Join us at the Courthouse at 1 PM on September 1st.
Read More Here: Rally to End Ice Expansion | Connect Kankakee
Join us at the Courthouse at 1 PM on September 1st.
Read More Here: Rally to End Ice Expansion | Connect Kankakee
When I was 16 years old, I went to work as a broadcast engineer at WSOY Radio in my hometown of Decatur, Illinois. I was just completing my freshman year of college, and had gotten my Third Class Endorsed Radiotelephone license from the FCC through a Winter Term course in conjunction with the campus station at Millikin, WJMU. I’d been captivated by radio and by audio technology from a young age, and was elated to be working at “The Sound of Decatur” and to meet the people whose voices I had heard in my home for so many years growing up.
One of the very cool things about WSOY in those days was that the station was a CBS affiliate, so we carried newscasts and other programming from the CBS Radio Network. When I worked evening shifts, I had the pleasure of listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater at 9 o’clock each night. I grew to love these spooky radio dramas, and the way they created such vivid images in my head through a well crafted collection of sounds.
I worked at the station all through college before deciding that a career in radio was not for me, though I would continue to work there occasionally on a part-time basis even after moving on to another profession. To this day recording and broadcasting still holds a great deal of fascination for me.
In early 2005, I learned that people were beginning to create and distribute audio content via RSS (the technology behind blogging). I soon joined the ranks of independent media producers all over the world who gave birth to the “podcasting” craze. One of the exceptionally talented visionaries who came to my attention in those early days was named Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff. Eventually he and I would both come to work for a company that was attempting to monetize the nascent medium. Although I wasn’t directly involved with his groundbreaking production Shadow Falls, I was able to watch his creative process from a fairly near vantage point, occasionally receiving clips of episodes prior to their release to the general public. The series hearkened back to the CRMT that I so loved. The program was especially compelling, knowing the care that Mark took with the production, often recording the foley effects himself, for instance.
For several years, I had been searching the Internet for archives of the show to no avail. A few days ago Mark popped up by chance in my Twitter stream with a post about the follow up production Badlands, and I reached out to see if the original series was available. To my delight, he replied that he had recently posted all six episodes to his weblog.
My daughter is a creative who writes fan fiction and is perpetually obsessed with one or another series of books or teen television programs. It’s fun sharing Shadow Falls with her, and I have to say that the production still holds up well all these years later. Take a listen yourself and see what you think.
Each year at the annual Socialism Conference in Chicago, a sort of personal theme seems to develop early on for me. This year, questions around the topic of “the party” bubbled up on the first night. Paul D’Amato spoke about developing “infrastructures of dissent” in a session titled What kind of party do we need?
I posted this comment the next morning on Facebook.
It seems to me that once you say the word “party” people in the United States immediately think “ballot line.” I’m still not clear in my own mind what “party” would mean in real world practice apart from that. Will be looking for some resources on that question while I’m here.
There was an excellent session the next morning called Prelude to Revolution: May of ’68 in France. Sherry Wolf said that the happenings of that May exposed “the limitations of spontaneity and political eclecticism.” The message is that a party of the workers will be needed to lead from radicalization to revolution. I tried to better envision that party. What does it look like? What does it do? Does it participate in elections? If so, how does an organization committed to revolution, not reform, compete within the framework of a system that is reformist (at best) by its very nature? What is the role of the party right here and now? What should be its organizing principles?
I was able to catch up with D’Amato that afternoon and bend his ear for a bit on the topic. As he described the party as he saw it, I asked if it would compete in elections. He didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely!”
He recommended this article on Marxists and Elections from nearly twenty years ago, and I did find a lot of it helpful. Still, there was one question that nagged me. If the electoral activities of the independent party of the working class would be mainly aimed at raising working class demands, challenging and exposing the current government and political economy, and winning over workers to the need for revolution – how is that posed to constituents when seeking office? “We want your vote so we can become part of this system of government, because this system of government is so fundamentally corrupt that it has to be dismantled.” It seemed to me sort of like speaking to a mechanic who wants your business, and the mechanic saying “This car is really irreparable. You need a new car. It can’t be fixed. But you should bring it in to me anyway.”
