the ACLU. Permits were also granted to counterdemonstrators to assemble a couple blocks away in Justice Park.

The far right came looking for a fight in Charlottesville, and they got started Friday night with a torchlight parade on the University of Virginia campus. Chanting “Heil Trump” and “You will not replace us”–sometimes changed to “Jews will not replace us”–some used their lighted torches to threaten the small numbers of antiracist protesters who confronted them on campus.

If the racists thought they would have the same overwhelming force on their side the next day, they were wrong. The fascists were outnumbered by their opponents, ranging from Antifa contingents and the radical left to more moderate antiracist organizations. But the antifascists’ advantage wasn’t as large as it could have been.

Groups from each side made pass-by marches within sight of one another Saturday morning, and there were isolated clashes, leading to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainly.

When a group of ISO members approached the southwest entrance to Justice Park, the counterdemonstration site, they found a handful of young white men with automatic rifles and red bandanas tied around their necks standing watch. Momentary fear dissipated when the socialists were welcomed with cheers and handshakes–these were members of Redneck Revolt, a newly formed militant Southern self-defense group. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville

August 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, solidarity, terror, Trump, United States)

Image result for charlottesville rally
Above: car drives into anti-fascists, killing one and injuring 19 (pic from Tendance Coatesy, which also carries reports and background information)

By Redneck Revolt at the It’s Going Down! website, Aug 13 2017

The situation on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still developing and unstable, but a few of our Redneck Revolt members on the ground took some time to provide the following reportback. We will continue to share updates as they’re available.

For those who are still unaware, this weekend has been the largest convergence of far-right and white nationalist/white supremacist organizations in recent US history. They have descended on Charlottesville, a town of approximately 48,000 people, as a response to the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, self-described White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torchlit march on the statue, with the intention of terrorizing locals who support the statue’s removal, particularly people of color.

This weekend, the stakes were raised at an event called “Unite the Right,” organized to tie together white supremacist groups across the spectrum. Participating groups and white supremacist personalities included Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Baked Alaska, Based Stickman, Augustus Invictus, Mike Enoch, Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan, and Nazi groups.

Locals and members of surrounding communities gathered in Charlottesville to take a stand against the “Unite the Right” rally, and defend their town from white supremacist organizing. Five Redneck Revolt branches from nearby towns have been on the ground in Charlottesville since yesterday, and working closely with the SRA, BLM, and local organizers to develop plans to protect the local community.

Last night, Dr. Cornel West and several local faith leaders called for a prayer meeting at the St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville. Armed Redneck Revolt members were on-hand to assist with security, when word was received that the 300+ white supremacists were marching with torches across the University of Virginia campus towards the church. Across the street from the church, the fascist march encountered several anti-fascist and student counter-protestors, and a skirmish erupted. Redneck Revolt members assisted with escorting folks from the church to their cars, and everyone was evacuated safely.

Today, with hundreds more white supremacists expected to converge on Charlottesville, our Redneck Revolt branches worked together with local organizers to create and secure a staging area at Justice Park, within a short distance of the planned Unite the Right rally location, Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park). Approximately 20 Redneck Revolt members created a security perimeter around the park, most of them open-carrying tactical rifles.

Starting from early in the morning, there were eruptions of violence scattered throughout downtown Charlottesville, and around 11:30am, the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency and ordered the police to cancel and evacuate the “Unite the Right” rally. National Guard and local police forces worked to contain the scattered violence, with little impact.

Throughout the day, the staging area at Justice Park was a safe haven for a wide range of protesters and other community members. Support teams provided food, water, medical support, and sanctuary, and groups such as the Quakers, Black Lives Matter, antifa groups, queer radical orgs, and the IWW moved in and out of Justice Park as needed to regroup and take care of each others’ injuries.

At many points during the day, groups of white supremacists approached Justice Park, but at each instance, Redneck Revolt members formed a unified skirmish line against them, and the white supremacists backed down. Most of the groups were not easily identified, but at separate points, contingents from Identity Europa and the Proud Boys were recognized. The groups that threatened the park yelled racial and homophobic slurs, and many yelled things specifically at the Redneck Revolt fire teams which indicated that they were familiar with our principles. Some of the groups that approached numbered as many as 40 people, but the security of Justice Park was never breached.

The worst moment of an entire weekend of white supremacist violence came when someone rammed their Dodge Charger into a large crowd of anti-racist protesters. A 32 year old woman was killed, and at least 19 others have been reported injured. The crash and screams were heard by the groups staged at Justice Park, and two Redneck Revolt members ran down the street and assisted in direct medical support.

There are ongoing security actions planned throughout the night, to protect groups or locations which are at a higher risk of being attacked by the fascists, and our Redneck Revolt members on the ground will continue to check in as they are able to. They are especially appreciative of the camaraderie of the SRA, and look forward to building stronger defense networks together.