If the end goal of the party is revolution, and that’s not being hidden, why should a worker who is not yet convinced of the need for revolution support the candidate of such a party? What would that party pledge to do once in office?
Todd Chretien’s Saturday session on the Vanguard Party, Democratic Centralism and Workers’ Revolution was a helpful review of theory and history, and the discussion that followed highlighted the distinction between the more or less orthodox Marxist view (as described in Todd’s talk and Paul’s article linked above) and the view of socialists (including many in DSA) who take a more flexible approach when it comes to the question of how to participate in elections.
I continued to read and ponder after returning home from the conference. Eric Blanc’s article about the Minnesota Farmer Labor Party was intriguing. The history he outlined is being cited by many who oppose (or who are rethinking) the need for a “clean break” from the Democrats. This essay from Joe Allen presented some helpful perspective, as did the entire series at Socialist Worker discussing and debating the relationship of socialists to the Democratic Party in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in New York.
So I read and thought, and asked friends for their ideas, but really couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer to the Catch-22 outlined above – until it finally came to me during a meeting of local activists from Connect Kankakee as they were planning a rally to end ICE expansion in our county. A lot of the organizing effort was aimed at encouraging turnout for the event. It occurred to me that we don’t simply work for large numbers at events like this because we enjoy the company of a crowd. It’s a demonstration of power, represented in numbers. The size of the gathering is a representation to office holders in our county that our goals are priorities for the community. It’s also a message of comfort and confidence to those who are endangered by ICE, and to those of us who are organizing resistance.
One can look at elections in the same way. They are an opportunity to measure the proportion of strength for socialist ideas, and, as Engels put it, to “gauge of the maturity of the working class.” This seems to me a purpose that even those who have not yet been won to revolutionary consciousness could support. “We want your vote in order to stand up fearlessly to the powers that be, and to bring your voice, loud and clear, to the very halls of government.”
If you’ve read thus far and are now thinking “duhr,” please accept my apology. This seems like an obvious point in the present moment, but it truly did confound me until recently.
We’ll be discussing this issue at some length on the night of August 15th at our monthly Jacobin Reading Group meeting. Come join us!
The historical precedent for this strategy presumes that there must first be an independent organization of the working class. One that is cohesive, disciplined, powerful, and ready to guard its independence with ferocity. If such an organization were to exist today, then perhaps that organization could use a major party ballot line to further build power and momentum for a few years prior to a pre-planned break.
It is silly, in my view, to try to shoehorn any of the current crop of folks who are using the Democratic Party ballot line, into a strategy which requires conditions that don’t currently exist.
In other words, if you’re citing the prospect of an eventual break from the Dems as part of your justification for supporting a candidate with a D beside their name, thinking that power will be built first within the two-party system and then lopped-off in a way that it will accrue to an independent party of the working class, I think that you have it precisely backwards.
Here is what won last night in New York’s 14th District:
This is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘ platform. She walloped a long-tenured, establishment Democrat who spent $3 million dollars to try to stave her off. She did it on a shoestring, running openly as a socialist, and a “card-carrying member” of the DSA.
The lesson here is not that “progressives” can “run to the left” in Democratic primary elections and win. The lesson is that more and more people are ready to abandon the politics of “let’s be reasonable.”
Medicare for all? Yes, please. Guaranteed jobs? Why not? Abolish ICE? It’s high time, and don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out, fellas. Housing as a human right? Makes sense. Everybody needs a home. Good education for everybody? Green jobs? Stop putting an entire generation of young black men in prison? Of course.
Queue “Eli’s Comin'” and turn it up loud. Here’s to a new world.
If it weren’t so infuriating, it would be laughable when people talk about the law, and the sanctity of the law, and the rule of law, with regard to immigration. We have long since abandoned the rule of law in this country.
Let’s also not fool ourselves about “equality under the law.” Our entire legal framework, institutions and code have been established by a ruling class to protect their own interests.
To pretend otherwise is a cruel, macabre, sickening joke.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the sorts of gun control measures that I could support. I’ll probably be posting about this in more detail at some point, but here is a quick list of ideas that I think might be helpful, and might find wide popular support, even among people who keep guns.
Some of these ideas are modeled on how we deal with alcohol, tobacco, etc. Some on how we approach automobile safety. All of them are aimed at being an effective deterrent to the sorts of tragedies that we see so often of late, while avoiding the most odious concerns expressed by those of us (on both the left and right) who care about the rights of oppressed people, self-defense, liberty, tradition, or what have you.
National registration and the age requirement are probably the most controversial of these ideas.
In the area where I grew up, people often start hunting as teenagers. This would still be possible, in that guns for hunting, range shooting, etc., could be allowed to be in the possession of someone under 21, so long as they have had adequate safety training, proficiency testing, and are under the supervision of a qualified adult. Again, this is not much different than what we do with drivers’ permits (although obviously the age I suggest for ownership is more advanced).
As to a national registry, I know that this suggestion sets in motion all sorts of paranoia, and (anti-historical) visions of Hitler confiscating guns so as to reduce people to sheep. I’ll have more to say about this later after more extensive research, but for now, let me just note that my shotgun purchase was registered with the State of Illinois when I bought it decades ago. No one has yet come to my house to take it. Even in Australia, where they have adopted strict licensing requirements, established a national registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period to buy guns, they didn’t *confiscate* guns. With all of the precedents for gun registration in the world, so far I haven’t been able to find an example of widespread confiscation as a result. And, frankly, if the people with all the tanks and other advanced weaponry decided to turn them on the broader American populace, I doubt that a registry would make much difference. They certainly haven’t needed a gun registry to wreak havoc and death all over the Middle East, or on the streets of our own cities.
I may eventually be persuaded that some of these ideas are flawed for one reason or another, but they are at least a starting point.
A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment
This guide is for anyone who fears they might be targeted, or who is already under attack, for speaking their mind online, but is especially designed for women, people of color, trans and genderqueer people, and everyone else whose existing oppressions are made worse by digital violence. It details best security practices for social media, email, online gaming, website platforms, and ensuring privacy of personal information online, as well as the documentation and reporting of harassment, and caring for yourself emotionally during an online attack. You don’t need any specialized knowledge to use this guide – just basic computer and internet skills.
Things began, as they usually do, at a party. Everyone had been working hard, and after hours they were cutting loose pretty quickly. We were indoors. The place was semi-dark and not so much smoke-filled, but everything smelled like, or perhaps looked like, it had a tinge of leftover smoke from years and years of such gatherings. And it had the look of a place that was no stranger to a deep fat fryer too.
Our colleagues from the Embarras River Basin Agency were the life of the party. Every one of them was smart, skilled and an excellent dancer with issues arising from low self-esteem. “You sure know how to pick ’em, Harry,” I thought to myself. Rest in Peace.
I was working in the Southcoast Cosmos of Bendiego. Our most serious and accomplished investigator, portrayed by Saundra Santiago, was frantically reviewing some old case files, trying to vindicate herself in one of the most frustrating débâcles of the agency’s history. The entire case turned on the testimony of a dog, and whether or not the dog was genuine, or merely a VR creation of the perpetrators, meant to throw people off the track by telling the truth. The fact that the jury had been required to wear special googles during the dog’s appearance might have been a clue, but everyone missed this at the time.
Now the Feds were breathing down our necks, and we were at it around the clock in an effort to prove our competence and good faith. Saundra was viewing the video of the dog again, frame-by-frame, and studying the defense expert’s testimony for inconsistencies. It was then that I noticed the map on the desk.