For folks looking for ways to provide support, there are several fundraisers circulating for legal and medical funds for the anti-racist protesters. We have not been able to independently verify these funds yet, so we appreciate any locals who can vouch for them. These fundraisers have been shared on our national Facebook page, and we will add them to this reportback as they’re verified.

If you’re in Charlottesville, please connect with other community members and form plans to keep each other safe. Folks who feel at risk are encouraged to stay together in groups, and check in on community members regularly who may be more isolated. Take precautions if you’re going to be downtown, and be aware that there are still reports of groups of fascists wandering around looking to inflict violence. We recommend being armed if you are able to be. There are many accessible less-than-lethal options which can help out considerably in a self-defense situation, such as mace. Take the time to eat, drink water, and rest. Solidarity!


Liked it? Take a second to support It’s Going Down!

Permalink 2 Comments

The “erratic and chaotic” Trump administration

August 13, 2017 at 7:24 pm (identity politics, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Russia, strange situations, Trump, United States)

 Martin Rowson 05.08.2017 Illustration: Martin Rowson (The Guardian)

Martin Thomas spoke to Andrew Gamble about the character of the Trump government. Andrew Gamble is a Professor in Politics at the University of Sheffield and the author of many books on political economy. [The interview was recorded at the end of July, before the North Korea crisis blew up, and also appears on the Workers Liberty website]

MT: Since the 1940s the world markets have been structured by a series of institutions: the WTO, the IMF, the G20, the G7, NATO. The USA has been central to all of these. Is Trump going to blow them up?

AG: He hasn’t been tested by a major international crisis yet, but almost certainly there’ll be one during his presidency. How he will react is unclear: how much he will be guided by people like Mattis and McMaster and how much he’ll do something unpredictable. There is a risk it could be the latter. While he hasn’t done much that’s very radical yet, he has certainly disoriented the complex web of international alliances that the US has put so much store by over the last 70 years. He has upset Australia and Germany: very long-standing allies. He has given comfort to Russia and some other states which are normally not close to the US at all. This has been very unsettling for lots of other states. The likelihood is that that’s going to continue because of the erratic and chaotic way the Trump administration works.

MT: The Economist (26/1/17) commented that Trump was bringing to political dealing his approach from business bombast and brokering: “he aims high, pushes and pushes, but then settles for less than he originally sought”. But, as the Economist comments, “dealing with countries is a higher-stakes game than bargaining over Manhattan building plots”.

AG: I think it is partly that. He clearly had so little actual political experience. His business background was fairly low-level – real estate – he wasn’t CEO of a major international company or anything like that. Tillerson is a different category of a businessperson from Trump. Trump’s experience was as a reality TV host. That too has coloured how he has approached things. He approaches relations with other leaders with an eye on how it’s going to play with his base and how he can make himself look good. He uses bluff and does outrageous things partly in the belief that this will enhance his ability to do deals. This is in itself a very unsettling way of conducting relations.

In the first six months he sent out more than a thousand tweets. These things are superficial in one way, but they betoken a style which is deeply unsettling: the fact that he is prepared to put things into tweets which normally, in previous presidencies, would have been private communications, the fact that he’s prepared to go public. I had wondered whether his behaviour might start to change as he learnt more about what the US Presidency was like. But it seems at the moment that this doesn’t seem to be happening. Every time his behaviour has become a bit more normal it has been followed by reverting to some of his old techniques and habits. I conclude that he probably isn’t going to learn very much and what we’ve seen in the first six months is likely to carry on.

All US Presidents have had courts. But Trump’s court is particularly fluid and has some very opposed factions within it, which, in policy terms, point in quite different directions. Trump seems to pivot from one of these factions to another, so that no faction is dominant for very long, and he plays the factions off against one another. That makes the policy even more erratic and hard to read for foreign observers. Where this is all going is strange. We should expect some major shocks, and particularly if crises of one kind or another test Trump.

MT: The Russia connection? What’s in it for Trump? And what’s in it for Russia?

AG: It is mysterious how difficult it is for Trump to shake the Russia connection off. That has led me to believe that there is something going on which we don’t understand yet. The likely thing, although there isn’t firm evidence for this yet, is that Trump’s business empire is reliant in some way on Russian money – not government money, but oligarch money. There were stories at one time, of links through Deutsche Bank, which is one of the main funders of the Trump business empire.
The multiple links of people associated with Trump with Russia are extraordinary. There is probably something of substance behind it all. He has also got people, particularly Mattis and McMaster, who represent the American political security establishment and a traditional US policy towards Russia, and that of course chimes with what a lot of Republicans want.