It looked like something cut out from a child’s coloring book, with a three-by-three grid of some sort laid out over the drawings. The edges of the map outside the grid were sticky, and at that very moment a flash of insight came to me. The dog didn’t matter. We didn’t have to prove that the dog’s testimony was valid. We only had to test the glue on the edges of the map to see if it matched that surrounding a corresponding rectangular hole on the back side of a crumpled piece of construction paper nearby that had been an early clue but discarded as unimportant. Forensic science is sometimes like this.
The old man in the blue suit had entered the room without us noticing, and nodded as I revealed the discovery. I could tell, without him saying a word, that he had hoped that we wouldn’t get to the bottom of things. The Feds, as always, just want to come in and take over, and this dog and paste business was the only thing standing between him and his ambitions. The sonofabitch knew all along, but was just toying with us.
He and I were facing each other in an office with lots of windows on the southeast corner of the building. I felt underdressed. I was wearing a black suit, but was disheveled feeling. I told him I needed to grab my trench coat before we could go to lunch, which I was dreading anyway.
When I went to get my coat from the refrigerator next to the pizza, it had disappeared. I can see it, right there, folded neatly, the size of the pizza box. But it is gone. Maybe it’s on the floor somewhere. There were other things I meant to take along, books or electronic devices or something, but going through the desk was no help.
I remembered that I had had trouble parking that morning because the lot was covered with ice, and cars were parked all askew. I crawled up on the ice, which was several inches thick encasing the tall mound of earth between two parts of the lot, and as I looked down, there were several trucks or vans or some other sort of large vehicles. Busses. They were full of people in festive garb, headed to some kind of competition or celebration. One bussload started waving and yelling at me, trying to get my attention, or trying to make fun of me or something. It was all good natured, but I was uncomfortable, and yelled down that they shouldn’t be wasting their time with me when Kent Wade was right there on the bus with them.
A man in a gold mohair long coat approached me and said something, smiling. I couldn’t understand what he had said. Then he said something else, and all I could make out was “Oxley Chamberlain.” I wanted to ask him to speak more clearly, but then he was starting to get angry and suspicious, so I explained that since I’ve gotten older the thick hair that has grown inside my ears sometimes makes it difficult for me to hear people correctly. It had nothing to do with his slurred brogue, or that I thought I was better than him or anything like that. I didn’t really say those things, but I thought that he was thinking them. You wouldn’t want to make that conversation explicit.
I decided to put some distance between myself and the people in the icy parking lot, and the best way to do that was to cross the street in front of one of the floats that were coming along for the Mardi Gras parade or whatever it was. I wasn’t quick enough and actually had to put my hand on the front of the float to hold it back from running over me as I crossed the street. Looking back, most of the ice had melted in the lot and I noticed that there weren’t really that many cars and they were actually parked fairly straight.
Then I remembered that I hadn’t parked in the lot after all, but had parked on the street a couple blocks away from the building. So I headed east down the parade route, and turned south on the next side street, which must have been the one I had parked on. I saw the car parked across the street down the block. Then when I got there it was gone, so I looked up the block again remembering how I had driven in that day, trying to think of what landmarks I saw as I was driving and pulling over to park. This spot looks good, and it’s only two blocks from the office. Where the hell is that car?
I walked a little further, and was surrounded now by menacing, seedy characters in a menacing, seedy neighborhood. I felt like I stood out. Everyone was inebriated on who knows what. I was aware not to reach for my wallet in the back pocket of my baggy jeans, because it would draw attention to my self consciousness. Several unpleasant encounters occurred where I was trying to signal to people that I understood their plight and was not an asshole. But the last thing menacing, seedy characters want is for well intentioned assholes to understand their plight.