So Trump has been forced to concede on the sanctions. But it doesn’t stop him! The latest revelation, that at the G20 meeting [7-8 July in Hamburg] he had a second 60-minute chat with Putin in which Putin used a Russian translator and Trump wasn’t accompanied by a translator. That in itself was a breach of state department protocol. What is going on? Why would you do that, when there is so much focus on his links with Russia and his associates? Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Louis Armstrong: simply the best

August 4, 2017 at 9:10 am (civil rights, culture, good people, jazz, Jim D, modernism, music, New Orleans, Sheer joy, United States)

Louis Armstrong: born August 4 1901, died July 6 1971


Above: possibly his greatest recording, West End Blues (1928). For a detailed analysis, read what the of the Director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum (in Queens, New York), Ricky Riccardi, wrote, here.

Louis Armstrong never knew the date of his birthday. As Terry Teachout writes in his excellent biography Pops – A Life Of Louis Armstrong (2009):

‘Until the day he died, Louis Armstrong claimed that he was born on July 4, 1900. He said so in Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans and Swing That Music, his two published memoirs, and on innumerable other occasions, and although at least one biographer found the date too pat to be plausible, it was only in 1988 that a researcher located an entry in latin for “Armstrong (niger, illegitimus)” in the handwritten baptismal register of New Orleans’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. According to that record, Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, the natural son of William Armstrong (known as Willie), who spent most of his adult life working in a turpentine factory, and Mary Ann Albert (known as Mayann, though her son spelled it different ways over the years), a fifteen-year-old country girl who came to New Orleans to work as a household servant.’

What was never in doubt is the simple fact that Louis was born  at the absolute bottom of the US socio-economic pile. He was black, his mother was an alcoholic and an occasional prostitute and his father deserted the family before he was born. He seemed destined for a life of poverty and petty crime until a Jewish family, the Karnoffskys, took him under their wing and encouraged his musical talent (including lending him the money for his first cornet). Louis never forgot them and wore a Star of David under his shirt for the rest of his life. That early experience also seems to have conditioned his approach to the race question. He was proud of his Afro-American roots but never a seperatist. He almost always had at least one or two whites in his All Stars – a policy that his manager Joe Glaser encouraged for commercial reasons but that Armstrong believed in as a matter of principle. His closest musical friend was the white trombonist Jack Teagarden, to whom he (allegedly) said on their first encounter, “I’m a spade and you’re an ofay. We got the same soul – so let’s blow.”

Armstrong is, simultaneously, by far the best known figure in jazz and one of the most underrated. The reasons for this have little to do with music and everything to do with image, perception and ideology. Most of today’s jazz fans (despite the sterling efforts of Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Crouch and others) know little of Armstrong and see him as an avuncular buffoon singing lightweight pop songs in a gravel voice. He’s not considered a real jazz musician like, say, John Coltrane or the oh-so-cool Miles Davis. And then there’s that “Uncle Tom” tag. We’ll come to that in a moment.

What is all too easily forgotten in any discussion about Armstrong is the straightfact that he was the single most revolutionary exponent of the most revolutionary music of the Twentieth Century. Long before he became the jovial entertainer the world remembers, he almost single-handedly created jazz as we know it today.

Anyone who doubts this should listen to Armstrong’s first recordings, made with his mentor Joe ‘King’ Oliver’s band in 1923: Olver and the others chug along in the staccato semi-ragtime rhythm that characterised early jazz. Armstrong (playing second cornet to Oliver) uses triplet-based quarter and eighth notes, riding on a 4/4 beat that only existed inside his head. It was the rhythm that that twelve-to-fifteen years later would be called “swing” and make Benny Goodman, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller and a lot of other (mainly white) bandleaders rich and famous. That rhythm, together with the concept of the virtuoso solo, improvised over the chords of the tune, which Armstrong also pioneered, was the springboard for Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and most of what followed in in jazz, up to this very day.

It is of course true that had Armstrong never been born, someone else would have made these musical breakthroughs sooner or later – they were almost necessities waiting to happen. Phillip Larkin (an unstinting Armstrong fan)  oversimplified matters, but had a point when he wrote that Armstrong “simply did what everyone else was doing (but) twenty times better.” We know that Armstrong’s New Orleans contemporary, the clarinet and soprano sax virtuoso Sidney Bechet, was playing along similar lines in the early twenties, with a power and imagination that came close to matching Louis’s. But Bechet was a (literally) wayward character who spent a lot of time travelling in Europe while the epicentre of jazz was the US and, incresingly, New York. He lacked Louis’s personal warmth and although he recorded quite extensively, he didn’t achieve widespread public recognition until he settled in France in the 1950’s where he became something of a folk-hero in his final years.

To understand Armstrong, the man and the performer, you have to understand something of the society he was born into. New Orleans at the turn of the century was a hotbed of vice and violence. It was also, in comparison to the rest of the USA, relatively tolerant in racial, social and cultural matters. The French had founded the city and brought with them a tradition of opera, symphony, dances and parties. This had melded with the work-songs and “shouts” of the black slaves. As a result New Orleans was, as far as can be judged, the birthplace of jazz. The city’s mixed-race “creoles” constituted the vast majority of early jazz musicians of note. It is a myth that early jazz was the preserve of Afro-American “negroes”. In fact creole musicians emphasised their French and/or Spanish heritage and tended to be quite disparaging towards negroes like Armstrong and Oliver.