I was walking along a high wall, trying to get back to the place where the car should be. It was shiny and black and seemed a little slick, like a polished headstone, and there were occasional folks walking the other direction toward me and it was hard to negotiate walking by each other without falling. I finally came to a spot where there was an intersecting wall and I couldn’t go any further. I sat down, and realized that it was really only about six feet, maybe ten? Maybe only four feet from where I was sitting to the sidewalk below. I decided to go for it, and slid down from my perch. As I dropped, a woman who was laying beside where I had been sitting grabbed my hand to try to help slow my descent so I wouldn’t be injured. We looked back up at her from the sidewalk, and I wanted to say thanks, and she was about fifteen or twenty feet up, so it was a little hard to communicate. She had dropped a flower or trinket or something down to me. It’s hard to get these details right, because the orange and blueish I Dream Of Jeannie outfit that she wore was distracting. Although I had more or less learned to expect this type of unexpected attire from the seedy but for some reason suddenly not so menacing (after all, I was down on the sidewalk below now) folks.
I said “What about the other item?” She played dumb. I said “Come on now,” and looked straight into her eyes. She dropped something else down to me. Again, I don’t have details. I was trying to decide whether to pursue the matter. I said “Don’t you have something else for me?” She finally tossed down my wallet. I remembered that I had maybe thirty dollars, and I started looking through the bills to find something to give her. After all, she had been honest, when push came to shove, and she probably needed the money. There are so many crumpled notes and receipts and junk here that it’s just a mess. What is all this stuff? There are even notes and claim tickets and things BETWEEN THE BILLS! Fives and ones and tens all turned every which way, and half hanging out of the wallet. I can’t stand here in the middle of the sidewalk, holding up foot traffic, organizing all of this. Just fold the damned thing and put it in your pocket, for Christ’s sake.
The way back to the office was two blocks directly north. Tall, old buildings blocked the view, but I have an excellent sense of direction so I knew. Even though I had walked across the street to the east for the car and not returned, I was still where I needed to be. Just a short walk back.
I walked cater-corner to the northwest, which would put me to the west of the office eventually, but seemed like the correct move. Crossing a huge empty lot, I was accosted by what looked like a cross between a Swiss Guard or Beefeater and a garden gnome, about five feet tall, all dressed in a red and white and yellow uniform, with a neatly trimmed painted on white beard. It was sort of square shouldered. Not like when you say someone is square shouldered meaning good posture, but his whole body was the shape of a cigarette package.
His voice was kind of like a Dalek, or like the Knights Who Say “NI!” And I couldn’t really make it out. He was to my right, and there was another one in front of me and to my left, and they were trying to impede my progress. I realized that they wanted to take me prisoner. There were dozens, maybe hundreds of them in the lot, trying to stop all of us from moving any further. I still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but we were their prisoners, and they were all delivering the same message.
Then I realized that they couldn’t really stop me from just leaving the lot. As I started to move past them, the leader (the first one I’d encountered) announced that any prisoner who chooses to leave is accepting the injustice of the apartheid state. He kept repeating this, and the entire group of cigarette pack shaped Santa robot gnome nutcracker people joined in. I understand now that this is performance art, and the only way to be truly free is to participate. I begin screaming “FREE, FREE PALESTINE!” But I wasn’t heard over the din of the little gnome guys. I remembered that I had the chant wrong, and I should have started with “LONG LIVE PALESTINE!” I tried again, and some of the nutcracker performance artists began to get confused. They stopped with the announcement to the prisoners, and looked at each other, trying to make sense of things and figure out what to do. They clearly hadn’t trained for this, and the signal between them and their leader wasn’t strong enough for them to receive their marching orders. I thought that if I could only make my voice work, and get the chant right, that we could all join in together. Although this would have screwed up what was probably the original idea of the performance art piece, which, as I get it, is that people shouldn’t just walk on across the parking lot going on with their lives as usual and ignoring the suffering of others.
I felt conflicted, as one does.