On New Year’s Eve of 1912 Armstrong was arrested for some high-jinks with a pistol and sent to the “Colored Waif’s Home” – a borstal, albeit a relatively enlightened one for its time. In fact, Louis often stated that being sent there was the single best thing that ever happened to him, mainly because the Home had a band and he soon became lead cornet in it. Years later, in the 1930’s, Louis revisited the place, found his old room and immediately snuggled down on the bunk.

From the Waif’s Home Armstrong went on to become second cornet with King Oliver in Chicago (jazz followed the black migration to the new industries up there), star trumpet soloist with Fletcher Henderson’s sophisticated big band in New York, and then to make the legendary Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings with his old New Orleans confrères Kid Ory (trombone) and Johnny Dodds (clarinet). Listening to the Hot Fives (recorded between November 1925 and December 1927) is an education in personal development: Armstrong soon outstrips and overwhelms his old comrades, making their contributions sound anachronistic, stilted, and generally surplus to requirements.

By the early 1930’s Armstrong was an international star and one of the first black American entertainers to tour Europe; Paul Robeson and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (a big influence on Armstrong) were the only others. At this point a big contradiction becomes apparent: Louis’s stage persona was by then that of an extrovert, exuberant virtuoso. Personally, he was completely insecure (remember that visit to the Waif’s Home), always in need of a tough guy (like the ex-Capone man Joe Glaser) or strong woman (notably second wife Lil and final wife Lucille) to look after him. And even after all the plaudits and awards, he desperately needed the approval of an audience. After the last performance of his life (undertaken against medical advice), he watched a TV review of the show in his hotel room and was devasted by the slating he received; he turned to Joe Glaser with tears in his eyes and asked: “You’ll still book me, Joe?”

Louis ‘mugged’ and played the harmless black minstrel to white audiences throughout his life. Younger black musicians and performers accused him of being an Uncle Tom and there was a tiny grain of truth to the charge. Billie Holiday famously said (affectionately) “Louis toms from the heart” and Sammy Davis Jr. (less affectionately) denounced him for being willing to play for segregated audiences. Terry Teachout comments, “Sammy Davis, after all, had a point: the All Stars did play for segregated audiences, and Armstrong never complained to Glaser about it. ‘I never question owners of dance halls or my manager about the racial patterns of places I am contracted to play… I have been with Joe Glaser too many years to worry about where I play and for whom,’ he had told a reporter for the Courier  in 1956. Nor would he ever take part in civil-rights demonstrations.’My life is music,’ he explained to a reporter. ‘They would beat me in the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn’t be able to blow my horn…”

But there was one occasion when even the apolitical Armstrong was unable to contain his inner rage in the face of racism: in 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision required public schools to de-segregate and allow black puils to enroll. But in Little Rock, Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus openly defied the court’s decison and the Federal Government, ordering the state’s National Guard to join with a mob of howling bigots outside the city’s Central High School to intimidate and obstruct nine black children who were trying to enroll.  Louis, on tour as usual, watched these scenes on his hotel televison shortly before he was interviewd by a cub reporter from a local paper. When the subject of Little Rock came up Louis exploded with rage, calling Faubus a “no good motherfucker” (later changed to “uneducated plowboy”) and denouncing President Eisenhower as “two faced” with “no guts.” He continued: “The way they’re treating my people in the South the government can go to hell,” and vowed that he would not agree to tour the Soviet Union for the State Department, calling Secretary of State Dulles “another motherfucker.” The young reporter had the scoop of a lifetime and Associated Press put the story on the wires.

Eisenhower later sent the army into Little Rock to enforce de-segregation and ensure the Nine were admitted to the school. Whether or not Armstrong’s intervention was a decisive factor in forcing Eisenhower’s hand is still a matter of debate, but the fact that a much-loved and generally apolitical figure had spoken out so strongly must surely have had some effect.

But this was an uncharateristic moment. Louis was not a political person and certainly no black militant. His background and natural inclinations made him an instinctive integrationist. And he generally let his music speak for itself, as when he sang Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen on the Ed Sullivan Show during the Montgomery bus boycott or performed You’ll Never Walk Alone with the All Stars for a segregated black audience in Savannah, Georgia.

Louis’s sheer humanity is summed up by the New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker (quoted in James Lincoln Collier’s 1983 biography Louis Armstrong – An American Genius), describing Louis on tour, in the dressing room:

“…He be sittin’ down in his underwear with a towel around his lap, one around his shoulders an’ that white hankerchief on his head, and he’d put that grease around his lips. Look like a minstrel man, ya know…an’ laughin’ you know natural the way he is. And in the room ya see, maybe two nuns. You see a street walker dressed all up in flaming clothes. You see a guy come out of the penitentiary. Ya see maybe a blind man sitting there. You see a rabbi, ya see a priest, see. Liable to see maybe two policemen or detectives, see. You see a judge. All of ’em different levels of society in the dressin’ room and he’s talking to all of ’em. ‘Sister So and So, do you know Slick Sam over there? This is Slick Sam, an ole friend of mine.’ Now the nun’s going to meet Slick Sam. Ole Notorious, been in nine penetentiaries. ‘Slick Sam, meet Rabbi Goldstein over there, he’s a friend of mine, rabbi good man, religious man. Sister Margaret, do you know Rabbi Goldstein? Amelia, this is Rosie, good time Rosie, girl used to work a show with me years ago. Good girl, she’s a great performer. Never got the breaks.’ Always a word of encouragement, see. And there’d be some kids there, white and colored. All the diverse people of different social levels…an’ everybody’s looking. Got their eyes dead on him, jus’ like they was lookin’ at a diamond.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

Ten days that Mooched the world

August 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm (Asshole, Beyond parody, gloating, parasites, populism, posted by JD, profiteers, Trump, United States)

From the US Socialistworker.org  (nothing to do – these days – with the UK SWP):

Elizabeth Schulte documents the not-so-amazing rise and fall of Donald Trump’s favorite communicator, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci.

Trump's ex-communications director Anthony Scaramucci

IT SEEMED like the perfect match when Donald Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director in July.

Consider the qualifications of the man known as “The Mooch”: Arrogant, wealthy Wall Street financier who made a career out of business failure. Author of how-to books like Hopping over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success and Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul. Avid Tweeter, prone to curse-filled fits of rage. Unflinching in his ignorance of what his job actually was.

No man was better prepared to serve Donald Trump.

But it was not to be. The Mooch was fired after just 10 days on the job–by incoming Chief of Staff and former Gen. John Kelly, who had just replaced Reince Priebus, the man Scaramucci sent his brief tenure chasing out of the White House.

Talk about your fucking ironies, huh?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

TRUMP’S NEW communications director hit the ground running, doing what he does best: communi-fucking-cating.

One of the first orders of business was calling journalist Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker to go on a rant in which he, among other things, called Priebus “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” while accusing Lizza of getting “leaked” information from said “paranoiac.”

Just to make sure everyone knew there was a new sheriff in town, Scaramucci hurled profanity at White House adviser Steve Bannon, too.

By most accounts, Priebus’ days in the Trump White House were already numbered–his conventional right-wing fanaticism had always disturbed the crackpot vibe preferred by alt-right true believers like Bannon.

Scaramucci’s tirade was just the very public push that sent Priebus off the White House plank he had been walking for a while. But it’s some nice poetic justice–the enemy of my enemy is the guy who fired me.

As he cleared out his barely inhabited desk, Scaramucci probably thought back to the early days of his White House career, one week before.

He spent the bright dawn of his West Wing career vowing loyalty to the president–after video of a 2015 Fox Business interview resurfaced, in which Scaramucci, then a supporter of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination, called Trump a “political hack” and “un-American.”

After he got the White House gig, the Mooch was quick to delete past tweets complimenting Hillary Clinton and assure reporters “I love the president.” He then clarified: “But I love the president and I’m very, very loyal to the president. And I love the mission that the president has.” Before repeating: “I love the president.” And then: “But here’s what I will tell you, okay? I love the president.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE MOOCH’S first–and as it turns out, only–mission was declaring a no-tolerance policy on his and the president’s personal obsession: “leakers.” Threatening to “pare down” the communications staff, Scaramucci told CBS’s Face the Nation, “If you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody. It’s just very binary.”

The leaks that the White House communications director was up in arms about weren’t exactly leaks. They were more like…what is it called again?…oh yeah, reporting.

The Mooch went ballistic when Politico reported his financial holdings in the SkyBridge Capital investment firm, accusing Priebus of leaking the information to the press and threatening an FBI investigation.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” tweeted Scaramucci.

Politico reporter Lorraine Wollert explained that her so-called “illegal” method of obtaining the Mooch’s financial information was a public document: a financial disclosure form Scaramucci submitted to the Office of Government Ethics.

In another attempt to go after the White House’s leak problem, the Mooch quickly responded to a Politico article reporting that he planned to fire White House press aide Michael Short. Short resigned after the article came out.

“This is the problem with the leaking,” Scaramucci told reporters in the White House driveway. “This is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.” (Both!)

One problem–if Scaramucci told Politico about the firing, then doesn’t that make him the leaker?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t leaks in the Trump administration–a boss so petulant surely inspires a lot of frustration and acts of “disloyalty” every day. But the Mooch’s definition of a “leak” says a lot about what the Trump administration considers the real threat: facts.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

REPORTING THE news isn’t leaking. And as long as we’re on the subject, leaking information the public ought to know isn’t actually a disservice to democracy, but the exact opposite. In a “democracy” as undemocratic as the U.S., “leakers” are an absolute necessity.

We need more people like Chelsea Manning, who put her career and her freedom on the line to expose the U.S. military’s war crimes. Or military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked “secret documents” during Vietnam War to show how the U.S. government lied to the public to justify imperial crimes.

Likewise, we need more journalists who investigate and seek out the truth.

For the press that has covered the White House for years, the Trump administration has been a big adjustment. For one thing, major policy decisions aren’t always announced in press briefings, but instead tweeted at random at any hour of the day or night.

Wall Streeters like the Mooch are already accustomed to working the press to shape what is reported. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Heidi Moore, who covered Wall Street for 18 years, described the obstacles that the financial industry puts in the way of reporting the facts–employing the friendly approach at times, but also a not-so-friendly one that includes the threat of firing.

Reportedly, one of the reasons that Trump liked the Mooch for the communications director job was the way he forced three CNN reporters out of work in June.

But while Wall Street influence over the media has always been a reality, they’ve had to do it in the shadows. With Scaramucci on board, it looked like all the ugly dealings to get the media to say what Trump wanted was going to be acted out in the light of day.

All of this is new for the corporate media, which have become more accustomed to sitting in White House press briefings, taking notes and then parroting whatever line the administration dictates to them.

Thus, in the lead-up to the Bush administration’s 2003 war on Iraq, the cheerleaders for war concocted a story about Saddam Hussein creating a program to manufacture weapons of mass destruction–and got the corporate media to broadcast their lies, partly through leaks to sympathetic and/or ambitious reporters.

The New York Times loyally ran front-page stories about the false evidence–and amped up the urgency by referencing anonymous administration officials saying, “The first sign of a ‘smoking gun,’ they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.”

Today, there may not be the same friendly and orderly relations between the press corps and the White House, but that doesn’t mean the media won’t snap to attention. With a hawk and former general like John Kelly taking the reins as chief of staff, it seems altogether possible that the disgruntled media will be tamed somewhat.

It’s nice when bad things happen to bad people–especially when there are so many bad people in charge. Everybody deserves some time to celebrate the Mooch’s misfortune.

It’s also true that there are probably more Mooches ahead of us. And underneath all of his gibbering about leaks, loyalty and “un-American” behavior, Scaramucci revealed something serious about the climate of suspicion and intimidation created by the Trump administration.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Redneck revolt: “Guns are fine – racism is not”

July 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, populism, posted by JD, strange situations, Trump, United States, workers)

The Phoenix John Brown Gun Club sent a ‘community defense contingent’ to a Make America Great Again rally at the Arizona state capitol, image via Redneck Revolt‘s website.

By Rob Brigham at Raw Story

A well-armed organization of anti-racists are using gun culture to organize rural white voters against the administration of President Donald Trump.

“Redneck Revolt is a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives,” the organization’s website states. “In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.”

The name harkens back to the 1921 “Battle of Blair Mountain” when some 10,000 United Mine Workers of America staged the largest labor uprising in US history, with many miners wearing red bandanas around their necks. Over one million rounds of ammunition were fired before President Warren Harding sent in federal troops. Over sixty people died in the battle and almost 1,000 miners were arrested.

Such radical history is now being used to reach out to white working class voters.

“We use gun culture as a way to relate to people,” Redneck Revolt organizer Max Neely told Alternet. “Our basic message is: guns are fine, but racism is not.”

Guns culture provides the group with an organizing avenue.

“Redneck Revolt inserts themselves into overwhelmingly white spaces—NASCAR races, gun shows, flea markets in rural communities, and country music concerts—to offer a meaningful alternative to the white supremacist groups who often also recruit in those spaces,” Jared Ware of Shadowproof explained. “Redneck Revolt’s anti-racist, anti-capitalist message seems to be taking hold in communities across the United States. The organization had just 13 chapters in January but has nearly tripled its chapters nationally in the last 6 months. The group now has 34 different branches, 26 of which are in states that voted for Trump.”

“People need to be able to defend themselves. [We] live in a country in the world where people of color and LGBTQ people are routinely victimized and systematically victimized by the people who claim to be there for their defense,” a Pittsburgh, PA Redneck Revolt organizer named Shaun told Shadowproof. We provide free basic firearms training to pretty much everyone who needs it. We focus on trying to provide [self-defense training] when asked for [by] communities of color and LGBTQ folks.”

“White supremacy is essentially a fight to be the best treated dog in the kennel,” Shaun tells potential recruits. “It’s that way because a vastly small percentage of the population hordes access to resources and they’re able to do this because they’ve managed to get one half of the working class to turn against the other half in exchange for basically preferential treatment.”

Redneck Revolt seeks to change the calculation.

“I grew up playing in the woods, floating coolers of beer down a river, shooting off fireworks, just generally raising hell, all that kind of stuff,” Neely told Alternet. “Things most people would consider a part of redneck culture. We’re trying to acknowledge the ways we’ve made mistakes and bought into white supremacy and capitalism, but also give ourselves an environment in which it’s OK to celebrate redneck culture.”

Permalink 1 Comment

Kay Starr: a true Star(r) right to the end

July 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm (good people, jazz, posted by JD, song, The blues, United States)

Katherine Laverne Starks (aka Kay Starr) July 21 1922 – Nov 3, 2016

One of my favourite singers, Kay Starr, died last November almost unnoticed, despite the fact that she’d had some big hits (Wheel Of Fortune, Rock And Roll Waltz, etc) in the 50’s.

Kay came up in the late thirties and sang with the big bands of Joe Venuti, Bob Crosby, Glenn Miller and Charlie Barnett, but was equally at home with hillbilly music, small group jazz and the blues. Legend has it that Billie Holiday said Kay (whose dad was Native American and mum Irish) was the only “white gal” who could really sing the blues.

I meant to write something at the time of her death, but somehow didn’t get round to it. However, this month’s Just Jazz magazine carries a delightful reminiscence by US bandleader Jim Beatty that deserves a wider readership. It’s not altogether politically correct, but exudes affection, respect and a little bit of sadness.

Remembering Kay Starr
By Jim Beatty

When I was a young guy in high school Kay Starr was one of the most popular singers on the United States pop charts. But she covered all the bases and sang all styles from Country, Swing, to jazz. Not only that, she was cute and good looking — the kind of girl that my friends and I would love to have a date with.

She was born in Dougherty, Oklahoma in 1922, her father was a full blown Iroquois Indian and her mother was Irish. Kay’s family did not make a lot of money, but raised chickens at home and every day when Kay got out of school she came home and sang to the chickens. Her parents entered her into a talent contest: she won, and that led to a 15-minute record show at three dollars a show. They later moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and she went into radio there as well. Jazz violinist Joe Venuti was passing through town with his band and listened to her sing on the radio and offered her a job. She was only 15 years old and still in school, but she sang with Joe and his band in the summertime when school was out. Joe Venuti was very protective of her and on top of that her mother came with her to all her jobs. She was with the Glenn Miller Orchestra for two months before going with Charlie Barnett and his band in 1945. She later went on her own as a featured singer and in 1956 recorded the number one hit in the United States and UK – The Rock And Roll Waltz. Kay followed that with more smash hits, such as Side By Side and Wheel Of Fortune.

David Christopher had booked Kay into his Lyons English Grille showroom on Memorial Day weekend 2010, and asked me if I’d like to play the show. Of course I was there with bells on. I met Kay in the musicians’ room so we could all run over the show together. She was wonderful to talk to and surprised that I knew so much about her early life singing jazz with Joe Venuti. We had a packed house that night and Kay sang many of her favourites, along with a beautiful rendition of If You Love Me. That night turned out to be Kay Starr’s last public appearance.

Following the show, Katie (that’s what her friends called her), her assistant Ann, along with David Christopher and I, sat down and relaxed with some drinks. I noticed that my scotch and water was disappearing rapidly and I didn’t remember even having a sip. What was happening was Katie chugalugging her scotch and water and switching her glass with me when I wasn’t looking, putting her empty glass in front of me and taking my full one. We later heard from her assistant Ann, that Katie loved her scotch and you had to keep an eye on her at all times.

David Christopher and I went to a restaurant and got some cold sandwiches which we brought back to Katie’s hotel room. So there I was, sitting on a bed with Kay Starr, eating a sandwich and drinking a glass of white wine. My childhood dream came true and I was in bed with Kay Starr. The only trouble was that I was 76 years old and Kay was 88, plus we were accompanied by Kay’s assistant and David Christopher. Katie hadn’t lost her sense of humour and when we opened the sliding door onto the hotel patio to leave —  she said, very loudly so everyone could hear — “Thanks for the business, boys!”

Below: Kay Starr with Les Paul in New York, five years before the final gig with Jim:

 

Permalink 2 Comments

Trump repudiates science and the future of humanity

June 2, 2017 at 8:49 am (Asshole, climate change, environment, populism, posted by JD, Republican Party, Trump, United States)


 Q: How can you tell when he’s lying? A: His lips move

Bill McKibben is eloquent on Trump’s disgusting move.

People say, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. We should be so lucky. President Trump has a hammer, but all he’ll use it for is to smash things that others have built, as the world looks on in wonder and in fear.

That is Trump. He has nothing to offer himself. He’s an empty vessel, his only skill being to market ugly tasteless buildings. All he wants to do is smash things up and piss people off – no doubt to console himself for the fact that intelligent people, no matter how rich and selfish, will not go near him.

The latest, most troubling example is his decision to obliterate the Paris climate accord: After nearly 200 years of scientific inquiry and over 20 years of patient diplomacy that united every nation save Syria and Nicaragua, we had this afternoon’s big game-show Rose Garden reveal: Count us out.

It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.

Trump doesn’t do diplomacy, which requires intelligence, thought, knowledge, experience, the ability to see and understand points of view not one’s own. Trump knows nothing but brute force and insults, because he is that stupid and empty.

The reason Paris is a series of voluntary agreements and not a real treaty is because the world had long since understood that no binding document would ever get two-thirds of the vote in our oil-soaked Senate. And that’s despite the fact that the agreement asks very little of us: President Barack Obama’s mild shift away from coal-fired power and toward higher-mileage cars would have satisfied our obligations.

Those changes, and similar ones agreed to by other nations, would not have ended global warming. They were too small. But the hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling; that shaken into action by the accord, we would start moving much faster toward renewable energy, maybe even fast enough to begin catching up with the physics of global warming. There are signs that this has been happening: The plummeting price of solar energy just this spring persuaded India to forgo a huge planned expansion of coal plants in favor of more solar panel arrays to catch the sun. China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.

And that’s precisely the moment President Trump chose to make his move, a bid to undercut our best hope for a workable future in a bizarre attempt to restore the past.

The past in which there were more coal mines – as if coal mines were inherently desirable and good things, source of careers as enviable as any other.

And so we will resist. As the federal government reneges on its commitments, the rest of us will double down on ours. Already cities and states are committing to 100 percent renewable energy. Atlanta was the latest to take the step. We will make sure that every leader who hesitates and waffles on climate will be seen as another Donald Trump, and we will make sure that history will judge that name with the contempt it deserves. Not just because he didn’t take climate change seriously, but also because he didn’t take civilization seriously.

I wish Kathy Griffin had waited two days.

Permalink 14 Comments

Alice Neel in Harlem

May 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm (Art and design, culture, humanism, posted by JD, United States)

Alice Neel, Uptown is at Victoria Miro, London N1 from 18 May-29 July. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, published by David Zwirner Books and Victoria Miro.

 Above: Alice Neel’s 1950 portrait of the playwright Alice Childress

“I love you Harlem,” the American painter Alice Neel wrote in her diary around the end of World War II, and really, she loved everything in it. Neel celebrated Harlem — specifically its ethnically mixed section known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio — for “your poverty and your loves.” And what Neel eulogized in her diary, she immortalized in oils: street scenes, interiors and, above all, portraits of the men, women and children in a neighborhood far from the suburban Philadelphia of her youth, which the artist adopted as her own.

Little heralded in her lifetime, Neel (1900-1984) has won posthumous acclaim as one of America’s most inventive and peculiar portraitists. Her later paintings, especially, made her sitters strange through thick outlining and unelaborated backgrounds. But behind Neel’s experiments with form were New York lives — of writers and revolutionaries, lovers and petty criminals – Jason Farrago, New York Times.

Benjamin, 1976
Benjamin was the son of Neel’s landlord in Harlem. She painted many portraits of adolescent boys, some more self-assured than Benjamin appears. ‘Alice seems moved by his smallness,’ says Als. ‘There’s something about the vulnerability of his shape, the narrowness of his shoulders and the tilt of his head. It’s a moving picture of a boy who has yet to become a man and doesn’t quite know how to fit into masculinity. He’s thinking, “Is this the way a boy or a man sits?” Just as we have paintings of young women in flower becoming women, this is about a boy about to be transformed.’

  Ron Kajiwara, 1971
When Alice Neel painted his portrait, Ron Kajiwara was a graphic designer at Vogue; later, he became its design director. ‘Kajiwara’s face is a kind of mask here,’ Als says. ‘He and his family had been interned in California during the second world war when he was a kid, and he was gay, and there is something so forbidding about his character. He has been rejected by the world and here he is working in the white avant garde. His pose is a kind of armour. Alice is painting her inability to get further in; his beautiful self defence.’

Ron Kajiwara, 1971, by Alice Neel

Abdul Rahman, 1964
‘I know all the theory of everything,’ Alice Neel once said, ‘but when I paint I don’t think of anything except the subject and me.’ Abdul Rahman was a cab driver she painted more than once. Als: ‘What’s so powerful about a lot of Alice’s pictures of men is she doesn’t shy away from the erotic element. She lets it be known as part of the work. What is energising in this painting is the erotics of her looking. She looks at men the way men might look at women or other men. It is delectable to her.’

Abdul Rahman, 1964, by Alice Neel
*
Two Girls, Spanish Harlem, 1959
The world treats your children as you have treated them,’ Neel once observed. And when she came to paint children, she was always concerned to treat them as equals. She also had some tricks to keep their attention. ‘She would suddenly miaow like a cat to keep the children interested while they were sitting,’ says Als. ‘I love this painting as a kind of perversion of a Sunday-school portrait. There is a kind of fierceness to the girls. Alice liked that. She wanted girls who would stand up to the challenge of being painted.’

Two Girls, Spanish Harlem, 1959 by Alice Neel

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »